How often do you feel pressed for time? How often do you feel that there’s just not enough time to do everything you’d like to do? And when you sincerely ask someone how they’re doing, have you ever noticed how often people complain that they’re “fine, but just so terribly busy?” The information age, allowing us to connect to just about anyone and everything in the world, only worsens this phenomenon. Some have called ‘time stress’ the number one disease of the modern age. I think we can safely say that ‘time stress’ wasn’t so common, say, four hundred years ago, regardless of which continent you’d pick to examine. Scientists say that people probably even talked slower back then. Can you imagine how this overheats your mind? Counter-movements such as ‘slow management’ and ‘mindfulness’ do not seem to be able to significantly relieve society of this ever-increasing problem.
Is it a problem? I think it’s a serious problem, both on the physical, mental and spiritual level. Physically, time stress results in higher and less stable brain wave frequencies. This directly hinders the brain in its healthy control of the bodily functions. A lot of modern endocrine-related illness, including burn-out and Parkinson, are related to the quality of our brain wave frequencies. On the mental level, we allow ourselves less time to quietly rethink why we want to do what we do. We slip away into a state of living life on auto-pilot, trying to keep dozens of mind threads organized all at the same time. The epidemic of ADHD disorders is largely due to the overdose of stimuli that parents do not protect their children from, often because they are too busy themselves with their career or on a thousand other activities.
On a spiritual level, it’s obvious that all this activity merely serves to distract the mind from pondering about life’s fundamental questions, such as: “What am I?”, “What’s my purpose here?”, or more generally “What’s the meaning of my life?”. When you draw the timeline of the fourteen billion years of the cosmos on a piece of paper, our time stress becomes ridiculous. On this letter-sized timeline, mankind on the tiny speck of dust called Earth is only visible as a dot on the very end. You and I allow ourselves to become extremely agitated about dozens of senseless worries on issues that usually take only a few days or less. In the context of the larger picture of time, our time stress becomes totally insignificant and absurd. And yet you and I keep doing it. Why? Because I’m so afraid that my life will be be meaningless if I don’t achieve this or that before I die. My self as a special individual must matter, otherwise my existence is for nothing. And so I strive to be of value; to the world, but (unconsciously) ultimately to God. And what a strife it is!
Of course this does not work. At the very end of my life, chances are that I evaluate almost all of my efforts as either failed or unimportant. What remains is the question of how much love I’ve allowed myself to express in my lifetime. It’s sobering to read in the Bhagavad Gita, some 4,000 years old, that “as long as you focus on selfish desires, your life is utterly wasted.” And yet that is exactly what we see most of the seven billion people around us do daily, including ourselves: making sure I get by physically, occupying my mind with an endless string of idols, just to prove to everyone, including God, that I am significant, that my life is not utterly wasted, even though in the bigger picture I’m only like a firefly’s brief glow in time.
In A Course in Miracles, Jesus offers fundamental release from this hell, by bluntly presenting the extremely coherent nondualistic metaphysics of the unreality of space and time. Let’s focus on time here, the fourth dimension of duality. Jesus says: “Time is a trick, a sleight of hand, a vast illusion in which figures come and go as if by magic. Yet there is a plan behind appearances that does not change. The script is written. […] We but undertake a journey that is over. Yet it seems to have a future still unknown to us.” (W-pI.158.3-4). Since our brain is so linearly programmed, it dazzles us to try to fathom the unreality of time. After all, aren’t you and I reading this in time? We are studying A Course in Miracles in time, aren’t we? How can it be unreal? Jesus explains this in chapter 25, where he says that since we can only think linearly, his message presents us in time-bound fashion as well: “All this takes note of time and place as if they were discrete, for while you tink that part of you is separate, the concept of a oneness joined as one is meaningless.” (T-25.I.7) Jesus meets us in the condition we think we are in.
The liberation that Jesus offers us lies in the realization that we are the dreamer of a nightmarish hallucination, which does not affect our reality in eternity at all. Recall Lesson 167: “When the mind elects to be what it is not, and to assume an alien power which it does not have, a foreign state it cannot enter, […] it merely seems to go to sleep a while. It dreams of time; an interval in which what seems to happen never has occurred, the changes wrought are substanceless, and all events are nowhere. When the mind awakes, it but continues as it always was.” (W-pI.167.9) To be sure, “continues as it always was” is meant atemporal, since in eternity there is no such thing as time. Jesus uses the metaphor of a carpet that seems to roll out before us as we move through time. “Time seems to go in one direction, but when you reach its end it will roll up like a long carpet spread along the past behind you, and will disappear.” (T-13.I.3)
So we fool ourselves by holding on to our conviction that we must find our own meaningfulness within time and space. Our reality and our salvation lie outside time. Can we in any way picture this? Jesus helps us in this regard in lesson 107: “Try to remember when there was a time, perhaps a minute, maybe less, when nothing came to interrupt your peace; when you were certain you were loved and safe. Then try to picture what it would be like to have that moment be extended to the end of time and to eternity. Then let the sense of quiet that you felt be multiplied a hundred times, and then be multiplied another hundred more. And now you have a hint, not more than just the faintest intimation of the state your mind will rest in when the truth has come.” (W-pI.107.2). This is our choice to make, not something God bestows on us or not, depending on our past sins. God does not know of time, nor indeed of this entire world. As we read in chapter 26, this dualistic dream never happened in reality: “Not one note in Heaven’s song was missed.” (T-26.V.5).
That’s all very nice and comforting, but how do I learn Jesus’ lessons while I still believe I’m here in the 21st century, trying to make a living for myself and my loved ones? You and I won’t wake up next morning outside time and space, that’s for sure. The comforting thing is that we do not have to. Awakening is a slow process. Just as the Bhagavad Gita advises us to lead a normal life and… “be very active in this world, but as a man centered within himself”, Jesus in A Course in Miracles teaches us to practice the holy instant: a temporary focus on God’s unconditional love now; momentarily forgetting both past and future. “Now is the closest approximation of eternity that the world offers” (T-12.IV.6) – a statement, by the way, that led Eckhart Tolle to write his bestseller “The power of Now”. The Buddhists say: “The past is gone; the future is not yet here. You only live now, in the present moment.” How feasible is this?
The entire workbook of A Course in Miracles is a mind training program in which you train yourself daily to spend a little more time in the now, in a state of mind focused on forgiveness, a focus on unconditional love. This way you invite the Holy Spirit to guide the direction of your thoughts, an invitation the Holy Spirit gladly accepts. And after a while you notice that your mind is much calmer, and life seems to flow much more smoothly. Life is still busy at times, but with less stress, and more good fortune. Many ACIM students can attest to this experience. It is this experience of peace that is the goal of A Course in Miracles and ultimately of your life here. How much unconditional love do you allow yourself to express today? Practice the holy instant with gladness, and then return to the busy world, but centered on the Holy Spirit’s guidance, which cannot fail.
Also see my seven “guidelines for living in an illusory world” in “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles“. This guidebook, endorsed by Gary and Cindy Renard, was published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is available at Amazon.com: