“And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched,
full of things that have never been, full of work that has never been done,
full of tasks, claims, and demands; and let us see that we learn to take it
without letting fall too much of what it has to bestow upon those
who demand of it necessary, serious, and great things.”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
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As this new year begins to unfold, what’s possible? Will 2018 be more of the same or can this be a breakthrough year, full of those “necessary, serious, and great things” that Rilke speaks of? For that to happened, we first must abandon our belief in a “new year.”
It’s certainly hard to dispute that there is a past, present, and future. We can remember the past, we’re experiencing this right now, and we anticipate there will be a tomorrow. Time repeats itself every day. The sun rises and sets, light dispels darkness, then darkness returns, then light again.
This is the way of the manifested world. But from truthful perspective, not just philosophically but according to quantum researchers, linear time is a human invention that simply doesn’t apply to what reality really is. In fact, the “now” is always new, it never repeats. In that sense, there is no history and no future, there is only now.
Veteran meditators know well the experience of detached, vivid present moment awareness traditionally described as “The Holy Instant.” The Course in Miracles defines it this way: “The holy instant is the instant outside time in which we choose forgiveness instead of guilt, the miracle instead of a grievance, the Holy Spirit instead of the ego. It is the expression of our little willingness to live in the present, which opens into eternity, rather than holding on to the past and fearing the future, which keeps us in hell.” 1
Making those choices means that we can culture this experience. But it could inadvertently suggest that experiencing The Holy Instant is a result of something we do. That raises a pivotal question: who is this “we?” Who am I, who are you? If we are humans weary of the rat race and looking for techniques to enjoy life more, while remaining who we accept ourselves to be, then the whole endeavor could prove to be ultimately distracting.
For instance, there are meditation teachers who begin their guided journeys with the suggestion to “center yourself.” On one hand this is a simple instruction that makes sense. Close your eyes, breathe, center yourself. On the other hand, who is the teacher speaking to? The one who is not centered. Is that one capable of being centered? Only in theory. In practice, you – the true you – is always centered. You just don’t know it.
So, a better instruction might be to relax into the experience of being centered which you have been too busy to notice. Obviously, that’s too many words for any kind of meditative journey but there’s an important distinction here, namely: you are already the you that you seek. In fact, if you are trying to “find yourself,” you are deluded and will never succeed, because the one who is looking is not who you are.
The early signs of authentic experience of Self shows up as a somewhat detached experience. You let go, you release identification with the illusion of linear time and space. Detached witness consciousness first emerges in the subtle dimensions, particularly through the third eye center. A space emerges in your experience between subject and object. That marks the beginnings of wakefulness or witness consciousness. Most people have had at least a few glimpses of this, momentary experiences of The Holy Instant. This space opens up and you feel yourself to be an observer, rather than identifying with what you are observing.
As you sustain your experience beyond mere fleeting glimpses and become consistent, your consciousness evolves to expand your awareness of the more subtle causal and super causal dimensions. Now your observation becomes more unified. A new experience dawns in you, as the witness and the witnessed are perceived and known to be one and the same consciousness.
We begin lost in an illusion of separation that progressively dissolves. Paradoxically, increased separation precedes increased unification. We wake up from the dream of ourselves as separate by become consciously aware of our separation. This allows subtle ranges of awareness to open, but they remain sub-dominant. As they increase towards dominance, the dense experience of separation yields and we “discover” – or we might say “remember,” who and what we have always been. This is profoundly different than hopes for enlightenment that leave your egoic identity in place, the same but improved somehow, like a spiritualized version of your illusory self.
Rilke spoke about a “long year.” Perhaps we can embrace that term as a good descriptor for the sustained experience of The Holy Instant, that delivers what all humans hunger for, the timeless experience of “I am.”