The Stream of Time

What does Henry David Thoreau mean? Is this silly? Opaque? Meaningless? Profound? It’s actually all of those things, and you’ll turn it into whatever it becomes. Clearly people post it as a quote because it means something, so it’s not silly or meaningless, but it can also be so obscure that its nature can conceal its profundity.

Anyone who looks at it and thinks about it long enough knows that you are only ever alive now. You lived 10 years ago, but you’re not alive there now, you’re here, in the present. So any thoughts about your past or about your future are all thoughts, and they are all thought now, about then or later. You can think about other times as a present-time activity. So you can use now to revisit then if you like. The problem is that you do it a lot when you don’t like it, but that can stop.

Sometimes you’re just casting. You’re not after anything, you’re just reminiscing. That’s the best kind of fishing. The kind where it’s just as good even if there’s no fish, or no keepers. And if you’re that casual about your life, then if you pull in something that you think is ugly or unwanted, you can just catch and release–you can just let that collection of thoughts go.

Other times you’re casting looking for pretty specific fish. These are the old hollows you return to in your mind, over and over, in a bid to finally land that big fish and end your fishing. But you fail to notice the irony of fishing to end fishing. You don’t erase unpleasant experiences from your psyche, you just don’t load them into active memory. You don’t fish for what you don’t want to catch.

Understand, your body is alive in the present, but you’re usually not with it in the present, you’re time travelling forward or backward using your thoughts. So your experiences of fear or anxiety or sadness or loss, these are all thoughts about other times, and yet because they are emotionally imprinted, you see them as your life.

You have to take where you go and what you fish for more seriously. Far too many people just fish for whatever their parents fished for, without much thought of whether or not that’s actually the best route to an enjoyable fishing trip. We should use our feelings to grade our thoughts, and if they’re leading us to feel lower or worse, then we should stop thinking them.

You have no big huge miraculous thing to do. You already live within an enlightened state, you just want to be more conscious of it. To do that you only need to stop yourself from fishing in your yesterdays or tomorrows, and instead focus on being on the river now, today. Because that is where you life is lived and that is where your balance is kept. The present literally is a gift. Come alive within it.

peace. s

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.

Limited by Time

I know at the start of this year I said no Thursday blogs but, as longtime readers know, I often make changes mid-year. This year those changes include returning the Thursday blogs but I’ll also be adding in some shorter, more highly focused single quote posts I believe you’ll find useful.

947 Relax and Succeed - Do one thing at a timeAnother thing I said at the start of this year is that I promised to write to you about time but I’ve been continually surprised at how complex it has been to study. I’ll do my best to describe to you what I’ve learned thus far because it can save you a lot of heartache. Also, as abstract and philosophical as this may sound, I would encourage you to take a literal meaning from this: this isn’t about learning about time, this is about how to live in that magical moment called Now.

Based on my observations it’s as natural for you to plot events on a timeline as it is for me not to. Of course I’ve heard the countless arguments for why I’m crazy. People point at a calendar and a clock and say, well obviously there’s time. They’ll tell me that they were at their friend’s for dinner two weeks ago and how could they do that if there wasn’t any time? Answering back with physics or some quasi-spirituality meets with very low levels of acceptance.

Let’s take that dinner at the person’s friend’s. Does it make sense that in this moment the person is remembering another moment? We are remembering the moment in which a Now became a memory. So we are replaying an old Now in the current Now. But the other now is two weeks ago someone will say. I realise that is a compelling narrative that’s believed by nearly everyone you know but that doesn’t make it right. That isn’t another time. You’re replaying a memory and you’re doing it Now. It has literally has always been Now.

947 Relax and Succeed - Don't take now so seriously

Now is before anything. Now is so pure that no matter what you’re doing while you’re Now you won’t even notice the time passing. That’s because you’re so profoundly involved with the present moment that you aren’t layering an egotistical personal narrative just slightly behind the rise of the event. In essence things happen and then we tell ourselves a story involving classification and judgment about whether we liked or disliked what unfolded.

How this effectively works is, say for instance I’m in a business meeting with another producer and they’re the leader on a film. By entering what James Carse calls the field of play I agree to function within the laws and ethics of business and to bring my best self to realising the quality of the work. If I have a passionate disagreement with the lead producer I make my case clearly, I give them an opportunity to shift emotionally, and if not then I make the case one last time. If they don’t accept it then I accept their role as the leader of the project then it’s over for me.

