Friday, August 15, 2008

There's no time like the present

Within the first month or so of my late wife's death, I noticed that time seemed to have sped up. I remember describing my new concept of time to friends as being like a rushing river — I was being swept along in the middle of a wide watercourse, and all those many, many things I had yet to do before I died were hurtling past me on the distant banks, far out of reach. I was powerless to do much more than just hang on.

I've recently noticed that I no longer feel that way about time. Instead, I feel like I'm in exactly the right place at exactly the right time, all the time. Yes, I am getting older. Yes, there are still lots of things that I would like to do before I die. But I no longer feel like I must accomplish those things, nor do I feel like I am growing old too quickly.

I really enjoyed reading Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose, so I decided to pick up his first book, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. Lo and behold, he explains exactly why my concept of time has changed, and I can trace it back to my free Vipassana 10-day silent meditation course I attended in January.

In a nutshell, Eckhart shows how learning to be present with the moment will free us from the limitations of time. And my experience has been that learning to be present is the key to grief recovery as well.

[from pages 48-49 of The Power of Now]:


It seems almost impossible to disidentify from the mind. We are all immersed in it. How do you teach a fish to fly?

Here is the key: End the delusion of time. Time and mind are inseparable. Remove time from the mind and it stops unless you choose to use it.

To be identified with your mind is to be trapped in time: the compulsion to live almost exclusively through memory and anticipation. This creates an endless preoccupation with past and future and an unwillingness to honor and acknowledge the present moment and allow it to be. The compulsion arises because the past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation, of fulfillment in whatever form. Both are illusions.

But without a sense of time, how would we function in this world? There would be no goals to strive toward anymore. I wouldn't even know who I am, because my past makes me who I am today. I think time is something very precious, and we need to learn to use it wisely rather than waste it.

Time isn't precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time — past and future — the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.

Why is it the most precious thing? Firstly, because it is the only thing. It's all there is. The eternal present is the space within which your whole life unfolds, the one factor that remains constant. Life is now. There was never a time when your life was not now, nor will there ever be. Secondly, the Now is the only point that can take you beyond the limited confines of the mind. It is your only point of access into the timeless and formless realm of Being.

No comments: