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It’s About Time

Illusion has four dimensions: the three that mark out space and the fourth that is time. Time presents a big challenge in our meditation. By uttering the words of simran, one after another, silently, we are passing through time as we try to transcend time. Simran is a marking out of time on our way to Shabd, which is, after all, timeless: it has no beginning and no end. To do simran as the Master wants us to, requires all our attention and deliberation. They must be unstitched from illusion, from our story.

Meditation is a confrontation with our passage through time. It is the practice of being, being in time so that we can know our being beyond time. Our death is the end of our time. When we die, we’ve run out of time, we have none left. If your karmic balance sheet so determines it, the karmic entity that is the core of you will immediately either be engulfed in its next dollop of time or be dissolved into the sea of Shabd.

Governments around the world have adopted lockdown regimes in an attempt to control the spread of the pandemic. We have all had to change our lifestyles. We must keep one or two meters apart. We must not gather in groups larger than some small number. We have to queue to buy our everyday food. We are encouraged to wear face-coverings. Significant changes!

The word “pandemic” is from the Greek “pan” meaning “all” and “demos” meaning “people.” This coronavirus pandemic is affecting all the people, all the time, one way or another. Most of us have had to “self-isolate” at some point in our encounter with the life-threatening phenomenon. Which is precisely what we have to do anyway, as meditators: isolate ourselves for two and a half hours a day. We have the power to put the illusion of time on hold for two and a half hours. We have been granted a license to meditate.

Change is the manifestation of time. The movement of the hands of a clock or watch seem to show us something real. You ask me what time it is; I look at my watch and report back. It’s nine or whatever o’clock. Seems real! But it is no more than a shared convenience.

It’s easy to see how abstract and illusory time is. Before the railways were built in the UK, there was no standard time; every town or locality had its own, often many minutes different from London time. With the introduction of the main line between London and Bristol in 1840, there was a danger of trains colliding because they were operating according to conflicting time zones. It became essential that all the stations on the line observed their clocks to be saying nine o’clock at the same moment; so uniform railway time was introduced. This shared convenience then spread around the world giving us Greenwich Mean Time, Eastern Standard Time, Indian Standard Time and so on.

Time is a concept, conceived by man. However illusory time may be, we must still operate within it. Indeed, from a mystical point of view, the time we have on earth is a gift and a blessing. Paradoxically, we need to be in time to meditate. We have to be slaves of time before we can be liberated from it.

As Aldous Huxley wrote:

Man must live in time in order to be able to advance into eternity, no longer on the animal, but on the spiritual level; he must be conscious of himself as a separate ego in order to be able consciously to transcend separate selfhood; he must do battle with the lower self in order that he may become identified with that higher Self within him, which is akin to the divine Not-Self; and finally he must make use of his cleverness in order to pass beyond cleverness to the intellectual vision of Truth, the immediate, unitive knowledge of the divine Ground.1

For “divine ground” we can take Huxley to mean Shabd. He can be a human with his own worldly story whilst he is also timeless love, eternal realization. His worldly manifestation demonstrates how we too can live in this calamitous quagmire but not be part of it. The time we are given is a finite resource in which we can become the infinite ocean.

We are advised to sit for our meditation in the early hours of the day and at the same time every day, such is the habit-loving mind. This way we sit with our minds relatively clear of the complex storytelling they love, the story of ourselves. (Stories are also a manifestation of time – there is no story if there is no time.)

The bigger, longer story is history, the study of and telling of the past. We are part of that. The history of the pandemic is, no doubt, already being written, telling how the world has changed dramatically in the last few months. The shared convenience of how we relate one with another has been seriously disrupted: we now cannot hug and must keep at least one meter apart. Many of the worldly pleasures we once sought comfort from are denied to us now that we are in lockdown.

The only refuge is within us, beyond time. The only exit is simran.

All of which encourages us to sit and engage the mystical secret weapon, the magic story interrupter that is simran. We humans have been streaming our stories since the beginning of humanity. As with Netflix, we can put the story on “hold” by pressing the simran button as we extract ourselves from our many attachments and entertainments.

Simran is the passage that leads from time to love, from being involved with everything to just being, from isolation to redemption. While we are in time, simran is all there is. As soon as we are out of time, love is all there is. The connection between our timely existence and our eternal selves is the Satguru.

It is definitely about time we got on with our meditation.

  1. Aldous Huxley, Perennial Philosophy, Chatto & Windus, 1946, p. 162