By Alex Musat
The days, hours, minutes, and moments of the life you find yourself living are not all created equal. One minute does not equal one minute. Every minute has a vertical dimension, every moment has depth. This depth is you.
Time is precious. For you and me time is precious because it’s running out. Take a moment to feel a single pulse of your heart through the artery in your wrist. The number of beats left in your heart is a real number. Time is precious because this number is unknown to you. Strictly speaking, it is possible that you will die today.
There is a tacit assumption lurking beneath the surface of our minds that equates the unknowability of a specific cause of death with the non-existence of death. Unconsciously, this is how we temporarily resolve our dreadful impermanence.
The day-to-day for most people is fairly predictable. Few spend their time contemplating the variety of ways their life could end in any given moment. For those that do, contact with death’s reality is diffused by a psychological insulation, an underlying sense of, that’s not me—too unlikely.
Outside of the protection of your mental self, the truth of death is as direct as the contours of these letters hitting your retina right now. The ambiguity between the possibility of death and the actuality of it does not make your personal death any less real. Claiming the gifts of time requires you to confront a terrifying fact;
YOUR DEATH DOES NOT NEED A CAUSE
Science does not know where the electric spark that synchronizes the four chambers of your heart comes from. It appears and reappears seemingly out of nowhere.
It is quite possible that you will die in any particular moment, for no apparent reason at all. Many people do. The next spark in your heart may not return to follow up the last. While you may be taking great care of yourself with longevity in mind, your efforts will not absolve you from your final erasure.
If you can somehow bypass the psychological insulation that denies this fact and let the certainty of death penetrate you, you will likely have already closed your computer and begun doing whatever matters most to you.
Jump back in time about ten years ago.
What were you doing? Why? What did you care about? Most importantly, what did it feel like to be you flowing through time back then…?
Take a couple of sweeps at this to really get a good read on what it felt like to be you a decade ago (if you are getting weak readings and are unable to capture a satisfying sense of this, you may need some training).
Next, jump back five or ten years further and repeat the exercise. What is the quality and texture of the flow of you through time fifteen, twenty years ago?
Compare the felt quality of time, ten, then twenty years ago, with the moment you find yourself in now.
What do you notice?
Time seems to be getting more precious, doesn’t it?
It’s likely you’ve been sharpening your aim in life as you’ve gotten older (if you haven’t been doing this, you may need some training). If you are proceeding on any kind of creative path whether it be relational, business related, or spiritual in nature, you are probably coveting your time with increasing discrimination.
As we explored earlier, time is getting more valuable because your inevitable end gets closer with every passing tick. But, beyond this logic lies a deeper truth. You and time are what in zen is referred to as not-two.
Your mind and time are fundamentally inseparable
Time gets more precious as the shape and flow of your mind changes. Your mind determines the felt speed and content of time. The difference you feel when you reflectively compare ten-twenty-thirty years ago is the form and flow of your mind.
This form and flow is the depth, or verticality that penetrates time.
FRAGMENTS AND FORCE
As an adult you are responsible for managing your own time. With this sense of control, you are always trying to use your time wisely. What you are doing in any given moment is rooted in your deepest motivations and greatest values.
But these values are not always what you think.
Your personal ideology of how to live appears at the surface level of your mind. Mind’s surface content is what you can see—what you are aware of and can name.
Exclusive allegiance to this dimension of yourself—who and what you think you are—is both the source and sustainer of personal suffering and confusion. Those identified exclusively with their surface ideologies will always find themselves torn by what seem to be oppositional forces of nature.
However, these are not external forces of nature. They are dark spots in the self—pockets of fear and avoidance rooted in fundamental misapprehensions of what is. The lights are out but their force is strong.
These dark spots are home to the invisible values and ideologies within you that forcefully override your surface-level values and drive your day-to-day activity and reactivity.
The self struggles to make sense of the discrepancy between what we think we value and what we do value and, ultimately act from (think the doomed-to-fail new years resolution). These fragments are always in tension. Left unaccounted for, they run your life and define your consciousness.
Until you synchronize yourself with these invisible depths, you will likely always be subject to persistent chaos.
As such the responsibility we have as adults must extend into this territory. Simply knowing we are fragmented—operating from a totality of seen and unseen values in tension with each other—is the first step towards an apperception of time and mind’s deeper purpose.
But we need to be clear about the greater purpose behind this kind of psychological healing and integration. While we can—and should—tackle each particular dark spot systematically, do not confuse the fruits of this linear process—like finding more purpose and power—with the greater liberation that comes at the deeper levels of verticality.
Developing congruence within yourself sets the stage for a big jump. Getting our psychological “ducks in a row” reclaims the energy we need to cut deeply into time. To heal the fragmented self in this way gives us the possibility of approaching the timeless depth of every moment.
When we are no longer flowing in opposing directions, we have the personal power necessary to transcend both time and our individual psychology.
Before we move on however, we need to be crystal clear about something. This is not an escape from time or your autonomous self. It is a stage of depth, or verticality, at which you can participate more deeply with, and beyond, what happens in time. With this greater power—and it is truly something great to be sought—comes more responsibility, not less.
