I have written about this too, several times, but thought I would briefly revisit it.
The idea of time travel says more about our mind than it does about reality.
In our mind, we can easily visit the past and future. Present, past, and future all co-exist. So it’s an apparently small leap to assume we can do the same in reality.
While in reality, we only have what’s here and now and our ideas about the past and future are all created here and now. For time travel to be possible, the past and future would have to be stored somewhere, and that’s very likely not how it is.
So the idea of time travel says something about how our mind works. It reminds us that we can easily visit some version of the past, present, and future in our mind, that we cannot find the past and future anywhere else, and that we sometimes mistake what’s going on in our mind for reality outside of the mind.
It also reminds us that all we have is what’s here and now. As far as we know, the past and future are not magically stored anywhere outside of our mind.
Of course, the idea of time travel in fiction is something else. It can create fascinating and fun stories, and those too can be used to explore and say something about us here and now.
I have received several mini-healings (and some not so mini) from people in the Vortex Healing community when I have needed and asked for it. They freely give their time to help someone else, sometimes even someone they haven’t met.
It reminds me that time is love. When people freely give their time to help someone else, it’s love. When we exchange our time for money, it’s also love – for ourselves and our family. When we do something in our spare time, even if it’s something as simple as watching a movie or walking in nature, it’s how we best know to use our time in that moment and an expression of love.
In the bigger picture, time is love since it allows things to happen. This universe, planet, and our own lives would exist without time. Time is life’s gift to itself, or existence’s gift to itself, or the divine’s gift to itself.
Time is also love in that our mind creates its experience of time so it can place things in an imagined past and future, and even present. Our mind imagines a timeline and places images at different points in the timeline. It’s a crucial element for this human self to operate and function in the world, and – in that sense – an expression of love.
As I wrote this, I imagined a couple of questions:
If we waste our time, is that an expression of love? “Waste” is an idea we place on it and not inherent in the situation itself. Also, we may need to relax and that’s how we decide to do it there and then. And we may be caught up in emotional issues or habits, and whatever we do is the best we know how to do at that moment.
I get that the past and future is imagined, but is the present imagined too? Yes, we place an overlay of mental images on what’s here and now, and what we imagine is not-here and now. We place mental images on what we can see, what we know – or assume we know – is behind us, or nearby, and also anything else we imagine in the world. When I see the candle in front of me, there is a mental image of a candle on top of it so I know what it is, how it works, and what I can do with it. When I imagine the house I am in, I imagine rooms and features I cannot see right now. When I imagine the town and country and the rest of the world and people I know who are not here, that’s also clearly an imagination.
When you say “imagined” does it mean that it doesn’t exist? Not necessarily. Imagined just means that we have a mental image of it that we use to label, understand, and navigate. If I imagine a friend in another town, and I call that person, it’s likely that the person will answer if he or she can. The person is there even if I rely on my images of that person to know they exist, who they are, and so on.
Of course, there is a component of this that is imagination or fantasy in the sense that we typically use those words. We assume things about something or someone, and although there may be some validity to it, it’s also assumptions. In a conventional sense, it may be more or less accurate. And in a more fundamental sense, what these images refer to are fundamentally different from the images and what we think we know about it.
Our perception of space, time, solid objects and a sense of reality to them all is central to our human experience.
It can be very interesting to explore this basic perception and how our minds create it, and inquiry – for instance the Living Inquiries – is a good way to do it.
In general, the mind creates its experience of the world through (a) sensory input with (b) an overlay of thoughts (images and words) combined with sensations. And sometimes, just (b). And that’s how it is with its experience of space, time, and solid objects as well.
Space. As I am sitting in this room, there is (what my thoughts label as) sensory input about the – visual, sound, touch. On top of that, my thoughts put mental images and words to make sense of it and make it into a room with floor, walls, ceiling, table, chairs and so on. And physical sensations combine with those thoughts to make it seem more real and substantial. When I close my eyes and see images of the table, and hear the word “table”, sensations – for me now, in the front of my upper body – lend a sense of solidity to those thoughts of table.
Time. Similarly, I have the word “present” overlaid on top of this room as it appears to me now. And I see images of a timeline with past, present, and future, and certain other images and words in certain spots on this timeline. For instance, for the part of the timeline that represents “this evening” I see “6pm SETI talk with Dan Werthimer” and “8pm Tallis Scholars concert” along with “Oakland” and an image of going there with Lyft and a map of San Francisco (where I am right now) and Oakland. Wherever my attention goes, images and words pop up to create content and an impression of past, future, and present, and more generally of “time”, with a range of events placed on it.
Here too, certain sensations are associated with each image and word to lend a sense of substance and reality to them. Sometimes, it’s just enough for my mind to think to itself “this is real”, and sometimes there is more of an emotional charge to it. For instance, I remember first learning to ride my bike as a child, and see an image of my father supporting the bike, letting go, and me cycling for the first time without support. I feel sensations in the forehead and front of the belly that lends a sense of substance and reality to these memories. These sensations, along with some other images and words, tells my mind these memories are “real”, they represent – more or less – what happened.
