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How Experience Shapes Up

 

How does our experience–including stress– arise?  How do the various levels arise in experience?  Is there some natural , hidden dynamic that sets them up?   What shapes their content and generates the ‘realness’ and continuity of entities in our experience?   Does the creative dynamic follow any recognizable pattern or sequence?    Are there ‘points’ where we can feed back into the process and change our experience?   

Summary:

Rather than a ‘faithful’ and direct reflection of what’s happening around us, our experience is normally fabricated unconsciously in a fraction of a second from our sense perceptions, complexes, past habitual tendencies, and complexes; seeing this apperceptive process in action enables us to free ourselves of the stressful effects that it produces.

Example of ‘reality constructing’

Have you ever awakened in the morning to see, first thing, a blank white space?  Lying in bed, gazing into space, and still in “slow motion,” was there no knowledge for a while of anything definite, like the fact that it was a ceiling, or the identification of which room it was, in which direction the body was oriented, what day or time it was?

Did you find that as you very gradually “got up to speed,” ordinary reality started to be pieced together?  Was there a recognition that the body was in a particular room, oriented in a certain direction, but still no knowledge of what day it was? Then a recognition of what day it was, and what time it was? Then against a background of flowing time, was there a familiar sense of being a self at the center of your life? Before long was there thinking about what the self needed to do this day, and a feeling of directedness or movement to get things done?

Years of meditation experience, as well as writings of psychologists and meditation masters, confirm that this process of ‘building up’ ordinary experiential structures doesn’t occur only when we wake up–it seems to occur, largely unknown to us, and much more rapidly, most of the time.  We can refer to this little-known developmental process as apperception*, or the stress development cycle (SDC), or the field communique.**

*footnote:  this is an extension of the common psychological meaning of the word apperception to additional levels of experience.

**footnote:  see, e.g., pp. 17-18, DTS

Psychologist Theodore Jasnos wrote that in our mental lives, “One thought, perception, or image leads to the next. The [nearly instantaneous] process is self-perpetuating and ordinarily goes unexamined.” (Jasnos, 1975, p. 101) . . . “Cognitive awareness normally illuminates . . . [an] object of awareness but not the intrinsic process by which consciousness of the object develops.” (Jasnos, 1975, p. 103)  Furthermore, we’re usually not aware of how the self–considered to be an independent agent ‘having’ perceptions and thoughts–is also a product of the developmental process–“the ‘self’ that we ordinarily try to improve is a generalization of many instantaneous presentings of ‘time’. (Tulku, 1977, p. 178)

We don’t usually see the apperceptive cycle in action

We are usually unaware of this repetitive cycle partly because it’s so quick.  We usually ‘miss’ the early stages of the cycle, only becoming aware of its output ‘product’, our ‘normal’ sense of existing and acting in the world.  Here’s a short description of the almost instantaneous cycle:   “. . . within the fact of uncommittedness there emerge tendencies which develop into feelings and images. These feelings and images introduce the possibility of associations and interpretations. This gives rise to a consolidating thrust that results in the complete pattern of an ‘individual person encountering a world’ or an ’embodied subject knowing physical objects’.” (Tulku, 1977, pp. 32-3)  In just a fraction of a second, subtle habitual tendencies arise and lead to feelings which can be registered as positive or negative , and then ‘owned’ by a sense of self.  Once the self is involved, we may turn further away from the feeling, changing it to what we usually label as stress.

Trungpa describes the cycle this way:  “There seems to be a very rapid buildup and then, poof, the process goes away. And then it starts again. . . . there is a buildup and then this whole building-up process turns to dust. There is a gap, a space. And then either you build up again or you do not. . . . Automatically the process builds up; but before and after that, there is some space.” (Trungpa, 1975, p. 70)

Though it may operate unconsciously for years, if we can learn to see this process in action, its quality gradually changes and the process becomes ‘controllable’.   When awareness, or knowledge, illuminates the  process, it gradually changes.  Depending on the depth of our awareness and the pattern and consistency of how we relate to what has just appeared, we influence what gets projected in later cycles.    “Time’s ‘flow’ is arranged in an orderly way corresponding to what has been experienced or presupposed—and what has been repressed or avoided—regarding the founding dimensions of reality.” (p. 126, TSK)

We can learn to shorten the process and lessen the rigidity of its ‘read-out’–its ‘product’ or ‘output’ experience and world-view.  With continued practice, observing this process in action is probably the most direct and effective way of handling stress, allowing us to transform it earlier and earlier in its originating cycle.   Rather than being an unchangeable or persistent thing that we can only ‘manage’ or adapt to, stress is just a tenuous form of energy that we can learn to change immediately as it arises.

Stages and Sequence of the Stress Development Cycle (SDC)

Jasnos describes the cycle as a creative development of experience:  “[This process can be described by] a developmental model . . . [that shows how] . . . earlier stages in the . . . process are considered to support later stages which occur successively. . . . This sequence is a process of “origination” which escapes recognition by the untrained mind. (Jasnos, 1975, p. 106) . . . Knowledge of the apperceptive process is gained through a very subtle practice . . . .” (Jasnos, 1975, p. 106)

Trungpa summarizes the sequence of stages: [The process] “takes place in a fraction of a second of consciousness . . . .“ “Now the very, very first blank . . . is the . . . experience of the primordial ground. Then the next instant there is a question—you do not know who and what and where you are.” Then “you have an impression of something. It is blank, nothing definite. Then you try to relate to it as something and all the names that you have been taught come back to you and you put a label on that thing. You brand it with that label and then you know your relationship to it. You like it or you dislike it, depending on your association of it with the past. . . . This whole process happens very quickly. It just flashes into place. (Trungpa, 1975, pp. 18-19)

With continued practice [by means of some TSK practices, DTS #4, e.g.], the following levels of the apperceptive process can be distinguished. (Jasnos, 1975, p. 107) These stages or “guideposts” are not intended as an abstract or theoretical system, but as a set of recognizable yet momentary experiential ‘events’ that together constitute the stress development process/cycle. (Jasnos, 1975, p. 107) Note that, in general, the intensity of stress worsens as the cycle progresses from stage 1 to stage 5, with the perception of something as ‘negative’ occurring at stage 4.

  1. “ . . . a precognitive substratum or ground; developmentally the substratum of imagery, dreaming, thought, perception, and feeling . . . out of this substratum emerges differentiation; it is possible to know . . . , but not in the sense that we usually identify an object; by the time the experience evolves into the state where we recognize it as an “experience” it is no longer . . . [level 1].” (Jasnos, 1975, p. 108)
  1. “. . . in this field [stage 1] there is a very fine activity . . . ; the first part . . . before you think; the initial occurrence of activity and movement in the field, . . . the initial activity in a nearly instantaneous process, culminating in grasping, attachment, and abstract thought but is not yet any of these; the basis for a subject-object distinction is only beginning; evasive glimmer of activity; . . . not yet perception, not yet thought. (Jasnos, 1975, p. 110)
  1. “. . . perception, but not yet discrimination and grasping; a totally sharp, located perception; the perception coming into being; the sensing of sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste is made into the perception in an action that arises out of a faint glimmer [stage 2]. (Jasnos, 1975, p. 111)
  1. “. . . just previous to this stage [4], there was perception [stage 3] but no preference; at . . . [this] level the positive or negative bias that infuses the grasping mind is established; movement toward or away from the object of perception is inescapable at this point; we experience a movement toward, away from, or become indifferent to objects in our experience (Jasnos, 1975, p. 117); clear separation and a sense of position; the barest recognition of . . . a center . . . experienced as belonging to me; if . . . [this stage] did not function we would “have no place;” experience of belonging someplace (Jasnos, 1975, p. 112).
  1. [Self-image and ego:] from here on we are in territory more familiar to Western psychology; not only what a person might consciously identify in reference to himself but also unconscious and preconscious processes; beginning with an “I” which experiences; becomes imbued with thoughts such as “I am inadequate . . . lonely . . . or guilty;” when self-image starts, then ego is already there; ego is . . . a more “separate entity like a wall or an object;” ego. . . [implies] an element of proudness (Jasnos, 1975, p. 112-13); the SDC produces “the complete pattern of an ‘individual person encountering a world’ or an ’embodied subject knowing physical objects’.” (Tulku, 1977, p. 34)

Everything that needs to be done is already happening

Sufficient experience exploring the apperceptive process should lead to insight that the self and all of ‘its’ desirable and troublesome conditions  are convincingly real, but momentary and fleeting fabrications that don’t need correcting or changing.  As Trungpa said, “There seems to be a very rapid buildup and then, poof, the process goes away. And then it starts again. . . . there is a buildup and then this whole building-up process turns to dust.” (Trungpa, 1975, p. 70)  Seen in this light, the scenarios clearly have no absolute or fixed, unchangeable nature—unpleasant experiences seem ‘real’ only because of the method of projection, as we discuss in the following section.  We can let the process go, without ‘freezing’ it and then trying to fix what was frozen.

