“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time, but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time – past and future – the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.” – Eckhart Tolle
In a previous essay, I wrote about how our perception of reality is not always as accurate as we believe it is. We took a look at The Five Illusions of Perception, and how to strengthen our model of ultimate reality by deepening our understanding of the universe. I made an argument for changing the lens through which you view the world so that your goals and aspirations in life could be more easily achieved.
As Dr. Wayne Dyer loved to say, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
That first post was more of an overview and big picture look at the Five Illusions, and I promised that I would be fleshing out more substantial discourse on each of the illusions in later articles. Always true to my word, I’ve already demolished the Illusion of Separation, and today I intend to deconstruct the Illusion of Time!
With that said, let the deconstruction…. begin! 😀
Deconstructing the Illusion of Time
“Time is an Illusion.” – Albert Einstein
When we think of time we think of clocks ticking, alarm bells ringing, the sand draining from an hour glass, the sun setting and rising again the next day. We think back into our memories of the past and how far we’ve come. We dream of who, or what, or where we’ll be in the future.
We think of the history of our country, our civilization, of humanity, the planet, and our ever evolving and changing universe.
We think of Einstein and his theory of relativity. We think of the space-time continuum, time travel, and the movie Back to the Future!
We think of what we’ve done and how much we still have left to do…. “If only we had the time.”
We think of growing old, our bodies aging, withering and wrinkling. We contemplate the death of our loved ones and even our own fateful dance with death someday… preferably a day WAY into the “future.”
Yet, what is this phantom we call time?
Do we really have a past and a future… or just memories and aspirations of what was, and potentially could be?
Is it a real, scientific phenomenon to be respected, or just a fleeting delusion and construct of the human brain?
Inquiring minds want to know…
Wrestling with the Paradox of Time
Time is something that I’ve always been curious about. It has been a constant theme in many of my songs, writings, and poems. It has haunted me like a ghost in a flame… and riddled my mind with questions:
“Am I wasting my time working for someone else’s dream, or is there some hidden purpose here?”
“How can I find or make the time to do what I truly enjoy and love while ideally being paid to do so?”
“Man, I just turned 38… where’d the time go, and why do I still feel like a teenager (yet 20x smarter!? lol)
As Dr. Robert Anthony explains in The Secret of Deliberate Creation, “Time is a trickster and its biggest trick is making us think it is real.”
Yet, if time isn’t real then why is everybody keeping track of it?
Why do we have clocks in our homes, watches on our wrists, calendars on the wall, photo albums in the closet, history class, and memoirs of the great men and women that have long since left this planet?
If time isn’t real… then what is?
Aaahhhh, now you’re getting somewhere! Now you are asking the smart questions, my friend. However, before I answer that let’s explore this concept of time, and its illusory nature a little further.
I love to philosophize and explore the boundaries of reality. Yet one thing I also attempt to do in my writing is to rationalize any esoteric truths with the practicality of such thought provoking introspection. After all, what good are my mystical musings if they have no sound application to your daily life?
My thoughts exactly!
As you may have guessed by now, I believe that time is ultimately an illusion. Nevertheless, we live in a world of duality; so it could be said that time is both real and not real. For our purpose of deconstructing this paradox, let’s first explore a little bit about what we do know regarding this trickster called time.
Let’s start with the most basic of questions… What is time?
Time is a measure in which events can be ordered from the past through the present into the future, and also the measure of duration of events and the intervals between them. Time is often referred to as the fourth dimension, along with the three spatial dimensions.
Now, time is time! So although, time is supposedly a singular phenomenon, it may be helpful for you to think of time as being divided into three subcategories:
1. Clock Time: man’s tools, machines, and methods for measuring and keeping track of time and events.
2. Space Time: the concepts of time and three-dimensional space as fused in a four-dimensional continuum.
3. Perceptual Time: one’s relative and subjective experience of elapsing time and events as an observer
I don’t want to spend a lot of “time” covering these, yet let’s briefly look at each one in a little more depth. Keep in mind that I’m not some Einsteinian Physicist Genius, nor do I want to geek out on you that much anyway. My goal is simply to give you a basic understanding to the best of my limited brain function. hahaha
“Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.” – William Shakespeare
Most people take for granted that we now have the instantaneous ability to know the precise hour, minute and second of each passing day. Throughout the history of timekeeping, the invention of many devices have been used to help us determine what time of day it is and to track the passing of elapsed time.