Substance. I have my laptop on my lap as I sit on the sofa with my legs outstretched. When I close my eyes, I notice sensations on top of my thighs along with an image of my thighs with a laptop resting on top of them. These sensations and images, along with some other ones, creates an experience of “thighs” and “laptop” and thoughts that these are substantial and real. My mind creates an experience for itself of these are real physical objects.
Looking closer. When I look a bit closer, I see it’s all created by thoughts and sensations, and it’s all made up by awakeness. It’s all happening within and as awakeness. As is space and objects in space, time and events in time, and anything else – including any ideas of a body, mind, universe, life, and even Spirit and awakeness.
If we continue to explore this, with some skill and guidance, we come to see our experiences more as just that – as they happen. And that can be quite a relief. The heaviness goes out of it, and the sense of it being “real in itself”.
Notes. As usual, I have taken some shortcuts in writing about this and there is always a great deal more to say about it. Any of the ideas used here are made up in the same way, including the most basic ones and also including “mental images and words” and “sensations”.
Also, when I write about closing my eyes to investigate, it just because it helps me see my own mental images – and other imaginations – more easily. These are here also when my eyes are open, but the visual impressions tend to “override” them so they are easily noticed, at least at first, with the eyes closed.
And the mind uses a wide range of imaginations, not just images and sounds. The mind imagines all the senses and uses all of it to create its own experience of the world. It takes sensory impressions, puts an overlay of imaginations, and combine these with sensations to create a sense of reality and solidity for itself, and sometimes also an emotional charge.
This is all lila – the play of life (or the divine). This is how we can explore lila in immediacy – right here now. This is one layer in how life creates its experience of itself here and now, and it’s the layer it’s most easy for us to notice and explore, and that has the most practical effects when we do so.
There is nothing new here. Individuals from all cultures and times must have been aware of this, in their own way, with their own take on and flavor to it. These are sometimes called mystics, but that makes it sound too special and far away. This is very simple, ordinary, and immediate.
It doesn’t mean having no images or thoughts about the future, or believing there is no future.
It means seeing clearly, through curiosity and investigation, that any images I have about the future are just that, images.
They are images and words, with perhaps sensations associated with them. If unexamined, the sensations will lend a sense of reality and solidity to the images and words. They will seem real, as if they reflect a real future. If examined, I see images as images and words as words, and feel sensations as sensations. It’s clear they are all happening here and now. I cannot find a future outside of these, happening here, and being images, words and sensations.
Take a moment and imagine that there is no time. Take a moment to just let go of tomorrow. What if letting go of suffering wasn’t possible tomorrow – that today, even right now, was all you had, and you had nothing else but today? All of a sudden, you would look at your whole existence through completely different eyes. See if you can feel what it is to exist only now. See what its like to completely take tomorrow, and yesterday, out of the picture.
– Adyashanti from Falling into Grace
A few basic things here:
In an ordinary sense, it’s of course fine and reasonable to postpone some things into the future – such as meetings, appointments, tasks and events. I’ll put some things on my calendar for the next few weeks, and even months, and do them (or not) as the day and time is here. It’s fine to put these into an imagined future, because it tends to work.
And yet, with certain “inner” things, it makes much more sense to do it here and now. These may include…. finding love for what’s here, pulling discomfort closer, using a gentle inquiry to see what’s here, asking myself “is it true that what I am seeking is not already here?”.
Putting these into an imagined future creates a pattern and habit of postponing. It gives the mind a way out from doing it here and now.
It also tends to reinforce the idea of a real and solid future “out there” somewhere. Is there really a findable future, or even a past or present? Is the word “future” the actual future? Is this image of a future an actual future? Is this sensation associated with “future” an actual future? Can I find the future anywhere, outside of words, images and sensations (clearly happening now)? As I examine this and take it in, the option of postponing certain things into the future seems less attractive or real. Why not do it now?
It’s interesting to explore how my mind constructs what seems obvious from a conventional and unquestioned view, including ideas of time, space, control, body, objects, matter, a me and I, and even ideas of clarity and confusion, identification and so on.
For instance, there is a sense that I know what will happen, at least to some extent. So I look at the components of my experience: words, images and sensations.
Do I know what images will appear next? Do I know what images will appear to my physical eye? To my inner eye? Do I know what image will appear next second?
Do I know what words will appear next?
Do I know what emotions and body sensations will appear next?
Do I know what sound will appear next?
When I look at my images of what will happen at any point in the future, are those images what will actually happen? Are they the actual future?
When I look at my words of what will happen at some point in the future, are those words the actual future?
And I can do the same with time. Is the word “future” the actual future? Are my images of a timeline, of an abstract future, and of specific events in the future, the actual future? Are the associated sensations the actual future? (And what about the past, or present, or “time”, or space?)
Time does go by (or, more accurately, it feels as if time is going by) more quickly the older we get. In the first few years of our lives, anything we sense or do is brand new, and many of our experiences are unique, so they remain firmly in our memories. But as the years go by, we encounter fewer and fewer new experiences—both because we have already accomplished a lot and because we become slaves to our daily routines. For example, try to remember what happened to you every day last week. Chances are that nothing extraordinary happened, so you will be hard-pressed to recall the specific things you did on Monday, Tuesday, etc.
