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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Time?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Time

Effect of Our Time Orientation

What is useful to recognize, then, is that our time orientation will disconnect us from our True Nature because it contradicts the now-ness, the timelessness, of our True Nature. It is paradoxical, of course, to think about things that way because we are always thinking in terms of time. The time axis is very important for the mind. The mind is always thinking of things in the past and of what it is going to do in the future. It rarely settles in the moment. If it did, it would become quiet. When you settle into the moment, you realize that there is not much happening—a few things here and there. The primary awareness is of the immediacy of the moment. This is because presence—being in the now—is characterized by beingness, simply being here now. In contrast, our familiar self is based on doing, going, making things happen. We do not trust that action can arise and proceed from inner stillness; we do not recognize that Being is the ground of everything. To be in the now connects you with that quiet beingness that underlies all changes, all activity—the simple hereness where what is most basic is not activity but presence.

Freedom from the Concept of Time

True nature reveals this kind of total nonconceptuality as one of the possibilities for human beings. Nonconceptuality can reach a condition that has nothing to do with the opposite of what we experience. So our freedom from time is not timelessness. Our freedom from time is total freedom from the concept of time. The interesting thing about the experience of no time, which is beyond timelessness and time, is that it is comfortable with both time and timelessness. Time can be present, but the sense of Being is that Being has nothing to do with time. It is similar to the presence of concepts in total nonconceptuality—the condition is neither attached to nor opposed to concepts. It is a total transcendence of the polarity. We think that nonconceptuality is a transcendence of concepts, but total nonconceptuality is a transcendence of that very transcendence. More precisely, we could say it is not really a transcendence at all: It is the pure simplicity of experience and perception.

Giving the Constructed Self a Sense of Stability and Security

In our day-to-day lives, we have parceled out space, measured time, and constructed a self within that. The construction of that self within fixed ideas about time and space gives us a sense of stability and security. We feel that is how things are. “Now I am stable, and the world is stable.” And we need to have that stability. When what we have held fixed is challenged, our equilibrium is thrown off and we might begin to feel disoriented and discombobulated. As long as anything throws off our equilibrium, that means reality is not completely free. Something in us still needs a frozen view, some kind of fixity to give us stability. We are afraid that if there isn’t stability, there will be chaos. That is true in some sense, but the feeling of being disoriented marks a transition. As fixities break down and dissolve, a feeling of disintegration or chaos can arise. This is how reality unfolds to reveal a new order. At the beginning, opening time and space means freedom from the usual egoistic view, the usual familiar frozenness. Then, as that view expands, we realize that we can start freezing things anew from an enlightened perspective. We can have frozen enlightenment. This reveals that we still need a fixation to give us stability. We cannot hold any single condition as the final one or the real one, because we recognize that its full realization opens it up to further realization.

Illogic that Arises from the Concept of Time

Yes, that’s definitely the case, your body and my body are aging. That’s a valid way of viewing time. But there is another point of view. You could see that your body at this moment is not in a continuum with your body from ten years ago. Your body at this moment appears right now, and your body from fifteen years ago doesn't exist here and now. How can something that doesn't exist produce something that is here right now? That's actually the less logical perspective. We skim over that illogic because we believe the concept of time and, hence, of causality. If you apply logic completely, you have to question how something that doesn't exist could produce something that exists right now. How could that be? Conventional thinking is far less logical than the point of view I'm presenting. I'm saying that there is something real, the ground of all that is here, that is at this very moment manifesting things spontaneously each instant.

No Time Ever Passes on Anything, for All Forms and Objects Are Eternally New

Time is the concept we develop to account for the fact that we observe changes and movements. If there were no such thing as change or movement we would not need the notion of time. In other words, we need time to explain processes, the fact that phenomena progress from one form to another. We invent the dimension of time to account for this prolongation of phenomena, for it is not in space. However, we have seen that change is not from the past to the present, but rather from nonmanifestation to manifestation. Each stage of the progress of phenomena simply means that new creations have emerged. We need time, and feel the passage of time, only when we are in the midst of the changing phenomena. But when we are outside of all phenomena, and are experiencing ourselves from the vantage point of the logos, we directly perceive how all phenomena arise, and that nothing moves from past to future. It simply flows out, always in a new condition. We recognize that no time ever passes on anything, for all forms and objects are eternally new.

Our Orientation, Our Attitude, About Time, Can Become an Obstacle

So this is where we can see how our orientation, our attitude, about time can become an obstacle, an obscuration, to being our True Nature. If we have the attitude of future orientation, we miss the moment. We are dissociated from the presence of the moment, and we can’t be in the moment. The truth is that our True Nature is similar to the nature of light, which is timeless and which we can experience in the moment as the now-ness of the moment. But if we are oriented toward the future, we are not allowing ourselves to be where we are, which is now, and we are also leaving, dissociating from, the moment. Our nature is light, pure now-ness, so to operate from the perspective of a future that can get better or worse means that we are dissociating ourselves from our True Nature. How am I going to be myself if I do that? How am I going to be where I am? In other words, the orientation of hope—hoping for something in the future—disconnects you from who you really are.

Presence is the Present of All Time, Including Past and Future

We perceive time only by perceiving change. In fact, time is a measurement of change. When there is no change whatsoever, and no movement, time is at a standstill. In fact, it is easy to see that time is the flow of successive differentiations in manifestation. Therefore, since all differentiations are within the boundless experience of true nature, time occurs in pure presence. All time -- past, present, and future -- happens within the expanse of pure presence. And since we experience presence only in the present, presence is the present of all time, including past and future.

