On Time, Now, and Deep Sleep

In a previous post we looked at the interplay between mind and deep sleep (dreamless sleep) and explored why it is that we seem to have no experience of the state of deep sleep, why it is that we feel that we ‘go away’ during deep sleep, or that ‘nothing happens.’ In essence, this is because mind is inactive during deep sleep. It is at rest. And because mind is at rest, it generates no residue of its activity, no memory. When we wake up, when mind becomes active again, mind looks at the period of deep sleep and concludes that nothing happened. It disregards the entire experience.

However, there is another aspect of deep sleep to consider, and that is the aspect of time. Or rather, the non-aspect of time. The fact that time seems not to pass during deep sleep. The fact that the moment we fall asleep seems to be the moment we wake up.

How is this possible?

The answer has to do, again, with mind. Mind creates time. The active activity of mind (thought) gives rise to the concept of time. In other words, time is a projection of thought. In more other words, time only exists because thought says it does. It does not really exist. There is no such thing as time.

Most people immediately reject this notion as absurd. Of course time exists, they say. I experience time all the time. I am experiencing time right now, while reading this. Time is passing.

But time is not passing. If it were passing, time would be passing something. Some thing. There is no thing for time to pass. Are you sitting there right now, watching time pass you by?

I can look at a clock, you might say. I can see that time is passing.

But look at this clock:

now clockRejecting the concept of no-time is normal and understandable. Mind has created the concept of time, which all of us take for granted. And since most of us associate our identity with our mind — our thought — the knee-jerk reaction against any contrary notion is entirely understandable.

The key to overcoming the normal, knee-jerk reaction lies in our understanding of now.

We must understand that now is not a moment in time. Now is not a bubble moving along a timeline with one end extending left towards ‘the past’ and one end extending right towards ‘the future.’ This notion of a timeline is itself a concept which we’ve taken to be ‘real.’ It’s so deeply rooted in our understanding that we take it for granted. But now is not moving along a timeline. Timelines do not exist and never did. Now is not moving, not passing. Now is ever-present. When you started reading this post, it was now. At this point in the post, it is now. And when you finish the post, it will be now.

There is no point at which now changes from one now to the next. It is always now.

You could argue that change, or evolution, would not be possible without time. But you would be arguing this from the point of view of mind — of thought — which is the thing that creates the concept of time. Of course it won’t allow you to reject that concept. At least not at first. You must first give it a different model to sink its teeth into. To think about.

Ask your mind if it was now when you started reading, and if it is now now. If the answer to both is yes, ask if it was now at lunch time yesterday. Ask when the now of lunch time yesterday switched over to the now of now.

Ask to leave this now and go back to yesterday’s lunch time. Not to remember yesterday’s lunch time, but to actually go there. This might get the mind thinking differently.

If you get your mind thinking differently, you might start understanding time, or the lack thereof, differently.

Now ask your mind to visualize the timeline used for conceptualizing past and future, as well as the little bubble representing now, and to imagine the lines representing past and future dissolving and fading away, leaving only the little bubble representing now.

That’s all there is. Really. All other notions of time are a construct of mind. The activity of mind — thought — creates the concept of time.

Thought that creates the concept of time falls into two categories. One category is called memory and is collated as ‘the past.’ Memory comprises images in the mind. It is thought. Another category is called imagination, and is packaged as ‘the future.’ Imagination, too, comprises images in the mind. It is thought.

Each of these exist only as projections of mind. As thought. Occuring now.

Returning to the relation of time and deep sleep, and why time seems to jump from the point of falling asleep to the point of waking up, we see that the fact that mind is at rest during deep sleep is connected to the non-experience of time during deep sleep. Because mind is at rest, and time is a construct that arises with mind, during deep sleep, there is no time.