What can we do about this? Maybe we need some new app that will encourage us to try out new experiences, point out things we’ve never done, recommend dishes we’ve never tasted and suggest places we’ve never been. Such an app could make our lives more varied, prod us to try new things, slow down the passage of time and increase our happiness. Until such an app arrives, try to do at least one new thing every week.
Another option is to notice that this experience is, in reality, new and never experienced before and will never be experienced again.
When we take our images and thoughts as true, there is a sense that things are the same. Our images and thoughts makes it look as if this experience is similar or even the same (!) as a previous or future experience. As we examine how our experience is created, and see words as words and images as images, this experience is revealed as what it is, new and fresh. And it’s not even “new and fresh”, it’s just what it is here and now.
How do I explore this? I can question thoughts such as “I have experienced this before” using The Work. I can look for the past, future and present, and any sense of boredom or that this is the same as a previous experience using the Unfindable Inquiry in the Living Inquiries. I can also look for any threats related to this using the Anxiety Inquiry.
A belief in time is required for postponing something that can be done now.
Mind imagines time stretching out ahead of me, as a field or a line. Mind identifies with that image, and takes it as (reflecting something) real and true. And mind puts a task that could be done now into the future.
For me, I notice that I do with with more completely shifting allegiance from identified mind to nonidentified mind. There is a hesitation here, a less than wholehearted intention, because I imagine it can be done in the future. I imagine there is a future, that the future is something real.
As this is examined more closely, mind comes to see what’s actually happening. That there is no time outside of my images of time. That imagine putting it into the future is just that, imagination. And there is a shift to doing it now. There is a more wholehearted intention of doing it now, and a movement to find it now.
The same is the case with space. As long as there is a belief in the image of space, I can imagine it happening “out there” in others, and in another me in the future. Looking at this, I also see that the image of time is really an image of space. It’s an image of time stretching out into the future, and that image relies on an image of space. A belief in space – it seems – underlies a belief in time.
Time ends when you no longer need to produce it.
– Byron Katie
Where do I find time? How does time appear to me?
When I look, I find an image of time, and on this image I place images of what has happened in the past, what may happen in the future, and even images of what’s happening in the present. Past, future, present – they are all images, all thoughts, their boundaries defined by images. I also see an image of time as a timeline, and images of events placed on this timeline. And it’s all happening within this timeless present, within and as awakeness. I cannot find time outside of these images.
It’s popular in certain circles to talk about being present. What does it mean?
I don’t really know, but imagine two things:
One is in the meaning of intentionally being aware of what’s here and now. The simplest way of practicing this may be through training a stable attention, for instance bringing attention to physical sensations, whether it’s the sensations at the nostrils of the in- and out-breath, the sensations within any other imagined boundary on or in the body, the sensations of movement or weight, and so on. This also makes it easier to intentionally bring attention to what’s here in everyday life – sensations, sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and images and thoughts. I assume this is what’s sometimes referred to as mindfulness.
As any other practice, this is also inquiry. What happens when attention is brought to sensations? (It goes out of thoughts, which may be experienced as liberating.) Can I notice when attention is absorbed on the “inside” of thoughts, and bring it back to sensations? What thoughts did attention go to? (What do I find when I take these to inquiry?) Do I have thoughts about wandering attention? (It’s not good, I am not doing a good job.) What do I find when I take these to inquiry?
Another is to notice that whatever is here in the field of awareness, or whatever attention goes to, is already here and now. Sensations, sights, sounds, smells, tastes, thoughts are all here and now.
I sometimes ask myself a simple question: Is it true this – including images of past, future and present – is not already here and now?
To explore this further, I sometimes explore the sense fields to see how the mental field creates images of time (as a continuum) and future, present and past (discrete times), and places other images (memories, scenarios) on these images. Sometimes, it’s taken as real, solid and really “out there” in the past, future or present. Other times, it’s all recognized as happening within the mental field in immediacy. Any sense of time then “collapses” into what’s here in immediacy. Whatever is here – my field of experience – is all happening within and as awareness, including images of time, and images overlaid on the other sense fields such as images of space, images of a me and I, images of an inner and outer world, and so on.
This helps me see – and feel – that time (as a continuum) and the three times (past, future, present) cannot be found outside of my images. Images placed on these images of time (memories, scenarios) lose a sense of really being “out there” in time, in past, future or present. And it’s all – images of time, of space, of a me and I – more easily noticed as happening within and as awareness.
My birthday is coming up (again!) later this month, and I get curious about my age again.
I first notice that here and now, in immediacy, there is timelessness. Whatever happens in the sense fields happen within timelessness, and that includes any thoughts about past, future and present. Those are all labels. Interpretations. Ways to organize and make sense of what’s happening in the sense fields.
Among those stories of time, I find the most basic one is the story of time itself. A story saying there is a time line with past, future and present. This one helps place events where they seem to belong, and this helps me – as a human being in the world – to function and operate. It is not a flawless system (I edit and even make up memories of the past, and sometimes actually believe my own stories about time and what happened, happens, and will happen), but it generally works pretty well. It’s functional.
