Three kinds of time

I have done some meditating on time during my time on this earth. Mostly, I was led to do so out of my frustration that there didn’t seem to be enough of it for me to get done all the things I thought I should be doing. The value of the meditation was to make me realize that we all get the same amount of time. If we feel like there is a shortness it is because of our expectations and commitments. We try to cram into the hours of the day more activity than is humanly possible. This was a good lesson for me to learn. Over the years I am learning to relax, to pace myself, to lower my expectations. I have learned to say “no” to some things or to say “yes, but later” when I discern that there are currently enough activity to fill my hours. I am coming to accept the fact that some things I’d like to do or accomplish in my life may never happen.

I realize that this time that I have wrestled with is actually a human invention. I can’t really speak scientifically here, though if I bothered to search, I might be able to find when the first calendars with its months, days and years were created or the first time pieces that broke days into hours and minutes. These were ingenious ways for human beings to manage their corporate affairs. It made it easier for people to show up at the same place at the same time. How could we even have a Sabbath with people coming to worship if people just wandered in and out whenever they felt like it. With a calendar and watch, one could depend on showing up in time for their wedding. Birthdays. Did people celebrate birthdays before someone created the calendar?

There is another kind of time, of course, that people used to manage their lives before these great inventions. It is nature’s time, dictated by the rotation of the earth with its change of seasons and the appearance and dissappearance of the sun and moon. Christians celebrate Easter on a given Sunday and the birth of Jesus on a specific day on a specific month each year using the man-made calendar. But originally, there were celebrations dictated by spring harvest and by the time when daylight was the shortest and  people began to get excited at the prospect of light coming back in to the world. No calendars, no clocks. People gathered but instead of date and time, they were told to meet at the bend in the river when the robin’s first sing as the sun was going down. Sundown meant sleep or sitting around a fire and sunrise meant get up and get to work. People worked their tails off when the days were long and warm planging and gathering food. As the air cooled, they gathering meat and in the coldest times they hunkered down and told stories, ate the foods they had preserved, wove baskets and painted on the walls of the caves where they lived.

I ran into a friend recently and asked her what she is up to these days. She knew I was asking about her spiritual activities. She told me she is trying to pay more attention to and tap into nature with its cycles and season. Somehow, she told me, it made her feel closer to the Creator.

There is a third kind of time that I am just becoming acquainted with. It is the time Jesus spoke of when he referred to the kingdom of God. “It is here, now, ” he said. In the moment. It is a time that you cannot really be conscious of if you are anxious about the past or future. It is illusive. If you try to grab it by thinking about it slips away. But there is a way to go there, I have found. It can be found in silent meditation. I have to confess, with years of meditation practice, I have only found myself there for seconds at a time. Longer sometimes, but that felt a bit like falling sleep. The secret to getting there is to forget everything for a moment and just be…no thoughts. There is another way. I realize I have been in that time zone mostly in hindsight. It is when I am in a situation, perhaps in nature, doing some art activity, or when I am with a person that grabs my attention. For minutes, I totally stop thinking. My thoughts are set aside and replaced by whatever is before me. When it happens, I take in that scene or person’s story with no reflection or judgments, just as it is. You might say, I am distracted from my thoughts by what is before me. “Getting caught,” I sometimes call it.

When we talk about timelessness, I think we are talking about this third kind of time. It is where heart and spirit are one and the same. It is when the words we speak are the words of God, uncluttered by our own egoic opinions or our fears. It is letting go and letting God. It is rare. But Jesus found it and promised, “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find, knock and the door will be open for you.”

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