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Continua of Practice: From Time to the Timeless

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Teacher: Rodney Smith
Date: 2016-01-19
Venue: Seattle Insight Meditation Center



One hundred years ago in 1915 Albert Einstein developed his General Theory of Relativity that showed that space and time were not separate or distinct from one another. Time is not a constant but fluctuates with how close we are to a massive object and is indistinguishably interwoven into the fabric of space, known as space/time. A person who is on the second floor of a building is aging slightly faster than someone on the first floor. That is very strange, but time viewed as an internal experience is even stranger. Most experienced meditators know that time is carried within our thoughts, and does not exist without thought. Thoughts about the past or future give us a sense that we are a product of the past and future, reliving whatever memories are being expressed or expectations occurring. Thoughts carry meaning and meaning is usually bound within the experiences that first gave rise to the meaning. When I see a cat, I remember the cat I once owned and that conditions the experience I am having with the cat I am now seeing. This layering of memory over experience is occurring so quickly in the mind that normally we do not discern the difference between the cat I am seeing and the cat I once owned.

When we apply this fact to emotions, we find that emotions can carry us far away before we realize we are reliving a past association.  Most emotions are related to a reoccurring theme over our lifetime. Anger may be associated with my father and the pain of what happened to me when he became angry. Now, years later, whenever anyone gets angry, fear arises from that earlier conditioning. Anger is rarely seen fresh and new, just for what it is. We may be too frightened by its emergence to even want to see it. This is an example of the past living within the present, but few of us realize this emotional conditioning is also being perpetuated by our thoughts.

As mentioned above the timeless is what remains when there is no thinking, and on a more subtle level the timeless is what holds thoughts when they do arise. Everything arises within the timeless and is always being held by the timeless. The timeless holds time. Our spiritual journey begins within the density of time and is driven by a time based perception. We always have more to do, more to accumulate, more to access. We believe strongly in experiences and feel we need certain experiences in order to reach our spiritual goals. Experiences are carried by time, the memories I have of yesterday and my hopes of tomorrow. To believe we need a certain experience is to believe we need a certain future, all driven by thought.

As our spiritual journey unfolds, we realize that neither time nor experience will transform us. We begin to understand that true spiritual transcendence is from time to the timeless. That transformation does not require anything from us but stillness, which is freedom from the _belief_ in thought. Though thoughts occur, they cannot obscure the freedom of the timeless that holds the thoughts as they arise. The counter-influence come when we realize that to shift into the timeless requires releasing thought, which has been our single most accessible and reliable tool. To move from the time that holds all we know, into the timeless that holds all things without knowing, is the journey we undertake.


Ponder the question, “Where is the past and future?” See if you can find where it is located? Desiring and fearing unleashes time because there is identification with the thought, “I need…” or “I fear…” Once you have determined time is contained only within your thinking, sit down, relax, and be still. Without empowering any expression of thought, including the subtle thinking of the watcher, ask yourself whether the space that holds thoughts is time bound or timeless. Let a natural wonderment fill this space. The quieter you become the more the timeless dimension will reveal itself.


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