One of these stories of time says I was born so and so many years ago. It’s the story that’s reflected in my passport and birth certificate, and what most people in my culture use for themselves and when they think about how old I am.
Another of these stories is the deep time story. This universe was “born” about 13.7 billion years ago, and that’s how old I am. Again, in our culture, this doesn’t quite make sense. I am a human being, not the universe. But it actually makes a great deal of sense from another perspective. Everything I am, as this human being, is quite literally 13.7 billion years old. It is the product of the 13.7 billion year old evolution of this universe.
I notice I find it equally helpful to explore time and space.
In both cases, I see and feel it is all happening here, in my own world of images.
I am caught up in stories about the world. Then, I recognize how the mental field creates a sense of space, and how all these stories are mapped onto this imagined space. It is all happening here.
I am caught up in stories about the past or future. Then, I recognize how the mental field creates a sense of time, and how all these stories are mapped onto this imagined time line. It is all happening here.
The most effective way to explore time I have found so far is exploring it through the sense fields.
How does time appear in each sense field, and in the combination of the sense fields?
How does time appear in sound, sensation, taste, smell, sight, thoughts/images? How does change appear? Do I find past or future there?
When I explore time this way, I find that the only place I find a sense of time is in the mental field. Any sense of time appears through an overlay of images and thoughts. An overlay of images of what has happened, what may happen, and what is happening “now”.
Joel sometimes says that enlightenment is retroactive.
One of the many ways of noticing that is through inquiry. Especially when it is done in a wholehearted and heartfelt way.
I take a story as true, and it colors my past. It may even bring up sadness, grief, anger, regret and so on.
I inquire into the story, finding what is more true for me, and the story is liberated from being taken as true.
And here, I find that my images of the past has changed as well. Instead of – for instance – regret over a particular situation, there is now a gentle and heartfelt appreciation.
Often, it is bitter-sweet. I can see how I acted in beliefs back then, creating suffering for myself and others. It is bitter. And yet, in realizing that I was confused and acted on a belief, and now have a little more clarity around it, there is a sweetness, a sincere appreciation of the whole process.
Our experience of time is fluid… expanded, condensed, not there at all.
This morning seems like ages ago. And there is no gap between now and what happened decades back.
When I do bodywork, seconds and minute details can unfold worlds of experience, yet a session is over in the blink of an eye.
Noticing this fluidity in our experience of time is an invitation for inquiry.
What is this experience of time? What do I find when I look into it?
Do I find past and future as mental field creations only? Do I find past, present and future as one package, all happening within the mental field?
Memories strung together. Scenarios of the future. Images of the present. All tied together into one seamless experience of time, and completely fluid and mallable because it is all imagined. No gap to something that happened years ago. An infinity of experience in a second. All happening within and as timelessness.
In noticing this mental field overlay creating the experience of time, I notice all happening as timelessness.
Here are a few things about stories, which can be explored through the sense fields…
Is a projection of a story and a quality. Imagination is taken as saying something about the world, out there and in the past, present or future. And what that imagination is about is taken as being out there as well. When it is recognized as imagination, it can be a very useful and practical tool for our human self to orient and function in the world. When it is taken as truth, it becomes a blind projection. We are blind for it as an imagination.
Is imagination, and the world we relate to is quite literally imaginary. It is an overlay of images relating to each other, and those images include images of me. Any drama happens among those images, mostly in the way other images relate to the images of me.
Is a question, an innocent question about the world. It is sometimes taken as something more, as a statement, fact or truth, which itself is just a story about a story.
Is a tool. It is a tool for our human self to orient and function in the world. And as any tool, it is sometimes useful and sometimes not. It has only practical value.
Is no thing appearing as something. Any mental field creation is insubstantial and ephemeral. Like a hologram, it has form but no substance. When it is recognized as a mental field creation, it is noticed as insubstantial and ephemeral. As no-thing appearing as something. When it is taken as true, it appears real, solid and substantial. (Sensations combine with the story to lend it a sense of substantiality, and muscles often tense up to make those sensations stronger.)
Is a mental field overlay. It is a mental field overlay on top of the other sense fields. And separating it out in sense fields (sensation, sight, sound, smell, taste, mental) is itself from a mental field overlay.
For instance, there is a sensation, a story of “pain”, and additional stories of pain as undesireable. All of these create the gestalt of “pain”, and this appears substantial and real when the gestalt is not noticed as a gestalt, and quite differently when it is noticed as a gestalt.
I mean, what you got to lose? You know, you come from nothing.
You’re going back to nothing. What have you lost? Nothing!
Always look on the bright side of life!
Nothing will come from nothing. You know what they say?
– From Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, Life of Brian
There are two ways of looking at this…
First, within (the story of) time. There was a time when none of this was here. No me, none of the ones I know, no humans, no living planet, no solar system, no galaxy, no universe as we know it. And there will be such a time again, so nothing is gained and nothing is lost.
Then, here now. It all happens as the play of awakeness. Insubstantial. Ephemeral. No traces.
