It’s that TIME again. A New Year. Out with the old. And in with the new. Time for reflection and resolution.
Different Aspects of Time
Chronological time is due to the movement of the Earth, Sun, and planets. It is commonly divided into seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, seasons, years, decades, centuries, millennia, and yugas. One revolution of the Earth around itself creates the daily cycle of sunrise and sunset, day and night. A revolution of the Earth around the Sun creates the year. Chronological Time is slow....like the endless summer days of a child. Chronological Time is subtle and immeasurably vast.
Yet Earth has its own way of measuring time....Geographical Time. As far as we know, our Earth came into being some 3 billion or so years ago...an amount of time impossible for our minds to wrap themselves around. Earth Time is infinite, it would seem....while Human Time is so impossibly finite. Earth moves impossibly slowly.....millions upon millions of years of evolution of not only plants and animals, but also of the materials that make up Earth itself. Geographical Time is infinitely huge and also vast.
Our Human Lives are measured in similar increments of time. We celebrate the time that we are born. We also mark the passage of time.....our birthdays, our weddings, and our deaths. It helps us to make sense of our world, our lives....we establish rituals.....to counter the unavoidable confusion and chaos of being a spirit currently embodied – and grounded - on this planet Earth. Human Time is fantastically short.
In any event, I have been giving Time...Human Time especially.....a lot of thought over the past wee while. Having reached the seventh decade of Human Time, I am face-to-face with the reality that Father Time is close at hand. Sobering! And I don’t drink!
As I scribble these notes, I’m on board a flight toward a Caribbean destination and cruise. A few moments ago there was a great clamouring by fellow passengers as a woman collapsed in the aisle. She had stood in line ahead of us as we went through security at the airport....excited, loaded with luggage, traveling alone. The pilot electd to put down in Raleigh Durham, enabling paramedics to whisk the woman off to hospital. We do not know the outcome. Only that one moment she was with us, and the next she wasn’t. More evidence of the passing of time.
What comes after Human Time? Or is there an ‘after?’ As always, whenever seeking wisdom, I return to the teachings of yoga for further guidance. Founded in Buddhism and Hinduism, yoga philosophy is as current today as ever.
In Ayurveda, the ancient Eastern medical system, time is measured in such terms as pala, vipala (one sixteenth of a pala), and muhurta (moment). These and other Sanskrit words for time have great meaning. One pala means the time required for the upper eyelid to meet the lower eyelid while blinking. A palaardha is the time required to close half the eyelid, which is a fraction of a second. Imagine trying to calculate your life in palas!
Time can also be divided into prana, which in this context means respiration. There are fifteen prana per minute in a normal healthy human condition. If the person’s life is very stressful, having anxiety and worries, then the rate of respiration is higher. It will be beyond twenty per minute. But in a normal healthy individual, the number of respirations is 15 prana per minute. 15 multiplied by 60 is 900 breaths, 900 respirations, or 900 prana an hour and 900 multiplied by 24 hours of a day is 21,600 breaths per day. This is chronological time based upon the breaths. It is believed that prana governs cellular life, while yuga is macrocosmic time that governs the movements of the universe. It is also believed that humans are prescribed a certain number of respirations .... And once having used them up, we exit the planet. Yet another reason for practicing langhana pranayama....long slow breathing!
How is it possible to achieve all that we have to do in the short amount of Human Time that we are given? Perhaps that is one of the reasons why we are all in so much of a rush nowadays? I have no answers...an insight only.....if Human Time is so precious – and it surely does seem that way...perhaps the most precious gift that we can offer to another human is some of our Time. Open ears, open eyes, and most of all, open heart.
With notes from Ayurveda Today, November 2002