This is the time we wish each other a Happy New Year. Fortunately, like tomorrow, it never comes and few of us realise the implications the concept of time and its categorisation has on our wellbeing.
Since there is no past, no present (we can’t stop time even for a nanosecond) and of course no future, time is a human invention the absence of which some label eternity or no-time.
The concept of time, through memory and imagination, allows us to categorise the past, present and future, as well as to collectively get to a bus-stop and for a bus to leave at an agreed moment. All in all a very useful invention, that according to some sources on Wikipedia, is estimated to have begun with sundials around 3500 BCE in Egypt.
Today, it is hard for us to even imagine an existence without the concept of time. Our entire world-view and self-image is so intertwined with time that even the thought of there being no-time, can evoke confusion and even anger.
Most of us only contemplate the implications of no-time when we are confronted with a direct experience of no-time. This can occur as a result of a meditation practice, as we deliberately stop the flow of thinking and instead concentrate on a given object of concentration or simply sit with naked awareness.
No-time is obscured by thinking, as thinking is predominantly about the past or imagined future and does not allow our awareness to rest and recognise our timeless dimension.
For those that have experienced a moment of no-time, it can, depending on the intensity of the experience, have life changing consequences as our identity and core beliefs can be exposed as illusions once it clicks that there is no-time. This is different to knowing no-time through a reasoned approach, which does not have the same powerful effect. This is why reading or hearing about these things does not promote the necessary paradigm shift.
Really getting that there is no-time can have a further consequence of crumbling the foundation of our constructed ego-self, the existence of which is dependent on time categorisations. Birth and death are powerful examples.
Those who have had a no-time experience know experientially, that time categorisations continuously reinforce not only the illusion of selfhood, but also the illusion of separation from our infinite nature.
The notion of “self”, for most, starts at birth and evolves through our imagination and conditioned beliefs to the separate person we think we are in time. However, once we experience no-time the sense of “I” is dissolved into a non-separated timeless dimension. At the same time, the “I” appearing as a separate identity we have created and nurtured for so long can not be obscured; we simply gain another reference point, co-existing or merging and informing from then on, all our deliberations.
A famous Zen koan points to this as a question: Who were you before your mother was born?
The Bible also makes reference to this with the famous “I am who I am” in Exodus 3:14. where God identifies himself as omnipresent. This omnipresence is no-time.
And again, W.E.H. Stanner, the famous Australian anthropologist, criticised his English colleagues for incorrectly translating the world dreamtime. His translation was “everywhen”.
The concept of time continues to bind us both mentally and psychologically. Expectations, grief, remorse, shame, grudges, etc., through memory, are time-based mental concepts that continue to keep us imprisoned in our head space, dominating our mental life.
When the illusion of time is exposed through a direct experience, be it as a glimpse or a longer lasting event, it tends to further unbind us from self-imposed conditioned beliefs that relied on time and that, until then, kept reinforcing our apartheid in the form of a dualistic consciousness binding us to samsara.
Thus, those who have had a no-time or kensho experience as we also call it in Zen know, that there is no such thing as a new year or tomorrow, or happiness or sadness. These, among others, are merely time-based mental constructs that we gravitate towards as being real or goals or ideals which ultimately never satisfy us due to their impermanent nature.
To free ourselves from this perpetual time-based tyranny or samsara (cycle of life) as it is called in Buddhism, we should experience at least once, a glimpse of eternity, to see existence as it really is.
The deep insight we gain through this experience opens up a unified perspective and a reference point that has the power to stop discriminations between us and the world around us despite it appearing to be otherwise.
This new perspective informs all other perceptions including the concept of time. It reconciles and heals the wounds of separation and gives us a glimpse of all-at-oneness, no “I”, just this!