Time as Movement

How would you describe time? Maybe the time of day like morning, noon, or night. A linear passing of seconds, minutes, hours…years, and decades. Unstoppable, forward-moving, irreversible.  

In my sutra studies a couple weeks ago I came across this idea of time that’s stuck with me. In the Yoga philosophy, time is the arrangement and rearrangement of matter. That is, time is the movement of the constituents of nature. Have I lost you? It might help to use the Sanskrit. I’ll back up.  

Crash course in one of the underlying dualities of the yoga philosophy: 

Everything that exists is one of two things: it’s either purusa (“purushuh”) or prakrti (“pruhk-rit-e”). Purusa is pure consciousness, that is, pure awareness. Everyone has their individual purusa (kind of like a soul), and the goal of yoga, at least the yoga of Patanjali, is to come to rest in your true nature as pure consciousness, purusa.

Literally everything that isn’t purusa is prakrtiPrakrti is translated as nature. It’s everything besides purusa. Your body is prakrti, trees and animals and earth are prakrti. Thoughts, ideas, emotions, all of your senses are prakrti. If it’s not pure consciousness, it’s prakrti.  

Prakrti (thoughts, ideas, emotions, senses, trees, etc.) can be broken down into its three constituent qualities. These three qualities are called gunas. The gunas are (1) tamas, (2) rajas, and (3) sattva

Tamas is the heavy bit: lethargic, slow moving, ignorant, unmotivated, dull. Tamas is a person’s dominant guna on a sick day, when they just can’t get out of bed and do much. 

Rajas is the active bit: restless, passionate, creative, overactive, attached. Rajas is the dominant guna in a Type A person. 

Sattva is the goldilocks guna, but that’s not doing it justice: illuminated, clear, tranquil, discriminative, peaceful. Sattva literally means “being-ness.” It’s the dominant guna when a person is overcome by a sunset, or in deep meditation, or present in joy and gratitude.  

Everything in prakrti is comprised of some mix of the three gunas. The gunas are always moving, mixing and remixing, changing in proportion. People are a mix of gunas and that mix changes all the time. Rocks are a mix of gunas. Emotions are a mix of gunas. Everything that isn’t purusa is a mix of gunas.  

So…time is the movement of the gunas. Time is the arranging and rearranging of the qualities of nature. To consider this simply, time is movement.  

Why did this stick with me?  

A few reasons.  

One, it gets me out of my unquestioned linear consideration of time. It’s not 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 counting. Thinking about time as movement takes reality out of a box I put it in without realizing it. Kind of like “island time” where no one seems to be keeping a sharp 3pm appointment. Or when you travel around the world and night is day and they’re all sleeping back home while you’re awake and exploring. These experiences expand our boundaries of what’s possible. Or at least point out that my way of doing or understanding isn’t the only way of doing and understanding. I like that.  

Two, it gives me a fresh comprehension of life after death. Of course it’s arguable whether there is life after death, but one thing we can’t really argue is that a body goes on rearranging after it dies. A body returns to the earth and out of it a tree might grow and that tree produces fruit and a bird eats that fruit and yadda yadda, right? An arranging and rearranging of nature.  

And finally, it gives me a different way to embody the inherent reality that all things are changing always. This is really hard sometimes and gets us humans into trouble when we try to grasp onto things and keep them the same forever (attachment). Time as movement is another way to go with the flow, so to speak. To ride the wave of life.  

Alright! That’s what I’ve got for you today. Let’s explore feeling time as movement in class this week.  

Oh, and mark your calendars. Kelly and I are bringing you a special full moon supermoon Sixty Minute Sanctuary on Wednesday, May 26 from 7:30-8:30p. Restorative Yoga, Reiki, and Yoga Nidra…all on zoom with the support of the full, illuminative supermoon.

Hourglass photo by Enrique Zafra