The mysteries of time
Posted on 22nd November 2017 at 07:30
One topic that fascinates us – and has the ability to completely shatter many of our illusions about this world of ours – is time.
How there is only now. This present moment. And the next. And next. Ad infinitum.
The past has gone. But, when we were there, it was just another now. Another moment in time. (For some reason we haven’t yet fathomed, many people find this a hard notion to get their heads around.)
The future has yet to come. And, yes, you’ve guessed it when you get there it’ll be another now.
Yet this doesn't mean that people can't live in the past.
Many people do this, without realising what they’re doing, by constantly going over and over what happened in the past. Usually it’s something traumatic that happened in their childhood. However, by thinking about it now they’re simply bringing all the hurt – the trauma – into the present. Repeating it over and over again without being able to do anything to change it.
Gradually it takes them over and becomes their identity. And they get trapped in no man’s land. Not leaving the past where it belongs, in the past. Nor living their life in the present which, after all, is the only place they can do anything about it.
Ironically, there is a very simple solution to this impasse, but one that seems to go against all logic. And that’s to take a very deep breath and forgive all those concerned. Truly forgive them. Which includes yourself as well.
Now we know this is a radical thought and the little monster in your head will have plenty to say about it (!). So that’s why we’re going to leave this idea with you – plant the seed if you will – and come back to it in a couple of weeks when your little monster has calmed down a bit.
We should also mention another way that people can get stuck in the past. And that’s when they become fixated on things somehow being better in the past. In other words they’ve got their rose tinted spectacles on (!).
It could be said that this isn’t nearly so damaging but, again, it takes them away from the here and now. Really it’s more a case of perspective, looking at things in their entirety rather than choosing to focus on one aspect of the past.
And then there are people who live in the future.
About what might happen, however unlikely. Worries, anxieties, stress.
Again it gradually takes over their lives. Becomes their identity.
And again it takes them away from their lives and the only place they can do anything about it. Now.
You’ll be pleased to know that there is a simple solution to this problem. It’s not nearly as radical as forgiveness (!) and so doesn’t need a blog post of its own to explain. It’s called perspective and goes like this:
First, let your attention focus on the imagined horror in all its glory. The worst possible scenario. Really feel what it would feel like. AH!!!
You will probably need to take a deep calming breath at this stage…
Then go to the other extreme. Focus on the best possible outcome. How good it feels. What a relief. PHEW!!!
Finally, go somewhere in the middle. The most likely scenario / outcome. How, it’s fine. Perhaps even a better outcome than you could have imagined.
Not only have you given yourself some much needed perspective but you’ll feel calmer and more in control. And, most importantly, you’re back in the present. The only place you can do anything about it.
And here’s the important bit. Every time you find yourself starting to drift back to that particular horror, pull your attention back to the most likely outcome. Notice what a relief it feels.
It really is that simple, it’s just down to practise. Like learning to ride a bike. After all you’ve practised living in the future for years, it’s just a case of practising to live in the present.
And remember what happened when you fell off your bike? You just got back on again and did it again. And again. And again. Gradually it got easier until you didn’t have to think about doing it at all. Life really is that simple IF you let it be.
These two aspects of time – whether stuck in the past or projecting forward to the future – are often referred to as psychological time. It’s when the monster in our heads is in control and we’re so distracted that we’re no longer truly living our lives in the present. Sadly, this is where many people live – or waste – their precious lives.
Before we finish for today we’d just like to mention one other aspect of time that so easily throws us off track. And is probably something you’ve probably never considered. Clock time.
There can be little doubt that clock time dominates our waking lives. From first thing in the morning, to last thing at night, it’s our constant companion. While we like to think it makes us more efficient and focused – on schedule – it has exactly the opposite effect; constantly interrupting and distracting us. Keeping us busy – oh yes, we’re very busy – but, as we all know, this isn’t the same as being productive (!).
By contrast being in the present moment means that we’re 100% focussed on whatever we’re doing right now. Time has no hold over us and seems to stand still. No longer are we distracted by the past or future, but 100% engaged in living our lives in the way we choose. Not surprisingly, it’s when we’re at our most creative, efficient and effective.
And, yes, as we write this we can hear you muttering about how necessary clock time is to your life. How it’s the only way you get things done. And, yes, it can play a useful part in life BUT ONLY FOR PRACTICAL AND USEFUL PURPOSES. For appointments, a deadline for a project, a way of connecting to the world around you. Using it as your servant, not master.
By dipping in and out of clock time, you can focus 100% on whatever it is you’re doing right now. And, almost magically, you’re suddenly calm, relaxed and productive. It really is that simple.
While it may feel quite scary to start with, clear away clocks from the places you spend most time in. And this includes putting those on your phone or computer on hidden mode. Oh, and leave your watch at home.
As you start to consciously spend more of your time fully engaged with whatever it is you’re doing – then switching back to clock time when necessary – you’ll find the temptation to constantly check the clock time lessens.
Even better, you’ll start to develop a much better sense of what the clock time is. Find yourself coming out of whatever it is you’re doing at just the right moment. Easily switching from the auto pilot of clock time to being fully in control and present.
And, finally, one last tip we’ve found incredibly useful for projects. It’s to change your focus from the deadline date, to the tasks you need to do to reach it. A “to do” list if you will. Again, this moves your focus from clock time to the present. It’s also much more satisfying to cross the various tasks off the list as you do them, rather than focusing on completing x by y time. You’ll have the feeling of making progress and be able to see the desired end result quickly coming closer and closer.
We know this is a completely different way of looking at life, that it can be rather perplexing to start with. But, trust us, it makes life much simpler and more productive. Rather than being busy, busy, busy and driven by external forces, you’ll feel calm and in control.
As always, the choice is yours.
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