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How Time Causes Suffering
Being overly identified with the past or the future is the root of mental suffering. Choosing to be present in our bodies is a path that leads to easefulness and flow as everything in life is always in constant change.
And then there is nostalgia. There is a sense of, oh, that was a moment. Oh, that was a moment I loved. Or that was a moment of something special. And if you’re living in your body, you’ll feel the beginning of this pain, the beginning of this sense of loss, the beginning of this sense of something that’s not there anymore. And in that millisecond you will have idealized a relationship, or idealized yourself in the past, or idealized how something was in the past. It won’t be how it actually was. The mind needs to reconstruct it as a kind of dream.
Same thing happens when you go into the future. In the future something will be there or won’t be there. And the hope that it will be there is still a form of agitation in the body. It’s not peace. And the fear that it won’t be there is instantaneous anxiety, instantaneous fear. Time is suffering.
There’s an appropriate awareness of an action that you wish to take today in order to be prepared for something that comes in the future. That use of the mind as a structure for preparation is valid, is important. Yet the moment you leave the present moment, the moment you leave your body in the now, you’re literally making an invitation for what Eckhart Tolle calls the pain body or I sometimes refer to as the fear body. Something about time– in the future it might not happen or could happen. The past, not remembered as it actually is– or was, rather– but idealized, something lost. That process is suffering.
And you know, for most of us we’re so little in the present moment that we’re actually constantly identified with the mind, we’re constantly identified with our beliefs, we’re constantly identified with our enculturation, our cultural values, our history, our past. We’re prisoners of it. And in any deviation from that by the richness of the present moment, by the infinite possibility of the present moment, becomes threatening. So time becomes a prison and moving into time becomes a source of suffering.
And the choice is to come back and start all over now. It’s to take that deeper consciousness and realize that’s the future, what if I just trust right now? And you just give yourself permission to say that. What if I just trust right now? I’m still going to do what I’m going to do, I’m still going to make plans the way I’m making plans, I’m still going to take the action I’m taking right now. What if I trust? What if my mind is not in the future, worried about whether the outcome is the way I want it to be?
The moment the split second the past comes in– what if I just simply start now? What if this moment is all that I need right now? Whatever is essential in the past, whatever gives us depth, whatever enriches our sense of self and our sense of knowing of our lives, that’s not going to be taken away from us because we don’t allow an image of the past into our mind. The image of the past is going to lead to suffering in some form. It’s going to lead to wanting something that was or fearing that what was may happen again.
Watch yourself. See if you can start again and again. Don’t blame yourself in the slightest for the mind that moves in time. But witness the mind that moves in time. And feel how that movement in time is the door that opens to the pain body, the door that opens to the fear body.
And as soon as you bring timeless consciousness toward the sensation that’s been opened by the past or the future image, and you just look at it, it will subside. And if the practice of letting it subside becomes so continuous in you, then you straight to live not only in the present moment but what the present moment really is, which is your deeper consciousness, which is the consciousness that links you to everyone and everything.
I’m so where that how the simplest image associated to the past becomes a part of an idealization of the past, becomes an awareness that that’s changing in the constant change that the Buddhists call impermanence. And the acceptance of impermanence gives us freedom.
Time doesn’t have to be about suffering. But it becomes the reminder of what it’s like to really be present. Keep practicing, keep practicing. Make every moment of daily life your spiritual practice. And then spiritual practice and living become the same thing, blessings.
Hi, friends. Just wanting to invite you to maybe the most profound experience of connection to yourself you’ve ever had. It’s the Radical Aliveness this summer in August the 13th to the 23rd in France at Domaine du Fan. These are my 10-day retreats– really 11 days, 10 nights. Profound exploration of meditative, contemplative, celebration, self-examination, self-discovery, coming alive, deepening your spiritual practice, integrating it with a rich understanding of many practices. So join me. There’ll be a wonderful team to support the work, people from all over the world. We work in French and we work in English. . There is a great deal of learning with the body and learning with the heart. It’s a really important time. And I love that I’ve been doing it now in Europe since 1989 every summer. Hope to see you there.