In general, psychological approaches to change start after the apperceptive process has formed a sense of self that ‘has’ a troubling ‘condition’.  The self is seen as independent, stably existent, and rather capable.  “Since we consider ourselves to be separate objects in time, continuous in a changing world, we try to hold the ‘self’ and other familiar objects down, treating them as being relatively stable and fixed.” (p. 23, Interview with Tarthang Tulku)  Then presuming that the self is an effective and stable change agent, we attempt to alter troublesome psychological conditions. But since “the ‘self’ that we ordinarily try to improve is a generalization of many instantaneous presentings of ‘time'” (Tulku, 1977, p. 178), using a psychological approach is very similar to trying to change what happens to a particular character on the screen during a movie, not realizing that the movie itself is a bewildering fabrication.

Fabricating continuity of time and self from discrete momentary experiences

But can a series of discrete mini-events (micro-code) within this apperceptive process generate our apparently authentic  feeling of ordinary existence and reality?

Consider a first-level scenario:  We believe we are the independently capable selves felt at the center of our lives, the selves that apparently are responsible, do the thinking, make the decisions, and sometimes have problematic conditions.  We are identified with the self complex. But just as the convincing reality while watching a movie depends on the speed with which it’s projected, the perceived reality of our selves and all the objects and events within our stories may depend on a rapid sequencing of apperceptive cycles.  Just as a movie is actually a series of still images, “the experience of oneself  relating to other things is actually a momentary discrimination, a fleeting thought.  If we generate these fleeting thoughts fast enough, we can create the illusion of continuity and solidity. It is like watching a movie, the individual film frames are played so quickly that they generate the illusion of continual movement. So we build up an idea, a preconception, that self and other are solid and continuous.” (Trungpa,  The Myth of Freedom, p. 13)

So the apparently continuous movie of life, with the convincingly ‘real’ self at center stage, may be a fabrication of individual mini-events that occur and are ‘assembled’ very rapidly.

Neurologist Oliver Sacks also suggests a cinematographic model to understand the continuity of things and events:  “One level of brain activity*** may be working automatically, while another, the conscious level, is fashioning a perception of time, a perception which is elastic, and can be compressed or expanded. . . . There is much to suggest that conscious perception (at least, visual perception) is not continuous but consists of discrete moments, like the frames of a movie, which are then blended to give an appearance of continuity.” (p. 64)

***footnote:   Trungpa’s ‘fleeting thoughts’?

Similarly, but in a more detailed account of what’s actually happening in our experience, Dr. Charalampos Mainemelis, a professor at the London Business School, suggests that we “draw a distinction between direct–or immediate–and ordinary experience.  Direct  experience  is the  experience  of the immediate  present  moment and consists of fleeting apprehended  instants,  which in and  of themselves  are atemporal:  they are instantaneous  impressions  of an external  reality characterized  by heterogeneity  and nonlinear  patterns  of change. . . . as the instants  of direct experience  are processed . . . they are linked  to one another  and  experienced  as an inner duration . . . as states  . . . lasting  for a moment  and  then  fading  away,  but  which  are also  infinite  because  they permeate  each  other, living and  disappearing   within  each  other  as a continuous  and  holistic  flow of events.  As inner duration  is  generated   by instants  that  contain one another,  the  self  is made  up by states  that generate  each  other . . . .

“[Philosopher Henri] Bergson saw  this process  as  a kind of cinematographic  operation:  consciousness  takes several snapshots  of reality; it keeps a record of them by means  of inner  duration;  it arranges   them  successively   side  by  side  to  form  a  reel;  and  it projects  the reel back  to space  “in high  speed,” creating  the  illusion  of a uniform  linear  movement  that  progresses   through  an  invisible  homogeneous  medium of  “time.” . . .  Time,  however, exists  only in the apparatus.

“Without  inner duration  there  would be no becoming–only  instantaneous  experience.   Without the notion  of time, the self would  be a heterogeneous  multiplicity  of impressions   varying infinitely  across  different  moments  in terms  of qualities,  evolution.  and  acts. By inventing  time,  consciousness   is, in fact, creating an abstract homogeneous  medium,  in which the self can change, age, and  evolve while paradoxically always  enduring.  In other words, by projecting  inner  duration  to the external  world, consciousness temporalizes external change into “before and  after” –into    past,  present, and future states–and ascribes  to the self and other objects  a  lasting   ontological   quality   that  endures  through  change  and  goes beyond  the experiential  moment of recognition.

“Ordinary   experience,   then,  is the  experience of the  present   moment  as  integrated  in  a  sequence  of other moments  and  events–as  a tiny link attached  to an infinite  chain  of experiences and  instants.  Ordinary  experience  presupposes the notion of time, but direct experience is timeless.” (Mainemelis, pp. 549-550)

Levels of Participation in the Ocean of Knowledge

The quality of our participation with time, space, and knowledge corresponds to differences in the quality of our experience in the following metaphor:

Imagine that you live within the depths of an ‘ocean’; you are completely permeated by it. It gives to you, and you take what it offers, acting in ways that are expressive of the purity and power of the water. The results of your actions remain within that same sphere, flowing freely back into the water. But the ‘ocean’ is vast, unbridled power, not limited or constrained by anything, and constrains nothing. It permits everything, even ways of relating to it that are very limited and ‘stand-offish’.

Let’s suppose that you become identified with one of these narrow, aloof ways of interacting with the ocean. It’s as though you have drawn above it, ignoring the qualities and depth of its waters. You don’t even “acknowledge” that depth; you don’t knowingly interact with it. But you can never completely sever your connection, so you can never avoid depending on it and interacting with it in some way. The result is that the ocean leaps up and slaps you in the face with the peaks of its high, jagged waves.  This is the only form of contact your aloof stance will permit.

Perhaps you come to live on the very peaks of these waves and look across to the peaks of other waves around you. You pretend that reality is comprised only of what floats there on the peaks, that there is no ‘underneath’, not even any supporting water, except perhaps in some abstract sense. Even so, part of your new existence is the constant, shocking sensation of being struck by ocean sprays.

Perhaps you take this unpleasant experience as meaningless, just a ‘background phenomenon’. But it won’t go away. Always churned about by the waves, out of phase with the rise and fall of other peaks, it is hard to relate satisfactorily to others. The structures you build seem unstable, subject to some relentless, destabilizing power, and you are always struck in the face by the surging water.

If, eventually, you relax your obsession with scanning across the peaks, and become willing to give more attention to the water itself, to acknowledge it in a participatory sense, you can delve deeply into the ocean. Then, much to your vast amazement, the annoying stinging sprays and the undermining influence of the waves ceases. Your awareness is not restricted to maintaining contact with tiny, erratically jumping objects separated from you by unbridgeable distances.

‘Beauty’, ‘peace’, ‘security’, ‘fulfillment’, ‘intimacy’, ‘knowledge’, ‘communication’, ‘coexistence’ all come to acquire meanings very different from what they had for you on the surface. This ‘ocean’ and its ‘waves’ are only rough metaphors for the range of space and time as they are seen by different types of knowledge, different degrees of participation. Frustration, loss, and separation may have been typical themes for the knowledge of the surface, which was subject to the waves. But nothing can be lost or exhausted for that knowledge which remains attuned to the depths of space and time. Everything that fulfills and delights, and everything that stimulates knowledge to become more sensitive and encompassing, is perfectly preserved there. You can see why it’s so important that we be totally ‘in’ or ‘within’ time, space, and knowledge.  (p. xxx-xxxiii, DOT I)

Time, space, and knowledge do not act in one particular way . . . . [it depends on] how deeply we acknowledge* our connection with them. Whether we acknowledge them or not, we are using them, and they are using us. Just because we ignore them, depending on them only unconsciously, doesn’t mean that there’s no interchange. We are still bound to time and space; we and they are inseparable companions. If we ignore our connection to them, we relegate ourselves to lives of a kind of menial, trivial service: the only way we allow ourselves to be used by the universe at large. (p. xxx, DOT I)

*footnote: “‘Acknowledging’ is not just an acceptance of an idea. Remember, the emphasis is on active expression—participation. What is the depth and quality of our participation?” (p. xxxi, DOT I)

The Full Range of Human Experience

Levels representing the full range of human experience

What is the full spectrum of states possible for human beings?   Is there a comprehensive catalog of states?

