Here and now, not in the past,not in the future. This is the core of the mindful awareness. Fundamentally only the present is real, the only part of time we really own. The existence of the past is arguable, the future can consist of hopes and worries, – but is basically unreal. This we know, and staying focused on the moment is the core of our practice. Everything is process, change, all there is is the moment, here and now.
And perhaps this spiritual practice also reflects science in more than a psychological understanding. The reality of “time” is uncertain even in the scientific sense of the concept. My opinion has always been that when my spiritual life comes in conflict with the, so far, scientific evidence, I have to change my way of spirituality. Luckily I do not have to change anything when it comes to “time”.
Rovelli has been working with one of the world’s leading mathematicians, Alain Connes of the College of France in Paris, on this notion. Together they have developed a framework to show how the thing we experience as time might emerge from a more fundamental, timeless reality. As Rovelli describes it, “Time may be an approximate concept that emerges at large scales—a bit like the concept of ‘surface of the water,’ which makes sense macroscopically but which loses a precise sense at the level of the atoms.”
Realizing that his explanation may only be deepening the mystery of time, Rovelli says that much of the knowledge that we now take for granted was once considered equally perplexing. “I realize that the picture is not intuitive. But this is what fundamental physics is about: finding new ways of thinking about the world and proposing them and seeing if they work. I think that when Galileo said that the Earth was spinning crazily around, it was utterly incomprehensible in the same manner. Space for Copernicus was not the same as space for Newton, and space for Newton was not the same as space for Einstein. We always learn a little bit more.”
Einstein, for one, found solace in his revolutionary sense of time. In March 1955, when his lifelong friend Michele Besso died, he wrote a letter consoling Besso’s family: “Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
Rovelli senses another temporal breakthrough just around the corner. “Einstein’s 1905 paper came out and suddenly changed people’s thinking about space-time. We’re again in the middle of something like that,” he says. When the dust settles, time—whatever it may be—could turn out to be even stranger and more illusory than even Einstein could imagine.
– Illustration Cole Thomas, The Present, Wikimedia commons
Update: As you will see from the comments I am not the only one focused on time and the present. http://onlyhereonlynow.com/2012/07/06/the-clock-isnt-ticking/