The Importance of Understanding Time

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It is of vital importance to observe our minds (thoughts AND emotions) in order to begin to live more consciously and fully in the Now. Self-observation and introspection enable us to evolve into more loving, peaceful beings. In order to remember who we are, we must look at ourselves under a microscope and honestly accept what we see, observing where our thoughts are and how we deal with our emotions. It is only through this conscious self-introspection that we can view ourselves as the ‘witnessing presence’ which is the ‘watcher of the thinker’. This is the point of perception where our Higher Selves continually observe the activities going on both in our thoughts and our emotions. Whether we consciously know we are doing this or not, it is happening constantly. It is very important to remember to view ourselves with loving, non-judging eyes, because if we find fault with ourselves or feel guilty about the chatter going on in our heads, then we are simply continuing on in the duality thinking and will not be able to make the necessary changes within ourselves.

So, before we go on, we need to discuss briefly how we can change these ingrained patters of rampant thoughts and emotions and learn to understand our minds and how they work. The first step is that we must understand the basic mechanics of living UNconsciously, which is when we define who we are through our thoughts and emotions, allowing the mind to control our lives, thus creating a false self or ego as a substitute for our true self. When this occurs, we become as a ‘branch cut off from the vine’ where the ego’s needs are endless and keep us living in a state of constant fear and want. When we truly begin to grasp how this dysfunction operates, we can then begin to detach from this ego or illusory sense of self and learn to disconnect from the many fears, problems and traumas in our lives that seem to define who we are. It isn’t until we recognize where our minds are that we can begin to make changes within ourselves and learn to live more consciously. Our minds generally want to escape the Now by thinking that either the past or the future will be better than the present…if the imagined future appears better, it gives us hope and anticipation…if it is imagined worse, it creates more anxiety and fear.


By living more consciously, a higher dimension of presence comes into our lives automatically. The moment we realize that we are not present, we ARE present! Whenever we are able to observe our minds, we are no longer trapped in them! It is that simple…it just takes awareness!!! Awareness takes effort at first, but with trust, perseverance and determination, living consciously the majority of the time is truly possible.

The following are simple reminders:

Click on image to view in full size.

Click on image to view in full size.

All of these reminders help us to live more consciously in the Now and enable us to step out of past and future fears and introduce more presence into our lives. Once we can feel what it means to truly be present, it becomes much easier to simply choose to step out of the time dimension whenever it is needed for practical purposes and move more deeply into the Now.

This leads us into the discussion of how we can change our attitudes and perspectives on what is ‘time’ and what role it plays in our ability to stay conscious and present as much as possible.

The following statement is the key:

Time and mind are inseparable!

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 simply allow it to be. The compulsion arises because the past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation and fulfillment. BOTH ARE ILLUSIONS!!! Thus, it is important to end the delusion of time!

Many people say, “Time is something so very precious”, but time isn’t precious at all because it is an illusion. What we perceived as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the NOW…that is precious indeed! The more we are focused on time (past and future), the more we miss the Now, the most precious thing there is. Why is it the most precious thing? Because it is the ONLY thing…it’s all there is. The eternal present is the space within which our whole life unfolds, the one factor that remains constant. Life is NOW…there was never a time when our life was NOT now, now will there ever be.

Often times, we think the past and future are even more real than the present since the past determines who we are and how we behave in the present, and future goals determine what actions we take in the present. This is very challenging for us to undersatnd because we are using our ‘minds’ to try to grasp this; however, ask yourselves the following questions: Have you ever experienced, done, thought or felt anything outside of the Now? Do you think you ever will? Is it possible for anything to happen or be out the Now? Of course not! Nothing ever happened in the past…it happened in the NOW! Nothing will ever happen in the future…it will happen in the Now.

What we think of as the past is a memory trace, stored in the mind, of a former Now. When we remember the past, we reactivate a memory trace of an event. Also, the future is an imaged Now, a projection of the mind. When the future comes, it comes as the Now. When we think about the future, we do it now. Past and future obviously have no reality of their own…just as the moon has no light of its own but can only reflect the light of the sun…so are past and future only pale reflections of the light, power and reality of the eternal present. The essence of this is difficult to be understood by the mind; however, once we grasp it, there is a shift in consciousness from mind to Being, from time to presence. Suddenly everything feels alive, radiates energy and emanates Being.

If you have ever been in a life threatening or emergency situation, you are aware that there is a shift in consciousness from ‘time’ to ‘presence’ that happens immediately and naturally. The personality that has a past and a future momentarily recedes and is replaced by an intense conscious presence, that of being very still but very alert at the same time. Whatever response is needed then arises out of that state of consciousness.

Similarly, many people love to engage in dangerous activities such as mountain climbing or car racing because it keeps them in the constant state of Now, that intensely alive state that is free of time, free of problems, free of thinking. Slipping away from the present moment even for a second for them may mean death, so the totally conscious state that is required is exhilaration! That energy is powerful and this desired state is available to all of us, without having to climb to the top of El Capitan! We simply have to BE present!