So far, the only candidate I’ve seen for a clear English description of the full range of human development, with its incredibly varied views, perspectives, and focal settings, is Tarthang Tulku’s series of books on the Time, Space, and Knowledge (TSK) vision.  These books describe three main levels of human functioning: “As an organizing principle for an inquiry into time, space, and knowledge, it can help to think in terms of three different levels.  The first level starts from our common, everyday views of how these facets of our being operate.” (p. xxix, Sacred Dimensions of Time and Space) The third level is an enlightened state that we might compare to the zone described in Chapter One. A second level, an intermediate level that occurs during our development from the first to the third level, is also described in the books. The following section has a summary of these three levels, drawn from the six books of the TSK series: Time, Space, and Knowledge (1977), Love of Knowledge (1987), Knowledge of Time and Space (1990), Visions of Knowledge (1993), Dynamics of Time and Space (1994), and Sacred Dimensions of Time and Space (1997).

Before we examine these levels, let’s take a look at why Tarthang Tulku describes them in terms of time, space, and knowledge.  According to the author, “Time, space and knowledge are the most basic facets of human experience.”  (p. xv, KTS)  “We are partners  with space through physical  existence,  partners  with  time through actions, and partners with knowledge through awareness. Though these three facets of being may be neither  ‘absolute’  nor  ‘ultimate’,  they  constitute  the ‘stuff’ of our lives—starting points for an inquiry that can transform our being.”  (pp. xx-xxi, LOK)

Focusing on time, space, and knowledge–rather than the self–affords a new approach at the outset.  “Conventional  knowledge  today  focuses  on  the  self: what  the  self  needs,  what  it  understands,  what  it  is capable of. Suppose that we shift this focus, looking in a more neutral way at how our being functions.” (p. xiv, SDTS)  “When we place these three factors—space, time, and knowledge—at the center of our being, something quite remarkable happens. Knowledge comes into its own, informing experience and existence in a very powerful way.” (p. xv, SDTS)  “The starting point for such transformation is to investigate time, space, and knowledge in our own experience, challenging the restrictive ways that we have learned to think of them.” (p. xvi, SDTS)

Now we examine the characteristics and limitations of level one.

Summary of level one

This is the ‘normal’ way we are and operate after our ordinary Western conditioning is complete.  This level is sometimes also called the ordinary level:*

Time is divided into moments and seems to flow linearly and out of our control, from past to future, at a constant rate. Within this flow we are limited to occupying a kind of ‘moving spot’ that we call ‘the present’. We seem to ‘have’ time, yet sometimes feel like we’re running out of time, and can’t stop the relentless flow that causes us anxiety, friction, overwhelm, and pressure.

Space is seen as an indefinitely extended ‘nothing’, with distance felt between things within space. We and things feel substantial, independent, and persistent, ‘occupy’ different locations in space, have size, volume, edges, and an ‘inside’ and ‘outside’.  We have a kind of private mental, or personal space, but this seems less ‘real’ than physical space.  Personal space seems independent of others and other things, and yet seems to change somewhat, depending on our feelings and connections with others.  Our experience of space can feel restrictive, confining, and pressured, rather than open and free.

Our knowing or ‘seeing’ is limited to a particular ‘thinker’ position or ‘point of view’, with a felt separation or ‘distance’ from what is known.  Knowing and knowledge usually seem to be located primarily inside our heads and minds.   An act of knowing takes some time, and involves directing knowing from its source ‘here’  toward distant objects and events.  We collect experience and information by these acts of knowing, and build up models, systems, and theories.  Very often our knowing and perceiving is inaccurate and biased, depending on our unresolved emotional difficulties (conditioning) and current desires and fears.

We believe we are the independently capable selves felt at the center of our lives, the selves that apparently are responsible, do the thinking, make the decisions, and sometimes have problematic conditions.  We believe and feel we are the central character in the ongoing story of our lives unfolding against a backdrop of time and space.

*footnote:  first level is ordinary level considered in light of further possibility

Summary of level two

‘Timing’ occurs as a succession of experiences in the same ‘spot’ or ‘field’, rather than establishing an extended `world out there’. Things, places, and processes become appreciated as being very fluid. Subject and object alike are seen as projections of the underlying energy of second-level time.

The ‘quantity’ of second-level ‘space’ is indeterminate.  While objects and the observer are distinct and independent, they are also known as interdependent and co-referring. There’s an increase in personal freedom, less psychological pressure, and greater physical relaxation. All going from place to place which validates the picture of a spread out world, actually occurs as a succession of ‘timed out’ experiences in the same ‘spot’.

Knowing is not so much a possession, but a luminous, transparent `attribute’ of experience and mental activity through which ‘existence’ and ‘non-existence’ jointly emerge together with dichotomies such as ‘subject’ and ‘object’, ‘observer’ and ‘observed’.

Summary of level three

Different times are not linked, in a way that irrevocably separates them, by their respective positions in an infinitely extended temporal series. The ‘series’ is a fiction. There is no ‘going’ and no separate places. It is as though all the friction in the world were removed.

While all familiar things are separate and distributed over ordinary space, delineated partly by differences in position, they are all intimately connected insofar as their Great Space dimension is considered. Space is not contrasted to objects, and `distance between’ becomes meaningless. All existence and experience is like an apparition.

We develop a mode of ‘seeing’ which is not limited to a particular position or ‘point of view’ at all, dissolves the ‘distance’ between knower and known, is not a meaning but is unlearned or nonlearned learnedness, and which is beyond the concern for ‘getting’, approaching, or defining.

This brief depiction of level three from the Time, Space, and Knowledge vision is consistent with the depiction of what is called the zone. And it’s worth noting that here also we find no complexes, personality, or identity, much less conditions like  emotional upset, doubt,  and separation that are common with level one.

Three ways of experiencing a feeling

To see more clearly how these three main levels of functioning are related, we can depict what happens as you change the way you relate to a particular feeling from a first-level to a third-level way.  Although any feeling could be used, in this example, let’s take the example of a feeling of pain in the shoulder.  The pain is presumed to be the same energy in the descriptions of all three levels–it is the way the pain energy is experienced, or the overall view of the energy, that is different.

One: At level one, our usual way of experiencing, the pain is usually labeled, often as something negative, and is experienced as located in a particular place in the body, in this case in the shoulder.  You, identified as the self, are not merged with the feeling, but are related to it as a feeling that you have.  Your experience of time is linear, flowing relentlessly in one direction. Space is experienced as extending in three dimensions.

Two: At level two, the feeling is not experienced as so clearly locatable as in the first way of experiencing. The feeling is in the same physical location, but one experiences the boundaries of the feeling to be more open or less definite. There may be a shifting back and forth from seeing the feeling as negative, to relating to it as simply neutral energy. One senses the surrounding space differently—not so extended, more open, less fragmented, and less container-like. Similarly, the sense of oneself as the observer of the feeling is more spacious. Rather than an intellectual way of relating to the feeling, there is a simple, nonverbal observation or sensing of it. There’s also a sense of time slowing down.

Three: At level three, there is simply the pure energy of the feeling, with no labeling, and no identification of location in the body. There is no feeling of oneself as an observer separate from the feeling.  Awareness is merged with the feeling-energy, which is not experienced as negative. There is no sense of time passing, and no experience of space as a container for things and events. Space is simply nonextended openness that accompanies and permeates the feeling.

(Linear) time is bad for our health and well-being!

Summary

How is the experience of time related to pain, stress, disease, and health?  Are there ways to change the experience of stress and pain by changing our experience of time?

With experience as a physician in both East and West, Dr. Stephan Rechtschaffen sees dire consequences if we don’t change our experience of time: “Until we learn to control time consciously, our lives will continue to speed away from us, and we won’t even notice the beauty or the events around us. We’ll simply be left with the feeling that something’s missing, something’s disappeared.” (p. 14, Time Shifting)  And it’s not a matter of just feeling stressed out:  “By living in mental time–in a speeded-up world–with the resultant repression of emotional issues, we increase the chance of disease.” (p. 171)   However, “If we can think of time in a different way, if we become aware that it contains myriad rhythms and that any individual moment can be expanded or contracted under our control, then I believe we can make time our servant–and in doing so, fill our lives with happiness and health to a degree most of us don’t experience and cannot even imagine.” (p. 3)  “The misuse of time in today’s society should lead to a ‘time movement’.” (p. 226)  Such a movement has been started–see   http://www.tskassociation.org/time-movement.html

(Linear) time is bad for our health!

