On The Edge of Time

Lighting up the Now / A.H. Almaas

If we experience ourselves in our true self-existing condition, we will see that what we actually are is a being of light.

Imagine this with me if you will. The point isn’t to believe it or not, or even to understand why this is so. The point is to allow yourself to entertain the image, the notion, the possibility, and see how it affects you.

We are beings of light in the fluid state—completely frictionless, completely luminous, totally radiant and free. Now, everybody knows that because light has no mass and no weight, gravity does not affect it. So, in our True Nature, we have no heaviness, no thickness, no weight. We are substantial only in the sense that fluid light has a fullness, a bodyness to it. But that fullness, that substantiality, is completely light and smooth. That is the nature of awareness. And because it is light, it doesn't help us see—it is what sees, it is what perceives. Thus light, awareness, consciousness, perception, sensitivity are all the same thing.

However, even if we recognize the truth that we are beings of light, we tend to reify that perception and identify with it, concretizing ourselves and experiencing ourselves as heavy and opaque. Even as beings of light, we see ourselves as a physical body, with its parts and activities, having mass and operating under the influence of gravity. We think that we are entities in space and time, and that our existence began in the past and will end in the future.

In our continuing exploration of True Nature and of the obstacles to being ourselves that we encounter, we want to focus now on another particular area that makes it difficult to be who we are: our incomplete understanding of the nature of time. In order to do this, we need to observe our experience from the perspective of being a being of light. What are the properties of light and time that can help us understand more about our essential nature?

Light and the Passage of Time

Science tells us that light moves at the maximum speed possible in the universe, which endows light with certain properties that differentiate it from everything else. One of the principles within Einstein’s theory of relativity is that the faster one travels, the slower time passes. Time slows down for somebody who is going at a very high speed—and the closer we get to the speed of light, the slower time becomes. That means that the closer we come to being light, the slower that time will pass for us.

What are the implications of this for understanding what it means to be ourselves?
If we apply it to our internal life, we can see that the more we are present and the more fully we are experiencing and being our essential presence, the more we will experience things slowing down. This seems to be a law of time—not that linear time is being altered, but more time becomes experientially “available” to us. Thus, the slowing down of our experience of time will place us more and more in the present. The more we are the presence, the more we are in the present. So, the slowness of time has a lot to do with being in the present.

There is most likely an etymological connection between the words “present” and “presence,” because the two are very much connected in sense and meaning. In our practice of inquiry, when we talk about being where we are, we mean being in the moment. Our experience is always in the present, even though our mind might be flitting about in the past and future. The actual manifestation— what is arising in our experience—is always arising right now. This is also true of light. For light there is only now; there is nothing else. This fact is another consequence of the reality described by Einstein’s relativity equations.

What is behind the principle that the faster you go, the more slowly you experience time? 
It begins with understanding that the speed of any object in the universe can be seen as a function of traveling in both space and time. We never travel in space without time passing. Physics has determined that the faster you go in space, the slower you go in time. As we travel at normal speeds, that is not apparent to us. But as objects accelerate and approach the speed of light, it becomes apparent that speed in time slows down the more speed in space increases—the maximum point being the speed of light.
In our universe, nothing can exceed the speed of light in space. And the slower you travel relative to the speed of light, the faster time passes. So for human beings, time passes very quickly relative to light because we move very slowly in space in comparison to light. Thus the combination of speed in space and in time always equals the speed of light.

Light and the Eternal Now

The human experience is of moving about in space and steadily, constantly aging— of having time pass. What is the experience of light? Time does not pass for light— light does not go through time. It travels at the maximum speed in space—the speed of light. So what is its speed in time? Zero. That is, since its speed in space is the speed of light, and the speed of light is the maximum speed, its speed in time is zero. Einstein was talking about physical light, but when we are experiencing the inner light, the actual luminosity of our True Nature, we begin to appreciate Einstein’s idea and have an actual experience that is analogous to it, instead of just a theoretical understanding of the idea. We begin to know what it means when we say that for light, time does not pass; that for light it is always the eternal now, and there is nothing but now.

What does that mean? If you see light from a star, and some of it is coming from as far back in time as the Big Bang, you will think that the part of light that you are seeing is very old—say, three billion light years old. Logically, you think, “This light came from that star and it took it that long to get here, so it must be at least that old.” The light itself, however, will not experience that any time has passed for it. If you were to experience the light, or if you were “riding” the light, you would know that it is the same age as it was at the time of the Big Bang. It is one hundred percent new light, ever fresh; it never gets old.

So for humans, who are operating outside of light, time passes, and things get old. For the light, there is no such thing. Light travels through space at a certain speed, but it has no experience of getting old. It is always new, always fresh, and so it is always itself; it doesn't change. It is always, always, its very nature.

You might not have thought about that, but scientifically, it is known that light is ageless. We don’t experience that because we are not traveling with light; we are looking at it from outside. This is just like looking at our True Nature from the outside, from the perspective of the physical body: We keep experiencing the passage of time, and therefore we assume that time must pass for our True Nature, too. But if we are in the stance of our True Nature, things can change around us, and our body still changes, but the experience is that there is no passage of time. And that is because the experience of that body of light is agelessness, endlessness—always now, now, now, never changing, that ever-fresh now, this very moment always.

So what we call present time is actually the intersection between what we call time and
that timeless presence. The only place we touch True Nature is in the present moment,
not in the past or the future. In the present moment is where True Nature intersects time,
because it is the now.

Read more