The first one happens within stories, wihtin the creations and play of the mental field. The second can be an immediate noticing and realization outside of the mental field. (Although guided by and later reflected in/expressed through the mental field.)
In both cases, it can be sad initially. There is a loss of the story of something happening.
But then it is freeing. Since all of this will be gone, why not act in ways that align with what is really important to me? Why not follow my heart? And since it is all the play of awakeness itself, why not do the same?
Whenever there is a strong belief in the stories of past, future and present, they seem quite substantial and real. The present appears on the razor’s edge between past and future, and it is a difficult balancing act to “stay present”. It is easy to get absorbed into stories about the past and future and experience them as real and substantial.
“Being present” here may be taken as focusing on stories about the (apparent) present, and push aside stories about the past and future. (And then discover that it is not very functional.) Or there may be a temporary shift out of stories and an experience of the timeless now, but a switch back into experiencing the stories of the three times as real as soon as they come back.
As the identification with the stories of past, future and present is released somewhat, we have a more immediate recognition of them as stories only. As mental field creations with a practical function, a tool for our human self to function in the world. It is possible to engage with these stories while recognizing them as just stories.
Early on, it may be easier to recognize the past and future as mental field creations, as (often very helpful) imaginations.
As this clarifies, there is also a recognition of the present as a story, a mental field creation overlaid on the other sense fields. Imaginations interpreting what is happening in the sense fields, in addition to an overlay of the story of present.
The gestalts of past, future and present are still there, and recognized as gestalts as they happen.
Time is a mental field creation, so no wonder our experience of time changes.
When I look at my own experience of time, I find a few different aspects…
First, a sense of infinite time between now and something that happened in the past. It seems very far away, even if it happened recently in conventional (clock) terms. For instance, between now and when I got up – which is only a couple of hours ago – it feels like a very, almost infinitely, long time. It feels like centuries or millenia may have past, although I of course know that is not the case. Right now, this experience is relatively stably in the middle or foreground in daily life.
Then, a sense of collapsed time. Of the time between now and a particular memory from the past – or scenario about the future – as nonexistent. It feels like no time between now and particulars in the past and future. No time between my birth and now. No time between now and my death. There is a sense of immediacy here. This experience comes into the foreground when I look at it, but it otherwise more in the background.
I can also access conventional clock & calendar time of hours, days, months and so on. I can easily funciton within this framework, although my experience of it is more along the lines of the other ones mentioned here. This one is available as needed.
And finally, a sense oftimelessness. Of everything – including my mental field creations of time, memories and scenarios – as happening within and as timelessness, this timeless now. Everything happens within and as timeless awakeness. This is the context of all of the other ones, independent of how they show up. And it is in the background or foreground of experience depending on where attention goes.
Trigger: Sometimes surprising myself in realizing that something that feels like it happened a very long time ago, really happened just a few hours earlier or the day before.
In his most accessible work to date, contemporary mystic A. H. Almaas shows readers how being present and aware in the moment leads to the discovery of our True Nature. This relaxed condition of simply “being yourself ” allows us to be free from worries, attachments, feelings of inadequacy, preoccupation with goals, and efforts to eliminate experiences we don’t want. As we begin to embrace the truth of the moment, we feel more like ourselves, and this leads to greater self-acceptance, contentment, and harmony.
Almaas brings clarity and understanding to the intimate details of this inner work, which makes use of self-observation and the contemplative method he calls inquiry. Each chapter includes an “exploration session” with questions for the reader’s practice of self-inquiry.
About the Author
A. H. Almaas is the pen name of Hameed Ali, originator of the Diamond Approach, who has been teaching individuals and groups in Colorado, California, and Europe for some twenty-five years. He is the founder of the Ridhwan School and the author of numerous books, including Spacecruiser Inquiry, Essence, and The Pearl Beyond Price.
Yesterday, I listened to music while doing a sense field practice, exploring specifically how thoughts creates a sense of continuity. And as I did so, I noticed the lyrics I listened to:
Only this moment (Holds us together)
Which is a perfect reflection of what I was exploring. Only this moment holds it all together. Past and future, continuity, time, it all happens right here now. Thoughts happening here now is what holds it all together.
Only this moment holds it all together.
Röyksopp: Only This Moment from The Understanding.
Visiting Norway, I notice especially well how my experience of time has three layers…
First, as timeless. Whatever happens, happens as this timeless awakeness. It is the always changing world of form, unfolding within, to and as awakeness, which itself is always and already free from time and space.
Then looking back on any length of experience, as a lifetime worth of experience. The richness of any stretch of experience makes it full and rich.
Also looking back, as having happened in the blink of an eye. Any experience is ephemeral, only reflected in a memory, and seems to have happened in the blink of an eye.
My life in the US has this quality. Having happened within and as this timeless awakeness. Full and rich, as a lifetime worth of experience. And ephemeral and quick, as having happened in the blink of an eye.
And the same is the case for my life here in Norway. My visit here this time, past visits, and my time here before moving abroad.
I continue to explore thoughts through the practice of labeling the different sense fields: sound, sight, taste, smell, sensations and thoughts.