Since ancient times, spiritual masters of all traditions have pointed to the Now as the key to the spiritual dimension. In church you may have heard the saying, “Nobody who puts his hands to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.” Also, the whole essence of Zen consists of walking along the razor’s edge of Now, to be so utterly, so completely present that no problem, no suffering, nothing that is not WHO YOU ARE in your essence can survive in you. A similar question in the Zen tradition is, “If not now, when?” Finally, Rumi, the great Sufi poet and teacher declared “Past and future veil God from our sight; burn up both of them in fire.” We have all been exposed to many, many lessons and teachings that have stressed the importance of living the present moment, but how many of us truly are able to live and apply this awareness into our lives on a daily basis? We must be honest with ourselves…do we live and accept ourselves in the present NOW or do we depend on our past experiences or our future dreams to mold our present days?

Clock Time Vs. Psychological Time…

Just as there is a place for mind and mind knowledge in the practical realm of day-to-day living, we also need to know how to use time in the practical aspects of our lives. Keeping track of time for daily appointments and activities is of course important, but we must be wary when it takes over all aspects of our lives. There are two types of ‘time’ that we must be aware of: ‘clock time’ and ‘psychological time’. The enlightened person’s main focus of attention is always the Now, but they are still peripherally aware of time, which means they continue to use clock time but are free of psychological time.

Clock time is used for the practical aspects of our lives. Clock time is not just making an appointment or planning a trip. It includes learning from the past so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes over and over. Knowledge that we have attained through past experiences is also using ‘clock time’. It is thus when we are able to make choices, based on learning from prior experiences. Similarly, when we set a goal for ourselves and work toward it, we are using clock time. We are aware of where we want to go, but we honor and give our fullest attention to the step that we are taking at this moment. However, if we become excessively focused on the goal, perhaps because we are seeking happiness or fulfillment in it, the Now is no longer honored and it becomes reduced to a mere stepping stone to the future. Then we are no longer using clock time. THE PRESENT MOMENT REMAINS THE ESSENTIAL FACTOR: when any lesson from the past becomes relevant and the knowledge of the experience is applied to the Now, ‘clock time’ is being honored.

‘Psychological time’ is identification with the past and continuous compulsive projection into the future. It is when we lose all touch with the present moment, and when our identity, value and purpose is only based on what we have done or what we will be doing later, what we look like or what we are thinking or feeling. If life’s journey is no longer an adventure or seen as beautiful but is an obsessive need to arrive, to attain or to ‘make it’, then psychological time or past and future identification rules who you are.

Be alert as you practice this so that you do not unwittingly transform clock time into psychological time. For example, if you made a mistake in the past and learn from it now, you are using clock time. On the other hand, if you dwell on it mentally, and self-criticism, remorse, or guilt come up, then you are making the mistake into ‘me’ and ‘mine’: you make it part of your sense of self, and it has become psychological time, which is always linked to a false sense of identity. Nonforgiveness necessarily implies a heavy burden of psychological time.

You will not have any doubt that psychological time is a mental disease if you look at its collective consciousness manifestations. They occur, for example, in the form of ideologies such as communism or rigid religious belief systems which operate under the implicit assumption that the highest good lies in the future and that therefore the end justifies the means. The end is an idea, a point in the mind-projected future, when salvation in whatever form (happiness, fulfillment, equality, etc.) will be attained. As an example, it is estimated that as many as 50 million people were murdered to further the cause of communism, to bring about a ‘better world’ in Russia, China and other countries. This is a chilling example of how belief in a future heaven creates a present hell. Can there be any doubt that psychological time is a serious and dangerous mental illness?

How does this mind pattern operate in your life? Are you always trying to get somewhere other than where you are? Is most of your ‘doing’ just a means to an end? Is fulfillment always just around the corner or confined to short-lived pleasures such as drink, drugs, or thrills and excitement? Are you always focused on becoming, achieving, and attaining? Do you believe that if you acquire more things you will become more fulfilled or psychologically complete?

In the normal, mind-identified or unenlightened state of consciousness, the power and creative potential that lies concealed in the Now is completely obscured by psychological time. Your life then loses its vibrancy and sense of wonder. The old patterns of thought, emotion, behavior, reaction and desire are acted out in endless repeat performances, a script in your mind that gives you an identity of sorts but covers up the reality of the Now. The mind then creates an obsession with the future as an escape from the unsatisfactory present.

If you are currently experiencing a very challenging set of experiences that make you believe that the future HAS to be better than this present state, you must realize that the future is generally a replica of the past! Superficial changes are possible of course, but REAL transformation depends upon whether you can become present enough to dissolve the past by accessing and accepting the Now. What you perceive as future is an intrinsic part of your state of consciousness now, and chances are you will experience more of the same unless the quality of you consciousness NOW is altered.

So….if it is the quality of your consciousness at this moment that determines the future, then what is it that determines the quality of your consciousness? It is your degree of presence!!! Therefore, the ONLY place where true change can occur and where the past can be dissolved is the NOW!!!


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