“Beat the Clock” was the name of a TV show that was popular years ago. To win prizes, contestants had to complete certain tasks within short periods of time. It was fun to watch the people race around, make mistakes, and get frazzled. Unfortunately, for many of us “Beat the Clock” would be a good title for our lives, where we’re the frazzled contestants racing against time. Do you have too much to do, and not enough time? Is the only ‘solution’ to race against time and just put up with the extra stress? Most of us think so. “Our lives have turned into a grueling race toward a finish line we never reach.” (Jay Walljasper, Utne Reader)

“Many people now find that they live in a rush they don’t want and didn’t create, or at least didn’t mean to create. If you feel busier now than you’ve ever been before, and if you wonder if you can keep up this pace much longer, don’t feel alone. Most of us feel slightly bewildered, realizing we have more to do than ever–with less time to do it.”  (p. 4, Crazy Busy)    As mentioned in an ABC news video some years ago, “many of us are now in a hurry most of the time,” and have the strong feeling that we don’t have enough time.   These mental and physiological habits strongly and adversely affect our health and well-being.

Dr. Stephan Rechtschaffen wrote, “I would say that 95 percent of the stress in our lives relates to our feeling of time poverty.” (p. 48, Time Shifting)  “Unless we consciously learn to control time in our lives, the stress we suffer will only get worse. . . . Until we learn to control time consciously, our lives will continue to speed away from us . . . .”  (p. 14)  And it’s not a matter of just feeling stressed out:  “By living in mental time–in a speeded-up world–with the resultant repression of emotional issues, we increase the chance of disease.” (p. 171)

In 1988, when things were probably less hectic than today, French CEO and journalist Servant-Schreiber wrote, “Unfortunately, the poor use of our time does not make us fat, and so its effects are less visible.  That may be why the problem has not yet been given national priority. Nevertheless, it can make us as sick as overeating.  Ulcers, heart attacks, and cancers are created in the furrows of stress . . . . In a sense, this situation is much more serious, because many more people suffer from stress than from obesity.” (p. 31, The Art of Time)

Our modern culture of ADD and turmoil

Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, who specialized in diagnos­ing and treating ADD for twenty-five years, wrote, “I have come to see it as a metaphor for modern life . . . . Once applicable only to a relative few, the symptoms of ADD now seem to describe just about everybody.

“People with untreated ADD rush around a lot, feel impa­tient wherever they are, love speed, get frustrated easily, lose locus in the middle of a task or a conversation because some ether thought catches their attention, bubble with energy but struggle to pay attention to one issue for more than a few sec­onds, talk fast or feel at a loss for words, often forget where they’re going or what they’re going to get, have bright ideas but can’t implement them, fail to complete what they’re doing, have many projects going simultaneously but chronically postpone completing them, make decisions impulsively because their brain’s circuitry is overloaded, feel they could do a lot more if they could just get it together, get angry easily when interrupted, feel powerless over the piles of stuff that surround them, resolve each day to do better tomorrow, and in general feel busy beyond belief but not all that productive.

“Many people who do not have true ADD do have many of those symptoms these days. You might say they suffer from a se­vere case of modern life.” (p. 8, Crazy Busy)

“Most of us do try to do too much in too little time . . . . Owing to the conditioning we’ve received in the past ten years [from 1996-2006], some of us are simply un­able to slow down.

“Others frankly don’t want to. . . . No one needs to read three newspapers every day, check e-mail every ten minutes, make or take scores of phone calls every day, and channel surf during all conversations, tuning out the mo­ment stimulation subsides. These are habits some people de­velop simply because such habits make them feel charged up, as if doing a lot fast puts them on the cutting edge of life.

“In today’s world, free time or down time-time to do noth­ing but just hang out and think or feel or listen and watch-has become as rare as silence. Instead, we hop to. Gotta have action. Keep driving, don’t stop for long, don’t pause to linger, wonder, or think. . . . the modern imperative is to keep moving, eyes roaming, attention on scan, cell phone in hand.  Look at our popular movies. Long on action, special effects, quick cuts, and fast pace. Short on character.” (p. 58)

“What’s our hurry? Why, as the novelist Milan Kundera points out, is speed our new form of ecstasy? In fact, both speed and ecstasy are slang terms for drugs of abuse, drugs that can make you high. But even without taking a drug, mod­ern culture associates going faster with being happier as well as smarter.

“Neither makes sense. There is no correlation between a fast life and a happy life. Indeed, if anything there is a negative cor­relation, as fast lives tend to be stressful.” (p. 121)

Cultural turmoil and violence

“The misuse of time in today’s society should lead to a ‘time movement’.” (p. 226, Time Shifting, 1996)  (Actually, such a movement has been started–see   http://www.tskassociation.org/time-movement.html  )  “If we cannot incorporate the ability to timeshift to a slower beat, . . . then, as Alvin Toffler points out, the shattering stress and disorientation caused by too much change in too short a time will overwhelm us.  Indeed, in many cases, it already has, as evidenced in the cacophony, the shattered relationships, the violence, and the greed that surround us.”  (pp. 229-230, Time Shifting)

How has this ‘time sickness’ and modern turmoil come about?  Here’s an explanation by meditation master Tarthang Tulku:

“We readily take on old patterns collected and transmitted down to us. Our thoughts and sense experience, our emotions and moods combine and edit . . . previous patternings to fit the present situation. . . . As the past accumulates layer by layer, its weight exerts an ever stronger pressure on the present. . . . Much of what amasses, however, has no apparent direction or meaning . . . . There are simply more names, more images, . . . more to cope with and engage, more to direct, more to absorb and deal with. The  experience  of  processing  this  expanding  and proliferating transmission can leave us feeling almost stunned.  We  experience  the  weight  of  time  pressing in on us, active in the obligations of ordinary reality and  the  obscuration  that  clouds  our  comprehension. Time  that  has  been  strongly  dimensioned  exerts  a pressure  that  is  almost  tangible,  pervading  our  lives, our circumstances, and the repetitive patterns of our thoughts.  The  production  of  new  stimuli  far  exceeds our ability to consume them.

“When the past-centered identities of each moment shape our present responses, emotionality builds. . . . Externally there are sudden shifts in the temper of the times and the play of circumstances.

“Today we live in times when such trends have moved into the foreground for everyone to see. Tendencies that have accumulated through history are coming together. Like streams flowing into a river, they feed the force of time’s current until it threatens to rush out of control.”  (pp. 86-8, Dynamics of Time and Space)

The relationship of linear time, stress, pain, and disease

What’s the toll of this turmoil on most individuals?   Dr. Larry Dossey is a physician who thoroughly investigated the question of how the experience of time relates to pain and disease.  Here’s an excerpt from his book titled Space, Time, and Medicine:

“Just as Pavlov’s dogs learned to salivate inappropriately we have learned to hurry inappropriately. Our sense of urgency is set off not by a real need to act quickly, but through learned cues. Our “bells” have become the watch, the alarm clock, the morning coffee, and the hundreds of self-inflicted expectations that we build into our daily routine. . . . Our sense of urgency results in a speeding of some of our body’s rhythmical functions, such as the heart rate and respiratory rate. Exaggerated rises in the blood pressure may follow, along with increases in blood levels of specific hormones that are involved in the body’s response to stress. Thus, our perceptions of speeding clocks and vanishing time cause our own biological clocks to speed. . . . the end result is frequently some form of ‘hurry sickness’–expressed as heart disease, high blood pressure, or depression of our immune function, leading to an increased susceptibility to infection and cancer.” (p. 49)

“We determine our own reality by mirroring our perceptions of a fleeting time in our body’s function. Having convinced ourselves through the aid of clocks, watches, beeps, ticks, and a myriad of other cultural props that linear time is escaping, we generate maladies in our bodies that assure us of the same thing–for the ensuing heart disease, ulcers, and high blood pressure reinforce the message of the clock: we are running down, eventually to be swept away in the linear current of the river of time. For us, our perceptions have become our reality.

CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE

“Our sense of time is not only a major determinant in our awareness of pain, it affects our health by influencing the development and course of specific diseases. This is nowhere more obvious that in persons who have been called Type A individuals by Friedman and Rosenman. Type A persons have ‘hurry sickness.’ Their lives are oriented around goals, deadlines, and objectives, which they seem to react to in a driven fashion. They are unable to approach a task in a healthy, balanced way, but in extreme cases seem almost consumed by a need to accomplish and achieve.

“Not only do they have an inward sense of urgency, their outward behavior suggests the same quality. When sitting they may be in constant motion, not only with thoughts, but with body parts–hands, fingers, legs, feet. They are usually vocal, verbally expressing the products of a mind that cannot rest. This behavior frequently generates discomfort and tension in those around them.