It is a great help in differentiating perception and thought, exploring the different interactions between them, and also how thoughts are really just another perception, mimicking the other sense fields and arising as anything else in the sense fields.
Some things I notice…
When I close my eyes, I notice how thoughts create images of what is in the space around this body, and of the body itself. In fact, thoughts create the whole experience of space, when the eyes are closed and also when they are open. An overlay of thoughts organize and makes sense of perception, creating a sense of space.
Attention is guided by thoughts in terms of sense field, location and boundary. For instance, with eyes closed or open, thoughts guide attention to any sense field, any location, and an area of any size. It can guide attention to sensations of my whole body, or the toe, or sounds from the street, or anything else.
Thoughts label perception, often just as an image or also with associated sounds, tastes, smells, sensations. Something arises, it is placed somewhere within the image of space, and an image guessing what it comes from is placed on top of it. For instance, there is the sound of a car from the road, it is located in relation to the space image, and an image of a car is placed there. This happens all the time, with most or nearly all sense perceptions.
Thoughts mimic the other sense fields: sounds, sights, taste, smell, sensations. It creates an imagined world that mirrors the world of perception, whether it is overlaid on or separate from perceptions arising here and now. In the first case, it is often not noticed. In the second case, we call it imagination or daydreaming or thinking about the past or future.
Thoughts create a sense of continuity. Thoughts mirror perceptions that just left, anticipate what may be about to happen, and string them all together into an appearance of continuity. There seems to be a funny mix of thoughts of past (perceptions from a while ago), present (perceptions that just left), and future (anticipation), and of perceptions arising here now, all together creating an appearance of continuity and time.
Through the labeling of nearly all perceptions, thoughts trigger responses and reactions. For instance, there is a thought of hunger (image/sensation), a thought of food in the fridge, and then the response of getting up to make some food and eat it. Or an image of me as man, someone else as a particular type of woman, images of a potential combination, and attraction. Or rain, me miserable in rain, and aversion. Without these thoughts, and an identification with them, none of it would happen. The whole world of attractions and aversions is created in this way, through these overlays of thoughts.
Thoughts create the basic organization of perception, such as extent/space and continuity/time, and also a sense of I and Other, with a particular boundary and content of each. The field of perception is filtered into Other, which is typically whatever arises as not this human self, and I, which is typically whatever is associated with this human self such as sensations, sights of this body, sounds made by this body, thoughts, and so on. Combined with this imagined I-Other boundary, there are thoughts of inside and outside, center and periphery, and so on.
The sense of I is anchored in whatever arises in the field of perception that falls inside of the I-Other boundary, and some of these more than other. For instance, within the sense field I notice how – for me right now – the sense of I is especially anchored in sensations in the upper neck/lower head area.
Thoughts also filter perception to create a sense of a doer. Something arises, and is seen as happening on its own or through the actions of someone else, of the wider world, of Other. Or it may happen within the boundary of this human self, and still for some reason be filtered as Other. Something else arises, filtered to appear within the boundary of this human self, of I, and of I as a doer, and there is a sense of this I being a doer of whatever happened.
And the interesting thing about all this is that it can be seen as it happens. Simply. Clearly. And in that way, thoughts appear transparent, and there is also a transparency in a different way in terms of how this whole sense of an I with an Other is created.
I was reminded of an interesting parallel at a science pub last night…
In terms of our current scientific creation story, space unfolded from the Big Bang, and with it time (which is change within the world of form). There was no space before BB, so no time, so the question of what was before BB has no meaning.
Similarly, an overlay of thoughts on pure perception creates a sense of space and time, or of extent and continuity. Outside of this overlay of thoughts, there is no space or time. Prior to, or outside of, this layer of thought, questions of before or after have no meaning. (Other posts have more on this.)
So our story of the Big Bang mirrors what is alive here and now.
As any creation story, and any story in general, it is a projection of what is alive here and now, in two ways…
It is a projection of what is on the inside of a thought, making it appear out there, in the past or the future or at another location. In this case, making it appear in the past, as something substantial and real, even as it is all from just a thought.
It is also a projection of what is happening here and now. There is a field of awakeness and form, prior to and free from space and time. And there is an overlay of thought creating the appearance of extent and continuity, mapping perceptions in space and time. The story of Big Bang mirrors this process quite closely, and is projected onto the universe as a whole and back in time to the very beginning of form.
With an overlay of stories, a sense of extent and continuity is created, and this allows for the whole rich multitude of differentiations and processes we experience in our daily life. A whole universe is created from these stories, whether we see recognize them as just stories or take them as something more than that.
And this too is reflected in the BB creation story. With the BB, space and time unfolds which allows for a whole universe, increasingly rich and complex, to come into being and evolve in time.
Realizing the BB story as a projection does not take anything away from it, apart from its possible sense of solidity. It is only placed in a different context, and has another layer added to it.
All stories about creation, salvation, doomsday, end times, birth, death, heaven and hell, and so on, are projections of what is happening here and now.
