First published in the Glastonbury Oracle
Because I’m a past life therapist, people sometimes ask me if life really is neatly divided into past, present and future. This is such a regular question that I thought I’d try to answer it in this article. The way I see it at the moment, my reply would be both yes and no.
It seems likely that time in the higher realms is quite different to here. I suspect there may still be some kind of ‘event time’ – a sense of experiences unfolding – but not as bound to the clock and calendar as our lives are here. Perhaps at the highest levels, reality is all one huge extended present.
Philosophers and mystics such as Eckhart Tolle say the real key to life is in the present rather than the past or future. In the 1970s, Ram Dass proclaimed ‘Be Here Now’. The same idea has come back with the concept of mindfulness – that being focused in the present brings greater awareness and peace of mind.
True as that is, for most people it’s neither easy nor practical to try living constantly in the present. Our brains seem hard-wired to see life as past, present and future. In one way, this is created by the spinning of the earth and its movement round the sun. This gives us the comfortingly regular rhythm of our days, nights and seasons.
In addition, we begin life as babies, progress in clear stages to adulthood, and towards the end of our lives. This makes it hard to avoid seeing life as anything but journey. It has a beginning and an end, and feels like we’re always moving away from the past and towards the future.
This time-centred view of life probably is a limitation and an illusion. But it’s also a great gift. It stops everything from happening all at once. It allows us to experience life one day at a time, which gives us the space to understand and cope with our lives.
Now that more and more people are accepting the idea of reincarnation, time as we know it is expanding. Past life knowledge shows how our soul path goes well beyond this lifetime. That greater voyage still seems to be moving from past to future, with our lives like a series of train journeys chuffing their way through different times and places.
However, it’s probably not exactly like that. The past itself may not be what it seems. It’s natural to think that although we can change the future, the past is set in stone. But I wonder if this is true. Maybe there are different timelines and life paths for us that extend into both the past and the future.
When people re-invent themselves, their future changes because they’ve switched the timeline they were going to take. What if that also applies to timelines that go into the past? It would mean that we don’t need to feel too defined, or even trapped, by the past – an intriguing possibility.
So I’ve come to a makeshift arrangement with the universe about all this. While appreciating earth time as a blessing, I accept that it’s a temporary arrangement. For practical purposes, I still deal with life as a train going from past to future – while leaving the train windows open to let in the fresh air of the wider universe.
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