My name is Tom O’Leary and this is the Time Academy podcast. Today we are talking about Time Tenses or in simple terms what we call the Past, the Present and the Future.
So, let’s dive straight in:
- How much of your time do you feel you spend in the present?
- What hold does the past have over you?
- In fact, what hold does the future have over you?
- Does one of the three tenses have more sway?
These are big questions so if you feel the need to pause please hit that button!
Different cultures and peoples may view time differently but at the very least we share the experience of time as a function of the rotation of the Earth both on itself and around the sun. This gives us night and day, summer and winter and broadly the sense that time is something outside us.
This is sometimes visualised as some form of eternal movement like a river flowing. Some people feel like they are floating along in the river, through time as it were, whilst others stand still as time moves around them. Rivers also only flow in one direction and this allows us to place events in what we call the past, present or future or at least before and after something else.
The past is thus where we’ve come from, the present is where we are now and the future is where we are going. And yet it isn’t just that.
A famous Harvard study back in 2010 found that around 47% of our waking hours are spent in the non-present. Just think about that – 47% of our waking hours are spent in the non-present: so contemplating what happened in the past, might happen in the future, or indeed just fantasising.
It is as if we time travel in our minds, meaning our experience of time isn’t always as linear as we imagine. Indeed we can be caught up as much or more by unlived memories from the future as by lived memories from the past. We can be caught up as much or more by unlived memories from the future as by lived memories from the past.
If you imagined yesterday going to Paris tomorrow, is that in the past or the future?
The ancient Greeks in fact had two gods of time: Chronos and Kairos. Chronos time is measured and counted, while Kairos time is lived and experienced. Our societies mostly only kept the serious one (i.e. Chronos, to whom we owe the word chronological). And over the ages, he has been given ever sharper knives with which to slice up time.
So in exploring this I’m just making the point that whatever uncertainty and discussions there may be around time the only certainty is that the present is the ONE place where we get to take action, where opportunities appear and possibility lives.
Philosophers and physicists can continue to parse the nature of time but their conversations only happen in the present. The more time we can spend there the more we can impact the world around us. For many spiritual traditions the present is all we have and it is from here that we conjure up the past and the future.
In fact, researchers have found that when imagining future events the brain network that is activated is very similar to the network that is activated by remembering our past!
So how does this help? Well, the invitation as you go through your day is to reflect on how you balance the three tenses of past, present and future and to perhaps ask yourself:
- What can’t I let go of in the past that is impacting my present?
- And equally, what can’t I let go of in the future that is impacting my present?
Thanks for listening to the Time Academy podcast. I hope this has offered you a slightly different perspective. If you find it helpful please share! I’d also love to get your feedback and hear your stories so please feel free to email me.