Sunday, December 23, 2018
Now Is All The Time We Have
written 15 December 2018
published 22 December 2018
When you stop and think about it, time is mostly an idea. The past has already happened, now only stories in memory. Being less than what actually happened, they are mere shadows of events that we hold as ideas. The future is idea even less rooted in reality, based on limited projections of current events, influenced by stories from the past.
This isn't to say that the past and future aren't "real" in some manner. Comparing my face in the mirror to my high school graduation picture is proof that something has changed, supporting the sense of time passing. But the only part of time I can ever experience in now, this moment. Even when I am remembering past stories, I am in this moment, this now. Likewise, as I plan for a future construction project or an upcoming event, the planning and thinking is happening now, this moment.
Quantum mechanics tells us that we can only "know" what we observe in the moment. Between observations, we can't say anything definite, as an unobserved object has a probability of being anywhere in the universe. Reality happens only in the now. Special relativity tells us that as objects accelerate toward the speed of light, their experience of time slows down. Photons, which travel only at the speed of light, experience no time at all, remaining in a constant now. In our frame of reference, a photon takes over 8 minutes to travel from the sun to our eye, but for the photon, the trip is instantaneous, no time, no distance. The photon doesn't really "exist" between its formation in the sun and its extinction at our eye, yet we experience an energy transfer.
A movie is a series of individual frames projected one after another, and even though each individual frame is seen for a short interval, we experience the film as showing "moving pictures". Our awareness can only handle a limited rate of change in perception, and the refresh rate on a video screen or in a film is faster than our perception, so the motion seems continuous. Life is like that, a series of "now" moments that appears continuous.
When we experience an event in this moment, our stories from the past immediately arise to provide an interpretation. If we aren't careful with our attention, we accept these interpretations as an accurate perception of the moment, and act in response to the past story rather than the actual event. The future becomes a consequence of the past and the present is not considered at all, thus our life becomes conditioned. By eliminating clear awareness of the present moment, we are left unable to respond to the only reality we ever truly experience.
Our culture trains us to validate these stories as descriptions of reality. However, by practicing mindfulness meditation, we can learn to notice when the stories are running and shift awareness to the actual moment, the eternal now, freed from the narration from the past. Each moment then becomes an opportunity for change. All action happens in the present, so we begin to evolve an ability to respond to current events and to be response-able, rather than automatically repeating the past. Our future shifts from being determined by the past, to being shaped by choices in the present moment.
The more we practice being in the aware present, the easier it becomes, like anything we practice. Our everyday encounters change as we are less triggered by past stories and patterns. As we live more in the present, everyone we encounter is affected as well, by energetic resonance. Communication becomes clearer as we move away from our preconceived responses and are able to listen to what is actually being said in the moment. When we tune in to each present moment, we notice that, for the most part, we are not in distress, or dire need. We become calmer, not anxious about past or future concerns. Stress is a killer, so being at peace in each moment improves our health.
Since "now" is eternal, it is always available, and we have all the time we need.