Time is a tricky thing. There's never enough. Though physicists see it as a flexible commodity, no one's signing up for shuttles into time warps or worm holes any time soon. It will be a while before we can board a train for the Inauguration of King Henry VIII, for example, or attend a space concert in the 31st century. For now, the rules are rigid. Every moment, every day, every lifetime is packaged with a beginning, a middle, and an end in that order. No exceptions, though durations vary.
Time is so vexing, because we who dwell within it are timeless creatures. Our true nature is eternal. If you ever doubted this, consider that we are born utterly unaware of time; as children we fight it relentlessly; as adolescents we rail against it; and even as adults, we struggle to conform. Some of us never figure it out. This is because time is a foreign element that imposes limits on an otherwise limitless nature. The mind wanders in other dimensions, even as our bodies are rooted to this one. It can take us on a trip to Paris while we're strapped to a dentist chair enduring root canal. Conversely, it can replay an old argument a hundred times in the middle of spectacular ballet.
We're not always where we say we are.
Time is a worthy opponent. And the thing about opponents is, they're our best teachers.
We are born; we live; we die. Time provides beginnings and ends, sequence and order. It provides form. It strengthens us through the discipline of cause and effect. It challenges us to consider our options, but urges us to act now. Seize the moment or it will be gone. With time, most of us learn to look through the front windshield instead of the rear view mirror. We learn not to dawdle in the past or pine for the future. Time is one of the few things that can force our minds into the here and now, though it isn't always successful at it. By applying consequences, it teaches us to loosen our grip on the past so we can create a future out of the awareness we cultivate in the present.
Like most opponents, time at its best is an effective agent of change and transformation. Ironically, the transformation time creates, stands outside of time. That's because transformation creates awareness, and awareness doesn't die.
Time delivers awareness through timeless events like birth and death. The births of our children open portals of awareness so surreal, you may not even understand what's happening or how to articulate it. What's happening is the expansion of time. Moments feel like hours and hours like moments in one breathtaking experience that changes everything. After 24 hours of labor followed by the birth of my first son, my obstetrician said, "I don't care how long you've been up, you won't be able sleep. No one is." The births of my sons taught me that time doesn't always have the last word. When enough awareness is applied, time stops; it opens slowly like a blossom, revealing its deepest secret layers.
My father's recent death expanded my awareness even further. Interestingly, as he grew older and less able, I'd been subconsciously devaluing his remaining time. After all, what could he do with it? He could barely read a book; what insights could he share? There was evidence that his mind was becoming as arthritic as his body. But that isn't how time works. Time doesn't care how old or young you are. Its secrets are democratic and universal. We have the same access to the miracles of time on our last day as we do on the first, maybe more. I say more, because through the passage of time, we have more likely increased our bounty of awareness.
On my dad's last day, the transformative power of the "present moment," the "eternal now," was as available to him as it was on the day he stood on the brink of adulthood. It was at work transforming his infinite potential until his very last breath. My siblings and I could see that something was happening within him, but what? It was obvious and mysterious at once. Just when we thought his awareness was buried beneath the rubble of a lifetime, it danced on stage in a top hat and a cane in a spotlight that illuminated eternity, not just to him, but to every one of us through him
An earlier blog of mine goes into detail about my dad's death (link below), but suffice it to say here that what he gave us at the end was not the time-decayed leftovers of a once relevant life, a life that had run out of time. What he gave us in the end was the most valuable part of himself -- his eternal awareness. Through him, we experienced the true present, the Eternal Now. We couldn't miss it. And in your time, if you remain open, you can experience it too. The awareness of death and dying and the world beyond time that he shared with us in his final moments serve as inspirations to us every day. It was his real legacy. And it came to us ripened, full-bodied, and inspired, exactly as it was supposed to and when -- in his final moments.
Our lives are shaped by our mortality. Knowing from the beginning that we are going to die brings value to the currency of time. But it also deceives us into thinking that as we go forward, one moment is less valuable than the next. That youth is more valuable than age. It deceives us into thinking that we are not important unless we are shielded by years, or even decades, of potential. It deceives us into thinking that the last breath is less valuable than the first. Yet it is far more valuable because potential increases and compounds with years. And in the end, if we have used time wisely and learned to transcend its limits--if we have opened our hearts to awareness and cultivated compassion among us--we will open up to the Godhead like the portals of time, in layers of unimaginable joy and ecstasy.
Every moment matters.