Friday, 18 May 2012
Time and NOW
OK, so we aren't all lucky enough to be able to put our feet up on a lakeside veranda whilst we stay with "the bloom of the present moment;" but we can all help ourselves by developing techniques for doing so, wherever we are.
In a comment on my last posting, the one about Henry David Thoreau, Charles, and thanks to him for so many lively responses to my meanderings, asked how one empties the mind so as to escape from the usual sense of onward time. My entirely predictable answer was "mindfulness meditation," and it probably always will be my answer to such questions.
A moment's reflection on time is likely to yield puzzling paradoxes. It can be elastic - "marvellous how time flies when you're having fun," or "as the catastrophe approached, time went into slow motion." No matter how astonishingly accurate our timepieces may be, they only measure a net - clock time - which we throw over the universe to make sense of it.
Einstein (I'm getting nervous here...) showed that time and space are relative to each other (I think - didn't he?) and that if you travel away from home at light-speed, when you get back you'll have aged at a completely different rate from those you left behind. i.e. they'll be dead, and you'll still be young (though possible also dead from trying to travel that fast. I digress, sorry.)
So - how can time be an absolute? And even if it were, our perception of it, the way we actually live in it, is very relative.
Then there's the paradox of the present. It's all that exists, it contains the past and the future - memories of times gone by are events in the present - yet how long IS the present moment?
This stuff makes my head swim - which is good, because it encourages me to step outside of sequential event-type time, allow the train of thoughts about past and future to subside, and spend a little time in the NOW.
I've come across a website, "Wildmind," which could be a very useful resource for anyone in search of the general benefits of spending at least part of each day entirely in the present moment. It has some Buddhist names, terminology and concepts - which is OK by me, because that's where the mindfulness meditation thing comes from, but might put some people off. I hope not, because in any case, some of the articles to be found in it are entirely free of such specialist background. Here are links to a couple of articles about meditation, the present moment, and the strange reality of NOW.
Finally for this post: TS Eliot may have looked and sounded like a slightly prissy bank manager of the old school, but his insights into meditation and into time itself seem to me profound and valuable. This bit of the "Four Quartets" is pretty well-known, but if you stop and let it sink in...
“Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.”
Time is unredeemable, so only the present truly exists, vanishing as soon as it arrives....