It is probably easiest to see this with heaven and hell. The world confirms to my beliefs of how it should be, and there is heaven. There is friction between the world and my beliefs, and hell. In bothÂ cases, it is happening here and now, within this awake timeless present.
Salvation is also here and now, and happens when there is a disidentification with what arises, and specifically when there is a release from attachment to a story, when it is no longer held onto as absolutely true, when there is an opening there or a more full release.
Birth and death, and creation and destruction,Â are alsoÂ right here and now. Within this awake timeless present,Â form continually arise in a new, different andÂ fresh way.Â The world ofÂ form continuosly diesÂ as what it was and is rebornÂ as something else. There is continuos birth and death, creation and destruction, right here and now, in immediate awareness.Â
For each of these, there is no need to look any further than what is rightÂ here now, alive in immediate awareness.Â What is alive here now is really all there is. Anything else is just a story, an abstraction, found onlyÂ on the inside of a thought.
And thoughts arise within this awake timeless present, as ephemeral and insubstantial as anything else arising.
I find three different ways space & time can appear…
First, when there is a belief in stories, an appearance of I and other, and I as a segment of what is, specifically an object in the world. As an object in the world, time and space seems very real, and I am at the mercy of time as space. Time and space has a life-and-death importance to me, and appear very substantial and real. I take myself as something within time and space, so time and space has to look very real to me.
Then, there may still be a belief in a separate self, an I with an Other, although now, the I is placed on the witness, seeing itself. Here, all form appears as a fluid seamless whole, beyond and including this human self and the wider world, and the boundary between the two is revealed as just appearing because of a story, of taking “I” to be this human self. In this case, I – as pure seeing, is timeless and spaceless, and something that time and space appear to and within.
Finally, when there is a Ground awakening, when void awakens to itself, and itself as awake void and form, the sense of an I with an Other falls away. It is only this awake void, free from time and space, arising as fresh, new, fluid form. Time and space is revealed as appearing when what is is filtered through stories about past, future, present and continuity.
Time and space arises within, to and as awake void and form, when what is is filtered through these stories.
It may be worth mentioning how everything arising is revealed as timeless and spaceless here. In short, void is absence of anything, so also absent of time and space. And when form is recognized as nothing other than a temporary form aspect of this awake void, form is also recognized as absent of time and space. It happens within and as this timeless and spaceless now.
The hills over there, and this hand right here, are both awake void, so no distance and no separation is involved. It is all the always fluid form aspect of awake void. At the same time, it is possible to create an overlay of space so this human self can talk about here and there, close and far, feet and miles, and function in the world.
And with time, everything happens as this timeless now, but also here, it is possible to create an overlay of time so this human self can talk about yesterday and tomorrow, and function in the world.
I have been reminded of deep time this last week, from attending the archeology film festival, reading an article about the life and death of the solar system, to watching some snippets from Cosmos online. It is a revisiting of an interest I have had since childhood in these themes which are, in some ways, next door to Big Mind.
From the form side, contemplating the evolution of the universe and our place in it, almost requires shifting into Big Mind to hold it all… And from the emptiness side, realizing the utter impermanence of it all is an invitation to a shift into emptiness, the void, which is what is left when everything else is gone.
To really grasp for instance the universe story requires a shift into Big Mind, and to really grasp the impermanence of it all requires finding ourselves as the void. At least to some extent. It requires dipping into it, tasting it. And is an invitation to explore it further.
I am actually surprised not more Buddhist teachers use the universe story (and deep time, the long now, etc.) in that way… as a nudge, an invitation into Big Mind and finding ourselves as the void. It seems like a perfect teaching vehicle.
I would have jumped on it right away if I was in their position, and I guess many will in the future… maybe through a combination of multimedia and experiential activities such as the practices to reconnect and the Big Mind process.
I have mentioned this before, and the previous post reminded me of it again… the gifts of blocks and resistance.
As awful as resistance can be, in terms of the stress and sometimes suffering created from it, it also has some great gifts.
One of the main ones is that it allows for an exploration of Spirit (in its form and emptiness aspects) one piece at a time, filtered in space and time into mostly manageable portions.
Resistance slows down the process, allowing for a more detailed and thorough exploration of each without it drowning in the immensity of the whole. In some ways, it functions as a magnifying glass, allowing for one piece of the terrain to be explored, in detail, at a time. It holds us in place for a while, inviting a more thorough exploration of that particular area of the landscape.
Our personality certainly does not like resistance and its effects, at least not right away. But with time, there can be a great deal of appreciation and gratitude even for resistance and blocks, for these and other reasons.
(Resistance here refers to resistance to experience, which comes from a belief in a story, which in turn creates a sense of I and Other, seeing of some experiences as undesirable, and then resistance to them, which then leads to a sense of drama, stress and sometimes suffering… which is just about all it creates. Spirit refers to all of Existence, in its form and emptiness aspects, including our daily human experiences.)
Slow as I am, I didn’t remember at first that this is the Chronos myth, the Greek god of time eating his children.
Eaten by time
First, there is an identification with the seen, with our human self. We find ourselves as an object in the world, within time and space. There is a sense of precariousness, of being at the mercy of the whims of other objects and the relentless stream of change and time. I am clearly subject to birth and death, and there is a sadly limited span in between. I am being eaten by time, day by day.
