If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save every day 'till eternity passes away,
Just to spend them with you.

 But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do once you find them...

Jim Croce

"Space and time are now dynamic quantities: when a body moves, or a force acts, it affects the curvature of space and time--and in turn the structure of space-time affects the way in which bodies move and forces act. Space and time not only affect but also are affected by everything that happens in the universe."
Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time.
"In the spiritual world there are no time divisions such as the past, present and future; for they have contracted themselves into a single moment of the present where life quivers in its true sense... The past and the future are both rolled up in this present moment of illumination, and this present moment is not something standing still with all its contents, for it ceaselessly moves on.
D.T. Suzuki
What is time and how do we use it? How does our conception of time affect the way we live? On the surface, time seems to be a simple matter. It is the perception of progression. It is the movement of hands on a clock. It is something there never seems to be enough of. It is something to schedule. Looking a little deeper we may find that we do not cherish what we have because we think it will always be there. We carry an impression that our time will not end any time soon. On the other hand, people who have had a brush with death often see the finiteness of their time in life, and gain new appreciation for life and the people they love.

Most of us habitually think of time, somewhat concretely, as future, present, and past. The future is full of hopes, dreams, and fears. It is filled with unknowns. The past is known, we think, but fading gradually in its remoteness. We've been in the past and carry memories of it. It is most real to us. Having lived in a particular house as a child, it seems real to us now, even if that house has been long since torn down. We make the past permanent in our memories.

Many of us live in the future in our worries or the past in our regrets. We neglect the present as somehow less important. But in a way, the present is all that is real. The present is here now. Our perceptual filters, our sense of anticipation, and the continuity of memory give us a sense of continuing flow from the future to the past, but the present is where life is happening.


Take a moment, and relax. Breathe from your abdomen and let go of any tension from your day. As you release your tension, bring down upon yourself a state of peace and tranquillity. Let go of your worries. Let go of regrets. Be in the present for this exercise. Remember to breathe. If tension remains, or if it returns, remember to release it.

Now, imagine that as you move through time, a cone of influence extends back from your present to your past. This cone is like the wake behind a boat, and it represents all the effects of your past actions. Everything you have done or not done has had ripple effects moving out from you into the world. Like a stone thrown into a pond, the waves of your actions spread outward. As time passes the spread is wider, if more subtle. Some events created bigger ripples, and the effects of these may spread out over a long distance. Some events may have created very subtle ripples, and their effects may be imperceptible. Some of your actions affected only your own consciousness. Some affected other people and events as well. Many of your past actions will affect your future, perhaps in ways you cannot imagine now.

Breathe in peace. Release any sense of regret for your past actions. Relax.

Now, imagine a cone that extends in front of you to the future. Within it are all the possibilities and probabilities that will come together to create the next moment, and the next, and the next. Within this cone are thoughts and actions of other people who will affect your life. It also contains the reverberations of your past behavior, which will come back to you with new effects. Out in the future lie nearly infinite possibilities. In the far distance, connections among multifarious potential events are loose and ill defined, but as the future converges onto your present, the connections become firmer, more clearly defined.

Now imagine that there are many of these cones of your probable future. For each area of your life: your relationships, your work, your home, your play, your finances, your spiritual development, there are many cones representing the various potentialities in your life. Each decision you will make or will not make, each action you will take or do not take, lies within one or more of these cones of probability and potentiality.

Now at the convergence of these many influences, imagine you are riding a wave of present events. As the many potentials of the future converge on you in this moment, the present arises in a controlled explosion of perception. Inside this explosion you may find a deep sense of tranquillity as you acknowledge the connectedness of all past and future events. Each sensation, each mental image is happening just now, and again now, and now. These thoughts, images and sensations, though formed out of multiple influences and probabilities, seem to arise as if out of nothing, because what is real is right now. The future is coming together, but it is not here yet. The past moment is gone-- you do not cling to it. You are here now in this present moment and that is all. At each moment just take the moment. In the next moment just take it. Continue to breathe, and get a sense of being here now in the present. Always the present. There is nothing else right now than right now.

At this moment your world is unfolding. You are creating your experience of it in your mind out of your thoughts and perceptions. You hold your destiny in your intentions. You can do a thing or not do a thing. There are many paths you can tread. Wherever you have been, you are not there now. Whatever you want your life to be, you can begin to create it now. The possibilities are infinite.

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© 2002 Tom Barrett