“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” Albert Einstein
In Search of The Miraculous
I have been asked several times by my friends as to what are the major signposts to let one know that one is progressing on the journey of self (spiritual) development. Aside from a sublime sense of inner peace, I would like to talk about a topic that has intrigued me since I was a young boy.
All of my life the concept of time, of the 4th dimension has always captivated me. I would spend hours contemplating the inexplicable mystery of it.
Logically I understood that my life was always happening in the ‘now’, that the only ‘moment’ is always just now. But I thought that has to mean that the past, present, and future must simultaneously exist in the now. So theoretically It should be possible to access any dimension of time. However, existentially in this world of matter life’s events seemed to pass successively like a movie strip— let’s say on a horizontal line. Yet, I always felt that something in me was changeless and beyond my subjective point of observation.
As Einstein said, our experience of time is relative. No scientist has ever been able to fully explain: What is time? And although we can’t hold time in our hands we each have our own sense of time passing.
As I got older I began to understand that how we each perceive and experience events largely depended on our interpretation through our five senses. Consequently, I began to experiment in altering my body’s perceptions through breathing exercises, Raja Yoga, controlling attention, etc. Slowly my perception of time in my day to day life began to change.
As a little experiment take an object such as a candle and focus your eyes completely on the flame. Don’t blink, bring your full awareness to it and don’t let your mind wander. The eyes play a huge role in our sense of time. Our eyes are constantly scanning the environment. The pure movement of them gives you the sense that time is passing at a certain rate. But what happens when you keep your eyes from moving and force them to freeze? Well, you may find out that it is extremely hard to do, because our eyes have been conditioned to not stand still.
If you can keep your eyes completely still and without blinking you should be able to subtlety sense that your sense of time has slowed down. If you have perfect one pointed concentration to the exclusion of everything you will see that psychological time stops for you.
You can make this a daily practice by watching the second hand of a clock. Time yourself to see how long you can keep your attention focused on it without your mind wandering off. As soon as a thought comes in and you catch your self starting to wander, gradually bring your self back and start over. At the beginning you may only make it 20 to 40 seconds before your mind starts to wander. Take your best time and multiply it by 3, this will be your target until eventually you can reach 10 minutes of perfect undisturbed conscious concentration. I know this is extremely difficult, but amazing benefits will be revealed to you in due time. Having the ability to focus your attention like a laser will improve all areas of your life.
Expanding The Present Moment
If you have ever been in a car accident you also know how time can be perceived radically different. At really high speeds our perception of a moving object is deformed in such a way that we can only glimpse the trail of its movement. And in even faster movements such as a bullet, the object completely vanishes.
In a head on car accident right before impact for a split second time seems to radically slow down. Why is it? Well what can happen in a situation like this, is that our organism is momentarily shocked and instead of our consciousness being focused in our thinking mind (intellectual center), it makes contact with our instinctive/motor center which can perceive higher rates of vibration.
The mystic Gurdjieff taught that our human organism possessed three centers or brains: intellectual, emotional, and moving/instinctive center. With each possessing its own independent intelligence. Each center was even further divided into its own intellectual, emotional, and moving/instinctive parts. Our feelings and instincts are hundreds, if not thousands of times faster than thought (thinking).
When you run you don’t need to think about it. If you had to you would stumble and fall. Thought can’t keep up with fast movements. Once an athlete trains his muscle memory, he no longer requires conscious thought to direct his movements. So when your consciousness is momentarily functioning through your instinctive/motor center it is able to expand our perception of the present moment. Time appears to radically slow down, then a split second later as we come to our senses so to speak, our awareness shifts back to our mind and in hindsight everything happened in a flash. We couldn’t avoid the accident even though It felt as if we had an eternity to do something. If you had trained yourself to remain calm and maintain that level of awareness you could have acted quick enough to possibly avoid the accident.
Freeing Your Body and Mind
Later on as I came to experience that my body was just an instrument, I began to separate my attention, my consciousness from it. By breaking my identification with my body it became objective to me.
Just imagine if you were born blind and deaf…where would your world be? What would you identify as your identity? A person like this would easily be more in tune with his inner silence, his inner reality.
A daily ritual of meditation will yield tremendous benefits. Ideally once in the early morning and then again late in the evening. You will be cultivating an immovable inner silence. This silence will permeate all areas of your life.
As you begin to become dis-identified from your body, thoughts, and emotions you begin to step out of psychological time, which can be represented as a vertical movement of moving deeper into consciousness. When you are in a state of identification it simply means that you are ‘that’. There is no separation, you take your self to be your thoughts, emotions, and body. Without having this direct realization you will never wake up to reality. You will not try to evolve into a conscious human being, because you already believe you possess it. You will not look for something you think you already have.
When we are identified to our body’s, thoughts, and emotions our energy is primarily going out into the world. When you begin to meditate in addition to constantly observing your emotions and thought process in a passively attentive manner (with no judgment), a reversal happens where you sense your energy turn away from your material senses and move inwardly to your inner psychic senses. Watchfulness becomes your way of life. Your nervous system starts changing and is able to hold your inner silence amidst the busyness of life. Depending on your intensity and sincerity it could be months or even years before you make significant progress.