Release from being eaten by time
But am I the seen? Am I really a segment of this content of awareness?
The seen, no matter what it is – sensations, sights, tastes, smells, feelings, emotions, thoughts, they all come and go. But something does not come and go. What it is that does not come and go?
The more I look, the more I find what does not come and go is this seeing itself, this clear awake space that the seen unfolds within and to.
Gradually, I may find myself as the seeing itself, as pure awareness, the witness of the seen, of this content always coming and going.
I also notice that time is part of the seen. It is the always changing content, and arises to the seeing. The seeing itself seem inherently absent of time. It seems timeless.
In this, there is a release from being eaten by time.
The seen is revealed as absent of any I, and I gradually become more familiar and comfortable with this. Gradually, there is more and more of a living from this realization. The seen appears to be absent of any I, and the I appears to be this seeing itself.
Time, as the always changing seen, arises to me as the seeing. It is different from me. There is a release from being identified with it.
But where does the seen end, and I – as the seeing of it, begin? Can I find the line that separates the two?
The more I look, the less certain I am that I can find it. It is elusive. It seems to be just another idea, with no real referent in immediate awareness.
The more there is the looking for this demarcation line, the more it seems that the seen is not that different from the seeing itself. The seen really appears as awareness itself.
The seen and the seeing seem to both arise as this clear awake space.
And, surprisingly, there seem to be no I even in the seeing.
There is no I in the seen, because it comes and goes while something else does not.
And there appears to be no I in the seeing either, because the seen and the seeing are not inherently different from each other. They both arise from and as the same Ground.
Here, there is an eating of time of sorts. There is an absence of any I and Other. An absence of I in seeing or seen, so an absence of any separation.
So there is a series of shifts.
First, there is an identification as the seen, as a segment of content of awareness, as this human self. An object within time and space, and at the mercy of time and space. I am eaten by time.
Then, there is a release from identification with the seen, and a finding of oneself as the seeing. There is a release from the drama of being at the mercy of time and space. I am released from being eaten by time.
Finally, there is the realization that even the seeing is inherently absent of any I. The seen and the seeing arises within and as Ground, as empty awakeness.
The seen, the seeing, the identification with the seen or the seeing, it is all Ground, inherently absent of any I. Even the identification itself is absent of any I. There is no drama there, even in the midst of the appearance of much drama.
One of the instructors at the Breema Center talked about eating time, rather than having time eat us. It is a snappy metaphor.
If I am exclusively identified as something within space & time, as an aspect of the world of phenomena, as a fragment, then time easily becomes an enemy – at least sometimes. I am at the mercy of time. I am at the mercy of change and eventually death. Time eats me.
If I find myself as Witness – pure awareness, or as Big Mind – beyond and including all polarities, then space and time is within me. I am timeless, and that in which time and space happen. I am that within and as which all phenomena unfolds – all births and all deaths. I am eating time.
Talking about it is of course not very useful, other than for the person doing the talking (an opportunity to explore and clarify my own experience and put words on it). But this is something that can be explored by anyone in ones own immediate experience, through for instance the Big Mind process.
First, how does time look from the voice of for instance the finite (an enemy, something that brings me my death, something that threatens my very existence). And then, how does time look from the voice of non-seeking mind, timelessness, Witness or Big Mind (something unfolding within and as me, as waves within the ocean, I am the mirror in which time and space unfolds).
In Anatomy of Miracles (on Sat Nam Rasayan), Subagh Singh Khalsa mentions something that seems quite obvious when pointed out: when we shift our attention from one object to another, it is inevitably accompanied by a sense of space and time.
To say it in a different way…
When there is an identification with any segment of what is, when I believe in the idea of I and place it on a segment of what is, then my identity narrows down to an object in the world, to something finite, appearing in space and time. I apparently am – in my own experience – “trapped” in space and time.
So identifying with focus of attention is one example of this. When I identify with focus of attention, I see how it moves – or I move – from location to location, one after another, and this gives a sense of being trapped on the “inside” of space and time.
When the belief in the idea of I drops, there is only what is – beyond and including all polarities, including space and time. If I call this “I”, then I can say that space and time unfolds within me.
When I look at it, I see that it is not the shifting of attention itself which gives rise to this experience of space and time. It seems to be the identification with the focus – and sometimes the content of the focus – which brings this about. As soon as this focus becomes “I”, then there is space and time. “I” becomes the one moving around bringing first one thing, then another, into focus of attention. “I” am the one travelling from destination to destination, one after another.
Going one step back, I see that this comes from the belief in the idea of “I” as a segment of what is. And in this case, the “I” is placed on the focus of attention (and maybe other things as well, such as the object of attention, intention, awareness, thoughts, and so on).
If there is no identification with anything happening, there is also no identification with space & time. Everything is just happening in an always fresh and eternal present.
Here, the focus of attention can move around as it naturally does, and space and time unfolds as it does, yet there is no identification with either – so no contraction of identity down to ay segment of it, such as focus of attention and/or space & time.