Some concepts become so deeply rooted in our consciousness that we scarcely if ever question them. So it is with time. Whilst we might debate its nature few of us ever seriously consider that it might not actually exist at all. After all, the evidence for time existing is overwhelming… isn’t it?
To take a different approach to this question we must first look briefly at the nature of knowing, of knowing anything. And when we do this it becomes clear that when we say we know something, we generally mean we know something in thought. We celebrate our great thinkers and their thoughts, passed down through our education and culture become our thoughts.
But getting away from thought, away from the cogitations and ratiocination in which we so often indulge, what does experience tell us?
Experience or awareness is the presence of knowing that arises in the moment. And actually this is the only means through which we are aware – in this moment, through this presence of knowing awareness. Have any of us, even for a moment experienced the actual past, or the actual future as a direct experience? So why do we believe in their reality?
To present a model of how this might work we need to look more closely at this present moment. There is a knowing awareness in this moment and we can establish and verify this for ourselves. And this moment is not void, not empty, there is that which arises in awareness; a whole panoply of experience all around us.
And as we look we see everything around us is in motion. From the tiniest particle detected to the sweep of the galactic dance and everything in between, all is in constant motion. Existence is in motion and existence is motion. If we look at this in terms of cause and effect we see that the movement of the moment is an effect produced by a preceding cause that in itself becomes the cause for a subsequent effect. This movement is change; everything is continually in motion and constantly changing.
From the perspective of awareness arising in this human form, some of the change around us happens so slowly we don’t see it, some is too quick for us to notice. The microscopic and macroscosmic escape out attention but we can, through various means, still verify this aspect of reality – all changes.
Seeing this change gives rise to the illusion of time. In thought there is a memory that things used to be different, and we label this the past. In imagination we project how things might be and we label this the future. Both arise in thought and try as we might, can we find any objective reality for either beyond our thoughts about them?
So if both the past and future arise only in thought, have no objective reality, are they real? Objectively real? And yet within this moment, this ever changing moment, where does awareness most frequently arise? When not distracted awareness often dwells in thought and thought often recreates some past event or future imagined one.
So time might be a useful construct, we might find it convenient to consider a past, present and future. But unless we see that in reality there is only this infinite moment, we remain largely unaware that time is an illusion. There is no part of the universe that is not right here, now, in this moment; a moment that is not some brief interval but is the ever-present all.