There are different aspects of time that combine to create our experience. The aspects of time relate to the different parts of experience.
These different aspects are:
- Body: Only this moment
- Heart: The entirety of everything that has happened and will happen
- Mind: Timelessness
- Soul: The flow of time
When these things combine, they create a sense that everything in the Universe is unfolding by itself. When we expand beyond time, and get to synchronicities – where things are connected by meaning rather than time – we start to be in touch with the Divine.
Through cultivating a direct experience of these different aspects of time and what is beyond it, rather than getting lost in projections of the past and future, we are able to be present with what is really happening in the the body-heart-mind-soul that is creating our experience.
Non-Self & Physical Bodies
In Buddhism there is a real obsession with the sense of non-self. It is the focus of a lot of practice and seen by a lot of people as the end goal.
When you understand the fundamentals of how time constructs our sense of reality, then this no longer makes sense. I will unpack this idea in this blog post.
It is impossible to completely destroy a sense of any self. We do have a body that we inhabit and this creates an experience that is literally separate to the rest of the Universe.
Firstly, this is just obviously true. You will spend your life existing in the body you are in with its natural preferences, genetics and physical traits. There is no way to escape this.
But also if we weren’t somehow separate from the rest of the Universe there would be no experience. You have to have an experiencer for there to be experience. If the Universe was just one thing it wouldn’t be able to experience itself. Non-duality is pointing to the ‘not-twoness’ rather than a ‘oneness’ – the experiencer and the experience rely on each other to arise rather than being the same thing.
The boundary that brings about the separation between experiencer and experience is created by our physical bodies; matter has physical boundaries that other aspects of the Universe, like awareness, don’t.
It is true that a large part of what we experience as ‘self’ is constructed by our minds, for example the idea that we have a fixed self who we can imagine being in the past and the future. But because our bodies do create a separate self, the idea of getting rid of the self becomes just an endless web of confusion and is ultimately putting the cart before the horse.
The body is not separate from the mind so what counts as ‘self’ and what is the sense of self that is just the body that you inhabit in this moment creating an immediate personal experience is an endless interconnected web.
There’s no sensible or definitive place to draw the line and say that one type of experience is self and another type of experience is non-self.
One of the reasons this is such a problem is because how people define the word self is so vague. People assume that everyone is talking about the same thing and that they have some strict definition, when actually people are just vaguely waving towards some aspect of experience that typically feels quite unpleasant for them personally.
Some things that people use ‘self’ to mean in the explorations of ‘non-self’:
- Free will
- Permanence in sensate experience
- Object permanence
- A centre of experience
- Inherent existence free from interconnection
All of these are valid and useful things to explore. Some can be diminished, removed or our relationship to them can be completely transformed. But if we want to talk about them people should say what they mean instead of shoe-horning it into the vague concept of ‘non-self’.
We can all take a second to laugh at the absurdity that some Buddhist communities are essentially a game of: which self can claim to have a no-self with the most authority.
At the deepest level all of these interesting ways of experiencing the world are actually manifestations of experiencing time in a different way. Or more accurately of time presenting reality to us in different ways. For example:
- Body: When we are fully present in this moment we don’t feel like a person with a past or future.
- Heart: When we are connected to the vast expanse of time we aren’t caught up in our own stuff.
- Mind: When we are in a state of timelessness we don’t create a sense of an experience in the same way.
- Soul: When we are fully absorbed in the flow of time we don’t feel separate to the rest of the Universe.
- Divine: When we go beyond time and into meaning, we realise that we are not the creators of experience.
When we are some combination of all these things, we are aware that everything is unfolding by itself in each moment and we feel connected to what is unfolding without a sense of over-identification.
In all these cases it is time that is constructing our experience. A sense of a self (or lack thereof) that arises in experience is a symptom of the way time is presenting reality to us.
Resistance and Presence
Resistance is one of the things that shapes the flow of time within us. It’s as if time is a river that is directing experience through the container of our beings. The shape that we create with our being, which is created through resistance, is the shape that experience takes.
If experience is the water of the river, and time is the flow, the resistance is like the river banks that direct a river left or right.
We can work with the shape of our beings, which comes from our psycho-somatic-imaginal-emotional system to create more space for the full range of experience to express itself through us. By doing this we are more likely to be directly in touch with the natural flow of truth and love that is the Universal expression of life force.
When the resistance is removed, and we are present with all of it, then time falls away and we are immersed in the Universe as a divine expression.