“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”
― Omar Khayyám
In some indigenous societies, for example, traditional Hawaiian culture, time is described as ‘vertical’ time, indicating that the past, present and future all exist simultaneously. In western culture, we see time as a linear, horizontal arrow, moving in one direction, the only thing that exists is the present. The past has ceased to exist and the future is simply speculation on what might be, until it becomes the present. The future does not yet exist, and may, or may not, ever.
If in our western way, we describe vertical time as an alternate paradigm in which the past continues to exist, we actually miss the point entirely. In vertical time, all time has simultaneously always existed, and never existed. Our mind, our thoughts, our persona and our memories are bound within the fiction of time. But a part of us exists outside that fiction, and can examine and even alter, the entire fabric of time as if it were laid out before us on a table. In such a paradigm, our ancestors and our descendants can witness and participate alongside us, particularly within sacred space opened for that purpose.
It is easy for us to understand how our own healing can heal our descendants. Even if we hold that only the “nurture” aspect of the “nature or nurture” duality is amenable to change, it’s easy to see that as we heal ourselves, this impacts our living and as yet unborn progeny. Yet the novel study of Epigenetics, shows clearly that for better and for worse, our own healing can also impact the “nature” aspect of what we transmit to our offspring, altering in a single generation, gene manifestation which is then directly conveyed to subsequently conceived children. In the western model of time, what happens to us can easily flow to those who come after. Cause and effec
In vertical time, it is more useful to understand a different paradigm, one advanced by Carl Jung. In that paradigm, it is not the planned and random events of today which cause the outcomes of tomorrow, but rather that the events of today are flowing toward the outcomes of tomorrow. Rather than cause and effect, the flow of time is about meaning. When we ask “why” did something happen, under the cause and effect paradigm, we look backward. What happened in the past to cause this?
Under the meaning paradigm, we look to the future. What will happen that made this event necessary? Or alternatively, toward what end or purpose is time moving. What is emerging or converging or assembling itself in the future, that made these present day events necessary and meaningful.
When we heal past trauma in our personal lives, we fully integrate the traumatic memory, completing its processing, connecting it to the other experiences of our lives. This gives it meaning and context. Quite often we also understand its purpose in our lives. Once our suffering has context and purpose, it is no longer suffering. This mirrors Buddhist ideas about suffering arising from our resistance to suffering and how our acceptance of suffering transforms it.
When we combine the concepts of vertical time, the paradigm of meaning, and the transmutation of suffering, it becomes clear that when we heal ourselves in the present day, not only do we also extend healing to our descendants, but those changes we make give purpose and meaning to the suffering of our ancestors, who are waiting, in vertical time, to see the fulfillment of their lives purpose, in us and in the choices we make.
“To be is to be perceived. And so to know thyself is only possible through the eyes of the other. The nature of our immortal lives is in the consequences of our words and deeds, that go on and are pushing themselves throughout all time.”
-Sonmi 451, Cloud Atlas
When we become conscious of the limitations of our beliefs about time and open to other, more expansive views, the impact of our choices and actions are clearly not just about our own emotional state right now, or even our own personal future, but as infinitely expanding ripples radiating forward and backward in time. The impact of our life choices instantly alters the cosmos across infinite distance, radiating deeply into both the future and the past.
Western culture views life as a zero sum game. In other words, for someone to win, another, or others, must lose by the same amount. Zero sum games are always competitive, often destructively so. In a zero sum game, personal hardship and suffering is difficult to accept. It seems meaningless. If I suffer, someone else benefits, by the same amount. If I benefit, someone else has suffered or must suffer. Why are my needs less important than another’s, why are their needs less important than mine?
We can be altruistic, giving, or suffering, in order to set right an existing inequity, but the impact of that sacrifice and thus the motive to do so, is limited by our capacity to sacrifice or suffer. In a zero sum game, we are severely limited in our capacity to impact the larger world. We seem quite powerless, and we often experience ourselves as powerless.
"Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."
— Mother Teresa
When we see the sacrifices inherent in expanding our own consciousness, healing our own trauma, facing our own daemons, as impacting not only ourselves in the present moment, but simultaneously all of our descendants, all of our ancestors, and all of the network of people they participated, participate or will participate with in life, then life becomes a non-zero sum game.
“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
In such a game, competition is not the only way to play. Cooperation makes as much, often more, sense. We no longer see ourselves inside a closed system with finite resources, where there must be winners and losers, and our choices revolve around which we will be.
“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
Rather both our suffering and our healing radiate outward throughout space and time, exponentially healing or hurting all those we are connected with.
In such a game, we can all win, or we can all lose. The effects of the energy, work and suffering we invest in our consciousness and healing are greatly amplified, expanding not only our inner world, but the universe itself. Thus everything we do and everything we are, has tremendous importance, purpose and meaning.
This is one of the topics we explore in the Intimacy, Connection Healing Series, a workshop for all those in the healing professions. Massage Therapists, Acupuncturists, Yogis, Counselors, Social Workers, Nurses, Breath workers, Energy workers and anyone with an interest in connecting more powerfully to heal.
We explore the powerful connection that sources healing and arises naturally in all healing work. Florida CEs for LTMs, LCSW, LMFT, & LMHC. New York CEs for LMTs.
Join me for my first workshop in Costa Rica, at Living Forest Retreat Center November 11-17
Follow this link for more information, cost, lodging, meal and transportation options!