Our everyday life perspective and behavior is shaped by our sense of time. We think time passes, we need to do this and that…even: “I need to accomplish this or that”. We build up stress because of dates and ‘time passed”. We measure our life in time..so many years, so many days..yet what is this time….we measure in seconds, hours, years etc.
These measurements are certainly not the same in all cultures; for example we have Gregorian calendars, Chinese calendars, Roman calendars, sun calendars, moon calendars etc. They differ, i.e. the year in Balinese culture until recently had 180 days. The “New Year” is celebrated at all sort of points during a year, and in some cultures 2/3 times in “our year”.
What is this time? How about time? We know of time passing because things have happened. We know of time because something has moved, be it the sun, the dial on the clock or we ourselves have moved, whether from our house to the office, from babyhood to adulthood, or from Washington to Tokyo… or indeed whether one planet or the sun from one side of the firmament has moved to another; Time has passed means something has moved (whether physical or of an event) and so we measure time as progression of movements (or in some contexts - events). So time itself does not exist separate from life, existence, beings; it is no thing by itself.
Imagine you lie in your bed for a good night’s sleep of 8 hours. HM? By the time you wake up and think 8 hours have passed, the earth, spinning at the speed of 67 000 miles per hour around the sun, we will have travelled over a million miles. At the same time the sun, around which the earth travels, itself is travelling around the Milky-way at 486 000 miles an hour… We measure time in sixty seconds, 60 minutes and speed in 60 km/m per hour… so what times has passed while you think you have slept for 8 hours?
To complete one orbit the sun (with the earth in tow) needs to cover a distance of 156 trillion miles….So if you lie in your bed tonight, picture that the last time the spot where your bed is now was at that very same location within the universe - was approximately at the time of the dinosaurs….!
These are nice number games, but sorry, it is wrong too, because our universe itself is in motion; … for ever expanding….at speeds we cannot imagine… So even if you lie in your bed, tonight for a few hours… you are in fact moving unimaginably fast through space. Movement through Space is by what we measure time (earth spinning around its axel, i.e. sun-rise, sun set…); an immense, un-measurable time has passed…but you call it 8 hours.
Time cannot be looked as at separate from life, existence, being…it is no thing by itself.Let’s take a different approach: In the Zen tradition (Dogen Zenji) said a day consists of 6,400,099,180 moments. A moment is Sanskrit is called “ksana”. This is not so different from Swami Rama talking about ‘now” as eternity. Time really consists of tiny moments of “eternity”, which means time is eternity. What? In Japanese the word for time is mujo; ‘mu’ is ‘nothing”; mujo means no permanence; no real object. It means we actually live in or even as - activity within an un-measurable moment of eternity. This is the background of the Zen teaching of Impermanence. Everything appears and disappears in a “moment”, constantly appearing and disappearing. We say: everything always changes; yes transience is the nature of time, of existence, of being.
We don’t see this because our sense and the mind cannot perceive the subtle changes. Think of an old movie filmstrip, which appears continuous yet has a space between each still-photo. The moment passes so fast, we cannot keep up, or even be-aware of the space “in between”; weather it is the change from in-breath to out-breath, or from one micro moment to the other. Furthermore there is no real gap…as one state of existence is already inherent in the next. Time becomes the dynamic working of energy. It is Shakti, it is dynamism. And this dynamism includes what we call stillness, the pause; hence time is dynamism that includes stillness. (Shiva and Shakti are one)
This sounds very strange, because it sounds as though timelessness and time are the same. And yes, it is just that, because everything in existence is connected in each moment; there is no gap between stillness and dynamism. Everything moves at the same time, I, you, my day, the globe, the suns the moons, the universe, the galaxies…everything moves permanently at all times…and in all directions.
