Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the week of July 9, 2018

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Beyond Time

(Living in Oneness: 3)

We experience life as a series of moments and events. The series had a beginning when we were born, and apparently will end when we die. In looking at how the events of life are related, we see first the various repeating cycles: day-night, the week, the seasons, our bodily cycles, and many others. Cycles give a comforting rhythm to our life.

Yet no two cycles are exactly the same. Today's sun is not yesterday's. Everything changes and there are innumerable one-off events that do not repeat, even approximately. All of which leaves us not quite comfortable, not quite secure, but perhaps hopeful. One thing may lead to another and sometimes things come out of the blue. We never truly know what the next moment will bring.

Thus time confronts us with a basic anxiety. Will it bring something desirable, undesirable, or neutral? Will it drag or fly? Enter the Buddha's Four Noble Truths to show us that desire itself is at the root of our anxiety and dissatisfaction. Let go of desires and anxiety abates, even in the face of certain uncertainty. Indeed uncertainty is a necessary condition for the new, the creative, the innovative.

If desire is the root of dissatisfaction, how can we deal with it? The Buddha's Eightfold Path addresses just that. At its heart, it comes down to what we considered in the prior installment of this series on Living in Oneness, namely getting beyond our separateness, seeing that we are not a separate self, that our usual self or "I" is an illusion.

For that, we enter the cognizant stillness behind our usual awareness. Here our ego and illusory "I" evaporate. But not only that: time also evaporates. Time itself turns out to be another illusion. We experience life as series of events and we ascribe that to the flow of time. In the stillness, we can see that the notion of time is as superfluous as our ego. Events happen and we can measure the gap between them. We call that measurement time. But as soon as we try to perceive time directly, it vanishes. The events remain, but not time.

We come to rest in the only moment there is: the present moment, with all the depth it opens into. Instead of falling for the past or leaning toward the future, we rest in the present. Uncertainty about the future becomes the certainty of the here and now. The present expands to become our whole world. Here, and only here, contentment ripens, anxiety turns into peace, and desires become non-desires.

In this timeless moment, we understand eternity in a new way. Rather than being an infinite expanse of time, eternity is orthogonal to time; it is non-time. For a different approach to this, consider your experience of space. Despite the connection between time and space taught us by physics, in our ordinary experience time and space are quite distinct. Space appears to exist independently of time. Look around the space you are in now. The things occupying this space just are. They are effectively timeless. If we allow our awareness to open to the same timelessness as the things around us, we taste that spacious quality of just being. Awareness just is. We taste eternity. We can live in eternity now.

Time separates events. Space separates objects. Eternity includes it all. It's like climbing up a mountain to an expansive, encompassing view. This is a unifying view in which everything has its place and everything holds together.

Take the example of your own life. Perhaps it seems somewhat disjointed, one thing after another, on and on. Does it make sense? Does it hold together? Can you see your life as a whole, as one? From the ever-present, eternal stillness, survey your life as a whole. What do you see? Trends? Evolutions? Meanings? Choices and their consequences? Can that whole-life view inform your choices going forward? Even if you cannot formulate in words where you want your life to go, can you enter the feeling of the significance of your life as a whole, the connective tissue that makes all of it into one, into this singular event that you are?

Notice from your cognizant stillness, that awareness itself has always been the same, even since your early childhood. Always here. Always timeless.

For this week, please practice stepping beyond time and living your one life in the eternal present.


        

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