Time

betterendshotOn this morning’s trail run, I approached from behind a mother walking hand-in-hand with her little girl.

It was a lovely sight — this young woman walking patiently at the child’s slow but determined pace — and as I moved past them the little girl beamed up at me, her big blue eyes bright with the wondrous world.

I smiled back at her with the crinkly brown eyes of the little girl I was a half-century ago.  For a moment, the years collapsed and time revealed itself as nothing more than an idea. We were playmates.

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To be identified with your mind is to be trapped in time: the compulsion to live almost exclusively through memory and anticipation . … Suffering needs time; it cannot survive in the Now.  – Eckhart Tolle

I am a veteran insomniac, and sleepless nights are prime time for contemplating The Problem. You know:  that one big thing that — if only it were different — would permit happiness: the lost weight, the fulfilling job, the loving partner, improved health, better finances.spiritualityhealthcom

The Problem originates in the past and can be resolved only in the future, and therein lies the difficulty:  Both our misery and our happiness depend on what Tolle calls “the mental disease” of psychological time.  All forms of fear — worry, anxiety, tension — are associated with the future; all forms of nonforgiveness — regret, anger, bitterness — with the past.

It’s easy to concede the notion that suffering springs from the deadening abstraction of a time-bound mind: our thoughts prove it, minute by minute. It’s much harder to consider that time itself is a human construct, because it seems so objectively real:  As this thing called “time” passes, we lose what we love, and observe our own bodies aging. Matter is continually changing form, and we humans strongly prefer certain forms to others.

Yet, we also experience the elasticity of time, how sometimes it appears to drag and other times fly.  We know it is fluid. And we can intuit, however dimly, that happiness lies not at the end of some long, leaden volksmarch, but a slim half-step to the side, streaming alongside us all our lives in the perpetual present.

Still we insist on a certain grim linearity, especially when it comes to The Problem. We need time to grow, time to heal, time to change this or that. Time to work on things, to make progress, enough time — sometimes a lifetime — to fix the current iteration of The Problem and thus be happy.

And — as is true in all matters of the spirit — we get what we insist on.

The purpose of time is to enable you to learn how to use time constructively. … Time will cease when it is no longer useful in facilitating learning. — A Course in Miracles

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einsteinIn the beautifully imagined Einstein’s Dreams, Alan Lightman presents a series of vignettes that probe the nature of time, shattering our conventional notions:

Consider a world in which cause and effect are erratic. Sometimes the first precedes the second, sometime the second the first.  Or perhaps cause lies forever in the past while effect in the future, but future and past are entwined …

I want to invite the end of time, and with it, the end of The Problem.  I want to quit marching forward and step lightly sideways, into happiness.  I want it all to be possible, flowing in all directions: one endlessly unfolding, grace-filled moment.

****

I awaken one morning. I am still 57, but my 8-year-old cat is again a kitten, plush fur and wild eyes,  a pendulum swinging from antic energy to deep and dreamless sleep. The 2-year-old hens who were pecking and scratching in the yard the day before are again baby chicks, racing around the brooder, then dozing beneath the heat lamp. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The next day, while making coffee, I notice that my cat is 16 and tired, somnolent in the sunlight, rising stiffly for a dollop of canned food. The chickens are dead. I do not know how old I am.

The day after that, I see I have an 8-year-old cat and 2-year-old chickens. I am running in the mountain trails.

I see a little girl. I am a little girl.

 

littlegirl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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25 comments

  1. Be here now… time does fly but we must remember to capture the moment and not long for the future or the past. I love how you got me at the end with your kitten and chicks.. yes I am a little girl in a 63 year old body.. never going to stop exploring and loving. Thank you for making me cry and remember to kiss my husband and kitties.

    r

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    1. You’re welcome. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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  2. Chele · · Reply

    Brilliant as ever Cate!! I was expecting a snippet from Pink Floyd’s TIME but the ornate wind up clock did nicely.

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    1. Thanks, Chele.

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  3. Beautiful piece on linear time. Thank you. In the past few years my brain has been compromised, and my experience with time has been very altered. The net effect has been to more easily exist in the luminous now. I never would have thought before that having my brain messed with would have any benefits. Go figure.
    BTW I too love the book Einstein’s Dreams- I have’t read in in years, thanks for the reminder, I look forward to rereading it.
    namaste

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    1. Thank you for reading and commenting. Interesting what you say about brain compromise and how it has affected your perception of time. Historically, we’ve learned a lot about human brain function by observing injury and illness — and probably have not adequately appreciated the silver linings to those clouds! “My Stroke of Insight” by Jill Bolte Taylor — the story of how a massive stroke changed her perception — is a great description of this. Namaste back to you, Friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. thank you for sharing this meditation on time. so true. such wise words.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome. Thank you for your appreciation!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I loved your reflections on time… its surreal nature which seems so elastic in certain moments while other times finite and limiting.Quantum physics gives us a interesting perspective describing time not as linear as we perceive it.

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    1. Thank you for your appreciation. Time is such a mystery; it’s liberating to break away from the conventional perspective and consider wilder possibilities. But then, that’s almost always true. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This was a good piece. Time and our mortality can create an anxiety. There is only a limited window to achieve certain goals–whether it’s having a certain physique, having a kid, accomplishing great things in one’s profession, etc. The more time passes in which we fail to get these things, the more frustrated and anxious we can become. I think the reality of time and our limited opportunities in life hits a lot of people around the age of thirty.

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    1. Thank you for your appreciation and for sharing your observation. Seems we all hear that clock ticking, sooner or later ….

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Hey 🙂
    I just discovered your blog and I really like it. This article is so cool! 😀
    Maybe you want to take a look at my blog too?
    Yours, littlegreenraven

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    1. Thank you; I’m glad you enjoyed this piece and like my blog. I’ll be sure to visit your blog, too.

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      1. Thank you!
        That would be cool, feel free to do so 😀

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  8. Joel Latterell · · Reply

    This is beautiful. You remind me of this author whose reading I went to but didn’t have money to buy the book and have since forgotten her name only: she was blonde, the book red, and my wife talked to the muscular illustrator far too long after the Q & A. I’ll ask my friend the name of the book and let you know.

    Love what I think you’re doing. It’s like an afghan: loosely tied together and warm.

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    1. What a lovely compliment, Joel. Thank you! I grinned at your description of the book signing – those darn muscular illustrators. 🙂 I’ll look forward to the book recommendation.

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  9. […] via Time — Meditatio Ephemera […]

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    1. Thank you for sharing!

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  10. mere infants
    in cosmic
    time 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. […] via Time — Meditatio Ephemera […]

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    1. Thank you for sharing!

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  12. I, too, hear that incessant ticking. It became quite loud nearly three years ago, and I have since tried to soften it by doing, rather than thinking about doing. But it’s still there, sigh, providing the backbeat to that ubiquitous “if only.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What you do, you do beautifully, Bob. And really, what else is there? Glad to share this present with you, friend.

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  13. Yes, I am a little girl too

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