Presence Seen as Compacted Time

Presence also has something to do with time. In one sense, presence is compacted time. It is as if you took all of time and compressed it into the present moment. Normally, your experience of yourself is spread over time—that is, into the past and the future as well as the present—in accordance with your ideas, beliefs, hopes, and fears. If you withdraw your awareness from the past and future and concentrate it solely in the present, your experience of yourself focuses into a single moment: now. To trust the now completely can lead to the experience of yourself as a self-originating presence. Many of the ways of describing Essence refer to this awareness—Self-Originating or the Unoriginated, the Self-Arising, the Self-Existing, Pure Existence, the I AM, the pure fact of Isness—and all of them indicate that your existence is pure presence and that nothing in your experience of this existence is determined by your memories. The experience of presence is spontaneously itself, 100 percent.

Brilliancy, pg. 44

Recognizing the Now, Which is the Only Real Time, to Be the Fullness of Presence

The presence of Essence brings us to the now until we recognize that the presence of Essence is the now. The flow of presence—which is the same thing as the continuity of presence—is time. So, presence in the present becomes awareness of the now, not as a point in linear time but as presence. The now, which is the only real time, is recognized to be the fullness of presence. This presence of now is also seen to include all perception and experience, to include and be everything. There is nothing that exists apart from this presence. It is everything, and there is nothing separate from it; even your thoughts and ideas and beliefs are part of it. Those thoughts in fact don’t really come from the past. Even the past doesn’t come from the past—your memory of the past is happening right now as part of this presence. The presence becomes all-inclusive. To arrive at that all-inclusive experience of presence, where everything is one unified presence, we first have to understand what presence is in our own personal experience, and that means understanding the experience of presence as Essence in its various aspects. The aspect of Brilliancy brings in a very precise, specific experience of presence as completely in the now. Brilliancy is a presence that slows time to a standstill. As time slows down, we experience it as the flow of presence. When time stops, we experience timelessness, and the presence is pure and complete. There is purity now because experience is completely untouched by thinking. In place of thought there is radiance and brilliance. The luminosity and magnificence of Brilliancy is the exquisite perfection of presence without time. That is why the full experience of Brilliancy is the experience of timelessness.

Brilliancy, pg. 47

Slowing Things Down Moves Us Toward the Present

What are the implications of this for understanding what it means to be ourselves? If we apply it to our internal life, we can see that the more we are present and the more fully we are experiencing and being our essential presence, the more we will experience things slowing down. This seems to be a law of time—not that linear time is being altered, but more time becomes experientially “available” to us. Thus, the slowing down of our experience of time will place us more and more in the present. The more we are the presence, the more we are in the present. So, the slowness of time has a lot to do with being in the present.

Time Passes in the Now and By Eternity

When we experience ourselves as a form in the now, as when the soul experiences herself as the offspring of Being, we experience ourselves not as now, but as eternity. As an inseparable form of pure presence we are aware of the changes all around us, but because we are constituted by pure presence, time passes us, but does not touch us. We are eternity itself. Experientially, eternity is the state we experience when we are aware of the passage of time, but feel untouched by it. Timelessness, on the other hand, is the transcendence of time. There is no awareness of time at all, for there is no differentiation, and hence no change. Therefore, time is in the midst of now, but eternity is in the midst of time. But time passes neither on now nor on eternity. Time passes in the now, and by eternity, for eternity is the offspring of the now.

Time Passes Within God

We come to realize that the totality, what we call God or the cosmic individual, is not only a oneness of space but also a oneness of time. The cosmic amoeba is all time. So we have a four dimensional space here. This is called Einsteinian space. The cosmic individual is neither in space nor in time. You are eternal presence, in the sense that you are now, in this very moment, all times, all places. Realizing the state of God, or the cosmic existence, is realizing that eternity. There is a sense that you are seeing time passing, but time passes within the totality, within God. In the totality, it is all now, and time and space pass within you.

True Nature is More than the Nowness of Experience

Our view of time and space changes all along the journey, but as our realization of the absolute stabilizes and matures and as the creative discrimination of being functions, we encounter further mysteries of time and space. We have already explored some of these ways in which our understanding of time and space can expand beyond nondual experiences of timelessness and spacelessness. So, for example, when our view is free from the constraints of the concept of time, the concept of time can still be present, we can be aware of the passage of time, we can be aware of the presence of eternity and timelessness, but none of these patterns our perception and our experience. Our sense of being and of what we are includes it all; we recognize that we are the timelessness and we are also all of time. We see that true nature is more than the nowness of experience; it is also a mysterious truth and reality that includes all times. This shows that what we experience as the now is only one manifestation or one way of experiencing Being or true nature. There is a subtler experience that has nothing to do with now, since now still contains a subtle reference to time. When the concept of time is truly not influencing how we experience ourselves and reality, then both our experience and our view opens and we see another degree of freedom.

Understanding the View of Totality

Spiritual practice frequently transcends time and space as we begin to realize the timeless and spaceless character of our true nature. However, as we abide in these conditions and continue inquiring as an expression of continual practice, time and space themselves can open in mysterious ways. Instead of simply transcending time and space, such total practice, such movement of realization, can manifest unexpected ways of knowing reality and its true nature. This can reveal the open-ended character of realization and reality, which helps us understand a more total view of reality—what I’ve been referring to as the view of totality. Opening time and space makes possible the understanding of the view of totality.

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