Now take this one step further, than we can see that nothing can possibly exist separately, neither in time nor in space! In our experience, in practice…your breath is my breath, your life is my life, your pain is my pain. How? Just simply watch your breath beyond your nostrils…where does it go…into my neighbor’s nostrils. I breathe in what he breathes out, the tree breathes in the nitrogen and other gases I breathe out. The tree gives off the oxygen the cat breath in and I breathe in the air that the cat breathes out. A simple example! We are totally - all life forms - intimately connected!
But watch out! Well if we say we are connected, we are still two! Think back of the moment of time. A moment according to Buddhist scriptures is one seventy-fifth of a second (or in the Abhiddharma, sixty-five instants). Being-connected to such depth, in each moment, in each instance…that means: being One. The whole world is intimately connected with you, as David Bohm (Physicist) talked about, and that in: n.th – dimensions.
How foolish we are to think we are separate? We use phrases and even words such as: ‘being in relationship’, or ‘intimate relationship’, or ‘intimacy’ and we understand them intellectually and according to some ethic principles set up by our minds. But we don’t really understand intimacy! Real intimacy is: knowing that we are ONE. From there we have a different attitude to life, we know we must live in peace and harmony with everything else, because we are intimately related, have no separate existence!
Without other people, our ancestors, our children, without the grass , the fruits, the plants, the earth, the water, the fire, the air, the space… and all forms of these there is no “me”. “Me” is all that; ‘I” am all that…this is intimacy! And this is what sometimes is called freedom, because there are no limiting barriers between me and other existence.
If you see yourself only from the narrow perspective of time, then you have a birth and a life-span, and death. It’s only a game of time and time is “no thing”; time is millions of moments in many dimensions. Understanding time, we are aware of being connected with all beings all existence permanently always “now”. From knowing this comes spiritual security.
When we see the table, the grass, the flowers, the trees the earth as intimately connected to us, we behave differently towards them. The entire world is “my relation” as many indigenous traditions tell us. But we don’t listen! “I am the entire world”, meaning: I am the Amazon forest (they are my lungs), the glaciers in the Himalaya (they are my water reservoirs), the rivers that flow (they are the bloodstreams irrigating the fields of my body, nurturing and nourishing; the oceans that provide us with food and water are all part of me; they are my hair, my bones, my blood. Seeing that is Intimacy! Caring for the environment has such high profile these days… as long as we care for it out of fear of catastrophe or death we do not understand!
The vision needs to change, the understanding needs to change, into knowing that “each moment is the universe”; each moment, each dynamic moment of action and stillness is me; each form of existence is me; that is real “intimacy”.
And there are times we think: “I understand”; and there are times we recognize that we have understood nothing yet, because we behave not from a point of Oneness, there are myriads of moments where we behave and think as separate beings, i.e.: I don’t understand him; I don’t like this, I don’t think she is right; etc. etc. etc. “I want to do it my way….”.
Even though we understand, we are not with that awareness at each moment. So we need to observe, to practice, to learn. Try to open a door, handle a table, stroke the cat, talk to a person, look at a tree, tread on the earth wholeheartedly, with the awareness that you are that. Approach the object with love, kindness and compassion. Observe that there is no gap between subject and object, there is no thing…only permanently changing, dancing energies. Be aware, that there is neither time nor thing…only dynamism; only Shakti.
A practice Swami Veda Bharati recently gave in a course on the Shiva Sutras seems to me to help with becoming aware of the moment where time becomes timeless. Observing the point where breath arises and breath subsides, on the subtle level is becoming aware where the “moment is the universe”; where “now” is eternity; where separation becomes intimacy. Living with intimacy, is being time, is being aware that everything you do, whether intentional or not, is always influencing other, because your life is interconnected with all life. If we understand that we know we cannot live just taking care of our own life, our own happiness, our own interests and ignore other beings, indeed other existence (human and animal, plants, rocks….). To live in harmony we need to live with the awareness that across time and space our life is always connected and always influences others.
That is true Intimacy.
Editor’s note: Swami Nityamuktananda Saraswati is a member of the AHYMSIN Adhyatma Samiti, or Spiritual Committee. Her website: https://www.athayoga.info/