In his essay “Is Now A Moment In Time?” Michel Bitbol talks about “. . . the pure referring ‘now’ from which everything is referred to.”
“Everything” is this case refers to time as well. That is, in “the pure referring ‘now'” there is no time; time is also referred to, a signification arising in a world signified by the pure referring now.
And yet . . .
Perhaps a simpler way to think about time this is to differentiate between chronological time (it takes a year to learn to speak passable Greek) and psychological time (I’m too old to learn a new language).
Chronological time is not complicated because it is helpful. It correlates with the seasons, the phases of the moon, menses, childhood and adulthood, birth and death. It’s just a way of organizing a living that is already loosely naturally organized.
But we internalize it and thus become slaves to the clock and the calendar. They were made to be helpful but we have become their servants. Jim Harrison called clocks and calendars “cosmic business machines.” Suddenly we are in a race against failure, death, closing time, Friday . . . None of which exist – nor do we – in Bitbol’s pure referring now.
So an interesting exercise is simply to give attention to this “pure referring now” and see what happens. Can we reach that place in which a) there are no distinctions and – yet, somehow – b) distinctions arise?
Can we find the non-differentiated stillness which generates all differences?
It’s kind of a trick question because if we say “yes,” then we’ve made a distinction – we’ve distinguished the “non-differentiated stillness” from what it is not. We mean well, but we’re kidding ourselves.
On the other hand, if we say “no” then we’re sad and disappointed because we are very much attached to the idea that folks who perceive the “non-differentiated stillness” are a bit more spiritual, a bit more beloved of God, Jesus and the Buddha, et cetera.
But we aren’t talking about a competition here. We are talking about a way of seeing or thinking – or living, really – in which a natural alignment, a natural coherence, of structural and ontological experience appears, dissolving separation, fragmentation, dissociation and sacrifice.
What remains is the gift of Love, which is the Sun around which the gift of attention joyfully revolves.
Humans exist only as a potential to receive,
When this takes place the world is transformed.
For only then, you, the Holy Child of God,
have It, Love, to give.
For sure this is possible.
It is not difficult. We already are “That.”
We need only to put the fear of undoing away.
We will together go into the web of words
with the Light of Love and awaken our Self.
(Tara Singh Remembering God in Everything You See 61)
Tara Singh’s emphasis on reception matters because it shifts the focus from doing – from activity, intention, goals and outcomes – to simply sitting quietly, giving attention, and trusting that God will provide and that Christ will be the light in which we remember that “Nothing real can be threatened” and “Nothing unreal exists.”
Of course, it is hard to be receptive this way. It is hard to sit quietly, just giving attention to whatever arises, just receiving – as a gift – that which arises. We are so hellbent on striving, fixing, improving, amending, doing . . .
Yet it is in this stillness – this deliberate slowing-down, breath by breath, this letting-go-by-letting-be – that we at last catch glimpses of impersonal, unconditional Love. We begin to perceive in a clear gentle and sustainable way that dissociation and separation are not possible, save as a passing form of experiencing our own self.
Ramana Maharshi was asked once why mental bondage – thought patterns, egoic conditioning and habits – was so persistent. His answer was clear and practical.
The nature of bondage is merely the rising, ruinous thought ‘I am different from the reality’. Since one surely cannot remain separate from the reality, reject that thought whenever it rises.
And I would soften that the tiniest bit to say simply let that thought of separation arise and do what it does until it just floats away, which it will certainly do. It’s not a problem (not even when we make it one).
If we do not cling to the concept that we are dissociated from Love – separated from God – different than what is real – then eventually those concepts will lose their stranglehold in and on our mind. They will drift away like rain clouds and what remains will be radiant and luminous, bringing happiness to all, without condition or qualification.
What a blessing to know there is no “other.” We are all one, for Life is one. The power of oneness is in every man, woman and child. It is superior to the power of institutions. Within each one there is the vision of wholeness – a light (Tara Singh The Joseph Plan of A Course in Miracles for the Lean Years 70)
The pure referring now is the stillness from which all life emerges and into which it all falls back. Life is one. God, as such, is not akin t0 patriarch watching over his lambs but more like the generative fertile Earth mothering us all. The referring now is not a time, nor even an experience, but that from which time and experience are differentiated by virtue of reference.
If this sounds complex or mysterious, well yes. It can sound that way. And appear that way. It can feel that way. And yet attention – brought lovingly, gently and generously – to our experience of living, of being the instance of life that we are, will intimate a whole in which there is neither birth nor death, nor beginning nor end, and we will know that we are blessed.