Posted On 08 Aug 2011
Nothing is more important than time freedom.
It’s sad that we miss most of our lives. It’s sad because life is better when we don’t miss it and it is not necessary to miss it.
We miss whatever we fail to notice. Life occurs only in the present moment: right here right now.
Sadly, much of our attention during waking life is absorbed by thoughts concerning what is past, present, or elsewhere. Then we complain because life is so full of suffering! Duh! How can anything be satisfying if we don’t notice it?
Please set aside clock time, which is a mere practical convenience. If we agree to meet tomorrow noon for lunch, that’s fine. It’s not a problem.
Think here only about our thoughts of time, which is being temporal [cf. http:dennis-bradford.com/1105/lost-in-time/]. Being temporal is being aware of past, present and future. It’s thoughts of other times (past or future) or of the present as a part of time. It’s awareness of Becoming, not Being.
1. Is lack of time freedom really an important problem?
2. If so, why is it a problem?
3. How can it be solved? How, in other words, can we liberate ourselves from compulsive thoughts about time? How can we realize freedom from time, time freedom, Being rather than only Becoming?
1. The Buddha clearly identifies it as a problem. He tells us in the famous The Diamond that Cuts Through Illusion sutra that “immeasurable happiness” is possible for anyone “not caught up in the idea of a self, a person, a living being, or a life span” (Thich Nhat Hanh translation), in other words, not trapped in time (Becoming). Time freedom is escaping from that trap.
2. It is a problem because we normally only think of ourselves as temporal — and that is a hugely important mistake.
Please ask yourself: “When I think about time (past, present, and future), am I not usually thinking about my own life span?” In other words, isn’t it the circumstances of your own life that typically motivate your concern with past, present, and future?
In fact, to think of ourselves, our egos, is to think of our own life spans, in other words, our own pasts, presents, and futures. The Buddha gets the credit for connecting the important ideas of ego and time.
His most innovative idea was the idea of anatman, which is the Second Dharma Seal of nonself. Nothing has a separate existence, an existence apart from everything else. If so, it is a delusion to believe that you are a separate self or person with a life span! There is infinitely more to you than merely Becoming.
The ego identifies with past experiences while compulsively and continuously projecting its appetites and aversions into the future. It is ceaselessly preoccupied with past and future while unwilling to notice the present. Ego and time are intimately intertwined.
Ego and time are both delusions!
That’s why there is a problem. Your temporal self or ego is not your true Self.
3. The solution is simple: let go of thinking that you are a separate ego. Just drop it. Doing that, however briefly, is experiencing time freedom. It’s realizing Being.
Thich Nhat Hanh points out that, “Usually we think if we let go, we will lose the things that make us happy. But the more we let go, the happier we become.”
Nowhere is this more importantly true than with respect to the ideas of ego and time.
For example, how often have you been told to stop wasting time? How often do you berate yourself for wasting time? What a bizarre idea! Since time is a delusion, it’s impossible either to waste it or to spend it wisely. To liberate yourself and enjoy time freedom it is necessary to drop all such thoughts.
What should ultimately concern us? The ever-present eternal. Everything unfolds in the constant now.
Access to it, to what Eckhart Tolle correctly refers to as “the timeless and formless realm of Being,” is only available right here right now. It’s important to release the idea that access is a goal to be attained sometime in the future.
There’s nothing wrong with mind, the ability to think. It’s only misusing mind that is a problem.
The misuse of mind occurs when the ego appropriates it. Your ego is your sense of separation from everything else. Since you are not really separated from everything else (but it is your egoic mind that causes you to think that), your ego is derived from delusion. It is a secondary, surreal self.
Suffering always comes from separation. So, if you let your egoic mind run your life, you will always suffer. That’s the bad news.
The good news? Since there is no real separation, suffering is optional.
(Please don’t confuse suffering with pain. Briefly, suffering is psychological whereas pain is physical. Freedom from at least occasional pain is not an option.)
Since the egoic mind is only surreal, in order to sustain itself it must derive its reality or identity from other entities.
This explains why we humans identify with, for example: real estate, motor vehicles, and other possessions; jobs or work; family (especially offspring), friends, and other relationships; physical attributes and athletic achievements; artistic and literary achievements; social rank and recognition; educational accomplishments; sexual wins; hobbies and pastimes; financial gains; and, most importantly, thoughts including all webs of beliefs such as political and religious creeds. Insanely, we even identify with our problems! All these, and many more, are but forms of Becoming.
You are much more than that! You are not your egoic mind. You are Being.
Similarly, since it is perpetually threatened with extinction and, so, needs constant reinforcement, the egoic mind ceaselessly attempts to grow stronger, which explains why it’s always hungry for entities to appropriate as itself. It is never satisfied for long; like a shark, it must relentlessly keep moving to survive. Its wants are endless. It also thrives on having enemies; it couldn’t survive without such contrasts. That is the paradigm of madness!
Time freedom is the way out. It’s impossible for the egoic mind to think its way out. The egoic mind cannot apprehend Being. To conceptualize is to divide, which is why the egoic mind must miss the unity of Being. If you leave it alone, the egoic mind will simply to continue to function as it always has until you die.
So don’t leave it alone. Instead, die right now! To experience ego death is to experience time freedom, to let go of compulsive conceptualizing, to realize your true Self. It is impossible for an ego to live well. Every ego is dysfunctional.
Notice that nothing is more frightening to the egoic mind than its own imminent death, its running out of time. When people are told they only have a short time to live, either they become more terrified and trapped or they release into time freedom.
You, but not your egoic mind, can understand the following from Eckhart Tolle: “Nothing ever happened in the past; it happened in the Now. / Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now.”
At least since the Buddha’s pointing to the egoic extinction that is nirvana in the east and Plato’s allegory of the cave in the west, many great philosophers have tried to orient us towards Being.
To experience time freedom is to realize that nothing is lacking. Letting go of Becoming means realizing Being.
Life only occurs now, in the present moment, in the absence of time.
Suffering requires time. No time, no suffering. Being dissolves all the problems of Becoming. (Don’t all great spiritual traditions make this point?)
Assuming that you are still identified with your egoic mind, reading these few words about time freedom won’t change you because your habits of misusing mind are too well established.
However, my hope is that these words about time freedom may interest or even excite you as their potential importance begins to sink in. Then, when you finally become sufficiently sick of suffering to do something about it, you may actually investigate Being for yourself and do the releasing that is required to experience time freedom.
Why not? What’s more important than dissolving suffering?
Isn’t looking for lasting satisfaction in Becoming insane?
It is impossible to be happy in Becoming; it is impossible to be unhappy in Being.
Forms of Becoming are important, but Being is all that is of ultimate concern.