In time you begin to create space around your thoughts. Having a space or a gap in your thought process means you no longer believe in all your thoughts. You begin to question and separate from your thoughts. You no longer take them to be who you are. The gap is who you really are.
The mind is faithful servant but a terrible master. The problem with humanity is that this position is reversed and as a result we live in a certain type of self-hypnosis. Don’t believe me? Try to remain present to your self, most people can’t remain self aware for even a minute before another train of thought, mood, or emotion hijacks their attention along with their simple sense of existing in the moment.
Years of real conscious self-observation will help you realize that most of your day is spent inattentively. This realization is a major milestone and of incredible significance, as you realize that for most of your day you don’t remember your self. Your asleep. Self remembrance is just the simple and natural feeling of your acknowledgement that you are existing in this very moment.
You now begin to understand that you are not really a conscious individual with real will power. By observing yourself while simultaneously remembering your “self” you begin to develop a special kind of memory that takes accurate mental pictures of your behavior. In time these mental photographs help you see yourself as you really are. You see that you are not who you ‘thought’ you where. This can be very painful, but can be extremely liberating if you let go of these false self images that define you.
To practice real self-observation you need to learn to divide your attention in a special way. Read about it here: How To Really “Pay” Attention: Learning To Divide Your Attention
As your attention frees itself from compulsive thinking that energy is then transformed into increased consciousness. You begin to feel a more solid inner presence, it’s an actual tangible feeling. This is the meaning of feeling grounded. Then in your day to day life you start to look out into the world from this deep inwardly grounded place.
At this point you may have many sublime and mystical experiences. Moments will come where your presence feels so grounded, so intensely alive, that your presence feels solid. Or you may feel that the boundaries between you and the world melt and you feel your presence in everything. In the external world things are happening all around you, movement is happening, but your sense of psychological time is not there. A paradoxical feeling of no movement, within the apparent dimension of objects moving in space/time. It’s kind of like your so glued to the Present that your sense of time can’t exist because each passing moment you can only sense your self as being ‘here’. In other words you are life.
Enigmatic things can occur as a result of your awareness being focused only on the now. Your perception of the now may be enlarged, expanding to the point where your point of awareness can catch glimpses of the future dipping in the present. It’s incredibly difficult to put into words, so please forgive me, but if you stay disciplined in your spiritual practice you will know what I was trying to convey. These premonitions of the future could come as a sudden flash in the form of a vivid mental picture of a probable future event. This happens to be me all the time that it is no longer strange to me. All possible events exist on the space/time continuum. Deja vu and coincidences will take on a whole new meaning to you. Life then becomes your teacher full of beautiful hidden meaning.
What’s also interesting is you see why if you’re always thinking or daydreaming about something in the future, if it actually does happen in your life, you experience it as the past, therefore the experience doesn’t fulfill you because in a way you have already lived it. We take the juice out of something before we even live it. It doesn’t live up to our expectations. Just by thinking about it now, you make it the past, because psychologically you are already defining it.
So you begin to understand that your consciousness, your essence, the most essential aspect of your nature is outside of the time dimension. It’s as if in each life time our lives are already written like a DVD disk and our consciousness can scan and read any area of the disk.
When you are identified to your mind, to your thoughts, only the world of matter exists for you and your perception of time passing depends greatly on your mood’s, your emotions, attention, and amount of thoughts in your inner space.
It’s like if you are boat floating down a stream, the more thoughts you have, the faster the outer stream (life) seems to move, the more rushed you feel, the more life seems to overwhelm you. The less thoughts the slower time moves.
Now when you are no longer as strongly identified to your thoughts, when you no longer derive your sense of self from them, it’s as if your on the shore, just observing the stream. It doesn’t matter if it is moving fast or slow, your perceiving from another dimension that isn’t affected by it. You ‘don’t mind’ time anymore, you reject it, it’s psychologically irrelevant to you. Sure you still use chronological time for it’s utility value, but your life is no longer dominated by it. You don’t feel it’s constant pressure. Thoughts will still be there but you don’t mind them. You use the mind when it’s needed and put it aside when it’s not. When you enjoying your meal thinking is not required, it only interferes with your primarily physical experience. Just eat, it’s a marvelous thing.
When your in ‘time’, you live a reactionary life, when your out of time you respond to life’s events as they pop up. Life after all is just a constant flow of events. You experience less anxiety as a result of not developing expectations from future events.
Being means to be in the Present. When you derive your sense of self from your mind, from your personality (mind) you are either in the past or projecting your past onto your future. The personality has no Present, it only appears as an evanescent demarcation line. In the real Present there is no room for thought. To the personality created through thought, the future is continuously transformed into the Past and the Present slips through our fingers. It is for this reason that the Present moment has a sense of unreality. Were lagging right behind it. We live so long in the past or future that the eternal Present feels unreal. What in our current language we call the Present is actually the more or less recent Past, containing our conjectures about the very near future.