From candle clocks, to water clocks, to hourglasses, to sundials, to mechanical pendulum clocks, to the modern sophistication of wrist watches, time zones, atomic clocks, and the iPhone. We are never at a loss to determine the time…. unless we’re stranded on a deserted island somewhere. And then we’re back to putting a stick in the sand! Doh
In this sense, timekeeping provides a sense of structure and functional utility that allows us to live within the modern world. Without clock time the industrial revolution could not have happened. Without clocks, calendars, and time zones our world would cease to function in an organized, efficient, and timely way.
“Space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality.” – Hermann Minkowski
Einstein’s theory of relativity created a fundamental link between space and time. The universe can be viewed as having three space dimensions — up/down, left/right, forward/backward — and one time dimension. This 4-dimensional space is referred to as the space-time continuum.
Basically, the experience of time is affected the faster one is traveling through space. The faster one is traveling, the slower their experience of time relative to someone on Earth. This phenomenon is know as Time Dilation
Einstein came to the conclusion that the distinction between the past, present, and the future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion. As Gevin Giorbran writes in his book, Everything Forever;
“Einstein’s belief in an undivided solid reality was clear to him, so much so that he completely rejected the separation we experience as the moment of now. He believed there is no true division between past and future, there is rather a single existence.”
“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.” – Albert Einstein
Our experience of life and time is often a very personal, and subjective one. Two people might share a moment in time (a conversation), witness an event unfold (a play, concert or movie), or undergo a similar incident (a car accident)… yet have a completely different interpretation, and perception of it than the other person.
It is this subjective or relative nature of time that I am referring to as perceptual time. You could also call this psychological time since we are discussing how the mind perceives the unfolding of events.
How are you experiencing the passage of time from one moment to the next? Is time going “slow” for you, or did the evening fly by so quickly you are wondering where the time went? What about the past 10 years?
Perceptual, or psychological time is greatly affected by your mind’s ability to stay present in the moment. You could be walking in the most beautiful and serene landscape, yet if your mind is busy thinking, worrying, or projecting itself into the past or future, it’s like you’re not even there… You’re in your head, and thus your perception of time will be skewed.
Music is one of the Best Means We Have for Digesting Time
Perhaps the best way I can think of explaining all three subcategories of time in a simple, singular analogy would be a person listening to their favorite CD, watching a movie on DVD, or even playing a video game.
Let’s use the CD example… even though they are somewhat obsolete these days.
When you play a CD, each track on the disk is a certain length of time and the total time of each track adds up to make the full length of the album.
As each track plays, your stereo counts the seconds as the music pours out of the speakers. This would be similar to clock time as the stereo display tracks the elapsing time it takes to play each song.
Now, as you know, all of the songs in their entirety already exist on the compact disk in digital form (or perhaps these days, as a file in your MP3 player, or computer.) This would be analogous to space time – where everything, and all potential outcomes already exist, fused together in a four-dimensional continuum. The album as an entity is stored within this digital matrix as a potentiality, or probability. While the music you hear, when you push play, becomes the three-dimensional sound object (sound waves) in space… expressed as the 4th dimension of time as it is being listened to.
Your enjoyment of the music would be likened to perceptual time, or your subjective experience of the songs as any given track is played through the stereo. You can’t listen to every song simultaneously, even though they all do exist on the compact disk. Therefore, you can only enjoy what’s playing right now in this moment of time!
Time as a Field of All Possibilities
“You and I are essentially infinite choice-makers. In every moment of our existence, we are in that field of all possibilities where we have access to an infinity of choices.” – Deepak Chopra
As our lives unfold, we have to make a number of choices, and decisions. As children, many of these choices are made for us. Yet, over time, the responsibility becomes more and more our own. It’s these decisions, that we make from moment to moment, that ultimately shape and unveil our destiny.
Each day, we are faced with an infinite number of choices, and each choice we make sends us down a certain path; opening new doors, closing others, and creating the adventure that becomes the life of our own design.
In many ways, life really is a “choose your own adventure” story that can be whatever we want it to be. Although, there are many outside influences vying for our attention… in the end, we are the ones that choose what we become.
We are the ones who choose where we live, what we watch, the music we listen to, the books we read, the foods we eat, the sports we play, the schools we attend, the degrees we get, the jobs we take, the friends we make, the lovers we embrace, the cars we drive, the clothes we wear, the color of our carpet, and on, and on, and on until we leave this planet.
