Martin LeFevre: Take The Time To End Time
Take The Time To End Time
The parkland is sunny and quiet. I have an hour and a half, and take the first half hour or so to walk a loop on the dirt paths. After passing through an extraordinarily beautiful grove of oaks, the creek burbles beside me.
Sunlight streams through the foliage. I pause for a moment and gaze at the fractal patterns of the branches. Suddenly woodland hawks are screeching all around. Called Cooper's hawks, one is directly overhead, but I don't see it until it drops from the branch and swoops up in a perfect arc to another limb a short distance away.
The hour-long sitting induces meditation. Undirected observation begins with sensory awareness--the sounds, colors, shapes, and smells coming into the senses. Effortlessly, attention then gathers and deepens, catching the subtlest movement of self and thought. The mind grows fully present, and time ends.
A paradox: one has to take the time to end time. Of course there are moments when thought is shocked into silence, as when one first sees the Grand Canyon or Yosemite Valley here in North America. (Although, even the most stupendous beauty does not shut up some chatterboxes!)
In the normal course of things however, quieting the mind is arduous, though awakening meditation can only be done with a light hand. One has to give the time and energy to it, and most people are unwilling to do that, even if they have the time. (It is often said that "idle hands are the devil's workshop," but busy minds are the devil's workshop too.)
Thought spontaneously ends its chatter through undirected attention to the movement of the mind and emotions. Then time ends as well, because there is no time without thought. Where there is thought, there is time, and vice versa.
"The arrow of time" that cosmologists speak about is a misnomer--nature is ever recreating itself in the eternal now. There is an unfolding, certainly: stars are born, blaze, and burn out. Life forms evolve and go extinct. But time, the way the human mind conceives it, does not exist.
What we experience as time is actually psychological becoming. The mind creates a goal, an end, which gives life purpose. But if one attains the goal, one is lost, like the Olympic athlete that achieves his or her ambition of a gold medal, and is then left without a purpose in life. Having goals may be necessary, but experiencing timelessness is essential.
Different cultures have different notions of time, but I doubt that any culture has ever been based on timelessness. After all, tradition is a product of thought and a function of psychological time.
Through negation in meditation, time-bound consciousness dissolves, and one enters the stream of timeless consciousness. That occurs nearly every day, but then I slip back into time-bound consciousness. My intent is to break through, but is that just a goal, by which I dig another hole?
What we mean by time is actually continuity, which is memory, the past. Does creation have a past? No, the bird that sang this morning sang as it did on the first morning. Only humans don't begin each day anew, and so accumulate sorrows and inwardly die.
As the Buddha and Jesus said, in different ways, to die is to live. When one dies to yesterday, there are no more tomorrows, only today. But can I live that way?
A single yellow leaf, its stem sticking straight up like a mast without a sail, floats by on the gentle current. The morning is over. Is there any better way to spend it?
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.