Being anxious about the future; reliving the past; regretting old mistakes; reliving yesterday; anticipating tomorrow; racing against the clock; brooding over impermanence; resisting change.
When you misuse time, the problem isn’t at the level of time itself. Nothing has gone wrong with the clocks in the house of someone who loses five hours’ sleep worrying about the possibility of dying from cancer.
The misuse of time is only a symptom for misplaced attention. You can’t have a relationship with someone you don’t pay attention to, and in your relationship to the universe, attention is paid here and now, or not at all. In fact, there is no universe except the one you perceive right now. So to relate to the universe, you must focus on what lies in front of you. As one spiritual teacher said, “The wholeness of creation is needed to bring about the present moment.”
If you take this to heart, your attention will shift. Right now, every situation you are in is a mixture of past, present, and future. Imagine yourself applying for a job. As you offer yourself to the scrutiny of a stranger, trying to handle the stress and make a good impression, you aren’t actually in the now. “Will I get this job?” “How do I look?” “Were my recommendations good enough?” It seems as if you can’t help tumbling in the mix of past, present, and future. But the now can’t be a mixture of old and new. It must be clear and open; otherwise, there is no unfolding of yourself, which is the reason time exists.
The present moment is really an opening, so it has no duration – you are in the now when time ceases to exist. Perhaps the best way to gain such an experience is to realize that the word present is linked to the word presence. When the present moment becomes filled with a presence that is all-absorbing, completely at peace, and totally satisfying, you are in the now.
Adapted from The Book of Secrets, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2004).