New York Interludes
It is interesting how, as a disciple one’s sense of time changes. Reincarnation and a growing comprehension of the soul’s long journeying; the quest of God discovery and it’s great canvas of aeons; impositions of karma; the growing urgency of the soul to manifest and serve; the intensity and velocity of a spiritual path; these and other things confer a different perception of time and how to best use it. In the ‘only-one-lifetime’ culture of Western thought, time can seem like an enemy—youth’s springtime giving way to the sickness and infirmity of age; the race to gather, nest build and succeed before frailty descends; time dominated by ambition, outer goals; achievement measured by materiality and gain—but in the spiritual life time is more about process than productivity, a God-given gift, something eternal and something to wisely use than be used by. And its empty spaces, times of purposelessness or non-clarity, conceal other realities, prepare us for what lies before us and other processes of growth and change.
Time can be poetic—rhythmic or cyclic—and there is creative time, dream time, down time, joy time, meditation time (non-productive timelessness!), the soul’s non-temporal time, eternal time—‘wasted time’ too, though what constitutes this will also differ according to one’s capacity for insight. And perhaps too the great illusion of time itself, for as Ramana Maharshi observed—and Guru seemed to share this view—time is only a construct of human consciousness and has no independent reality. Extraordinary!
Regarding ‘wasted time’, Guru corrected my erroneous perceptions of this early on in my disciple life when on two occasions he requested my wife and I to stay in New York through to the following celebrations, a 4 month and later a 6 month layover requiring a total abdication of all ‘normal’ responsibilities, a discarding of EVERYTHING (along with my ‘productivity’ notions of time). So we were to discover another dimension of time, a reality that only values time for the soul’s unfoldment. We protested of course: “But Guru, we have new jobs in New Zealand, we’ve just found and paid for a newly rented Centre, there are six new disciples to take care of, classes are organized for the next three months, a relative is undergoing surgery.” Guru waves his arm airily, dismissively, no need to even reply, and you know even then with your neophyte’s tiny comprehension that he has seen deeply into something measureless and universal, taken you into another chapter of your God discovery. We all have these stories.
In hindsight and all those months later you would be overcome with gratitude, since this long time spent around a great master has been a golden time, days and weeks bathed in light, immersed in processes of great change that, though unknowing, you were deemed ready for, catapulted from that rung in your evolutionary ladder way up to THIS rung! How memorable, this love and overreaching concern of our teacher who prized our God-realization so far above all other worldly considerations.
In the great spiritual and religious traditions in all of time, time itself is most sacrosanct when given over to the search for God, this ultimate and highest purpose. “You shall seek me and you shall find me” says God in one of the old Christian texts. “Because you seek me with all your heart, I will let myself be found... I will put a new spirit in you, I will remove from you your heart of stone.”