“It is as if Type A persons are ‘time sick.’ They resemble patients who are in chronic pain in that they have an acute sense of time. Only in this case, unlike the person experiencing pain, there is never enough of it. . . .  (p. 50)

“Time sickness is not merely a colorful appellation, it is an actual illness possessed by the group as a whole. It is not just that Type A persons may experience excessive anxiety, that they may be more nervous and discomfited than their Type B counterparts, in which case their hurry sickness might be counted only as a nuisance or a bother. The problem is worse than a nuisance: Type A individuals, as a group, die earlier. Their behavior puts them at risk for the most frequent cause of death in our society, coronary artery disease.

“The importance of the exaggerated response to time, the sense of urgency displayed by Type A individuals, is that it is translated into physiologic effects. These effects are pervasive and are seen long before heart disease supervenes. These physiological events are so characteristic of time-sick persons, they could be called the time syndrome. Among them are increased heart rate and blood pressure at rest; elevation of certain blood hormones such as adrenalin, norepinephrine, insulin, growth hormone, and hydrocortisone, all of which are ordinarily secreted in an exaggerated way during times of urgency or stress; increased gastric acid secretion; increased blood cholesterol; an increased respiratory rate; increased secretory activity of sweat glands; and increased muscle tension throughout the body. The time syndrome is a body-mind process with effects on all major systems. It is not simply a conscious experience of unpleasant feelings.” (p. 51)

“Many illnesses–perhaps most–may be caused either wholly or in part by our misperception of time. . . . I am convinced that we can destroy ourselves through the creation of illness by perceiving time in a linear, one-way flow.” (p. 21)

“The chronic misjudgment of the nature of time should be seen for what it really is: chronic disease itself. It is a silent process, but for many of us an inexorable one leading to disease which can be fatal. We do not ordinarily judge it in these terms, of course, and too frequently ascribe our sense of time urgency to ‘nerves.’ Having misjudged the cause of our distress, we misjudge the solutions– tranquilizers and alcohol are too often the most commonly trusted antidotes.” (p. 166)

Learning a new sense of timelessness

“Persons who experience pain ordinarily live in a contracted or constricted time sense. Minutes seem like hours when one is hurting. Because the time sense is constricted, pain is magnified-sometimes far beyond what seems appropriate. Are there ways to intervene in painful situations, ways to manipulate the sense of time by expanding it? Can we lessen pain by “stretching” the time sense?”  (p. 46)

Evidently so.  Here’s a transcript from one of Dr. Dossey’s physician patients who learned biofeedback therapy to deal with headaches: “I watch the River of Time flow gently for a while . . . . The river slowly starts to curve so much that it begins to flow back on itself, gradually forming a complete circle. . . . the circular River of Time . . . starts to flood its banks inwardly . . . . and as it continues a giant lake is formed. . . . The surface becomes calm and still, reflective as a mirror. . . . time itself, has ceased to flow. . . . This timeless Lake of Time is indescribably serene, like a high alpine lake you encounter unexpectedly and never want to leave. It fills me with a sense of peace and I stay there feeling the stillness of the Lake of Time for as long as I wish. . . .

“This patient had himself learned how to manipulate his sense of time to his clinical advantage. He had learned to experientially slow time and to stop it . . . . His headaches continued to diminish. . . . Events did indeed enter his awareness sequentially, yet this process was entirely divorced from any sensation of a linearly flowing time.”  (p. 20)

Besides this imagery of a river flowing, “There are a variety of images that can be used effectively in manipulating the sensation of pain. The technique which [a patient named] Monica used to abort her discomfort was to visualize the location of her pain as a small glowing red ball. She would focus as intensely as possible on this image, and when it was extremely vivid she would cause the ball to begin to move, ever so slowly, outside her body. She would center the ball about six feet in front of her. Then this small red ball of pain, glowing intensely, would begin to grow. It would enlarge to the size of a basketball, hovering in space. Moreover, it was suspended in time. Monica’s description of this state was that time ‘stood still.’ Although events were ‘still going on,’ such as the red ball continuing to shimmer, time had ceased to flow.”  (p. 173)

“I began to realize that I was witnessing patients becoming healthier through acquiring a new experiential meaning of what time was all about.  My patients were learning a strategy that held serious consequences for the improvement of their health.” (p. 21)

“As we learn to meditate, or when we become familiar with the states of consciousness that are peculiar to biofeedback, autogenic therapy, or to other techniques employing deep relaxation, we develop a familiarity with a new sense of time. We begin to experience time in new ways. We begin to feel at home with time as it expands. Phrases such as ‘the ever-present now’ and ‘the eternal moment’ become full with meaning. Above all, we develop a friendliness with time.

“As this new regard for time evolves to deeper levels, new understanding unfolds. It becomes apparent that one of the motivating forces behind our old way of reacting toward the passage of time (p. 52) was fear–an indisputable feeling that took the form of busying ourselves in needless motion. This frenetic behavior begins to appear as a defense against time, a resistance that assumes its final form in our individual, silent protest against death itself.

“All time-driven events such as illness and demise begin to appear less menacing. Events in our daily lives such as tragic happenings, which used to stir us reflexively to remorse, now evoke less painful responses. We see the world differently through a new time. And as we learn to see a friendlier face of time, the mask of death itself becomes transformed–if not into a smile, perhaps at least without a frown.” (pp. 52-3)

“Perhaps it is not surprising that most great religions have always prescribed methods such as prayer and meditation . . . in practicing these disciplines one quickly discovers that the experience of time changes. It ceases to flow; and experientially one feels enveloped by the stillness of which all the great mystics have spoken.” p. 30

Treatments for linear time

“Almost all substances that we [physicians] use to treat severe pain modify the patient’s sense of time. Patients who receive these medications do not say, of course, that their time sense was altered, but they respond with statements such as ‘that medicine made me float!’ or ‘I became really drowsy,’ or ‘I forgot where I was.’

“There simply is no good vocabulary to use in describing these events which occur hourly in every major hospital. What does a patient mean when, after receiving pain medication, he says, ‘I really lost track of things for a while,’ or ‘That medicine really ‘zonked’ me,’ or ‘That stuff ‘bombed’ me out?’ Undoubtedly altered time perception is one of the hidden meanings in such statements.

“Not only drugs but other techniques as well do much to alter the time sense and have become valuable adjuncts to controlling pain. Hypnosis is one such example, and is of incalculable value for some patients in pain control. Biofeedback, which relies heavily on imagery and visualization in achieving physiologic self-control, has a marked effect on modifying time perception. Meditation, autogenic therapy, and progressive relaxation have similar effects. In fact, any device or technique that expands one’s sense of time can be used as an analgesic!

“It is important to realize that when we experience a technique that diminishes pain through expanding our time sense, we are not merely exercising self-deception. We are not fooling ourselves into thinking the pain is not there. Evidence is solid that mental states can evoke actual changes in brain physiology, changes that alter pain perception.” (p. 47)

“Most persons learn these skills easily and they come to enjoy the imagery process. Why? The new mode of time perception feels good. To be forever bogged down in a sense of time urgency is defeating. Stress and anxiety for most of us are unbearable without periodic alleviation. Thus, to involve oneself in a new mode of time perception is to experience good feelings.

“We have seen earlier that participation in the states of consciousness that we typify as being serene, calm, and relaxed generate physiological changes that can be measured. The changes that occur are as real as those produced by any drug. Changes in hormonal levels in the blood, variations in heart rate and blood pressure, and changes in levels of muscle tension and blood flow to certain regions of the body accompany a subject’s imagery efforts. Thus, since the processes of imagery and visualization are [sometimes] involved in these states, we can begin to see these processes as potent therapeutic agents. They are ‘medicine’ in the truest sense, as real as drugs and surgical procedures.” (p. 167)

“The physician, nurse, or therapist who aids the patient in pain is more than a dispenser of analgesics. He can be a guide. He can be one who shows the sufferer the way through the corridors of time to the still point where time ceases to flow, and where pain abates. And the patient, the suffering patient–how can we avoid the conclusion?–becomes a time traveler.” (p. 174)

The construction of time

Following is a transcript of a dialog between Jiddhu Krishnamurti and David Bohm from The Ending of Time.  Although it may require careful reading and consideration, from this transcript you may be able to understand how our sense of time flow is the result of separating ourselves from a painful feeling.

J. Krishnamurti broaches the possibility of ending psychological time:

K: Now how am I . . . to be free of time? . . . Can time as thought come to a stop? The memory of experiences, hurts, attachments . . . can come to an end when the very perception asks, what is it? What is hurt? What is psychological damage? The perception of it is the ending of it. Not carrying it over, which is time. The very ending of it is the ending of time. . . .

Trying to understand Krishnamurti’s proposition, David Bohm focuses the discussion on a specific example of being hurt:

DB: The first thing is that there has been a hurt. That is the image [of ‘me’ being hurt], but at first I don’t separate it. I feel identified with it.

K: I am that.

DB: I am that. But then I draw back, and say that I think there must be a ‘me’ who can do something.

K: Yes, can operate on it.

DB: Now that takes time.

K: That is time. . . . Let’s go slowly into it. I am hurt. That is a fact. Then I separate myself—there is a separation—saying, I will do something about it.

[Note the importance of simply feeling the hurt rather than separating from it, as discussed in Chapter Five.]

DB: The ‘me’ who will do something is different. . . . It projects into the future a different state.

K: Yes. I am hurt. There is a separation, a division. The ‘me’, which is always pursuing the becoming [In this dialog, the word ‘becoming’ refers to the ego trying to become something], says, I must control it. I must wipe it out. I must act upon it . . . . So this movement of separation is time.” (p. 72)

DB: . . . A person is thinking that the hurt exists independently of ‘me’, and I must do something about it. I project into the future the better state and what I will do. . . So I am hurt and I will become non-hurt. Now that very thought maintains the hurt.

K: That’s right. . . .

DB: Now if you don’t maintain it, what happens? Suppose you say, I won’t go on with this becoming?

K: Ah, that is quite a different matter. It means I am no longer thinking, no longer observing, or using time as an observation.

DB: You could say that is not your way of looking. It is not your theory any more.

K: That’s right. . . .

DB: Because you could say time is a theory which everybody adopts for psychological purposes.

K: Yes. That is the common factor; time is the common factor of man. And we are pointing out time is an illusion . . .

DB: Psychological time.

K: Of course, that is understood.

DB: Are you saying that when we no longer approach this through time, then the hurt does not continue?

K: It does not continue, it ends—because you are not becoming anything.

DB: In becoming you are always continuing what you are.

K: That’s right. Continuing what you are, modified . . .

DB: If man feels something is out of order psychologically he then brings in the notion of time, and the thought of becoming, and that creates endless problems. [This last statement is from p. 23.]

Thus Krishnamurti also said, “I want to abolish time, psychologically. . . . If psychological time doesn’t exist, then there is no conflict, there is no ‘me’, no ‘I’, which is the origin of conflict.” (pp. 14-15)

Healing pain

In the following quotes from Dynamics of Time and Space, Tarthang Tulku uses the word time in a broader sense than just psychological or linear time, as the word is used in the above excerpt. With this provision, however, one can see remarkable similarities in content.

When we lose contact with time, we have cut the dynamic central to our lives. . . . Subjectively, there is the sense that time is flickering, like a film not properly adjusted on its reel . . . . There is strain that goes nowhere. . . . These structures are in place before consciousness fully forms. . . . they give rise to nervous agitation or uneasy pain . . . .

If the momentum of time’s forward conducting persists, the agitation and its underlying ‘flickering’ intensify. Suddenly there is an abrupt break, as if the reel of film . . . had snapped. Everything freezes—movement vanishes. . . . Pain has been transformed into the fixed and rigid structures of linear time. Consciousness emerges into a temporal order in which time is a hostile force . . . . Time in its pastness grinds us down . . . feeding us the lifeless recordings of the past and the seductive fascinations of the future.

Caught in this fabricated past and future, we are divided against ourselves. Our knowledge and energy are spread across the linear length of the temporal order. Thus, when we set a goal, we assign a part of our constructed identity to that goal. Now it is as though a part of us was ‘out there’ in the future along with our projection, pinned against the temporal horizon of the present moment.

Increasingly confined, we find it deeply disturbing just to inhabit the successive moments of our lives. . . . The specific ‘point’ of time that we occupy lacks all capacity to hold time’s dynamic. Life goes out of the present, drained away ‘across’ time.

We may respond by withdrawing into a dull numbness that has a quality almost like being shocked or stunned. . . . In our worn-out dullness, we are like a baby that has cried itself into exhausted sleep.

If we could awaken at this point to the feeling of pain, we would actually be close to the original dynamic of the time that we have lost. But this alternative is not available, for we are too closely identified with the pain. As ‘I’ merge with ‘having the pain’, I become the victim of what objectified time has presented. I possess the pain and am possessed by it; in this feedback I repossess it, tightening its hold. Awareness arises only in the wake of recognition, and so can lead only in the direction of further identification.  Accepting the reality of the pain assures its continuation. (pp. 295-7)

Through a direct focus on the painness of pain, this ready interpretation can be recast or re-projected. If there is no ‘I’ as subject—no one making efforts with regard to the pain—there will be no pain to be identified. As pain enters experience and is projected into awareness, it is received without labels and identifications and reactions. There is nothing to be conditioned and no one to be caught. Without the subjective framework, pain is stripped of its solidity.

. . . In this new arriving of what time presents, the logic of temporality defeats itself. The past is gone, the future not yet arrived, the present too short: ‘I’ am nowhere. (p. 305)

————————————-

These excerpts show the importance of the full perception–rather than avoidance–of painful experiences, preventing the rigid construction of linear time.  Understanding how time is fabricated from the self separating from painful experience can be very helpful in relaxing and opening up pain.  The second excerpt gives clear instructions on how to dissolve pain:  Although “accepting the reality of the pain assures its continuation,” “Through a direct focus on the painness of pain, this ready interpretation can be recast or re-projected. If there is no ‘I’ as subject—no one making efforts with regard to the pain—there will be no pain to be identified. As pain enters experience and is projected into awareness, it is received without labels and identifications and reactions. . . . Without the subjective framework, pain is stripped of its solidity.

Healing Time and Pain exercise

The following exercise can be very helpful in relieving pain.  Rather than a visualization of some kind, it directly and openly explores different aspects of experience without any manipulation or effort to change anything. The initial instructions (first three paragraphs) should help relax and loosen up mental and physical tension, while the rest of the instructions address pain from several different perspectives, leading up to a direct shift in the way it’s normally perceived.  Of course you can practice any part of this exercise that seems especially helpful.  A narrated version of this exercise can be found at http://www.tskassociation.org/pain-management.html

[ ” . . . ” signifies a pause.]

You can first explore the physical and emotional tension in your body. Imagine yourself as a tiny point of awareness. As that tiny point of awareness, travel through your body exploring particularly the areas in which there is tension, pain, or a feeling of heaviness. . . . Move through the space of the body, and when you encounter some heaviness, pain, or density, travel through it and allow it to open up. . . . You can also allow the size of the visualized body to change. It might expand and become more spacious, allowing you to more freely travel through the densities and feelings. . . . Continue, and allow the space and awareness to become lighter and more open.

Now you can relax the mind. Observe how thoughts arise and then disappear. In the movement from one thought to another, a kind of force or energy accompanies specific thoughts, creating a momentum that pulls or draws thought forward. . . . Some thoughts seem very large and heavy, while others are smaller and lighter. Each thought may have a different weight or gravitational pull. Observe this gravity of thinking in operation. . . .

Where do the thoughts come from?. . . Where do the thoughts go?. . . What happens in the interval between one thought and the next? . . . Watch very sensitively for the moment when one thought fades and another arises. There may be a space available which you can contact and even expand. . . . In this space does the ordinary flow of time occur? . . .

Notice how the mind, the body, and pain and emotional feeling interact. Notice how they change from moment to moment. . . . You may also notice tendencies for the self to intervene and ignore or push away the intensity of feeling. . . . There may be a tendency for the self to remain outside the feelings and to simply observe what is happening from a distance. . . . a tendency for the self to comment on and think about the situation but not be totally involved in it. . . . Notice the complex interrelating among self, sensations, mind, thoughts, emotions, body, and other, which constitutes this situation. . . . Notice the tendency to control, or own or disown different aspects of the scenario, to draw them towards the self, or to push them away from the self.

When there is pain, we often maintain some kind of position or point of view that is separate from the place where the pain is located. See if you are aware of an observing position, a sense of self, or a sense of identity, that is being maintained apart from the pain. . . . Allow yourself to feel the firmness or rigidity of any such position. This position is usually distant from another place where the pain is located. There may be a tendency to ignore, control, or push away pain by keeping it at a distance. . . . Allow yourself to become aware of any other painful position. . . . Then become aware of the boundary or energy between the two positions. Notice how the two positions divide up the space. . . .

Let the contrasted positions of the observer and observed pain, and their associated thoughts and stories communicate with each other, while you simply listen to the stories and observe what’s happening in a neutral way. . . . At first the thoughts and positions may alternate in prominence or weight as you observe, but as you continue, they might both be present at the same time, carrying equal weight or significance. . . . Watch how the prominence of the positions changes over time.