By “over” I mean I don’t think about it any more, I won’t hold resentments and I’ll drop that moment to be focused on whatever Now I’m currently in. So if the other producer and I had sharp words while working through the idea I wouldn’t see that as a problem they have to fix in some future Now. I wouldn’t feel they owe me an apology because I wouldn’t have thought about it at all other than while it was happening. I would have just liked how it had such passion back then.

947 Relax and Succeed - Nothing is permanentIf I’m working with people it’s because I believe they share my belief that the best business model is a good quality product and sometimes passionate debate is how you find it. I can handle someone’s passions splashing onto me personally because by the next time I meet them I’m in that Now and I react to them in many ways like I’m meeting them the first time. People change and I’m always prepared to see that change instead of my thought-form of who they were in a previous time.

Like you I will be aware of an event happening but I lose it pretty quickly because I don’t keep it alive by remembering it in subsequent Nows. In fact, since I had my accident I don’t think I’ve ever actually had a firm grasp on time now that I’ve studied it more. If it weren’t for school times, work times and the schedules of the people I lived with, I would have gotten totally time lost–as I did recently when I was working on some films and on my book. Hopefully I can turn my journey to understand time better into something that you can use to ease some of your fears and regrets.

I’ve learned I’m going to have to comprehend time in some artificial way in order to get along with the modern world but that’s just so I can enter the world’s fields of play. I cannot live there like you do because it’s so easy to see from here that that is where most of your pain arises. So I will continue to find ways to make time more conscious, but I doubt would ever even want to see time as anything more than a collective dream because that’s what it truly is.

If you didn’t sense time most of your troubles would go away and you would be very pleased to live a life that would have neither grudges nor pressure. You would still drive some people nuts by not subscribing to their dream but at least you’d have still put far more into the world than you’d have taken out. And I can tell you from experience, that’s a very enjoyable way to live.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Wonders Never Cease

I am writing to you during one of the most remarkable events of my life. I am experiencing an emotion I haven’t felt since 2001: shock. Powerful insights like this tend to hit you a while before you’re aware of them, and then they generally unfold over several days, with your consciousness slowly making sense of the radical new truth over time. Everyone’s had insights, it’s just that very few people turn these sorts of events into language by discussing them with others, so people don’t really recognize them as insights.

914 Relax and Succeed - Actual picture of meThe first major insight I had was in the hospital shortly after my brain injury when I was five. That was when I first realized that if you could die at five, then the only point of being alive was to move in a positive direction until then. In my observations people were extremely consistent in that those who didn’t move in a positive direction were fearful and ultimately afraid of dying. I already knew death was inevitable, so going a positive direction until then seemed smart to a five year old so that is what I did.

My understanding that our thoughts create our reality was built very slowly over time because I discovered it through all kinds of secret experiments I rather callously conducted using virtually everyone around me. So the knowledge that reality was an inside-out manifestation came to me far too gradually to feel like a strong single insight. It was more like a slow and gentle awakening with no specific start or end.

My next major insight was in Budapest in 2001. The combination of a non-Latin-based language that left me mentally lost, the relaxation of a break after some intense work, and feelings of love and appreciation about the people and surroundings around me all lead to the perfect situation to have a profound realization.

As I’ve noted before, maybe it was a Bolte-Taylor styled stroke–there was a flash of whiteness and a deep tiredness immediately following it. Stroke or epiphany, however it came, a deep and abiding peace came over me and has stayed with me ever since that day.

914 Relax and Succeed - The pastSince then I’ve understood the perspective that provides our spiritual gurus with their unworried nature. Since then I’ve also understood formerly incomprehensible spiritual quotes. And most importantly, since then I’ve realized that not everyone understands that they’re always thinking, nor that their thinking is creating their reality. That was a big shock. In fact, it was the last shock I had before this one: you guys don’t know you’re creating your reality.

Of course I communicate with people who live in the ego-world full time, all the time, and I spend time there too, so I’m comfortable with it and I visit there often. But even when I’m there I know that ego creations are really an illusion of mind, which is why I’m successful at helping other people recognize in a very solid, scientific sense that our thinking absolutely does impact our reality. If it’s explained by someone who truly understands it, it’s very straightforward to come to the understanding that many things we take as real are in fact not-real.

My third major insight unfolded over the last few days or maybe even a week or more. Looking back, I can see signs that it developed over time, but because the insight directly involves time I’m not really sure how long it’s been unfolding. I just know my awareness has slowly been creeping toward reintegrating time into my consciousness.

