Thursday, February 9, 2012

WALKING IN THE ETERNAL NOW


It was the spiritual psychologist and teacher Vernon Howard who said, ‘Real life is a timeless renewal in the present moment.’ I like that.

I think so-called ‘time’ and ‘space’ – which are really one – are no more than mediums in which all things exist. Life is movement---ceaseless movement--- and life itself is timeless and spaceless. That much is clear. Another thing is clear---everything is contained within ‘the Now.’ All duration – or time – is total and complete in the Now. There is an ‘eternal’ quality about the Now. It is forever new. The present moment has its unfolding in the Now. The past, in the form of memories, inherited characteristics and tendencies, the karmic consequences of past actions---all that is no more than the expression of a ‘present’ reality, being a present ‘window link’ to the eternity of the Now. It’s the same as respects the future---any ideas about or hopes for the future are present ideas and hopes. Yes, the present is simply that which presents itself before us in the Now---so the present embraces past, present and future. Amazing!

My favourite Christian theologian Paul Tillich says as much in his wonderful book The Eternal Now. Tillich writes, 'The mystery of the future and the mystery of the past are united in the mystery of the present. Our time, the time we have, is the time in which we have "presence." ... Each of the modes of time has its peculiar mystery, each of them carries its peculiar anxiety. Each of them drives us to an ultimate question. There is one answer to these questions -- the eternal. There is one power that surpasses the all-consuming power of time -- the eternal ... .' 

Here are some other words I like. They really resonate with me. The words come from the influential New Thought minister, lecturer and writer Dr Emmet Fox (pictured below left), who had this to say about the 'Now':

Has it ever occurred to you that the only time you ever have is the present moment? We have all heard this said many times but probably few of us realize, even slightly, all that it implies.

It means that you can only live in the present. It means that you can only act in the present. It means that you can only experience in the present.

Above all, it means that the only thing you have to heal is the present thought. Get that right and the whole picture will change into one of harmony and joy. When some students hear this statement they may think, ‘Oh yes, I know that. I have known it for years’; but the chances are that they have not yet understood it thoroughly.

When they do, remarkable results will follow. All that you can know is your present thought, and all that you can experience is the outer expression of all the thoughts and beliefs that you are holding at the present time.

What you call the past can only be your memory of the past. The seeming consequences of past events, be they good or bad, are still but the expression of your present state of mind (including, of course, the subconscious). What are all the future things that you may be planning, or things that you may be dreading - all this is still but a present state of mind. This is the real meaning of the traditional phrase, The Eternal Now.

The only joy you can experience is the joy you experience now. A happy memory is a present joy. The only pain you can experience is the pain of the present moment. Sad memories are present pain. Get the present moment right. Realize peace, harmony, joy, good will, in the present moment. By dwelling upon these things and claiming them-and forgetting during the treatment, all other things-the past and future problems alike will take care of themselves.


If you are reading this, you are alive---although it is necessarily the case that some people are more alive than others. (Sorry, the motivational preacher in me gets carried away at times.) Also, where you are right now is where you are---right now. (Deep stuff, all this.) These things must be taken to be axiomatic. Further, we can never escape the Now, so why not live fully---and mindfully---'in' it ... now! We do not truly live in the Now when our minds are on other things. Unless we are mindfully present, from one moment to the next, we are not truly alive. Our attention---which must be choiceless and non-discriminating---has to be right here---right in the here-and-now. In addition, if we are to find any meaning or purpose in life we must find it in the eternity of the Now. The Now is omnipresence itself. No wonder mystics and holy ones have referred to God as the ‘Eternal Now’ or the ‘Eternal Presence.’ God eternally subsists and expresses Itself in Its own Being---in the Eternity of the Now---in all things and as all things.

Scott Shaw, a Zen master and teacher, has written, 'Time is a scale we created in order to measure our worldly accomplishments.' Ha! Very Zen. Yes, time – as we ordinarily understand it – is a somewhat ‘relative’ construct, but I still think it is ‘real.’ The truth is we live both in time and eternity. Now, eternity is not something we enter when we die. No, eternity is ‘something’ we are in---right now! You are part of life’s Self-expression, and life cannot die. Your body will die, and, I think, also your mind, but the life in you---well, that’s an entirely different matter. Stop identifying with your body and your mind---they are not you. Stop identifying yourself with time, for the less you think about time, and the less you concern yourself with time, the freer you will be. You can't see time. Even if you watch the hands of a clock move, you are seeing just that---movement. You are not seeing time. The fact is that if you live entirely in time, you will be afraid of death. If, however, you live fully and mindfully in the abundance of the Eternal Now, you will know that you live forever! There’s a big difference.

The disciple asked the master, ‘What is the path?’ The Zen master replied, ‘Walk on!’ Yes, the ‘meaning’ of life lies in the living---the ‘walking’---of life. Life is endless movement, and so we must walk---from one moment to the next. Any ‘meaning’ we find must and will be found in the moment-to-moment experience of the Now. Eternity is not the present time plus all the past and all the future, nor (as already mentioned) is it a postmortem experience. It is a present---indeed, ever-present---reality. In truth, there is no time after time after time. No, eternity transcends time altogether---and is despite time! The mystics and holy ones have known this for centuries---there is an ‘eternal’ element to life which moves us beyond spacetime to ‘something’ which is the very ground of our being---indeed, Being itself. No wonder Jesus exclaimed, 'Before Abraham was, I am' (Jn 8:58). He didn't say, 'I was before Abraham was.' No, he said---altering the order of the words---'I am before Abraham was.' He understood his essential and existential pre-existence, and I do not believe he was claiming that fact uniquely and exclusively for himself. No, he never did that! That was not his way. He never asserted a fact about himself which was not also applicable to---you and me! Never forget that.

Vernon Howard was right. The Eternal Now is that ‘present’ which is forever renewing itself in and as each new moment. Yes, this Eternity supersedes time itself. To understand the ‘eternity’ of the Now, you need to know that there is a ‘present’ in the present as well as a ‘present’ beyond the ‘present,’ but if you try to 'chase' the next present you will fail. Don't even bother---there is no need. This concept needs to be experienced as a present reality. Intellectual understanding only takes you so far. In a very real sense, the Eternal Now and the so-called temporal now are---one and the same! Everything is---here now! Life is eternal, and we are alive in eternity---now! What Life---God, if you like---offers us is the Eternal Now, which is anything but a time on the clock.

H P Blavatsky (pictured left), in the first volume of Isis Unveiled, said it all when she wrote, ‘The human spirit, being of the Divine, immortal Spirit, appreciates neither past nor future, but sees all things as in the present.’

No wonder the New Testament says, ‘Exhort one another daily, while it is called today’ (Heb 3:11). We live for so long as it is still---today!


NOTE. For those who may be interested, I have compiled and published online a collection of some 2012 retreat talks of mine, the volume being entitled Walking in the Eternal Now.





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