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05 October, 2008

Time is not absolute. The underlying reality of all things is eternal, and what we call time is really quantified eternity.

Although our bodies, and the whole physical world, are a display of constant change, there is more to reality than process. The universe was born and is evolving. When it was born, time and space came into existence. Before the instant of the Big Bang, time and space didn’t exist as we know them. Yet the rational mind finds it nearly impossible to ask questions such as “What came before time?” and “What is bigger than space?” Even Einstein, when he was a young physicist working out quantum principles for the first time, held on to the old notion, embraced by Newton, that the universe existed in a steady state—time and space were eternal constants, never born and never dying.

This steady-state version of reality is still the one our five senses report back to us about. You cannot see or feel time as it speeds up or slows down, even though Einstein proved that time does this; you cannot sense space as it expands or contracts, yet this too is part of a rhythmic universe. To go even further, to imagine those dimensionless regions where time and space are born, requires a radical shift in perception. This shift is forced upon us because the universe had to have some kind of timeless source—and the same holds true for us.

You perceive yourself as existing in time because your body is composed of change; to change, one must have a flow or sequence. In this sequence there is a before and after—before this breath was the last breath, after this heart beat will be the next heartbeat. But theoretically, if you had the time and the equipment, you cold make an EKG of all the heartbeats someone has had in a lifetime, and by holding the printout in your hands, you would have past, present, and future contained in one place. You could look at it upside down or backward; you could fold it in half so that the last heartbeat and the first one were next to each other.

This kind of manipulation is what quantum physics reveals about the most basic space-time in Nature. As they exchange energy states, two particles can move backward in time as easily as forward; things that happened in the past can be altered by energy events in the future. The whole notion of time as an arrow shooting inexorably forward has been shattered forever in the complex geometries of quantum space, where multidimensional strings and loops carry time in all directions and even bring it to a halt.

The only absolute left to us is the timelessness, for now we realize that our entire universe is just one incident springing forth out of a larger reality. What we sense as seconds, minutes, hours, days, and years are cut-up bits of this larger reality. It is up to you, the perceiver, to cut up the timeless any way you like; your awareness crates the time you experience. Someone who experiences time as a scarce commodity that is constantly slipping away is crating a completely different personal reality from someone who perceives that he has all the time in the world. Is your day full of time pressure? Do you suffer the breathless, panicky symptoms of “time sickness,” which the body translates into rapid or irregular heartbeat, distorted digestive rhythms, insomnia, and high blood pressure? These individual differences express how we perceive change, for the perception of change creates our experience of time.

When your attention is in the past or the future, you are in the field of time, crating aging. One Indian master who seemed remarkably young for his age explained this by saying, “Most people spend their lives either in the past or the future, but my life is supremely concentrated in the present.” When a life is concentrated in the present, it is most real, because the past and future are not impinging upon it. At this instant, where are the past and future? Nowhere. Only the present moment exists; past and future are mental projections. If you can free yourself of these projections, trying neither to relieve the past not to control the future, a space is opened for a completely new experience—the experience of ageless body and timeless mind.

Being able to identify with a reality that is not bounded by time is extremely important; otherwise there is no escape from the decay that time inevitably brings. You can catch a glimpse of timelessness with a simple mind-body exercise: Choose a time of day when you feel relaxed and unpressured. Sit quietly in a comfortable chair and take off your watch, placing it nearby so that you can easily refer to it without having to lift it or move your head very much. Now close your eyes and be aware of your breathing. Let your attention easily follow the stream of breath going in and out of your body. Imagine your whole body rising and falling with the flow of each breath. After a minute or two, you will be aware of warmth and relaxation pervading your muscles.

When you feel very settled and quiet inside, slowly open your eyes and peek at the second hand of your watch. What’s it doing? Depending on how relaxed you are, the second hand will behave in different ways. For some people, it will have stopped entirely, and this effect will last anywhere from one to perhaps three seconds. For other people, the second hand will hesitate for half a second, then jump into its normal ticking. Still other people perceive the second hand moving, but at a slower pace than usual. Unless you have tried this little experiment, it seems very unlikely, but once you have had the experience of seeing a watch stop, you will never again doubt that time is a product of perception. The only time there is the one you are aware of.

You can learn to take your awareness into the region of timelessness at will—meditation is the classic technique for mastering this experience. In meditation the active mind is withdrawn to its source; just as this changing universe had to have source beyond change, your mind, with all its restless activity, arises from a state of awareness beyond thought, sensation, emotion, desire, and memory. This is a profound personal experience. In the state of timeless or transcendent awareness, you have the sensation of fullness. In place of change, loss, and decay, there is steadiness and fulfillment. You sense that the infinite is everywhere. When this experience becomes a reality, the fears associated with change disappear; the fragmentation of eternity into seconds, hours, days, and years becomes secondary, and the perfection of every moment becomes primary.

Now that meditation has entered mainstream Western cultural experience, researchers have applied scientific measurements to the subjective experience of silence, fullness, and eternity. They have discovered that the physiological state of meditators undergoes definite shifts towards more efficient functioning. Hundreds of individual findings show lowered respiration, reduced oxygen consumption, and decreased metabolic rate. In terms of aging, the more significant conclusion is that the hormonal imbalance associated with stress—and known to speed up the aging process—is reversed. This in turn slows or even reverses the aging process, as measured by various biological changes associated with growing old. From my experience with studies on people using Transcendental Meditation, it has been established that long-term meditators can have a biological age between 5 to 12 years younger than their chronological age.

The most fascinating aspect of this research, which has been ongoing for over two decades, is that the biological process of aging itself does not have to be manipulated; the desired result can be achieved through awareness alone. In other words, meditation alters the frame of reference that gives the person his experience of time. At a quantum level, physical events in space-time such as heartbeat and hormone levels can be affected simply by taking the mind to a reality where time does not have such a powerful hold. The new paradigm is showing us that time has many levels and all are available to us in our own consciousness.


1 comment:

M S Dinakar said...

We are living in a world of oscillating energies.
Perception creates Time.
Space is not independent of its contents: oscillating energies.
Though one can fault Deepak Chopra for using loosely the concepts in Physics to yoga; I reckon they make for good metaphors (though not appropriate ) that makes his books - particularly Ageless Body, Timeless Mind and Qauntum Healing - interesting to read!