In the same way that you did with your body, allow a tiny point of awareness to travel through the two spaces of observer and observed sensation, and open up the separation and the boundary between the spaces. . . . See whether the sense of distance between the two positions or points of view diminishes. . . . Notice whether the positions are any less definite from what they were originally. See whether the boundary between the two spaces has changed in any way. Is there any kind of space that includes the two positions now?

Continue the exploration, attending to pain in all its forms. . . . Cultivate the intention of healing the pain. . . . Let pain contact awareness directly, allowing its staccato throbbing to be fully present. . . . Let pain and awareness fully commingle, so that neither is at all apart from, or separate from the other. . . . If the pain is still ‘sharp’, or if time still occupies sharply defined ‘points’ or moments, bring more awareness to the breath, and gradually let the breathing slow down. . . . Eventually there may be no ordinary sense of moments, or time passing. . . . There may be no sense of identity that is distant from, or apart from, the sensation. . . . By relaxing into pain, you may find there is only sensation, without a sense of ‘I’ that is a target for, or victim of, the sensation. . . . Awareness and sensation can be in direct touch without confrontation, effort, or control. . . Without a doer or thinker, and without the labelling and distancing of what’s happening, there is only sensation, not pain. . . . There may be a way of relating directly and immediately to the sensation that is no longer sharply painful, an immediate way of relating that occurs ‘within’ or ‘beneath’ the ordinary flow of time. As long as there is no rejecting and identifying with sensation, there will be no getting stuck in it. Sensation can appear as movement and energy, yet not have the character of pain. . . . Contacting this energy of time directly, ‘beneath’ the ordinary flow of time, the entire situation can be opened up; the energy of pain can be turned toward release. Nothing is established or identified, nothing grasped or rejected or taken hold of in any way.

This exercise is an amalgamation and edit of a number of exercises from two books by Tarthang Tulku, Time, Space, and Knowledge, and Dynamics of Time and Space.

Bibliography

ABC news report on time pressure, 1999.

Dossey, Larry, M.D., (1982). Space, Time and Medicine. Boston & London: Shambhala.

Hallowell, Edward M. (2006). CrazyBusy. New York:  Ballantine Books.

Krishnamurti, Jiddhu, and David Bohm (1985).  The Ending of Time.  San Francisco:  Harper & Row.

Rechtschaffen, S. (1996). Time Shifting. New York: Doubleday.

Servan-Schreiber, Jean-Louis (1988). The Art of Time. Reading, Massachusetts:  Addison-Wesley.

Tulku, Tarthang (1994). Dynamics of Time and Space (DTS). Berkeley, CA: Dharma Publishing.

Tulku, Tarthang (1977). Time,  Space, and Knowledge  (TSK). Berkeley, CA: Dharma Publishing.

Walljasper, Jay.  (1997).   “The Speed Trap,” Utne Reader, Mar-Apr 1997

Communication obstacles to complete engagement at work or elsewhere

Besides trying to affirmatively characterize the concept of engagement, we can also try to identify and describe ‘things’ that limit engagement (or involvement) at different levels of consciousness. And we can do this description with respect to certain topics or activities, such as communication.

In this line of exploration, following are some questions to help individuals identify limits to completely-engaged written or live communication or dialog.  Quotes below are from David Bohm’s book On Dialogue.  Please let me know your suggestions for changes, additions, etc., including other reference material.

Is a reference to authority or  ‘the facts’ a manipulative attempt to reinforce my positions?

“. . . there is no place in the dialogue for the principle of authority and hierarchy. We want to be free of

hierarchy and authority . . . .  Rather, we need a place where there is no authority, no hierarchy . . . sort of an empty place, where we can let anything be talked about.” (p. 42, OD)

Is there a feeling of pride or arrogance (not just simple appreciation or confidence) that is separative or divisive?

Is there a feeling of self-consciousness or humility that’s counterproductive?

This can be a subtle way to withdraw, disengage.

Is there an aggressive attempt to get information or agreement?

In general, are you being divisive?

Are you pushing things, restless, in a hurry, racing against time?

Are you sure, or certain that you know the ‘truth’, or what’s ‘right’?

“. . . you have to watch out for the notion of truth. Dialogue may not be concerned directly with truth – it may arrive at truth, but it is concerned with meaning.” (p. 37, OD)

“There are also the relativists, who say that we are never going to get at an absolute truth. But they are caught in a paradox of  their own. They are assuming that relativism is the absolute truth.” (p. 38, OD)

Are you trying to persuade or convince someone in a way that takes sides against others and is somewhat manipulative?

“Conviction and persuasion are not called for in a dialogue. The word “convince” means to win, and the word “persuade” is similar. It’s based on the same root as are “suave” and “sweet.” People sometimes try to persuade by sweet talk or to convince by strong talk. Both come to the same thing, though, and neither of them is relevant. There’s no point in being persuaded or convinced. That’s not really coherent or rational. If something is right, you don’t need to be persuaded. If somebody has to persuade you, then there is probably some doubt about it.” (p. 27, OD)

Are you taking sides, and becoming attached to something?

Are you settling for negotiation?

“People will come to a group with different interests and assumptions. In the beginning they may have negotiation, which is a very preliminary stage of dialogue. In other words, if people have different approaches, they have to negotiate somehow. However, that is not the end of dialogue; it is the beginning. Negotiation involves finding a common way of proceeding. Now, if you only negotiate, you don’t get very far – although some questions do have to be negotiated. A great deal of what nowadays is typically considered to be dialogue tends to focus on negotiation; but as we said, that is a preliminary stage. People are generally not ready to go into the deeper issues when they first have what they consider to be a dialogue. They negotiate, and that’s about as far as they get. Negotiation is trading off, adjusting to each other and saying, “Okay, I see your point. I see that that is important to you. Let’s find a way that would satisfy both of us. I will give in a little on this, and you give in a little on that. And then we will work something out.”” (p. 18, OD)

“For example, people at the United Nations have been having what are often considered to be dialogues, but these are very limited. They are more like discussions – or perhaps trade-offs or negotiations – than dialogues. The people who take part are not really open to questioning their fundamental assumptions. They are trading off minor points, like negotiating whether we have more or fewer nuclear weapons. But the whole question of two different systems is not being seriously discussed. It’s taken for granted that you can’t talk about that – that nothing will ever change that. Consequently their discussions are not serious, not deeply serious. A great deal of what we call “discussion” is not deeply serious, in the sense that there are all sorts of things which are held to be non-negotiable and not touchable, and people don’t even want to talk about them. That is part of our trouble.” (p. 7, OD)

Are you somehow trying to win, or score points in some kind of game?

“Discussion is almost like a pingpong game, where people are batting the ideas back and forth and the object of the game is to win or to get points for yourself. Possibly you will take up somebody else’s ideas to back up our own – you may agree with some and disagree with others but the basic point is to win the game. That’s very frequently the case in a discussion.  In a dialogue, however, nobody is trying to win. Everybody wins if anybody wins. There is a different sort of spirit to it. In dialogue, there is no attempt to gain points, or to make your particular view prevail. Rather, whenever any mistake is discovered on the part of anybody, everybody gains. It’s a situation called win-win, whereas the other game is win-lose – if I win, you lose. But a dialogue is something more of a common participation, in which we are not playing a game against each other, but with each other. In a dialogue, everybody wins.”  (p. 7, OD)

Are you distant, standing outside as an observer of the other person, or the group?

