We hear the following instruction all the time in popular meditation techniques:
“Keep your mind focused on the present moment; drop all thoughts of past and future…”
Yet there is a major problem with this teaching. By not properly acknowledging the essential place past and future have in our life, we are cultivating ignorance, not wisdom.
Make no mistake – I am in full resonance with the premise that, on the deeper level, time does not proceed in a linear fashion. In other words, all states exist in an everpresent ‘Now’ so to speak, with past and future, precedent and antecedent, existing within. Past and future are intertwined right now, even if they appear to manifest at different times in our lives.
However, a deep ignorance arises with what we try to do with our memories of the past and our dreams for the future. Typically, meditation techniques teach us to actively avoid, or at best subtly drop, thoughts of past and future. Yet, if past and future thoughts are simply different facets within the Now, as described in the last paragraph, why would I drop them?
Many meditation practices treat past and future as ignorance, when they are in fact essential facets of the present moment. In fact, our thoughts of past and future represent our very capacity for wisdom – the ability to link past and future is the very essence of maturity.
Thus, a mature approach to meditation not only embraces thoughts of past and future, but brings with it a realization of the non-separation between them. This is the path of wisdom.