“As Time Goes By,” “Time is on My Side,” “Time in a Bottle,” “Feels Like the First Time,” “Time for Me to Fly,” “Praying for Time,” “If I Could Turn Back Time,” “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and so on. There are 1000s of song titles that include the word time. There is “wasting time,” “losing time,” “making time,” ”fighting time,” “saving time,” “spending time,” “missing time,” “just in time,” “racing against time,” “free time,” “too much time,” “not enough time,” and “finding time.” There is “good timing” and “bad timing.” There are books and seminars about time management. We have timers and watches which are now calibrated to a tenth of a second. We mark time with birthdays and anniversaries. We have preset times for almost everything we do. There is a time to arrive and a time to leave. We have anthropomorphized time as an old man. Is there any doubt we are preoccupied with time but do we ever stop to ask, “What is time?” What do I believe about time? What is my relationship with time?
It Is About Time
As a noun, time is defined as the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole. As a verb, time is defined as to plan, schedule, or arrange when something should happen or be done. However, time is so much more than these two definitions. It is an omnipresent force in which we move and have our being. One of my main purposes for writing this blog is to expose the ego thought system with all of its invalid beliefs that continually create pain, conflict, misery, and suffering. It is about time to look more closely at time and how the ego views the past, present, and future.
A Course in Miracles says this about the ego and time:
The ego has a strange notion of time, and it is with this notion your questioning might well begin. The ego invests heavily in the past, and in the end, believes that the past is the only aspect of time that is meaningful. Remember that its emphasis on guilt ( See “The End of Guilt”) enables it to ensure its continuity by making the future like the past and thus avoiding the present. . . “Now” has no meaning to the ego. The present merely reminds it of past hurts, and it reacts to the present as if it were the past. The ego cannot tolerate release from the past, and although the past is over, the ego tries to preserve its image by responding as if it were the present. It dictates your reactions to those you meet in the present from a past reference point, obscuring their present reality. —Text, Chapter 13, Section IV, paragraphs 4-5
To really appreciate the truth of this, consider someone who has hurt, disappointed, slighted, or transgressed against you in the past. Maybe he is an ex-partner or she is a former friend or a family member. Imagine you have not seen him or her for some time. You are out for dinner, when suddenly, unexpectedly you see him or her being seated at the table next to you. What is your immediate reaction? If you reacted with anger, anxiety, resentment, or any discomfort, you view time as a continuous, linear process that is mostly determined by the past. By now, you might be asking if there is another way to look at and to use time. Yes, there is!
Now Is the Time
The truth is there is only now. “Now” is you reading these words. There is no other time. The past is a memory. The future is a thought. Only this moment exists, until the next moment and the next one. In other words, you can only think about the past and the future. You cannot live them. “If only” thinking is always about the past and generates guilt and regret in the present. “If only I had bought Apple stock when I had the opportunity, I would be rich now.” is an example. “When. . . . then” thinking is about the future and generates longing for and dissatisfaction with the present. “When I retire, then I will be able to pursue my hobbies.” is an example. Yes, you can reminisce and replay the past and anticipate the future, but you cannot have any impact on them, and you lose the present moment. Of course, we must retain information and experiences from the past in order to function in the present, but past information and experiences do not determine how you live the present moment. Unless you allow them to.
If I sound like Eckhart Tolle and The Power of Now, you are right. Reading his book was life-changing. In Practicing the Power of Now, he writes:
The more you are focused on time–past and future–the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is. Why is it the most precious thing? Firstly, because it is the only thing. It’s all there is. The eternal present is the space within which your whole life unfolds, the one factor that remains constant. Life is now. There was never a time when your life was not now, nor will there ever be. —Practicing the Power of Now, page 31
So how do you live mostly in the present? By releasing the past. How do you release the past?
Releasing the Past
Working with the past is a controversial area in the field of psychotherapy, and there is widespread disagreement amongst mental health professionals regarding the necessity and/or importance of doing so. Approaches range from psychoanalysis which focuses almost entirely on uncovering and exploring the past to cognitive/behavioral therapy which pretty much ignores the past and focuses on present thought patterns. If you have been or are in psychotherapy, you have experienced the different approaches to working with the past.
After 40+ years as a psychotherapist and truth seeker, I currently believe if you have been or are experiencing excessive anxiety, chronic depression, or repetitive interpersonal difficulties, working with your past can be helpful. I work with the past primarily to reveal how a person is allowing the past to create pain in the present. My approach is to identify invalid beliefs that are blocking your path to peace, joy, creativity, productivity, and harmony. So, the purpose of exploring the past is to uncover your invalid beliefs by revealing their origins and looking at the pain and suffering you have experienced and are now experiencing by clinging to those beliefs. Sometimes this means facing some very painful childhood memories because abusive events are often powerful shapers of your beliefs. As you identify more and more of your invalid beliefs and you see the adverse impact they are having on you now, the more willing you become to let them go and to eagerly replace them with valid beliefs. The more you let the invalid beliefs go, the lighter you become, the more clarity you have, the more you make choices that foster your well-being and the well-being of others, and the more you live in the present! You actually begin to experience time differently. You begin to lose your sense of urgency, the pressure of racing against time eases, you have a fresh appreciation for everyone and everything, and you seem to have more time.
The Ego’s Beliefs about Time
You can be sure the ego’s beliefs about time are invalid because they stem from fear and generate fear. For example, the ego believes time is linear. Therefore, there is birth and death with only a certain amount of time in between. This puts you in an adversarial position with time. You feel a constant sense that you never have enough time, or that you have too much time, or that time is running out. The truth is that time is not linear, because the past and future are not real–they exist only in your mind. There is only now, this moment, and nothing else. A Course in Miracles says, “. . . now is the closest approximation of eternity that this world offers. It is in the reality of ‘now,’ without past or future, that the beginnings of the appreciation of eternity begins.” –Text, Chapter 13, section IV, paragraph 7
Of course, the ego makes eternity terribly fearful because it believes it is infinite linear time and associates it with eternal damnation! The opposite is true. Eternity is the absence of time! Your own experiences with sensing time will tell you it is arbitrary, unstable, and changeable. You have had moments when time flew by. Moments when time seemed endlessly slow and plodding. And, you have had moments when you completely lost track of time.
It’s Time to Tell the Truth about Time
The mystics and the quantum physicists have arrived at the same conclusion about time. Time is an illusion. If this is so, so what? Well, if time is an illusion, the past is an illusion and past pain is an illusion. Why is this important? A Course in Miracles puts it this way:
Unless you learn that past pain is an illusion, you are choosing a future of illusions and losing the many opportunities you could find for release in the present. The ego would preserve your nightmares, and prevent you from awakening and understanding they are gone. –Text, Chapter 13, section IV, paragraph 6
Is this what you want? A future exactly like the past? If your answer is a resounding “NO,” then consider discarding all your ego beliefs about time. I suggest you begin each day in what I call a state of receptivity. This means you are open and ready to embrace whatever arrives. Of course, you will have a schedule or script for the day, but be ready to alter it at any moment. The universe may have something more important for you that is not on your schedule! So, as they say, “Go with the flow.” Be present for everything that happens. If this seems like an impossible task, get professional help, but be sure to choose someone who is not trapped in the ego’s version of time. Freedom or imprisonment? Now is the time to choose.