Living in the now is living in the future, because chronologically these moments will create your future because you are living in a timeless space. You did not allow yourself to be in bondage. So when the future shows up as the Now you live it fully and you don’t cling to it. You can only truly change your self in the Now. This is why its so hard for people to change, they are stuck in time. They desperately want to change yet at the same time remain the same and we know that’s impossible.
You can only create your future by taking action now. If you want to really change you need to leave behind all the mental pictures that currently define you. Remember the memory is not the thing. But we love our mental images, they give us a sense of comfort, but they are an illusion. We are blind to ourselves. Just remember you can only lose whats false, whats true and intrinsic to your nature can never be lost. We live our lives mainly in an unconscious manner because we live through our habits. The habits go on by themselves, our conscious will is not present.
Your Present Moment Equals Breath
The duration of an individuals present moment can also be equated to the length of one breath. In an average person, who is in a relatively calm state is roughly three seconds.
So the breath is deeply connected with how an individual experiences the Present. So depending on your emotional and physical state your breathing may be accelerated and therefore your present moment is shortened. If you can maintain a calm and steady breathing rhythm in emotional and stressful situations, obviously you will be able to handle the situation much better. You will have a calm detachment that will allow you to make rational decisions.
If you can slow the rhythm of your breath your individual present moment will be enlarged. The present moment itself can’t be measured as it is outside of time, but in a way we can say that we can measure the slit of our observation of the Present as it moves along the horizontal axis of time. As many experienced meditators can attest, in moments of deep contemplation ‘samadhi’ the breath is almost imperceptible and time is not sensed.
“That ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, the length, the depth and the height.” St Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians 3: 17, 18
We as humans live in three dimensions of space , but we are mono-dimensional in Time. Therefore we live on a straight line, and can’t perceive outside that line. It can be represented as in my sketch below. But if you can free your awareness from the line we live in, we can have a different point of awareness, we then rip away from our fixed point in time to a second dimension in time. From this point you realize you can observe the point ‘here’, but simultaneously able to observe the other two points. This puts you in the real present. This is seeing life unfolding in real time. Where space and time are inseparable as time-space.
To understand how a four-dimensional world is perceived through a three-dimensional body, let us conceive how a three-dimensional event is seen in a two-dimensional world.
Suppose you lived in a two-dimensional world, this is a world of planes and surfaces. Your perception would be limited to a plane like a vertical wall. Now, imagine a wheel with each of its spokes painted in a different color is rotating perpendicular to the plane in which you live.
In your two dimension world how would you perceive the motion of the wheel? Only when a spoke of the wheel intersects the plane, would you be able to see a line of a certain color manifest in your reality.
Then, after one spoke continues its movement and passes, there will be a gap when you will not see anything. Then, the next spoke of a different color will pass through the plane. So, you will perceive the motion of the wheel as lines of different colors happening at regular intervals of time.
Since you can see only two of the three dimensions of space, you see the third dimension only when it becomes manifest on your plane over time. Thus, you see it as unrelated to your two dimensions of space, and you call it a phenomenon in time.
Essentially what this means is that to understand the three-dimensional world, you cannot be in a two-dimensional consciousness. Accordingly, to understand the four-dimensional world that we inhabit, time being the 4th dimension of space, we have to acquire four-dimensional consciousness capable of ‘Space-sense’.
Our body’s physical senses can only give us a three-dimensional view. Can we actually see reality instead of mere glimpses of reality as phenomena in time? If you want to find out meditation will be your key. In moments of deep contemplation your awareness is withdrawn from your physical senses.
“But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:14
This is why three seconds, which signifies the present moment, is so important…this is the slot of “time” where you can slip out of time. The precious ‘straight gate’. As Jesus exclaimed, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God”. Every sacred teaching must be understood from a psychological point of view. A rich man meant someone with excessive pride, vanity, ego, etc. Ego can be equated to someone who thinks too much. You will find that people who think too much tend to be overly materialistic.
To enter into the Kingdom, we must become innocent like children, which means to empty our selves of all the rubbish we have accumulated. We came into this world ‘tabula rasa’, a blank slate, but as we started to acquire labels and form a psychological identity we lost touch with our pure essence. It is a matter of rediscovering what has always been there, but has been covered over by the hard shell of false personality. It’s time for all of us to come home.
So I would say that ‘timelessness’ is a definite signpost that you are moving away from the material world and into to the world of spirit.
I know this article may sound like nonsense to most people. Most will not be able to relate. Please don’t try to understand it logically with the mind, try to intuit the meaning, try to feel it.
Jesus says that in heaven… “time shall be no more”. Heaven is not a geographical location but a psychological one. When you break the duality that the mind creates, you will be able understand this truth existentially, you will know that heaven is and will always be in the here and now. How miraculous is that?
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post, hopefully I was able to give you a taste of timelessness.
If you enjoyed my post, please help me out by passing it along to a friend or sharing your own insights in the comments section. Namaste.