Life is not a progression of events, a stream of happenings, it is just this, just now. We tend to imagine that life is a series of moments, connected in a line from past through present to future, but this is not the case if you really look.
Of course, the mind views life as such, and indeed the mind itself is no more than that collection of memories of the past and projections into the future. Apart from them, no such thing as mind exists. But this view of life as some sort of conveyor belt is reliant on the sacred and unquestioned belief in time. Time is real, time moves from past to future, things change over time, these are the beliefs that hold this way of seeing together. But let’s explore the facts.
Take a moment now to explore your life experience right this instant. Is there anything that is happening anytime other than now? Thoughts about the past are arising now, sensations are arising now, birds are singing now now now! Only now is, and nothing can be outside of it.
My friend Nirgun John calls this ‘the no-time now’, because it isn’t a moment in time between past and future, it is the eternal space in which everything appears and disappears. Feel yourself breathing and you enter this no-time now consciously.
So let’s picture life not as a conveyor belt, but as a giant ocean, in which the tide ebbs and flows, everything changes, everything moves, but no calendar is required. If an observer was measuring the pace of tidal change in that ocean, they could create the concept of time (and if the fish all wanted to go out together on a ‘Saturday night’, this might help them to organise themselves) but that would be just an idea, a word, not the reality. Try telling a fish to hurry up because Christmas is coming and see how far you get!
Now imagine dumping a vat of pink dye into that ocean and seeing it stick to the rocks. That dye is like your life experiences, they may leave some residue, but the residue is not the past, is not the experience, it’s just a trace. We wouldn’t say that the rocks are remembering the past, just that they are pink, and that the pinkness is washing off.
When some things arise in this field of now, they may echo through you for a while after they have disappeared, and we call this memory. But is the echo in the cave yours? Do you worry about what it is saying? Or do you just let it go? Memories of the past are mere echoes, but they are enlivened because we give them our attention, and so they come to dominate many people’s lives.
Withdraw attention from mind, from memory, and place it in your body. Feel your way through life rather than thinking your way through, and those echoes lose their power. Don’t feed them on your attention and they will dissolve.
And as memory loses its power (although you can still use it to navigate the world), old stories dissolve and you are born once more into timelessness, into the place you never left, but that you may have forgotten, into your true self.