Time is a concept

One of the funny things is that time does not exist for awareness. From the perspective of awareness only the present moment exists. Everything in the past or future only exists for the ego mind. I am not saying that time does not exist as a concept. It absolutely does, but it does not exist from the perspective of awareness. From a purely conceptual point of view, this makes some sense. You can’t travel back in time from your own perspective (from true awareness) because the past doesn’t really exist anymore and you can’t go forward in time because the future has not occurred yet. You can neither change the past nor predict the future because they are just concepts for an ego mind and does actually exist in this present moment.

Part of the ego mind’s hold on our sense of self is it’s ability to act as a tool to try to predict the future and learn from the past. This amazing ability to extend the moment of thought back and forth in time is one of the things that make us so god-like in our abilities in comparison to other animals. If the time veil of the ego mind stopped with just learning from the past or predicting the future, we’d all be just fine, but the ego mind plays a sort of game with time. It does it’s best to predict the future and because the ego mind is time oriented itself it has an emotional stake in the outcome.

When the ego mind predicts the future correctly it feels “good” and when something happens that it didn’t predict it feels “upset”. This emotional game plays out for the ego mind endlessly. The ego mind constantly creates versions of the future and using it’s ability to build a conceptual model of the world, it plays out future actions and reactions until it finds a result it not only thinks is likely, but that will move the outcome in it’s own favor. The ego mind “executes” the most beneficial prediction in each moment and compares what happens in reality. This ego mind obsession with prediction can get so out of hand that the predictions extend into the present moment. You can see this in conversation sometimes when someone is so busy thinking of the next thing to say to move the conversation a particular direction that they completely fail to comprehend the actual conversation happening.

All of this amazing play of the ego mind is still not a huge problem at this point, but here’s where things usually split from reality all together and end up causing a lot of suffering… The ego mind doesn’t like being “wrong” about it’s predictions. Being wrong means that the model of the world as the ego mind understands it is flawed in some way (or even worse, the ego mind sees the world itself as flawed). The choice here for the ego mind is to update the model to be closer to reality or find a story that makes some kind of sense using the existing model. Depending on the type of flaw in the ego mind’s model of the world, the perceived loss of past experience and re-building and updating the model can be overwhelming. In this case the ego mind re-interprets reality through the lens of it’s own inaccurate prediction and warps the perception of reality to make sense of it. You can see this play out when people argue – especially about something that is a core belief. Each person has their own version of what reality is in their ego mind and each one of them believe they are absolutely correct from their point of view, so there’s little chance that either one will update the flaw in their ego mind’s perception of reality because it would require them to have to let go of potentially years of flawed modeling and re-live all of the previous memories to update a new model.

Awareness doesn’t need to build models of the future – there is no future from it’s perspective. It is content in the ever changing moment to moment happenings as they actually are. There’s no “good” or “bad” prediction because there’s no future outcome. It responds to the moment – in the moment. It doesn’t have to prove knowledge of the future or attribute regret or attachment to the past. It doesn’t have to interpret a small set of information and work out complete concepts. It just kind of watches reality unfold as one never ending moment called now…

The ego mind is part of awareness, so again, it is not a separate thing to be overcome or removed. The ego mind part of awareness can mistake itself for the whole since there are no divisions between awareness and the ego mind. This relationship is sometimes referred to as a wave in the ocean believing that it is separate from the ocean itself. The wave (or ego mind) has a shape and form, so it seems kind of separate from the ocean (awareness) itself, but without the ocean it cannot exist. This kind of analogy is a stretch, but it is easier to grasp and it at least points to something that has the same kind of relationship as the ego mind has to awareness.

Clear Your Head

You have too much going on in your head right now. If your head is swimming with thoughts and plans for the future or memories of the past or maybe just stuck on a reoccurring thought that will not resolve itself, you will benefit from the following exercises.

You need to be present in this moment in order to better understand who you really are, so let’s clear your head now of some of the thoughts and make some space for a new experience.

Reclaim your attention

Let’s get you to let go of the endless chatter for just a few minutes and try to help you get your thoughts organized in a way that will actually help you put them aside. We’re going to do a few exercises to get your attention back on the present moment as fast as possible. The exercises will take 1-5 minutes each. By the end of the exercises you will feel significantly more present and focused.

Breathe (1 minute)

I know that it’s the last thing you want to do right now, but you need to take a minute and breathe to get back in control of your thoughts. If your thoughts are really entangled, you may find yourself refusing to do this simple exercise because it takes you away from your seemingly important chatter. That’s fine, do it anyway – you have that power over your thoughts. it’s only a minute – less time than it takes you to find some other distraction. I’m here to help you get to a place where you are no longer lost in thought and have some real focus again so you can actually make progress. Trust in the process, I wouldn’t ask you to do this if it wouldn’t help.

We’re going to make this breathing exercise super simple. You need to do something called box breathing. It’s simple technique to put your mind back in a state where you have a bit less attachment to your thoughts.

Box breathing is as simple as 4 steps. Breathe in for a count of 4, hold your breath in for a count of 4, breathe out for a count of 4 and then hold your breath (out) for a count of 4. Repeat this for 4 rounds (which will come out to just about a minute).

You don’t need perfect technique here, just try to hit roughly 4 seconds on each step. If you can’t hold your breath in or out for the full 4 seconds, don’t worry about it, just try to get close and keep going for the full 4 rounds.

