A Meditation on Time and Death

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    Recently I heard a scientist say, “Time is the most stubborn psychological filter we have.” That’s true.

    There are two main filtering mechanisms that have to be negated in passive awareness for meditation to begin–the separate observer, and psychological time.

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    One of the main points of contention in physics at present is whether time actually exists at all. Einstein demonstrated that time could not be separated from space, that gravity warps space and time, and that as things approach the speed of light, time slows down. At the event-horizon of a black hole, where not even light can escape, time stops.

    And if time is elastic and even stops in the physical world (you could say physics ends at the border of black holes), then the question becomes: Is time a purely psychological phenomenon?

    To my mind, the answer is yes. It’s interesting to contrast what happens inwardly, during deeper states of meditation, with the outward, scientific investigation of energy and matter. As I see it, we should speak of thought/time as one thing, just as science now speaks of space/time as one phenomenon.

    The first event that occurs during genuinely meditative states is that the separate observer is effortlessly negated in quickening awareness and gathering attention. Then thought essentially stops. And with it, time ends, and ceases to have any meaning except functionally.

    On one level, this is pretty straightforward. If there’s no movement, because the mind/brain has deeply quieted and reached the complete stillness at the center of everything, then there can be no time. But this raises another very interesting question: Is there movement without time?

    But before I delve into that, the brain’s capacity to end thought/time has to be elucidated a little further. (We’re talking about psychological time now, not the physicists’ investigations.)

    I think most people take time, in the sense of becoming, as a given. But becoming is essentially an illusory thing. Becoming implies a beginning and an end, an arrival, and the attainment of some pre-set goal. Nothing actually becomes anything in this sense however; everything simply is, and unfolds from one moment of being into the next.

    A flower may bloom and die in a few days, a universe in billions of years. But birth, flowering, and death are one movement. Only humans don’t flower, because we refuse to accept and understand death.

    So what is the relationship between time and death? We fear death, and so sustain the illusion of time. Therefore, if we ended time, is there death?

    There’s the actuality of plants and people coming into physical existence and then passing out of existence. But death is something far greater than that. Death is both an integral part of the cycle, and the ground of everything, beyond all cycles.

    Everything has its time, and ends. But death makes a mockery of time. So is there a movement beyond time and death?

    Yes, though the paradox is that that the “stubborn psychological filter” of time has to end for the timeless movement of death and life to be.

    By always keeping the actuality of death at arm’s length, we imprison ourselves in the illusion of time. Experiencing the actuality of death while fully alive, one ends time, and transcends death.

    In ending thought/time, we come into contact with the actuality of death, which is happening all around and within us every moment. Our very cells are dying and being replaced constantly, and the earth is continuously in a process of birth and death.

    But beyond this, in the stillness of no-time, one comes into contact with an infinitively generative but completely empty ground, from which this and all universes sprang, and into which we and everything else return. Experiencing that ultimate ground, which is beyond birth and death, is our capacity and imperative as living human beings.

    There is another aspect of time and unfolding—the intrinsic truth of timing, of ‘everything in its own time.’ But if there’s no such thing as time, what is timing?

    Good timing is intelligence unfolding, while the timing of terrible things (wars, evil rulers, man-made disasters, etc.) is the momentum of the unaddressed past bursting forth in the dark current of man-made time.

    I feel it’s our responsibility to work for a breakthrough in ourselves as individuals, and in doing so, in human consciousness. But we can never know when it will happen.

    Timing is not a conscious activity. I don’t believe in a deity, but one could say timing is in God’s hands.

    Martin LeFevre

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