Only when we see ourselves as creations of time and the past can we begin to live fully in the present.
Bryan Hubbard | March/April 2012 Issue
Here are two fascinating facts about you. The first is that you don’t exist. You exist as a body, of course, but according to neuroscience, the idea of “you” as a constant and coherent entity is a fiction. Second: You have a 5 percent chance of suffering from chronic depression in your life, and 10 percent of you are taking an antidepressant. These facts don’t sit well together. If “you” don’t exist, how can you be depressed? And it’s not just a question of depression. This non-existent you wants things: It wants to be happy; it wants to have a peak experience; it wants to be enlightened.
This may all sound like esoteric waffle, but the “Who am I?” question is the most important thing you can ever ask yourself. After years of study, self-reflection, meditation—and years of mild depression—I finally figured out what I am… and what you are, too. The result was not only an immediate end to my depression but a miraculous opening to the deep wonder of the present moment. Here’s what I figured out. “You” are not a constant entity, sitting in command central. That’s an illusion, made up by a stream of thoughts that seem to be linked; they’re not, and there is nobody thinking the thoughts. But here’s the paradox: You’re not nothing, as neuroscience has it, either.
Instead, this sense of “you” is an amalgam of three selves, two of which are created in and through time. I call the selves, or centers, the “Present time-body,” the “Past time-body” and the “Potential center”—and that’s the one outside of time, and space, too. It might seem an extraordinary thought that you are the amalgam of three entities, each calling itself “me” or “I.” One of the axioms of Christianity is the idea of the three-in-one God: the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. In ancient philosophy, we were a blend of the intellect, passions and spirit. The three-in-one self is the basis of Freudian psychology, which proposes that we are made up of an ego, a subconscious and an unconscious.
I finally started to realize what we really are—and what the source of my depression was—with the death of my father. He was in his 90th year, yet there was nothing wrong with him physically. A check-up a few years previously had revealed that he had the heart of someone 20 or 30 years younger. Yet there he was, on the day I went to see him at his home, lying in bed.
He had become tired of life, and he wanted to die, he said. He turned away from me and faced the wall. Three days later, my mother telephoned to tell me that my father had died.
On the day I visited my father, he was both a body that was talking to me in the bedroom in present time and a past that seemed to inhabit him. In the end, that’s what happens to most of us—the past bears down on us, as if it were a separate being, until we can’t stand it, not even for one more day.
Of the Three Selves in my model, the Past time-body causes most of our worries and, indeed, most of the strife in the world. It is the seat of depression and addictions. It is where the past accumulates and the past-to-future movement occurs—but it is a past we never fully understood at the time. The Past time-body is made up of the fragments of these experiences. Essentially, “you” are a complex collection of partially understood events.
As we grow older, the Past time-body accumulates more energy from experiences and becomes more substantial. By the time we reach adulthood, we have become time-heavy. We are as much the past as we are the present, whereas when we are small children, we are time-light, more in the present moment than in the past. As I learned, a depressed person is more time-heavy than one living more in the present. At the far end of that spectrum is insanity. An insane person is so disconnected from the present—so time-heavy—that she or he can see and hear almost nothing of that which surrounds him.
Bryan Hubbard is the author of Time-Light: How Your Past Keeps Creating Patterns and Problems—and How You Can Fix It.
Ode readers can download the first part of Time-Light free.