Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds
[Note: I’ve been reading posts by Umair Haque at Medium, his reflections on the state of American politics, very insightful stuff. But this is his writing on spirituality, a sort of non-dualist take on Heidegger’s Being and Time.]
If we really gain an awareness of time, I think it is one of the most healing inner transformations that we can have. If I say “everything is happening now”, then you will see time as a line in which only one point really exists. So “now” only adds confusion. Reality is not a linear series of nows. Everything isn’t happening now. Everything is just happening. What do I mean?
Time is the first wound ego creates in psyche. Time is the river of all suffering, isn’t it? Time is a creation of ego, ego is primordial thought, the separation of the world into “I” and “not I”. Only then can there be any change, and relative change is all “time” really is. So your ego, which needs to see itself as good, whole, pure — not something that wounds you — is already fighting every sentence of this.
Yet your ego exists in many different states, and therefore so does “time”. When you’re dreaming, time has infinite multiplicities of meanings: a “second” can mean an “hour”. When you are in deep sleep, there is no time at all. You can take any number of intoxicants, and time slows, stretches, snaps, breaks, stops. Only in one state does what we really think of as time exist: regular waking consciousness. The key word is “think of”: time is just a thought, and no thought is real. Where is “time” in objective reality?
There is a tree. The tree is growing. Obviously, you say, there must be time. Must there? The tree is “growing” to you in your linear perception of relative change, that is all. You don’t see more than what you do see: the inhalation of light, the exhalation of breath, and so on. If you could see these, your notion of “time”, of change itself, would be vastly different.
So time is relative change to the perceiver. Einstein rediscovered that a century ago. Five hundred years from now, if you watch me through a telescope on a planet five hundred light years away writing this, you will see this “occurring”. Everything that you see occurring is likewise relative to ego perception. But what is occurring in this sense is not really what is happening. What occurs is just the mind’s perception of what is happening.
What is happening? Everything is happening. Your ego is just a tiny speck of limited consciousness, which has no real awareness at all. It can only see anything and everything through the lens of “I” and “not I”. The moment this distinction vanishes, then everything happens all by itself. Not now, not then. Beyond time or not time.
If you let ego go, there is just the inner witness, or the ground, or pure being. Call it what you like. There is no sense of time to the witness, is there? The witness you experience now is the very same one you experienced a year ago, a decade ago, and so on. The witness has no notion of “time” at all, because it is beyond relativistic awareness. It is at one, and in unity there is no time or not time, there is just pure being. Everything is happening.
Your ego is fighting, desperately, reading this now. It wants control over all. Especially over time. And yet your inner witness already knows that if everything is happening, then there is no need to worry, fear, or hurt. Why does it know that? So now we come to the healing part. How much time do you spend projecting fear, anticipating pain, predicting suffering, in mind? You probably spend a great deal of your life this way. Why should you?
You are simply creating time, in which there is suffering, pain, anger, and all the rest of it. “When” you create time, the first wound bleeds again. Only now is there room for hurt, for clinging, for despair, and so on. You have created time through the act of projecting fear of pain itself, time is another word for change, and change has brought with it suffering.
Everything is happening. Is is up to you what part of that everything you create. In this way you have agency. Not moral agency, or intellectual agency, but genuine agency, existential agency. It is up to you to create time or not create time. Everything that “has happened” or “will happen” hasn’t “already happened”. It is beyond time or no time. Let us just say that it is happening, always, and the only difference is that “you” can only see some of it
Time is a creation of ego. No ego, no time or not time. Just pure being. You’ve already been there, in deep sleep, in dreams, in moments of pure and intense love. That is why we long for those moments again and again. To really experience awareness as beyond time or not time is to know unity with being. Perhaps many of us will never get as far as seeing time that way all the time we ourselves are creating. But we don’t need to. We just need to really see this far: the more time that we create, in anticipating suffering, which is anxiety, worry, the fear of pain itself, the smaller our lives are.
There is no need to create time at all. Everything is happening in its own time. The tree has its time, you have your time, the stars have their time. All these times don’t sum to linear “everything is happening now” time. They cancel out, negate, time entirely. Each time absolves every soul of all time. That is the heart of pure awareness. Begin there.