I didn’t recognize this at first, but over the last 12 hours time has reformed into something I recognize. Of course I realized that time always should be kept track of, but losing track of its ongoing existence over longer periods of time was an oversight rather than a decision. I remembered the past fine, I just never noticed that I never noted when an event took place. I know it seems weird, but seeing time has been as weird to me as you not seeing it is to you.

914 Relax and Succeed - I'm not normalSince my accident as a kid I was aware that time was mental construct. This fact is why NASA is struggling with what to do with time in deep space. Leave a pretty arbitrary set of rules behind and suddenly time becomes an extremely slippery concept. So NASA agrees that time is a fiction, but mathematically proving that and actually living outside of it are two different things.

I honestly don’t know if something happened slowly over time, as with my study and understanding of thought and reality, or if it came as a result of my own stroke of insight (to steal a phrase) in Budapest. Signs point to the fact that it began that year in Budapest but either way, at some point I began living so thoroughly in the present moment that I literally stopped noticing the passing of time. I had a few hints of this over the years, but I never added them up to a loss of that sense almost entirely.

I know this all sounds incredible but I mean what I’m saying quite literally. Because as any decent physicist could explain, if you don’t glue a bunch of now’s together with your imagination there is no time. This isn’t to say I wouldn’t be aware of a vague date, but at the same time I wouldn’t automatically plot that on a larger timeline in relation to other events. It would only exist between its two nearest points and then vanish. This was an extremely common practice a few hundred years ago before clocks, but for today it’s a very, very unusual way to live (in at least the modern world).

The benefits I get with no passage of time include no grudges or the harbouring of any other negative emotions. No worry, lessons rather than regrets, no blame, and in most cases I can switch emotions comfortably and quickly toward more positive experiences. I can still experience time pressures but I can’t hold onto them.

914 Relax and Succeed - I awoke only to seeI am very available to human beings or living things when I’m present, and I feel a very strong sense of responsibility to others, but I don’t have a solid enough idea of a “me” to help me with a natural grasp of more conceptual things like time or even money. So a debt makes more sense to me than the dollars, does that make sense to you? I can add and manage both money and time very well, but their illusory nature makes them less sticky for my mind and I’m now aware I have to make their reality a much more conscious effort.

How much time has passed since this shift is what has shocked me. I’m not even sure what lead to me becoming aware of it having happened other than the fact that I appear to have caught up on my sleep for the first time in about eight years. Maybe it was a stroke and I just reconnected an old circuit. I suppose it could be that simple. But regardless of how, I suddenly became re-aware of time!

I’m still aware it’s an illusory state, but it was a complete mistake to not artificially integrate it into what was otherwise a very healthy understanding of reality. I suspect I would have accidentally hurt others due to this temporary displacement of time. In the past it was probably my other work and relationships that caused time to be kept more prominently in my mind. Without a regular schedule I lost my final mooring to the idea of time, at least until whatever brought it slowly back over the last week or two.

The net result of all of this is that I have a lot to catch up on and the books that are being completed are extremely important to me in that they represent what is really a life’s work in trying to understand what my accident taught me. So to ensure I have the time to live up to all of my existing responsibilities plus add some additional ones relating to a renewed dedication to time, I have no choice but to temporarily change the schedule of the blog.

914 Relax and Succeed - People will neverThis is a major insight that I’m confident all of us can learn from, so just as I took some time to write this one, I will add blog posts as I uncover this fascinating mystery. Already I’ve had an incredible amount of time-related insights, so I will add posts as circumstances allow. I really do have many very important things to take care of, but I’ll be sure not to waste this rising awareness. Hopefully my learning about how to move toward your sense of time will help you also understand how to move toward this very peaceful head-space, where time seems a little less tyrannical to you.

I know I have a lot of loyal readers for whom this will be very bad news and I am sorry. But these coming pieces should be very deep and similarly educational. Also, please always remember that the capabilities I write about here are always a natural aspect of you. You don’t need to improve or get better or learn something from me. I’m not creating you, I’m just waking you up.

You just need to forget there’s a you. That’s where the peace is that everyone’s looking for. Add to that an awareness of some key abstract concepts like time and you can find ways to combine your ego’s skills and spirit’s wisdom to create a much better life whether you are being taught to do so or not.

I thank you for your graciousness in creating this extra time for me. It’s still a very strange experience to suddenly become aware of something as basic to people as that. I’m sure it will teach me a lot to study it and reintegrate it and I look forward to sharing those lessons with you in the unknown future. Until then, please take good care of yourself and all those you love and I will see you all sometime soon.

With great respect for your time and attention, s

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.

PS It’s just the most bizarre and incredible thing ever. And yet it somehow feels immediately natural. This is remarkable.