“Normally we don’t see that our assumptions are affecting the nature of our observations. But the assumptions affect the way we see things, the way we experience them, and, consequently, the things that we want to do. In a way, we are looking through  our assumptions; the assumptions could be said to be an observer in a sense. . . .  When we observe we forget that, and we are looking without taking that into account. But this “observer” profoundly affects what it is observing, and is also affected by what it is observing – there is really very little separation between them.” (p. 69, OD)

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In general, in the ‘zone’, or the state of mind of complete inner engagement, one’s inner resources are completely integrated, with no conflicts or divisions.  This is accompanied by a natural sense of fulfillment and well-being. Therefore, anything creating or reinforcing an experiential split or a separation of aspects of the experiential field, including structures such as subject and object,  here and there, and now and then, tends to be counterproductive. Anything that integrates the energies of a situation, or makes them more cohesive, tends to be productive. Whatever we can do to decrease the holding strength of our complexes, habits, and other experiential structures will help approach the ‘zone’, increase inner engagement, and contribute to our improving performance and fulfillment.  (See Chapter one of my book Flow, Glow, and Zero: Introducing a Vision of Peak Performance for the New Millennium. For a copy of the first edition, download from: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/19843470/FlowGlow%26Zero.V1.pdf )

Developing a new level of stress management/ mastery

In October 2008, for a ten-million-dollar contest sponsored by the Google corporation, I submitted several ideas for projects that could help a lot of people. One idea proposed developing a new level of stress mastery training. From my submission: “Traditional stress management (TSM) offers principles and methods effective for handling a certain level of stress. However, TSM effectiveness is limited by a focus on objective (rather than subjective) factors and the lack of important practices. In particular, TSM can’t answer this essential question: What can you do to neutralize stress the instant after it’s noticed, without taking any overt action? We should develop a new level of stress management education and practice by offering stress mastery workshops. Online and onsite versions of a workshop will be designed to teach how to stop the stress development cycle (SDC). Follow-up resources will be offered for both online and onsite participants to improve and measure their learning. After a sufficient number of participants take the two versions of the workshop, results will be used to validate that training diminishes stress and improves productivity and well-being. This workshop will present the key to mastering stress: rather than being a persistent, object-like ‘thing’ that we can only ‘manage’, stress is actually a multilevel cycle that can be changed as it occurs. Workshop participants will examine examples of the SDC, identify different stages of the process, and learn how experiencing feelings as ‘negative’ only occurs at superficial levels of the cycle. Participants will see how to ‘unravel’ the SDC, get to the core of ‘negative’ and painful feelings, and allow them to change to satisfying neutral energy.”

The idea that stress is a malleable process (often called the ‘field communique’ in the Time, Space, and Knowledge vision) rather than a kind of fixed ‘package’ is novel, and it offers considerably more flexibility in dealing with stress. I wrote a paper on the process (SDP) for a training and development audience, and the paper (at http://groups.google.com/group/playing-in-the-zone/web/the-stress-development-process ) is included as a page on my Playing in the Zone Google Group (http://groups.google.com/group/playing-in-the-zone), which you could join if you like. Here are three examples of ‘sections’ of the SDP included in the paper:

Have you ever awakened to see, first thing, just a blank white ceiling? Not knowing anything else, like which room you were in, in which direction you were oriented, what day or time it was? Then your ordinary reality started to be pieced together. You realized you were in a particular room, oriented in a certain direction, but didn’t know what day it was. And then you figured out which day it was. Before long you were thinking about what you needed to do that day.

Were you ever working with some papers and cut your finger on a paper without knowing it right away? In other words, even though you cut your finger some time before, and even though you felt some kind of sensation in the background of awareness, you felt no real pain associated with the sensation until you actually saw your cut? And only then felt pain from the cut? And then you said something like, “Oh, I cut my finger!”

Have you ever been so concentrated, so absorbed or engrossed in something or some activity or someone that you were unaware of your normal identity, other objects, activities, and people nearby, and unaware of time passing and possibly even where you were? If so, afterwards did you ‘come out’ of the absorption to a ‘normal’ feeling of identity, space, location, and time passing?

These common experiences confirm and clarify stages of the SDP. Becoming very familiar with the stages makes it possible to ‘terminate’ or arrest the process, using awareness to relieve negativity and change its energy. I hope to discover more examples of the process–if you have an example, please let me know.

Avoiding pain leads to a stronger feeling of time passing

How does our sense of (psychological) time get created? How is this related to avoiding feelings we end up labelling ‘negative’?

In this (severely) edited dialog with physicist David Bohm in The Ending of Time, J. Krishnamurti broaches the possibility of ending psychological time:
K: Now how am I . . . to be free of time? . . . Can time as thought come to a stop? The memory of experiences, hurts, attachments . . . can come to an end when the very perception asks, what is it? What is hurt? What is psychological damage? The perception of it is the ending of it. Not carrying it over, which is time. The very ending of it is the ending of time. . . .

Trying to understand Krishnamurti’s proposition, Bohm focuses the discussion on a specific example of being hurt:

DB: The first thing is that there has been a hurt. That is the image [of ‘me’ being hurt], but at first I don’t separate it. I feel identified with it.
K: I am that.
DB: I am that. But then I draw back, and say that I think there must be a ‘me’ who can do something.
K: Yes, can operate on it.
DB: Now that takes time.
K: That is time. . . . Let’s go slowly into it. I am hurt. That is a fact. Then I separate myself—there is a separation—saying, I will do something about it.
DB: The ‘me’ who will do something is different. . . . It projects into the future a different state.
K: Yes. I am hurt. There is a separation, a division. The ‘me’, which is always pursuing the becoming [In this dialog, the word ‘becoming’ refers to the ego trying to become something], says, I must control it. I must wipe it out. I must act upon it . . . . So this movement of separation is time.” (p. 72)
DB: . . . A person is thinking that the hurt exists independently of ‘me’, and I must do something about it. I project into the future the better state and what I will do. . . So I am hurt and I will become non-hurt. Now that very thought maintains the hurt.
K: That’s right. . . .
DB: Now if you don’t maintain it, what happens? Suppose you say, I won’t go on with this becoming?
K: Ah, that is quite a different matter. It means I am no longer thinking, no longer observing, or using time as an observation.
DB: You could say that is not your way of looking. It is not your theory any more.
K: That’s right. . . .
DB: Because you could say time is a theory which everybody adopts for psychological purposes.
K: Yes. That is the common factor; time is the common factor of man. And we are pointing out time is an illusion . . .
DB: Psychological time.
K: Of course, that is understood.
DB: Are you saying that when we no longer approach this through time, then the hurt does not continue?
K: It does not continue, it ends—because you are not becoming anything.
DB: In becoming you are always continuing what you are.
K: That’s right. Continuing what you are, modified . . .
DB: If man feels something is out of order psychologically he then brings in the notion of time, and the thought of becoming, and that creates endless problems. [This last statement is from p. 23.]

(Excerpted from pp. 69-73 of The Ending of Time, by J. Krishnamurti & David Bohm (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985).)

In the following quotes from Dynamics of Time and Space, Tarthang Tulku uses the word time in a broader sense than just psychological or linear time, as the word is used in the above excerpts. With this provision, however, one can see remarkable similarities in content to the above.

When we lose contact with time, we have cut the dynamic central to our lives. . . . Subjectively, there is the sense that time is flickering, like a film not properly adjusted on its reel . . . . There is strain that goes nowhere. . . .
These structures are in place before consciousness fully forms. . . . they give rise to nervous agitation or uneasy pain . . . .
If the momentum of time’s forward conducting persists, the agitation and its underlying ‘flickering’ intensify. Suddenly there is an abrupt break, as if the reel of film . . . had snapped. Everything freezes—movement vanishes. . . . Pain has been transformed into the fixed and rigid structures of linear time. Consciousness emerges into a temporal order in which time is a hostile force . . . . Time in its pastness grinds us down . . . feeding us the lifeless recordings of the past and the seductive fascinations of the future.
Caught in this fabricated past and future, we are divided against ourselves. Our knowledge and energy are spread across the linear length of the temporal order. Thus, when we set a goal, we assign a part of our constructed identity to that goal. Now it is as though a part of us was ‘out there’ in the future along with our projection, pinned against the temporal horizon of the present moment.
Increasingly confined, we find it deeply disturbing just to inhabit the successive moments of our lives. . . . The specific ‘point’ of time that we occupy lacks all capacity to hold time’s dynamic. Life goes out of the present, drained away ‘across’ time.
We may respond by withdrawing into a dull numbness that has a quality almost like being shocked or stunned. . . . In our worn-out dullness, we are like a baby that has cried itself into exhausted sleep.
If we could awaken at this point to the feeling of pain, we would actually be close to the original dynamic of the time that we have lost. But this alternative is not available, for we are too closely identified with the pain. As ‘I’ merge with ‘having the pain’, I become the victim of what objectified time has presented. I possess the pain and am possessed by it; in this feedback I repossess it, tightening its hold. Awareness arises only in the wake of recognition, and so can lead only in the direction of further identification.
Accepting the reality of the pain assures its continuation. (pp. 295-7)
Through a direct focus on the painness of pain, this ready interpretation can be recast or re-projected. If there is no ‘I’ as subject—no one making efforts with regard to the pain—there will be no pain to be identified. As pain enters experience and is projected into awareness, it is received without labels and identifications and reactions. There is nothing to be conditioned and no one to be caught. Without the subjective framework, pain is stripped of its solidity.
. . . In this new arriving of what time presents, the logic of temporality defeats itself. The past is gone, the future not yet arrived, the present too short: ‘I’ am nowhere. (p. 305)