Everyday mind and your concept of time
“How unstable was your thinking mind?” Sensei asked, after we had just spent an hour doing a specific breathing exercise. “I’m guessing that in the last hour most of you were very busy thinking, even though you’re meant to sit quietly when doing this exercise.” When I heard him say this I wasn’t sure whether to smile or frown, because he was certainly describing me!
“Such is your everyday mind.” Sensei continued. “You don’t know how to stop yourself from thinking, and the more you try to stop, the more thinking you do. Instead of experiencing the here and now, you run around in your thinking mind worrying and wondering about the past and the future. One moment you feel great, and the next moment you feel terrible. You make it all up in your head, and your experience has little if anything to do with reality.
“In fact,” he added, “the more you study, the more you realize the term reality is a very slippery concept to grasp. You come to realize that what you usually think of as ‘real’ is really only the content of your thinking mind.
“Rather than trying to understand reality, I think we can better spend our time exploring relativity. By exploring how each thing, each thought, each feeling, is relative to all the rest of your experience, you can learn a great deal. Relativity teaches us there’s always more than one perspective, always more than one belief, always more than one understanding, in regard to any one moment in time.
“Einstein talked about placing his hand on a hot stove for one minute, and how that minute felt more like an hour. He then talked about sitting with a pretty girl for an hour, and how that hour seemed to pass so quickly.
“What he describes is very much like the experience of sitting and breathing. Minutes of chaotic thinking feel like hours, and calmness passes you by all too quickly. You manipulate and distort time, and you create a sense of connection with or separation from life itself.
“A human being is one infinitesimal part of an infinitely large universe. A tiny, tiny, something, existing for a few moments in time and space. When we feel separate from the rest of life our pain and suffering increases, as does our distortion of time. When we feel ourselves fully connected to life, everything is just as it should be.
“When I have you sit and breathe, I usually start by taking down the clock at the back of the dojo and placing it outside. You all see me do this. and yet many of you look back numerous times for the non-existent clock. With your sense of time so distorted, I wonder what information you’re hoping the clock will provide.” I felt embarrassed when I heard him say this, because more than once I was certain I could hear the ticking of the clock!
“Our belief in and dependence on time creates a kind of prison that restricts our ability to fully live and experience life. In the course of your study it’s my hope that you’ll begin to free yourself from this prison and experience how you share your pain, your pleasure, and indeed all of your life with the rest of the universe. The more you can realize you’re not alone, not separate, the more you’ll realize just how fleeting every moment is. Both the pleasure and the pain. It’s all to be experienced, appreciated, and then let go of, so that you can be ready for the next experience.”