Time Was, Is and Will Be
Time is one of the big enigmas of our world. Sometimes it flies by while other times it drags on and on, or at least it seems to. As a culture we complain of being critically “time poor”. We all pretty much perceive time and everyday life as flowing like a river. The “passage of time” takes us seamlessly from moment to moment, eternally moving forward into the future. This is how most of us believe past, present and future exist and time flows at a rate of one second per second. We largely recognise time has elapse by comparing how things were to how things are now or will be and looking at the differences.
This theory of time doesn’t really explain time, but rather explains it away. What if we measured time to be two seconds per second, for example? Physics suggests that in trying to understand the nature of time we should instead think of it in a spacial sense – that is, just as we understand all of space is out there, we can think of all of time being out there too. The equations of physics support that there’s moment after moment after moment, but not of the moments “flowing” into each other. So instead of time flowing like a river, we could think of it as a frozen river where every moment is forever locked into one fixed location and its just out there, all of time out there.
Either theory could be true. We accumulate memories of our past and feel blind about the future and this supports the passage of time forever moving forward. The “grandfather paradox” of time travel also supports this. It explains that if you went back in time to a period before your parents were conceived and killed your grandfather, you would never be born — meaning you could never have existed to go back in time. The inherent futility of this makes backward time travel seem impossible, time could only move forward. This paradox makes sense from a physical point of view, yet it can be resolved when considering parallel universes and space-time in the context of quantum physics.
The theory we can transcend time is not limited to the equations of modern quantum physics, it is an ancient metaphysical idea from the Vedas. Yoga teaches that time is a flexible projection of the mind. The Yoga Sutras speak of the tiniest increment of elapsed time, a ksana, as being so small it has no duration – just like a point has no dimension…unless you link many repeated points together to make height, width and length. So just like many points linked together, it is the repeated ksana linked together that create the “frozen river” of time of which quantum physics speaks.
Ksana-tat-kramayoh samyamad vivekajam jnanam Y.S 3.53
By deep meditation and concentration on the sequence of indivisible moments of time (ksana)- past, present and future are known simultaneously along with the nature of the world of objects.
Sutra 3.53 explains how when we’re superconscious, that is, completely physiologically absorbed and are able to trace what we say, think and act in every tiny sequential instant, we are able to link our current situation with our past and our future. When consciousness lapses even for a moment, the continuity is lost and things happen that are seemingly out of our control. Now that’s just for a tiny moment. If you’re like me, you may be now realizing you waste much time unconsciously acting out your life. This is why we’re often left wondering how we got where we are, or why certain things keep happening to us. The world and everything in it surprises us at every instant. The future is unknown. Yet it may be known! Have you ever thought, “if only there were a sign”? Yoga teaches us that the signs are all around us, guiding us all of the time, we just are not paying attention. We’re unconscious for that critical ‘sequence of indivisible moments”, which may only add up to a second. Yoga practices in consciousness such as meditation, mantra, pranayama and vinyasa allow us to recognize how our actions result in the life we experience and how our projections appear as the world we’re in.
Ksana-pratiyogi parinamaparanta-nirgrahyah krama Y.S 4.33
Each sequence of events is composed of distinct moments that are only perceivable when the yogi transcends the effect of the gunas.
These Yoga practices allow us to surrender our ego and our attachment to the world around us, which in turn helps free us from the constraints of time to a place where time stands still. So many of the most highly regarded “successful” people, who do so much for so many and have the greatest impact, are those who meditate or practice other forms of Yoga. Now I think of it, I’ve never met a “time-poor” Yogi, have you?
Perhaps you can help me out with some more inspiration as I’d love to hear your thoughts on time – present, past and future. Think of an acronym like mine for TIME and get back to me…Tiny Instants Measure Eternity.