A Matter of Time

I have not blogged in a while, mostly because my energy levels have been quite low. Life has seemed too busy and too demanding. When I have had free time, I have chosen to switch off my thoughts, as much as possible, and find peace in creative activities. I feel like my life is changing in many ways that are not yet in my field of vision; it is not yet time, but this leaves me with a sense that I am waiting for signs, creating a certain disregard for the now.

At the same time, my anxiety has been resurfacing in unexpected situations. In trying to recognise these latest triggers, I became aware of how the concept of time seems to be at the core of many of my fears and resistance. I chase time, I run out of time, I feel a pressure to search for a right time, to be on time, to give time, to save time and certainly never waste time. Elements of waiting and patience conflict with a drive towards progress and moving forward, creating a feeling of uncertainty about my place in time, feeding huge doubts over an unknown future. I was at a loss to know how I could escape the controls of time, practically there seems no way to create greater balance. But then I began to wonder, what is this thing called time that I am battling, anyway?

Scientists, psychologists, philosophers and others have all contemplated the mystery of time. However, any true understanding or clear definition of what it actually is, remains elusive. I have not unlocked any great secret to explain time, although in considering the various aspects of its nature, I am drawn back to idea of varying realities based again upon our perceptions. I wonder if there are conditions that could warp our experience of time? Allow us to create more space to be off the clock? I start to consider that perhaps time is not my adversary but something I can befriend through a process of understanding and acceptance.

Debatably, time began with the Big Bang. Ancient cultures seemed to have put importance in tracking planetary movements, reflected in monumental structures, that hold an element of curiosity and awe. The first calendars were created based on the movement of celestial objects, giving us days, months and years. But calendars such as those invented by the Mayans, seem less to do with scheduling tasks and rather more about understanding the qualities and influence these forces have upon cycles and energy flows on Earth. I think of the changes in energy I have observed associated with the seasons, which only leads me to believe that these civilisations were connected to an innate and lost wisdom.

Whilst ancient civilisations seem to have been astonishingly accurate at measuring time in relation to the cosmos, clocks have become more and more accurate at recording the passing of time as we more commonly recognise it. Atomic clocks are extremely reliable at doing this, using the frequency that a Caesium atom resonates to measure a second. It is so precise, that it only has an error of 1 second in a 100 million years. Measuring time accurately has allowed scientists to explore the concept of time, however clock time seems to lock us into a thought pattern of scheduling and busy-ness!

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Special Relativity, states that time cannot exists without space, as is relative to it. Time is dimensional. Gravitational forces and motion have an influence upon it. Certain conclusions seem to have gained consensus; the faster you move through space the slower you move through time. Also, the closer you are to the centre of the Earth the slower time passes. So, if you live on top of a mountain, you age faster than if you live at sea level. The time difference is so tiny it is of no significance to our human existence but over a longer period these subtle changes would be measurable.

Science gives us one way in which time can be understood and even measured, it indicates that time is relative to the particular reality in which it exists and somehow stretches and contracts in accordance to the various conditions of that space. It suggests that two people in the same space would experience time in a similar way. However, time is more complex than this. As well as an external, clock time, there is also a psychological, internal nature to time, relating very much to our own perceptions.

I think everyone has experience how long it seems to take a kettle to boil, if we stand waiting. Time seems to pass slowly when we watch it. However, time passes erratically when we are in a rush and have far too much to accomplish. When I meditate or sleep, I am not aware of time passing at all. I believe we all recognise that days and weeks do not pass at the same speed. It is common for people to comment that the day has flown by, or that time is dragging, but we believe that time is fixed to a clock and do not stop to questions what is happening. This perception of time may not be measurable, but it is very real in our experience; it is noticeable in our reality.

Our perception of time creates a certain amount of flow or resistance, and in this respect, there seems to be an association with how we assimilate with the energies in and around us. I wonder if this is a connection ancient civilisations understood. My will to bring more balance to the way I spend my time is mostly in an attempt to save energy. As I started to observe my relationship to time, I began to recognise all the chatter and resistance that constantly moved through my thoughts, and how those thoughts affected my experiences. I make so many judgments on the way I spent my time. If a task seemed boring or pointless, time feels sluggish, it takes energy just to overcome that resistance. I put deadlines upon tasks, that hold no real consequence, but something in me decides I’m not making progress quickly enough, so I apply more pressure to reach completion. I make these judgments even if with an activity that I enjoy and turn it into a chore. When I rest, I feel guilty and torture myself with thoughts of wasting time and not achieving enough, connotations of being lazy. My most pressing need at those times is to rest and yet admitting that leaves me feeling defeated.

