One of the interesting side-effects of Stage Three has been my re-evaluation of the concept of time once it is observed outside a self-based reality.

Our misinterpretation of time is thinking it is linear, in other words, time is a continuum formed by our past, as determined by our memories and an imagined future. At the point where the past and future meet becomes the now moment, which in reality is the only place we truly exist but rarely recognise. Past and future are both are a play of the mind as neither have an existence in the now moment.

The past is given life through memory, which fools us into thinking that we have left the present. We disconnect with the actual input of the current moment and retrieve and relive a historical point on our personal timeline. If I think about a situation in my past I can imagine the images of a “me” being there and the associated emotions that point in time involved. This energises the illusion that I have somehow time-travelled to a date-stamp in the past. Memory makes us think that our existence is in continual movement, that we are a separate entity moving on our timeline from past to future. It also helps create the delusion of self because in order to experience memory there has to be a “me” to recall the events and a body to feel the emotions those memories generate.

I define memory as having three manifestations. The first is what I call Historical Memory and it this is very much a central part of the self and is based on the recall of images of events, places, people and situations we have stored as real in the mind. There is a strong link between the self and Historical Memory because a fading of the latter results in a fading of self.  The second is Emotional Memory, the recollection of the feelings and emotions we attached to these historical events. The two usually bound together but not always. For example, I maybe I can recall a situation as an image but not remember how I felt about that moment at the time or alternatively I might have a feeling of particular emotion relating to a situation but not clearly recall what that might be. The third leg of memory is Practical Memory, which is vital for our continued physical maintenance once we move out of a self-based existence and I will discuss that shortly.

We have an option to also become immersed in the future through our ability to imagine what a time yet to come will look like. This imagined future can be divided into practical and fantasy imagination. The practical incorporates thoughts and images surrounding a “real” event or situation – what you will say to your boss tomorrow about that raise, the speech you might be about to give or a shopping list. Fantasy imagination is the ability to create a situation that doesn’t exist in your projected future – winning the lottery, getting that promotion or finding your partner in life. Both imaginings are equally unreal of course in the now and support the illusion that once again we can time-travel but this time in the opposite direction to memory created time.

The combination of memory recall and an imagined future gives form to who we think we are in this immediate moment. What happens as conscious memory and an imagined future dissolves, as part of the transition to a no-self Stage Three reality, is that gradually the concept of time as linear stretching from a starting point in the past (birth) to some imagined destination in the future (finally death of course) fades as well.

What happens if we place ourselves in the now middle of that line with visually the past (memory) to the left and future (imagination) to the right and then take both of those notions away? That which remains is the now and nothing else. Welcome to a no-self state of being.

I have assured you previously that no-self existence isn’t a zombie transformation or as Bernadette says:

We’re afraid that without feelings we will be inhuman, cold, insensitive, robot-like creatures, so detached from this world that we might as well be dead.

What keeps us functioning in the world as “normal” beings once access to the full range of memories and imagination are no longer available post-no-self, are a combination of practical memory and the unconscious part of Historical Memory. Practical Memory gives one the ability to function as before where the other two legs of memory have been removed from the conscious state. I can still drive, remember where I live and who the people are in my life without the need to specifically recall specific situations where I gained that knowledge or attach any emotion to them. This is Practical Memory in action. Practical Memory is like the analogy of riding a bike. If you learnt that skill at some stage in your life it remains with you in the subconscious. You don’t need to recall all the aspects of learning to ride or any emotional consequences to jump on a bike at this moment. It just happens. Practical Memory in Stage Three seems to only arise in response to the requirements of the immediate moment and it does that spontaneously rather than being consciously summoned.

Unconscious Historical Memory is the recall of past events to the now moment only when required, and I find that no Emotional Memory is attached to that recall. The fact I can write this book with some of the information based on events that happened in the past illustrates that there is some form of access to the past. If my friend Phillip asked me about the time we spent together in Bangkok last year I would know that we did meet up and also, I would be able to list what attractions we visited together. This is a factual recollection and I would classify it as totally practical. Not to have access to this sort of information would start to fall into the dementia category. However, it all gets very hazy once I move beyond the basic memory recall and my description of Bangkok would be in line with Amy’s:

I noticed how flat and lifeless it (memory) was – like colourless slides on an antique film.

I believe that the quieting of the mind and the lessening of the intrusion of thoughts happens first. It seems that as the mind stills the past and future (memory and imagination) fade and the control of emotions over so many of our attitudes and actions also diminishes leaving us free to observe life from the present moment, which is a state of natural mindfulness except the “mind” bit has been removed. I think it is the natural “playfulness” of the mind that results in the creation of everything we take as real and important – memories, emotions and thoughts. In the now moment, none of these has any true reality – they exist only in the sandpit of our imagination.