What is Time?

It has been an amazing experience to observe my perceptions of time, and how it has influenced my life thus far. I admit that I haven’t put a lot of thought into this concept before. So, after reading Power of Silence by Carlos Castenada, and pondering for a few days the notion of time, I have begun to stretch my mind to consider the possibilities. Unfortunately, the more I think about ‘time’, the more questions I have. It seems that I can view this concept from so many perspectives, and it look so different from each angle. So, I’m afraid I have come to no conclusions, but the query is opening doors to rooms in my mind that could use some airing out.

As I reflect on time, my experiences in sport have offered me an opportunity to explore this ‘law’, and I’m reminded of what it feels like to learn how to jump a small course on horseback. In a typical course, there are a series of fences or obstacles that you will jump in just 60-120 seconds. When I watch my coaches or clients ride, everything happens so quickly and I am baffled as to how they accomplish these amazing feats of speed, coordination, agility, power and technique. Most often when I ride, it feels like I am just barely catching up with the obstacles being thrown at me.

Survival; it’s a far cry from mastery. But what keeps me trying day after day are those rare occasions when my full attention is on my course. I seem to be able to somehow harness time. I have a two-fence combination, three strides apart. After my first fence, I have a few seconds before my next fence. Somehow, I can not only ascertain my current pace, position, and trajectory, but I can make a multitude of adjustments to my seat, my aids, my horse’s pace, stride, and approach to the fence. It isn’t “possible” to do all of these things in three seconds, and yet somehow, if I am fully focussed on just that fence, time gives me some room to manoeuvre. However, if I get caught up in thinking about the rail I had down on the last fence, or the terrifying obstacle coming up, or my frustration with my limitation in skill, three seconds is three seconds, I have enough space to say “Oh ~!” before my horse takes off again. Therefore, the only conclusion that I can draw is that time is mine to manipulate, as long as my awareness is not divided.
Perhaps in our frantic efforts to keep up with time, we have forgotten that we created time to establish structure in our world, time of day, seasons etc. And since we created time, we are it’s master. Time does not have dominion over us, but without proper ‘management’ perhaps time can get away from us, like an unruly horse on a lead.

Ultimately, what I have realized through this all this contemplation, is that to me, time = awareness. When I am meditating and enjoying the vacuum-like quality of inner space, time flies. As I wait in traffic late for a meeting, time crawls. Therefore, time is relative to my desired outcome in any given situation, my perception of the value of experiences, and the amount of attention that I give to them.

My clients tell me that time is the biggest obstacle to their ability to exercise, eat well and create positive lifestyle changes. Time is the great commodity when it comes to nurturing a family, developing a loving relationship or building a business. Anti-aging efforts (fighting time) are one of the fastest growing and lucrative health trends. But, we made time. It’s only an idea, a map, a tool; time is a device to offer structure to a community of like-minded beings. Can’t we just make time do our bidding? How do you become the master of time?

Ed: After all this reflection, do I have any answers? Not a chance. But, to wake up to what is real and what is contrived in this world is certainly a worthy exercise. The enquiry alone is ‘worth’ the time. And, I hope that you will ‘take the time’ to ponder this question as well. Perhaps the mastery of this concept of time is one of the grand destinies that we all share. Mastery, not just keeping up; survival. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

First Published in the Mind Body Messenger Newsletter 2004

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