There is an emotional element to this, tied up in ideas of being worthy and failing, not quite being enough. Our perception of time is intrinsically associated with our past experience and our ideas of future, suggesting yet another dimension to time. But the existence of time is, ironically, what creates concepts of past and future. We identify with our past experience and it creates who we are, but is that who we really are inside or a reflection of how the outside world has influence us since birth? The world gives us a set of standards to live up to, a list of shoulds and should nots that we must follow in order to fit in, and be worthy. We build judgments, expectations and fears. We build our egos and begin to detach from our true selves. We stop being able to just be in the moment and prevent ourselves finding fulfilment in the present.

I have heard that some particularly enlightened people have meditated and found a place deep inside where past, present and future all exist together. I have no understanding of this and yet somehow the idea resonates with me. A quote by Eckhart Tolle (2005) says “Enlightenment consciously chosen means to relinquish your attachment to past and future and make the Now the main focus of your life. It means choosing to dwell in the state of presence rather than in time.”

Linear time would have an end, for humans this would presumably be death, but most religions and spiritual thinking suggests that something more occurs after death. Undeniably, time has a biological effect on our bodies, that can only move one way, we are not able to become younger, no matter how well we look after ourselves. However, we seek to delay aging, nobody wants to accept not being able to do the things we once could, not to mentions the changes to our physical appearance. We have a fear of death and an attachment to our form, that leaves us feeling like time is running out. Perhaps it is hindsight, but I perceive that time moved slower when I was younger and felt like I had a lifetime ahead of me. Curiously, I notice when I play a game that is against the clock, as the timer ticks down, it seems to sound louder. The less time I have left, the more I feel a sense of panic and my ability to complete the game decreases. My thoughts also polarise to an outcome of succeed or fail, it is no longer possible to simply enjoy the process. Whilst this is an observation of playing a game, I reflect that there is a likeness to how I am applying time to my life, and my ideas of my future.

The world around us seems too fast to possibly keep up, and this feels like pressure. Deadlines, demands, conditioning from our past and expectations of our futures all impact on our experience of time. Time is useful to schedule activities and events but our reliance upon time to guide us through our days, is limiting. We walk through life blinkered to only seeing the next task rather than viewing the options and enjoying what is. I suggest our understanding of time has altered through the ages, and rather that understanding each moment and possible influences upon it, humans have sought to control it and as a result we have enslaved ourselves to it.

In learning to identify and soften my resistance to what is, I am starting to be able to conserve energy and to show love to myself and others, through this process. My observations have taught me that I struggle to move through life quickly, when I am unsure of the direction of travel. I need time to pause. I need time to clear my mind and then observe what thoughts are useful and what just make up background traffic. This allows me to access a more grounded perspective; to connect with my wiser, inner self.

These pauses are as important as the nourishment from food to my well-being and reduce unhealthy panic. Accepting this about myself has allowed me to voice it to others, perhaps they can amend their expectations of me. I know the people who truly have love for me, understand this need. And perhaps those who cannot are themselves battling with time. In this way, I am hoping to create harmony and confidence with my present. Accepting the time I have Now with openness and space. I challenge my existing judgments as they applied to a space and time I no longer occupy; I can free myself from them with practice.

Time is as mysterious as life itself. We can only observe the effects it has when it is related to something else. It seems evident that without time we cannot come into being and we cannot grow or transform. Time allows things not to become stagnant and stale. Time can give us the space we need to heal, if we let go of our resistance and allow it to move us forward. Therefore, perhaps time is best understood as the flow, to which energies take in creating life. So I consider that if energy is like water, perhaps time is the channel which it flows through? When we are guided to trust the flow of life, we are trusting time to bring us in to the next moment, to allow us to experience moving with the energy that created us. Attuning to this flow and rhythm is possibly how we begin to dance in the wholeness and magnificence of life.

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