How come you guys never noticed this before? It’s interesting to me that in all of the time I have been writing not one person had ever called or written to me to ask a question about Time. This is in part undoubtedly because I’ve rarely (if ever), written about it. It’s a very large and curious omission on my part. I’m fascinated by the fact that I never noticed it at all.
To be honest I thought I would have more substantial insights to present you–and maybe these are substantial from your perspectives. But I’m surprised at how slippery this concept is for me. In the strong suspicion that it will be very beneficial to you, I’ll tell you what I’ve learned about time so far.
I’m pretty sure I know why I had this realization. I was helping a client with some training in how to build a calmer work life and one of the challenges was scheduling. He would see how much work I got done and feel terrible in comparison. The comparison wasn’t helpful or useful, so I just explained how things could be structured differently.
We set up a highly structured calendar with alarms as each section shifted. I built one for myself in an effort toward solidarity. It always helps when you’re trying something new and scary if someone will do it with you. I’ve never minded a schedule really, so I set one up that structured the work I was already doing and a couple things I’d realized I’d missed.
Without realizing, I was teaching someone who, on a continuum, was probably the closest person to me I had ever met. The nature of being a writer on a project means you tend to be extremely busy due to working very long hours, but those hours can be worked whenever you have the most energy. This means I haven’t had to have a steady schedule since I worked in an office with others, over 10 years ago–right around the same time I had that unusual experience in Budapest.
It turned out that by using the internal corporate structure I was moving around within the framework of a calendar and clock all week long. This allowed the framework of time to extend past Now in my mind. I still knew it was a fiction, but it was often a useful one. At some point over the next couple years I literally decoupled from the artificial idea of a calendar and largely even a clock.
This went entirely unnoticed until my brain spent about four weeks switching back and forth on a regular schedule, all thanks to the artificial calendar I built to support the client. Slowly my brain was reintegrating this idea back into my life. Then that one day I looked at my computer after feeling a bit strange, and when I saw my calendar it literally unfolded like a Jacob’s Ladder of computer monitors in each direction, adding progressively dimmer weeks on each end. It was like a part of my brain had just turned about 5 years old.
I figured out Time was artificial by about 12 years old just by using my daily meditations to understand where things came from. It just never occurred to me that I could lose touch with it if I didn’t voluntarily subscribe to it to a fairly regular degree. And then I remembered: that’s what I teach you guys all the time; if you don’t do a thing your brain won’t be very good at doing it. And yes, this definitely applies to Time.
So Time isn’t a thing it’s a measuring device you place over… space-time (let’s save that for another time). So it’s like you’re a flashlight and you’re pointed down at a giant measuring tape. This tape goes on forever. A busy-minded person has their light a long way from the tape, and so they’re always taking a lot of time into account, and that’s what makes them sad or angry or anxious.
I am someone who lives very close to Now. So my light is so close to the measuring tape that it doesn’t even really see that thing in front of me as a measuring tape. I’m close enough to be able to see the thing it’s measuring: moment by moment life. So I’m not looking at the tape, I’m taking in life. This is called presence.
Anxious people are a long way from experiencing direct reality through presence. They tilt their light toward a future they unhelpfully illuminate. They tell themselves stories about what might happen, about what could happen, or even should happen. Meanwhile depressed people tilt their light backwards on the measuring tape, always reassessing what has already taken place in time. By focusing the light of their consciousness on the past, they hope to somehow create a different past would lead to a different them in different circumstances. That act of perpetual wishing steals most of their own strength in an innocent but meaningless attempt to fix something that has already happened.
I still do have to figure out how to live a little bit deeper in Time than I’m currently able, and I’m working on exercises to help with that. At the same time, I’m here to help you realize more mental, emotional and spiritual health, and so it would do you a lot of good to become a lot more like me and focus on Now, rather than all of these other past or potential times.
Look at your own life and get more conscious about where your mind is really at. Because your body and your eyeballs being somewhere means little if you’re mind is somewhere or somewhen else. Now might be presenting a few challenges for me, but I’m very confident they’re not as difficult and unpleasant as those that are generated by living too deeply within the very limiting construct of Time.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.