For many of us, the closest we’ve come to experiencing eternity is being on hold, waiting to talk to someone at AT&T. But one afternoon at Lake Siskiyou in Mount Shasta CA, I glimpsed eternity in a much more satisfying way.
The sky was a smooth, consistent shade of grey. I couldn’t see the sun’s circle of light through the grey, nor could I see individual clouds. The air was still. And like water running over my hands at just the right temperature, I could barely sense the air on my skin.
Time somehow evaporated, and I didn’t know when it would become tangible again.
Of course, the sky had been grey before. The air temperature had matched my skin before too. This wasn’t the first time I imagined what it would be like if the sun didn’t rise and set, if we didn’t gauge our lives by hours and days.
It wasn’t the first time I wondered how my life would change if humans didn’t need sleep and we were awake all the time.
The difference this time was the focus of my awareness. In that moment – regardless of how long the moment lasted – I allowed myself to experience a moment out of time.
How eternity influences my daily life
Needless to say, that elusive glimpse of eternity was fleeting.
Yes, I realize how ironic that is. How can something so short-lived be everlasting?
But perhaps a moment of eternity is all you need to taste the spirit of who you are – beyond your body, beyond perceived time.
Pondering eternity began in my childhood and early teens. I’ve often imagined what life would be like without Time. And I’ve tended to feel pressure that “there isn’t enough time” or that I would “run out of time.” For decades, I’ve wrestled with this dichotomy: the contrast between being aware that I’m a human being in a body AND being aware than I’m an expansive spiritual being at the same time.
I was raised Catholic, and the idea of “eternal life” was familiar and common. But then reading that energy exists with no beginning and no end changed everything . . .
When I was thirteen, Shirley MacLaine’s book Out on a Limb introduced me to the idea that “energy is not created nor destroyed.” That concept deeply resonated with me, even at a young age. If my energy would go on forever, I decided it would be better to find my way to inner peace and happiness than to struggle.
In this way, spiritual eternity made a profound impact on my earthly life.
Though I couldn’t explain the concept of eternity as a thirteen year old, and I can’t explain it now, I can somehow still have moments of basking in it. That’s the best way I can express it.
In the late 1990s, I saw a French documentary called “The Gleaners and I.” In the film, the woman narrating collects clocks and removes their hands. Soon after seeing the film, my partner and I bought an old wooden clock at a thrift store, removed its hands, and hung it on the wall in the kitchen. It was a reminder to slow down and to be present in the moment.
To not worry so much about Time.
To get in touch with the sensation of No Time and remember my essence.
Eternity is not just about the afterlife
In the film Death Makes Life Possible, Deepak Chopra asks where we were before we were born.
That day at Lake Siskiyou, I could somehow “feel” my way into that. If the sun didn’t appear to move through the sky, if there was no way to gauge the passage of time – no sunrise, no sunset, no night time – would life on earth feel like one long extended moment?
Or perhaps a better question: Why does it even matter to me to contemplate eternity?
Because I believe we are more than our bodies.
Because if I focus only on physicality, I will experience only loss when someone’s body dies.
Because if I know all bodies will perish someday, and I allow myself to both deal with that physical reality of physical loss, and remember that energy is not created nor destroyed, then I can put “loss” in a whole new perspective.
I can be curious and open to what that is like, to be without a body. And to what it means to connect to someone who no longer has a body. THIS is why eternity matters to me. Because is it an opportunity for connection. The physical body is gone, but what about the life energy? The spirit? Where is that?
In his 1952 bestseller The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale said this:
“Eternity does not start with death. We are in eternity now.”
To me, this perspective shifts the conversation about an afterlife. Why? Because there is no “after.” There is only LIFE.
For some, imagining already being in eternity may cause panic. It may conjure the idea that we can’t escape suffering or get a fresh start. But being in eternity now means that I can change my focus in any and every moment, that I don’t have to wait for something in the future. And it summons me to LIVE.
Because when eternity is here, complacency is a luxury. When eternity is NOW, I have the opportunity to make choices. Do I focus on my unhappiness? Or do I focus on my inner peace and joy, no matter what’s happening in my life?
So, the next time it is a grey overcast day, or the next time you are on hold for a seemingly endless time waiting for customer service or tech support, let go of your awareness of time.
Take the opportunity to feel into the part of YOU that never dies. The part of you that is already living in eternity . . . now.
Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/liseykina
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