July 8

Time Travel – Getting MORE Time!

The following is a synopsis of the Open House Discussion hosted on July 8th, 2022 with guest speaker Michael Shaun Conaway.  These discussions are part of a series that will culminate at the upcoming Imagining in Action Summit in Cancun,MX. 

“Life can only be understood by looking backward; but it must be lived looking forward”
 Soren Kierkegaard (1813–1855)

What is your relationship to time?

24 hours in a day. 

60 minutes in an hour.

Past. Present. Future.

Some of our current models for time as humans go back to Babylonian Sumerians and how they classified time a few thousand years ago. However, our relationship to time has also changed over the years, and continues to change.

The astrophysicists and physicists who have studied time have contributed to a change in how we view time and that change has also come from the phenomenologists - German philosophers who have investigated time and put some of our assumptions about time aside.

These days, our feelings about time can vary. Some of us may feel as if we don’t have enough time to do the things that are important to us, that urgency has hijacked our time, or that we waste time. We may feel that time is scarce, which, by the way, is a recent phenomenon.  

However, what if time doesn’t work the way we think it does. In fact, quantity is not actually a characteristic of time, even though we have created all the increments of time for our use. Instead, we are really only having an ongoing experience in this present moment of time. Understanding this can change how we relate to time, and how we talk to ourselves about time.  The discussion led by Michael Shaun was about how we can change our relationship with time.

Michael Shaun took us through an exercise where we visualized our past and future. We went back to our oldest memory, making it real in our mind. Then we went forward to something happening in the future that we are looking forward to. Traveling to these “places” in our mind can make them feel real to us. But, we cannot actually travel to the past or the future.  There is only a past and a future that we can imagine, and bring to the present moment. This may seem like an obvious thing, but we often don’t live this way. 

Your entire life from your first waking moment to your last breath is here, in this moment. And this precious moment has traveled with you your entire life. It was there when you graduated from kindergarten. It’s here now. One of the misconceptions about time is that you have a past and you have a future, and that those things are separate from this present moment. You can remember the past, but you can’t go back to check it. And you can visualize the future, but you will always be here and now. You always go to bed now. You always wake up now. The future is just a notion and yet we feel we have evidence the future is coming.

But for us, time is always and only happening in this one precious moment.

The ever present past 

The ever present past—it’s our memories, and you can access them at any moment. 

The ever present future—it’s what we can imagine, and is just out of reach. 

This current precious moment includes your whole past and whole future right now.

When we have a model of time that is separated into these 3 pieces, the past can feel like something fixed that we can’t change. We have judgments about it, and feel like we have to deal with it, maybe by burying it, or telling a different story about it to impress others. We can also have hope or fear about our future. We all have ideas about how we want our future to go or not to go.

That can leave the person we are in this present moment in turmoil, being perplexed by the incongruence of the person we have been in the past. The three pieces are not in harmony.  The past and the future are not in alignment with the person I think I am today, or with the actions I need to take.

If I can’t see, based on my past, that I am the type of person who can take these needed actions, then it becomes difficult to take them. Or, if I don’t see a future that can go the way I want it to go, then taking action towards that future seems futile. 

However, when we consider the past and the future as an integral part of this precious, present moment, then time can become an ally. This isn’t about trying to wish away experiences we have had in the past, or to reframe them so much that they are unrecognizable or disappear. This is about integrating our past with who we are now, and what we want our future to be.  What has taken place in our past can shape our leadership in the present moment.

Time is your Ally

When we consider time as an ally, we can bring about a different future. Have you ever wondered why aspirational projects don't come to fruition? As much as we desire a different future, desire alone doesn’t make this new future a reality. Wishing, hoping and imagining are great, and even necessary, but they don’t change the circumstances today. These desires can even sometimes diminish our experience of today. If we are wishing for something in the future that we don’t have today, this precious, present moment can be colored by what’s lacking.

We have the capacity to determine the things that we want to have happen in the future. Once we have made that determination, the new future we want to bring about orients our actions today.

Holonic Time

We can reference our past accomplishments and qualities along with creating the attributes and capabilities we will need for the future we envision and bring all those characteristics and ways of functioning to this present moment. 

This is a holonic* model of time - where time is integrated, and we feel as if all of the pieces of who we are, past, present and future, are oriented towards a particular future. 

The future is what we are aiming for, it is often informing our planning and action, however, what is happening is only ever happening in the present moment.  By relating to time as holonic, we can reap the benefits of our past experiences while mining our imaginings of the future, all for the action needed today. 

Wrap it up!

All of  time is contained within this one precious moment. Time isn’t scarce, however we may have too many things on our to-do list. While we can’t create more time, we can do something about that overstuffed list of things to do.  What if, instead of filling our lists with things we think we should be doing, we spend time imagining the future we want to bring about, and let that future guide our actions and determine what is important? What if we treated this moment as precious - this one precious moment - and didn’t cram it full of things that are not aligned with the future we envision?

If we considered time this way, what would become possible for us? As a collective, what becomes possible if we all get behind a future we can imagine together?

Imagining is the key to coming up with a future we want. And continuing to imagine it as we take action, begins to bring that vision into reality. 

This one precious moment is where we live. It is our human inheritance and the story of being a human. It happens right here, right now, for your whole life, so… make the most of it.

*Meaning of Holonic:  Adjective. holonic (not comparable) Pertaining to holons; involving something that is simultaneously a self-contained entity and a part of a larger system.  - Wiktionary

Synopsis written by iLumn8 contributing author Safiya Robinson, in-house copy editor Susan Bouet and founder Anne Peterson.