The True Nature of Time and the End of Suffering
Do you want to know something strange? We never see the world as it truly is. Whenever we look at the world, we see it through the filters of our mind the ego and the concepts that it creates. This is why no two persons can look at one thing or person and have the same reaction.
I have read before: To her lover, a beautiful woman is temptation. To a monk, a distraction. To a mosquito, dinner.
Many of these concepts are so deeply ingrained in us that we dont even know they are operating. And yet once we see things as they truly are without these filters that would be the moment we end all of our suffering. Some would even call this state enlightenment.
So naturally I took great interest in these concepts. Ive covered some of the biggest here, and hope to cover some of the others with the help of my friends and fellow bloggers in the future. One of the biggest would be the ego, the exaggerated sense of I. Another would the duality of good and bad. How about cause and effect, or as some call it, Karma? Lastly the concept of time.
I have previously tried to point towards the true nature of time, but I limited that post because I dont have a direct perception of time or the Now as its frequently called. All I had was book knowledge and I would have felt like a fraud. And yet I still desperately wanted to include a post on it for my dear readers.
So I have a special treat for you someone who does have a direct perception of time. A dear friend and mentor, Kenton W of Zen-Inspired Self Development, has kindly agreed to help me with a guest post, and I feel very honoured to present it below. Thanks Kenton, youre a superstar! Love the humour too.
The Nature of Time
When my good friend Albert asked me to write a guest post, I was quite honored. I also knew I was in trouble, because my own readers are used to reading things which make no sense, while Albert is always quite coherent in his writings. So I had to concentrate on writing something sensible.
Then, when he told me what he would like me to write about, I really knew I was in trouble, because he thought it might be nice if I wrote about something simple, like the true nature of time. Yes. Time.
Now, when you’re in the business of writing about non-dualism, you have to know the answer to any question, or you lose your status as Great All-Realized Awakened One. Can you imagine the pressure? Someone hits you broadside with a question like ‘The True Nature of Time’, and you can’t even flinch. You just have to compose a perfectly truthful answer which everyone will understand. And it’s best to keep these things concise, too.
Here it is, then. The true nature of time in 1,400 words or less.
The True Nature of Time
Now, mayhaps I’ll stall a little bit because the whole ‘nature of time’ thing is pretty intimidating. So let’s first ask ‘Why?’ Why would we need to know the true nature of time?
After all, we’re all pretty sure that we know how time works anyway. It ticks along, moving from left to right (right to left in some countries, and top to bottom in yet others). Once a moment is past, it’s gone forever, except in our memories, and all we can do is look ahead to the coming moments and try to make them as pleasant as possible for everyone involved, at least until we all die. This is basically how life works, right?
The problem with this idea is that it’s just an idea. It has absolutely nothing to do with the way time actually works. It’s called Linear Time, and it’s a fairly recent invention in the human story. It’s also a completely optional method of doing things. And the funny thing about linear time is that it is probably the best tool you can possibly use if you want to completely mess up your life.
You see, linear time is one of the foundation-blocks of our current world view. If we truly examine the true nature of time, our current world view will have no choice but to collapse, and what we’ll be left with is pure enlightenment.
The Problems of Linear Time
Just like a yolk goes with an egg and brightness goes with the sun, linear time has a whole host of ideas which go with it. If you decide to adopt a belief in linear time, you automatically adopt the idea of a Self, the idea of Death, ideas of Cause/Effect, and the idea of Meaning. In fact, linear time creates all the great questions of humanity, such as “Why are we here?”, “What is the meaning of it all?”, and “Why aren’t more people sending Kenton packages of Amedei Chocolate?”.
Linear time also creates all the ‘negative feelings’ we associate with human nature. Boredom, anxiety, stress, frustration, fear of death, loneliness, hostility, and insecurity are all brought to life by linear time.
The startling truth is that we are all voluntarily engaged in a belief in linear time, and this belief is probably the most destructive and conflict-generating belief we can have!
