Time Reversal Exercise

(Apologies that I haven’t written. The forest fires here disrupted things for a while, and then I had a bad recurrence of my CFS. Here’s an extract from my diary, because I’ve continued during this period to do the TSK work.)

Time Reversal.

While sitting here, planning next year’s Insight meditaton retreat, how has the past and the future been operating in memory? They’ve been regularly present. I’ve been subliminally thinking back to my youth, back to the chaotic years of mid-seventies, back to my previous retreats. I think of my experience writing for the TSK group, and my future (months) in the sense of being a continuing student of this course. I’ve been thinking, too, in an ‘in-and-out’ way, of my monthly mindfulness group. It’s true that these thoughts have had a ‘looking up ahead there,’ and a ‘look back there’ kind of directional structure.

Reversing: Look back from later in this day, to now – e.g. going home from this cafe. The first thing that I notice is that this is possible, because the ‘future’ is imagined. It’s an unfamiliar feeling, this looking back from the future. It’s makes me realise that the ‘forward looking’ is partly generated by anxiety (about getting now ‘right,’ for later on). In other words, there is a specific ‘mental set’ that is shaping the future-imagining activity. Sitting here doing this brings a ‘vagueness.’

One thing this exercise does, this future reversal, is give a sense of the present having many more (infinite?) possibilities. Perhaps if I allow the possibility of ‘infinite’ possibilities,maybe  that will open up the ‘vague’ quality of the present that comes with this exercise. That vagueness may be, at least, the ‘infinite possibilities’ aspect.

It certainly brings more spaciousness. It also doesn’t seem to take away the power of ‘doing now.’ Though, a fear comes that this way: that I won’t have a reason to go from here; which fear I can see depends on: a) not including the possibility that Time is timing, not the ‘ego-me’; and b) the belief that by controlling time, I create times actions. It’s as though the ‘ego-me’ believes that without such control (and anxiety) time wouldn’t happen the way I need it to happen. (All this also depends on an inner critic that thinks that surrendering such control will lead to apathy.)

What about the reversal from past to present? Normally, I look back to when I came here (and, for example, my wife’s reactions to my coming out the the cafe); and back to when I woke up, and other memories of the beginning of the day. What if I look forward from these memories? [Is ordinary time a construction made up of what we do with our memories?!]

Immediately this has a shocking impact on me. While it seems a legitimate move, it’s very unfamiliar! I try to go back the ordinary experience, the ordinary wayof conducting the past, and I realize that it has to do with egoic anxieties, too. In this usual mode, I assess the past against the ‘projects’ of my present egoic me! Even as I pick up my cup of tea to drink (I ordered black tea with lemon, and the waitress went across the street to fetch a lemon from the greengrocer), it seems to involve remembering my requesting the tea, and the self-image (at the time) that went with that! I now have a ‘feel’ of how this ‘situation’ (the environment, the cafe) can be a symbol, and a symbol that lead to a further unfolding out of the implicit infinite possibilities.

I wave through the cafe window to a man who passes by, and realise that I am fitting that experience into a memory of the past – my past contact with that man, in this village I live in. (The go-me doesn’t want company, right now). So: I am looking back from present experience back to the ‘past.’ Now, what if I reverse that? When I do, it places more emphasis on the open possibility of the present encounter. I am less attached to sitting by myself in this care, doing my TSK reading for the week. If he happened to choose to come in, it’d present unknown (and fresh) possibilities. Makes me wonder whether the usual mode of conducting the past sent the message that I didn’t want company.

John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ comes on the radio. I reverse my past experience of this song. I notice the old orientation, and how it carries a deficiency. I notice that the present has a fuller experience, from the past being here, not ‘back there.’ Another song comes on, and it’s Hendrix’s ‘Little Miss Strange.’ I listen, reversing my past experience of rock music. The listening is more alive than usual. Normally I don’t notice how much the past is here in the present, implicitly informing my experience (though that is logical, of course).

I am at home, and in my office singing to myself. My wife walks in and laughs about something. My paranoid self begins to get defensive, but the exercise kicks in, and I notice that instead of defensive, I am interested in the possibilities that are unfolding. I am not looking back and retrieving old wounds.

About Christopher

I first read TSK in 1978, and have enjoyed exploring Rinpoche's (printed) work ever since. I'm an insight meditation teacher in Sydney, Australia, and I live in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. I'm also a psychotherapist and a Focusing trainer (Gendlin).
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