How’s your 2015 going so far? What is your experience of this new year like for you – day to day, moment to moment? I’ve been reflecting a fair bit about Time recently. And in a very different way.
Donkeys’ years ago I used to teach time management courses to busy executives. In those days, it was all about ‘How to get more done in less time’, or ‘How to overcome your time stealers’ and the like.
It’s amazing to think that it’s been over ten years since Eckhart Tolle’s best-selling book “The Power of Now” was first published (2004). I read it when it first came out and I think much of it probably went way over my head then.
I re-read it over the New Year break, and it seems to point to a fundamental truth about life, and made me realise what a profound contribution Tolle has made. How it can deepen our understanding of how Time helps us, and how it can get in the way of living a wonderful life – a life where we truly thrive.
Do you ever wonder about the extraordinary relationship between time and your thoughts and feelings? (Or don’t you have time to wonder about this kind of thing?)
Tolle teaches that all negativity is caused by a denial of the Present.
Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and not enough presence.
Guilt, regret, resentment, grievance, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.
Most people find it difficult to believe that a state of consciousness totally free of all negativity is possible. And yet this is the liberated state to which all spiritual teachings point. It is the promise of salvation, not in an illusory future but right here and now.
You may find it hard to recognize that time is the cause of your suffering or your problems. You may believe that they are caused by specific situations in your life. But, until you have dealt with the basic problem-making dysfunction of the mind – its attachment to past and future and denial of the now – problems are actually pretty interchangeable.
If all your problems or perceived causes of suffering miraculously disappeared – but you had not become more conscious or more present – then you would soon find yourself with a new but similar set of problems or causes of suffering like a shadow that follows you wherever you go.
The great Zen master Rinzai, in order to take his students’ attention away from time, would often raise his finger and slowly ask “What, at this moment, is lacking?”
What you refer to as your ‘life’ should more accurately be called your ‘life situation’., or your circumstances. It is psychological time – past and future. Certain things in the past didn’t go the way you wanted them to go. Or you worry and stress about the future.
Forget about your life situation for a moment, and pay attention to your LIFE.
Find the “narrow gate that leads to life”. It is called the Now. Use your senses fully. Be where you are. Look around. Just look – don’t judge or interpret.
See the light, shapes, colours, textures. Be aware of the silent presence of each thing. Be aware of the space that allows everything to be. Listen to the sounds. Listen to the silence underneath the sounds. Touch something and feel and acknowledge its Being. Observe the rhythm of your breathing, feel the air flowing in and out, feel the life energy inside your body. Allow everything to be – inside and outside. Allow the “isness” of all things. Move deeply into the Now.
You are leaving behind the deadening world of mental abstraction. You are getting out of the insane egoic mind that is draining you of life energy, just as it is slowly poisoning and destroying the Earth. You are awakening out of the dream of time into the present.
If you found yourself in paradise, it wouldn’t be long before your egoic mind would say “Yes, but…”.
Ultimately, this is not about solving your problems. It’s about realizing that there are no problems.
There are only situations – to be dealt with now, or left alone and accepted as they are. Problems are mind-made, and need time to survive. They cannot survive in the actuality of the Now.
It is impossible to have a problem when your attention is fully in the Now. A situation that needs to be dealt with – yes, possibly. But why make it into a problem? Your busy mind loves problems because they give you an identity, of sorts. This is normal, but it’s not natural. It’s insane.
When you create a problem, you create pain. All it takes is a simple choice – but a radical one. You could choose to that no matter what happens, you will create no more pain.
If you create no more pain for yourself, you create no pain for others.
As I type this, my thoughts go to the tragedy last week in Paris. How enlightened do you suppose the people who carried out that attack were? Were they living in a state of peace, well-being and love – feeling deeply connected with themselves and everybody else? Feeling deep gratitude for Life? Probably not, right?
When you decide that, in this present moment (which is all we really ever have) you will not create pain, you will no longer contaminate this beautiful Earth, your inner space, and the collective human psyche with the negativity of your problem-making.
Now that’s what I call making a real difference!