Do box breathing for a minute and then continue on to the other exercises.

If you are unable to do this exercise on your own, I can guide you through a focus meditation that does the same.

Brain dump (5 minutes)

You need to honor your thoughts if they are stuck in your head. You need to get your thoughts from your head to a more permanent place so you can continue without worry about forgetting something you think is important.

Stop and make some notes. Get a sheet of paper or pull up your favorite notepad app and put “Brain Dump” at the top. Now do a brain dump – a stream of consciousness style list of every thought currently in your head. If you can’t keep up while taking notes, put short words or phrases or even scribbles or symbols to represent the more complex thoughts until you feel you have most of them recorded in some way. Don’t worry, you will come back and make this more organized/refined. Right now just note everything as it comes and when you are done, take about a minute to fill in any gaps you think might prevent you from remembering the gist of each item on your list.

Do your brain dump and then continue to the other exercises.

If you can’t even get things onto paper or in a note, you may need to go back and do the focus meditation.

Categorize your thoughts (5 minutes)

Go through your notes and put them into categories. We’re going to use a simple and powerful tool to help do this called an Eisenhower Matrix.

You are going to move your list of thoughts into a grid like the one here.

UrgentNot Urgent
ImportantDo FirstSchedule
Not ImportantDelegateAvoid
Eisenhower Matrix

Sort your thoughts into the appropriate row & column. The items that go into important and urgent cell need your attention and you’ll need to work on getting those done or resolving them very soon (not right this minute though). The ones in the important but not urgent cell are going to be added to a calendar to work on later. The ones that are not important but urgent, you are going to delegate to someone else. Finally the ones in the not urgent and not important cell you are going to let go of.

This won’t work for every thought. It primarily works for task related thoughts, but I find that it does get the real world tasks out of my head and the beginnings of a plan together for them, and that allows me some more space to look more effectively at the thoughts that are more complicated. At the very least it helps you to identify the thoughts that seem more important that others so you know where to focus your efforts if necessary.

At this point you have your thoughts down in a way that you can look back on and you should have enough clarity to move forward.

I’ll come back to this post and really walk you through the rest of the process later. For now I’ll give you a brief list of steps:

  • Add “Do First” items to your calendar
    • If it takes 2 minutes to do an item, do it now.
    • Put the things that can’t be moved first.
    • Schedule remaining things from most important to least important
      • Leave gaps of 1/2 the time you think it will take to do the task between it and the next task (if it will take 3 hours, don’t schedule anything closer than 1.5 hours after it.)
      • Be realistic and kind to yourself and don’t schedule too many difficult things in a single day if possible.
  • Add the “schedule” items to your calendar
    • Follow the same steps as above.
  • Delegate the unimportant but urgent items to someone else you trust can handle it.
  • Notify the people that you need to keep in the loop when you scheduled something.
  • Work through the calendar items.

Focus Meditation

Focus Meditation (5 minutes)

This is a meditation to help you re-focus. This meditation will work best if you can find a relatively quiet place to sit where you won’t be disrupted. Your seating posture can be whatever helps you feel supported and comfortable. Make sure that you are in a position that allows you to take deep breaths without any restriction as this is primarily a breath focus mediation.

Put on some headphones and listen to the guided meditation below…

Guided Focus Meditation


We're going to do a 5 minute guided focus meditation.  For this meditation you can be in any position that allows you to take deep breaths. Take a few moments to get comfortable.  

(5 second pause)

Let's get started.

I want you to pay attention to how you are feeling right now.  I don't want you to judge or try to change the way you are feeling.  Just notice your current state of mind as it is.  I'll be quiet for just a few moments while you look inward.

(15 seconds of silence)

OK, let's continue.

We're going to give ourselves permission to just be present for a few moments and not focus on the way we feel, but instead focus on just our breath.

I want you to take 2 clearing breaths with me.

(long breath in)
(long breath out)

(long breath in)
(long breath out)


Now, we're going to be doing some highly focused breathing.  This time we are going to be holding our breaths for a few seconds after we fully inhale and exhale.  We're going to inhale for about 6 seconds, hold for 4, exhale for 6 seconds and hold our breath out for 4 seconds.  If you have any difficulty, just breathe naturally and try to pay close attention to the feeling of breathing in and out.

We're going to do 4 rounds of breathing, I'll count out loud for the first 2 rounds, to help you focus on the timing, and then we'll do the last 2 rounds without the count.

Let's begin.

Breathe in... 5...4...3...2...1...
Hold 3...2...1...
Breathe out...  5...4...3...2...1...
Hold 3...2...1...
Breathe in... 5...4...3...2...1...
Hold 3...2...1...
Breathe out...  5...4...3...2...1...
Hold 3...2...1...
Breathe in... (silent count from 5)
Hold (silent count from 3)
Breathe out... (silent count from 5)
Hold (silent count from 3)
Breathe in... (silent count from 5)
Hold (silent count from 3)
Breathe out... (silent count from 5)
Hold (silent count from 3)

Well done.

Now, this is very important part of the exercise...

I'm going to ask you to pay attention to how you are feeling again.  I don't want you to judge or try to change the way you are feeling.  Just notice your current state of mind once again.  I will be silent again for a few moments.

(15 seconds of silence)

Wonderful, You are done with this exercise.