It operates simply. Linear time imposes a duration on all things, and thus we feel things slipping away from us. Under this illusion, we find ourselves adopting a grasping, clinging approach to life, where we try to haul in as much good stuff and repel as much bad stuff as we possibly can. To do this, we step all over other people, battle with our own morals and ideas about life, and generally muck up a perfectly good thing. And then, in the end, we die.
Most of the time we try not to think of this. It’s pretty depressing to realize that no matter what we do, we just die in the end. Even if we help others, they’re just going to die too. The result is that many of us adopt beliefs which seem to put a happy ending to the story, such as the belief in an eternal heaven awaiting us after death, or a belief in reincarnation. But when we examine these beliefs, they also suffer from linear time’s effects. No matter how cool heaven is, it’s probably going to get boring after 17 ½ billion years. And reincarnation begs the question of an ‘end-point’, where we finally discover nirvana or unity with the All.
What we’re craving isn’t some special prize at the end of linear time. What we’re craving is the end of linear time itself. Timelessness. Timelessness is the simple truth of time that we’ve all forgotten. We’ve forgotten it because we became fervent believers in linear time.
The True Nature of Time
The simple fact is that there is no such thing as future or past. There is only the present. ‘Past’ is a present idea in your head. We call it a ‘memory’, and imagine that it references a real event in the ‘past’. But the truth is that it’s just a present thought in your head.
The same for future. We call our present thoughts of the future ‘dreams’ or ‘plans’, and feel sure that there is a real, live future drawing ever closer. But our dreams and plans are nothing more than present thoughts about present thoughts.
Indeed, you will never, ever, no-matter-what, experience anything outside of the present. Even if you step into a time machine and travel twenty years into the ‘future’, when will that future ‘be’ for you? It will be your present.
We can’t escape from the present. We’re there all the time, and no matter what we do or think, we’re stuck. If we’d stop a moment and take a look at the situation, it would actually be pretty awesome. But instead, we spend all our present time believing in future and past, and that makes our present into a crazy mess.
If we re-discover timelessness, everything changes. We don’t lose anything – we retain our motivation, our ability to make plans, our ability to dream and remember and accomplish things. What changes is our ability to believe that past and future are real, and thus it’s impossible for us to experience anxiety, stress, or frustration – feelings which are generated only by our belief in linear time.
We all had this sense of timelessness when we were very young, but lost it as we adopted our belief in linear time. Many people have re-discovered timelessness, and found that life is just as amazing as it was when the world was still magical and marvelous. They’ve discovered that all of the problems of adulthood – all the issues that we spend our entire lives trying to resolve – aren’t real, solid problems. They are problems we are constantly creating out of our basic beliefs regarding how the world works. In short, when we re-discover timelessness, we find the meaning of life. And the meaning of life exists in the timeless ‘now’ that most of us are so busy ignoring.
We’re all free to believe in linear time and everything that it entails. We’re free to spend our lives trying to resolve the problems that linear time creates for us. We’re also free to re-discover timelessness.
We can’t force ourselves to experience timelessness. It’s something we must re-discover. A great way to do this is to ignore timelessness completely, and instead focus on linear time. The fact is that linear time is a pretty flimsy construction, and if we take the time to examine it fully, it will fall apart on its own.
To examine it, we just have to look at our ideas about time. Notice how your ideas translate into feelings, so that you have an actual sensation of time passing by you. This sensation, more than anything else, is what really convinces us of linear time.
How long is the present moment? Where is the past? When will the future arrive? What actual separation divides a cause and an effect? What can you find in your mind or in the world around you that exists outside of the present moment? If you know that you won’t lose your ability to ‘remember’ or ‘plan’, what is the use of the ideas of past and future? What does a belief in past and future do for you? How does it effect how you live?
It’s these sorts of questions which can lead us to truth – not by seeking truth directly, but by taking a good look at the veils we’ve set up between ourselves and truth.
If we see through the veils, truth will be waiting, plain and evident, right before us. Right where it’s been all along.