As we become more aware of this, we awaken to the vast importance of each decision we make and how it might affect the outcome of our lives.
- What if one decision we made in high school would have drastically altered the current reality of our life as it is now?
- What would your life be like today if you chose different friends, listened to different music, dressed differently, pursued a different degree, never took that dead-end job, took bigger risks, or made an infinite number of decisions more thoughtfully?
- What if when you die, you could somehow see infinite potential realities of what your life could have been if you had made different choices?
Of course, we can’t go back and rewrite our past – what’s done is done – however, your future is still unwritten! Your life is still unfolding in time; that field of all possibilities.
The past, present, and future all exist simultaneously as a potentiality, or possibility. It’s up to us through our own creative observation to collapse the wave probability of our ‘life’s potential’ into the particle of our ‘life’s reality’. This reduction can only happen in this precise moment of now. That’s why the sages and mystics refer to it as your only point of power.
In other words, start thinking of your life as a role playing video game! Say whaaaat!?!?
When you play a role playing video game, all of the potential outcomes already exist within that disc. There are variety of ways in which the story-line can unfold for you. It’s all based on the decisions you make in each stage of the game.
Do you slay the dragon with a sword, use a mace, or some mystical potion? Do take the wrong path that leads you into the swamp of doom, or do you make a series of right actions that lead to rescuing the princess, and inheriting the kingdom in record time?
All of the outcomes already exist on the disc as a possibility, you’re just choosing your own version of the adventure as you go along.
As hard as it may be to fathom, I believe our universe operates in a very similar manner. All of our life’s potential outcomes may already exist within that digital matrix known as time; perhaps in a multiverse, or some parallel universe where we’ve made different decisions. The current reality you’re experiencing is simply the by-product of the choices you’ve made in each successive moment of your life.
Nothing is set in stone. You can choose to walk a new life path, if you so desire, simply by taking different actions now. I’ve always loved the line near the end of the Tom Cruise movie, Vanilla Sky; “Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.”
Living with the Illusion of Time
“The future is a concept, it doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as tomorrow. There never will be, because time is always now. That’s one of the things we discover when we stop talking to ourselves and stop thinking. We find there is only present, only an eternal now.” – Alan Watts
When we fail to understand that time is an illusion of our own perception, we are living in the fallacy that the past and future exist outside of this present moment experience. We let the thinking mind distort the truth of our own infinite being, and the eternal essence that is our consciousness beyond form, and time.
You see, the past is only a fading memory of a previously experienced moment. While the future exists as an assumption, and speculated moment yet to come. Both the past and future are only mental constructions. Both are only figments of our own imagination.
You see, time is in the mind!
They can only exist when we think about them! You can never do anything in the past. You will never do anything in the future. The only time you can do anything is right NOW!
And that IS the Illusion of Time… deluding yourself into believing that you can do anything outside of this present moment reality.
When you’re thinking of the past, or a memory you are doing so in the present. In this moment, you’re stuck in your head, trapped in thought, lost in a reverie. The same is true when you’re daydreaming in anticipation of some future hope, dream, or event.
There’s no guarantee that tomorrow will ever arrive. In fact, it is quite an impossibility! Sure, the Earth will spin on its axis, and the sun will set off in the horizon… only to rise in the sky once again. Yet, it will do so in a series of present moments to be experienced.
So now we’ve come full circle… Earlier we asked the question, “If time isn’t real… then what is”?
Now you know the answer. Only this moment is real. Only this exact, precise moment of now. It’s the only thing that can be real, because it’s the only place where you can be, do, or have anything. That’s why it is so precious, and so powerful!
Of course we still have to live within the illusion of time. We still have to mark our appointments on the calendar, be there at a certain “time”, and watch our face wrinkle, and wither with age in the mirror. And yet we will do it now, in the deepening of this eternal moment.
The only time there is.
Unleash Your Ultimate Potential,
P.S. Thanks for stopping by the blog today. We appreciate you taking the time to read this, and checking out what we’re all about here at The Awakened Warriors. We’re still growing this website, and definitely need more readers like you. After all, it’s the members of our tribe that inspire us and drive us to keep writing, and churning out the best content we can produce.
Please take a moment to sign up on the side bar, and push some of those social buttons down below. Today, I’d like to conclude this post with a poem. I used to write a lot of poetry back in the day, but haven’t written any in a long time. Strangely, this morning, as I lay awake in bed the first verse came to me. The rest soon followed…. enjoy.