How do we integrate the self’s disparate and contradictory forces towards this singular aim?
The short answer to this question is that we must go beyond linear reclaiming of personal dark spots and into an integration of The Unknowable itself. This is the deeper practice that lies beyond conventional forms of time and psychology. Genuine developmental mind-training enacts this inquiry as an integral practice over long periods of time.
For now, we can begin to carve out some depth in our relationship to time and mind. In order for our inquiry to penetrate the surface mind and cut through our dark-spots, we must join it with action and feedback. Action and feedback is practice. Practice creates more verticality—a deeper mind and perception—in the stream of time.
THE WISEST USE OF TIME: PRACTICE
From the perspective of human development, the wisest use of time is developing the very mind that fiercely discriminates what is the best use of time—to use deep time as a means of transforming the flow and form of mind.
Deep time is the purposeful engagement of verticality with the aim of greater verticality. Put more simply, practice.
Here are a few guidelines to support your development in the perception and use of time. When these are “running hot” in your system, they enliven the developmental feedback matrix in which your mind will transform time and time will transform your mind.
If you are developmentally inspired, you will want to engage the days, hours, minutes, and moments of your life with the greatest focus and determination you have available. Here the attitude is more important than the content. Whatever you are doing, do it with singular determination and force. If what you are doing cannot be done wholeheartedly, examine why. Keep your eye on this at all times.
Your true purpose will never reveal itself at the surface level of your mind. You cannot capture the truth of what is and who you are through the images and narrative your mind creates. Follow them as cues but decouple your allegiance to them. Do not wait for certainty. Your mental fixations will never leave a mark on the radical flow of reality.
This smaller part of you—the need for certainty—must be surrendered if you want to grow. You must learn to act freely within uncertainty. Cutting through the need to know is a gesture of the mind that can be trained.
Pierce your doubt with action. Do not get rid of doubt—it’s a secret and precious force in your development. Confident action amidst doubt and uncertainty opens you up to receive “the good stuff” waiting beyond yourself.
As much as possible, intensify your doubt and intensify your action. This is how you change a conventional inquiry into a radical one that transforms.
Your action always sends an integrated signal back to you—a total communication you must learn to hear. Again, this will not be at the conventional level of hearing in which you arrive at some conclusion authored in your native language. This kind of hearing is radical and has to be developed.
Here the practice is to disentangle yourself from thinking. Look at your mind directly. Be suspicious of your great knowing. As you gain distance from fixated ways of knowing, the creative force of not-knowing can begin to shape you.
When you ripen into the ability to allow this shaping to happen, you are becoming open-source.
To be open-source means to participate with ongoing self-transformation in real-time—to be totally vulnerable to both gentle and dramatic transformations without turning away or collapsing into fixed perspectives of time, self, and reality. This is the essence of mind-trainin
These three together—one pointedness, doubt, and open-sourcing—enliven the developmental feedback matrix. Engaged wholeheartedly, they transform the mind to new modes of perception beyond autonomous time management and an external clock.
THE VERTICAL JUMP
The direction I am ultimately pointing you to is radical. The wise use of time as I have defined it is only a vehicle for attaining the timeless dimension of your being. Do not take this romantically though—I am talking about a real potential in you that can be awakened and stabilized. This part of you is outside of time, untouched by anything that happens within time…
Let’s jump into a deeper variation of the earlier exercise:
Instead of zooming back ten or twenty years, zoom all the way forward to the time and place of your death.
Hold this in your right hand.
Next, zoom all the way back to the moment of your birth and gently hold it in the other hand.
Breathe slowly and deeply as you hold your birth in one hand, your death in the other, and the distance between the two across your torso.
You now stand between your entire life, outside of time.
What do you see?
This body-centered contemplation can be a helpful in clarifying time and cutting greater depth into any given moment. However, the big jump I am talking about is not a visualization but a direct perception.
Developmental mind-training is a process of cutting deeper verticality across all moments in time.
A quantum vertical jump happens when the origin of your self-sense stands stably outside of time.
Developmental inspiration is calling us to awaken to this. Your life-in-time yearns to be infused with this awakened verticality. If you are stuck exclusively in time you will remain imprisoned by your own mind and your actions will never be fulfilled. When the vital depth of any moment is endarkened, that moment does not live at all.
I encourage you to reformat your mind in this direction. Enliven the developmental feedback matrix through radical practice and deep listening beyond the physical ear. Set your sights on standing outside of time while taking action within it.
Life becomes true service and boundless joy when you are large enough to embrace it from both ends.
Become the embodied apex of time and the timeless. This is the white-hot point of reality.
Gather your attention into this immediate sphere of experience. If you don’t know how, learn. Find a source of genuine developmental mind-training.
Do not give your precious time to shallow endeavors—they offer no gift to you or anyone else. Pierce your personal conviction and great knowing with Great Doubt and take decisive, confident action. Open, listen, be transformed by the force you send into time.
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