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.
Here is one of the insights that can help release attachments (identification with stories that reality should be different than what it is)……
It is all happening within the same timeless present.
My birth, death, right now, everything that has and will happen in my life, all happens within this timeless present.
The birth of the universe, its evolution, its death, all happens within this timeless present.
The birth, evolution and death of this living planet happens within this timeless present.
All of human history happens within this timeless present.
Anything this human self wants and doesn’t want happens within this timeless present.
And not only within this timeless present, but also as this timeless present. This timeless present playing as form, always new, fresh, different. Always with the same taste, the taste of this timeless present.
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.
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.
Lack of precision is one of those things that still sometimes bugs me, and so shows me a belief…
A belief that precision is somehow superior to lack of precision, a corresponding identity as someone who is, or rather wants to be, precise, and being caught up in struggle with the shadow of the belief (the truth in its reversals) and of the identity (me as imprecise).
In the world of the bodywork I am doing, there is a great deal of opportunity to explore this…! Imprecision seems to abound, including from the senior instructors.
And of course, I see that it comes from them setting a ceiling at the soul level, not including the Ground. And I also see some of the gifts in it, including a deepening familiarity with the territory on this side of the boundary they set up that way.
One of the ways they talk which seems imprecise is how they use the word eternal, and even the word “permanent”.
When void is awake to itself, even to a certain extent, what is is revealed as arising within and as this timeless now. That whatever arises, arises within and as this timeless present is alive in immediate awareness. It is revealed as the play of the timeless now, always fresh, new and different.
The void is void, so also void of space and time. So when this awake void arises as form, those forms are also timeless and spaceless, although can certainly appear as time and space through an overlay of the story of time and space.
Eternity is something very different. It comes from a story, and it comes from within the perspective (and experience) of space and time. There is space and time, and something lasts throughout it all, so is eternal. Using the word eternal reflects a(n unquestioned) belief in the stories of space and time, and also reinforces that belief. It comes from and props up that particular filter. Which is fine of course, but gets a little weird if taken as the absolute and final.
The word permanent is even worse…! It too obviously comes from within the belief in the stories of space and time, of not seeing beyond that filter. But it also implies something substantial, something in the world of form, a content of awareness, which lasts. And by exploring what happens with content of awareness, even in a superficial way, it is pretty clear that inherent in content is change. Content is change. No matter whether it is at a physical level, thought level, or soul level (e.g. alive presence).
So having gotten this out at this level, it is time to inquire into my own beliefs around this! Something is triggered by what I see as imprecision, so there is clearly a clutching at a particular view there. My own reactions – of emotional reactivity (belly), a closed heart (heart) and rigid views (head) – are the signposts saying “blind belief”, nudging me to inquiry and a seeing what is already more true for me than this initial belief saying that people should be precise, that being precise is superior, and so on.
If I resist it, I end up fighting ghosts, and only fueling the patterns of rigidity of views, closed heart, reactive emotions, and even beating myself up for being caught up in it.
If I follow the invitation, and inquire into it with some degree of sincerity, it allows me to see what is already more true for me, which opens for the wide open field beyond beliefs… which is always and already there, only temporarily covered up by the drama and struggle created by beliefs.
As beliefs in ideas fade, go into the background or fall away, there is a more immediate experience of what is arising. Where thoughts would say I have seen this before, there is the immediate experience of whatever arises as always fresh, new, different.
In the same way, as beliefs fall away our words take on a fresh quality. They come out as fresh, new, and different, whether they appear to have been spoken before or not.
Freshness of experience
Thoughts arise with a question: is this similar to what has been experienced or said before? And then maybe, yes, it seems similar.
And if this thought is believed in, another set of thoughts may come up: yes, it is the same. I have seen or heard this before. Things should be new, yet this is the same old. How boring.
Thoughts can also be seen for what they are: as innocent questions, even when they appear as statements. They can provide useful and practical information in a conventional sense, as a help for orienting and functioning in the world. Yes, when they are not believed in, they remain as just guidelines of temporary and practical use only. And they too arise as always unique, fresh, different, along with anything else arising here now.
Freshness of expression
And the freshness of expression comes in two ways:
One is from the immediacy and freshness of experience, which gives the expression of it a sense of freshness as well.
The other is in seeing ideas as merely ideas, which gives a freedom in experimenting with how to express immediate realization and experience in different ways, relying less on what we have heard, read or said before.
The makeup of our human self probably plays a role here as well.
If it is happy with tradition and what is already laid down, it may use that as a framework for expression. There are many examples here of following collective or one’s individual traditions.
If it has more of an adventurous and newness seeking tendency, it may explore new ways of expressing perennial insights, as Adyashanti and Byron Katie do. Or it may come up with something that combines these perennial insights with temporary insights and views in a fresh way, as Ken Wilber does in his aqal framework and Genpo Roshi with the Big Mind process.
And maybe most importantly, it may seek to grow, mature and develop so the ways the insights come out do the same. So there is a freshness in how it comes out, also in the context of its own history.
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.
When there is no (belief in a) story, we become a fool.
All there is, is the eternal Present – always new, fresh.
The whole world – all there is – is what is right here. Anything else is a story.
There is no past and no future. They too are just stories happening now.
My only life is right here, that is all there is.
There is an absence of belief in any story, including that of “I”.
There is unknowing, yet access to whatever experience, knowledge, information, skills and so on that may happen. And there is a story of how they happen in response to the situation, although that too is just a story.
There is nothing to defend. There is an absence of any identity so no I and Other, and nothing to protect or defend.
I can find everything in me (this human self) that anyone comes up with.
Everything is – what we label rain, cat, table, lamp, body, sensations, thoughts, decisions, movements, focus, awareness and so on – with no I anywhere.
Everything just happens, with no doer anywhere.
In short, this human self – operating in this context – looks very much like a fool to anybody. It is too simple. Too childlike. Although it is a simplicity which includes complexity. Childlikeness which includes maturity. Foolishness which includes wisdom.
There is only the timeless, eternal Present, within which the world of phenomena unfolds, always new, fresh, different. The past and future is only an abstraction, only a story.
To be relatively precise, we can say that the past and future do not exist and never did. There is only this eternal, timeless Present, always. This is the Absolute. The past and future is only a story, only an abstraction.
Going into the relative, and using the framework of time, we can say these are stories of how the world of phenomena previously unfolded within the Present and may unfold within this Present later on.
We can grasp this intellectually, even while identified as an object in the world, although it tends to sound overly abstract or even naive.
This realization – and the implications of it – only unfolds more clearly in our immediate experience when the belief in the story of past, of future, and of I, starts to erode. Then, it is revealed as what always is, was and will be. Simple. Very simple, very clear. Difficult to describe precisely in words, yet also the most simple.
It is of course a liberating discovery or noticing. I can always deal with the Present, and that is all there is. There really is no past or future to deal with, only the stories of them.
It is given, even from a conventional view, that the present is all there is. The present is all that is real. Any ideas of past and future are just that, ideas – abstractions, maps.
Believing in (stories about) past and future
But when we believe in our ideas, they seem real so past and future (or rather our stories of past and future) seem real as well. We may know intellectually that the present is all there is, but it certainly does not feel that way.
It is only when we have a glimpse of – or or awaken to – a realization of selflessness that this becomes real and obvious. The belief in ideas fall away, including the belief in the idea of I, so now it is clear that the present is all there is. It is revealed as the Timeless Present, within which time and space unfolds in always new and fresh ways. It is the Present that always is. Ideas and stories about past and future are just ideas and stories, occuring right now along with everything else.
When we go to the past to explain the present, we are going to stories about the past – maps that highlight some features, leave other out, and are inherently quite different from the terrain. It may give a sense of order and understandable patterns, but that is about it. Anything in the present, seen from the perspective of past and future, has infinite causes. Any map will be woefully inadequate in accounting for even a fraction of these.
Past as mirroring the present
What our stories about the past (and future) do, quite accurately, is reflecting the present. Or rather, they are the present – one of the way the world of phenomena unfold in the present.
One way to say this is that they are projections of what is happening right now. They reflect and are what is happening now, but appear to say something about an abstract past or future.
It is pretty obvious, and also quite beautiful. Our stories say something about what is going on right now, and are valuable as that.
There is of course a consensus reality, one that we can more or less agree on in terms of our past, individually and collectively. This map of consensus reality help us navigate this world more effectively.
Pointing back to the present
But at the same time, the map of consensus reality is merely an abstraction – really only saying something about us right now. Other stories – dreams, those we label fiction, and so on – are as accurate in saying something about us right now, although they may be less helpful as guidelines for navigating the world.
The realization of infinite causes also brings us back to the present. Any map of the past is woefully inadequate, so the Present is all we really have.
I am struck by how various insights seem to always come up in new ways, always fresh, different.
Recently, there has been periods where the timeless present is clear in yet a different way. Crystal clear, as all there is, all there ever was, all there ever will be. The timeless present, the Always Already, within which the whole world of phenomena unfolds – including time and space. That in which everything happens right now unfolds. And in this, it is very clear how the past and future are only ideas, abstractions, stories.
It is of course obvious, even on a conventional rational level, but to see it clearly – in this crystal clear context – is different. One is the menu, the other is the meal. And when the past and future are revealed as merely stories, they loose their bite. They appear as what they are – innocent. As just a tiny aspect of the landscape, and transparent to the timeless. It is liberation.
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