Time and Timelessness
The feature of time we are most familiar with is that it passes, flowing by us whether we are willing to have it do so or not. We are born, we grow, we live, we learn from living, and eventually we die.
This aspect of time’s flow is so deeply ingrained in our perception that it is not even questioned. It is taken for granted. Yet, the possibility for living in a timeless way is also a capacity that each of us has, a capacity which emerges as our embeddedness within physical reality diminishes and our connection with God and the eternal increases. Such a shift involves a relocation of identity within the present, freed of past connections and future plans. This relocation roots identity in the Source of our being, rather than in the reflective feedback of others or in the content of external events.
The definition of ourselves in timelessness emerges from the deepening of our connection with Source. As we move toward the foundation of our being, our sense of relationship with the present moment becomes the expression of our relationship with God-in-the-present.
The definition of ourselves in timelessness emerges from the deepening of our connection with Source. As we move toward the foundation of our being, our sense of relationship with the present moment becomes the expression of our relationship with God-in-the-present. It also becomes the expression of an identity defined anew, moment-to-moment.
This kind of fluidity involves a radical leap for most of us, since, typically, we hold onto external definitions that tend to be more fixed and more visible to both ourselves and others. We think of ourselves as our parents’ children or our children’s parents, as the work we do, or the work we wish to do. We do not feel comfortable defining ourselves in and by what is unknown and changing. Believing that we are our past and future, it becomes the nature of our experience.
Living in timelessness involves a profound redefinition of identity — one that includes trust that what is happening now is all there is and all that needs to be. This moment, this ‘now’, has immense significance because its source is in God. We and it are woven together in a dance called ‘life’, and the dance is ongoing forever. Knowing this, we have the possibility of letting go of everything else and living in the moment, trusting that the moment will take us to the next moment in whatever way it is meant to — in whatever way the manifestation of pure Divine intention creates.
Now we are only this moment. In the next moment, we will be only that moment, and so on and so on, indefinitely. The degree of our rootedness in God makes possible this experience of timelessness, for it is God who is unfolding Him/Herself within a myriad of forms and moments, all of them expressions of Divine being.
Understood in this way, there is nothing to hold onto and no need to hold on. Each moment is available to us to have a significant interaction with. Each can call forth our total engagement. This does not mean that we must enjoy pain and suffering, for it is human to wish pain to end. But we can accept this, too, as part of the Divine present.
The new identity available to us in this way is a fluid one which includes the perception of timelessness-within-time. We unfold like flowers within the landscape of space and time — budding, blooming, wilting, dying — and all parts of the passage are parts of our identity, simultaneously occurring. In fact, all moments of life including birth, aging, and death occur simultaneously within the landscape of space-time — a landscape which unfolds like a scroll with all moments and events co-existing within itself, though we view these sequentially, one by one, as the scroll unfolds.
Let us look at this more closely. What is the scroll, and what allows us to view events separately as the scroll unfolds so that we see them one by one?
Do we have a choice as to what is written in the scroll, or is it all written someplace or sometime that we call ‘before’?
What allows us to experience the scroll unfolding and to view only one portion of it at a time is the focus of our attention. Our attention, focusing now on one aspect of reality, now on another, allows us to experience the passage of time. Selective attention concentrates on the details of experience that it deems important, separating these from all others, and this fluctuating concentration, shaped by the relationship between subject and object, is what allows us to experience time passing. The scroll of our life unfolds as we selectively view the events of our life, both inner and outer. Supporting this quality of attention are our brains and neural structures which are designed to focus on the sequential observation of parts of a whole.
From what has been said, one can see that the relationship of time to consciousness is complex and changes as consciousness evolves, shaped by where we focus our attention and also by how embedded we are within the data received from our physical senses. With less embeddedness, we discover that the sense of being immersed in the passage of time is not an immutable property of reality. Rather, it is a property of the reality maintained by the perceptual apparatus of our brain and sense organs. As embodied beings with higher cortical centers and neural pathways which modulate our five physical senses, we perceive what our physically-based perception tells us. As we become less dependent on this way of perceiving and more open to others, we are increasingly liberated from what has been our typical way of perceiving time and can experience a new relationship with the present. From this freer perspective, it is not that the past is forgotten. It is that it becomes part of a lesser reality than what exists right now. With an increasing sense of the eternal infusing the temporal, eventually the present becomes all there is.
There are ways of approaching this transition into timelessness and the eternal. As we move across the landscape that is the unfolding scroll of our life, we can allow the present to become highlighted and everything else to grow dimmer. What is past can form a background for where we are now, but not determine who we are.
This is important. The fluidity of consciousness, uprooted from its dependency on the five senses, allows us to have a different relationship with each moment. It allows each moment to become ultimately real to us, fostering a sense of connection with purpose, with the meaning of things, and with the love that is at the root of everything. There may be other significant moments which memory sustains, but these memories become living experiences within the present, not parts of the past. They become part of our present aliveness which just is. Thus, moments that occurred ten, twenty, forty, or fifty years ago can be equally real if they form part of our present aliveness. As our consciousness incorporates these into present awareness, we make contact with these moments across the space in which they coexist with us now — the space that is the parchment scroll of our life. Here, distance is continually diminishing between things that are cherished, no matter how far apart they are in time. Here, too, all that is loved or valued is held forever.
The scroll of life upon which all events are written is more than a metaphor. It is the ‘akashic chronicle’ of our life — the ‘cosmic memory’ or mind of God which holds all essential features of life within Itself. There is an ‘akashic chronicle’ for an individual life, and there is an ‘akashic chronicle’ for all the lifetimes we have lived and will live as part of our evolutionary cycle upon the earth. Both are part of cosmic memory.
The scroll that is the ‘akashic chronicle’ is not completely written and is continuously changing according to our present choices in word, thought, and deed. Though the fundamental outlines exist, shaped by the essential qualities of our soul and its Divine purpose, all aspects of this chronicle which includes what we call past, present and future, are mutually interpenetrating, even while we perceive time to be flowing in only one direction.
Within the akashic chronicle, what holds true for an individual lifetime also holds true for multiple lifetimes. We experience these sequentially, even though they also simultaneously coexist. In relation to multiple lifetimes, the present affects the past and future, the future affects the present and past, the past affects the present and the future. There is no separation of influence between past and future, future and past, although within our experience there certainly is. Within the ‘akashic chronicle’, all aspects mutually influence each other in a continuous interplay. We are forever reshaping both our destiny and our history by current actions and choices, and what we do now, what we choose now, affects our life in both directions.
What importance does all of this have from a moral standpoint? The importance is that by living more fully in the present, we are more able to feel our connection with God and life and with our own deepest purpose for existing. By embracing the present, by allowing it to be the most important aspect of what is, we give full permission to the Divine to manifest through us, allowing us to live life fully as sacred beings from the deepest core of our essential nature.