The present is infinite

I overheard the late Marjorie Barlowe, an Alexander teacher who trained many teachers of the Technique, and who happens to have been Alexander’s niece, say to a young guy she was working with on the table, “yes I know we have other things to do in five minutes but let’s remember that in a certain sense we have an infinity of time”. This was back in 1991 and I have often recalled those words when I find a pupil rushing or getting anxious.

Nowadays I often say to my pupils “we have infinite time” and one questioned me today by asking what I mean. So I tried it on my next pupil. But he correcting me by saying: “well, perhaps we can have an experience of infinity”. No doubt he is right, but time is but a construct and we can imagine living without past and future, without a word for “when”, and without being ruled by the might of time.

And it occurs to me that since we can only be alive in the present, only live right now, there really is no such thing as time, and we experience infinity if we stay in the present. And so, in a certain sense, we too are infinite. And in a very practical sense, if we remember this we can relax more, feel more expansive, and enjoy more freedom then if we are governed by the pressure of time.

Now sorry to be difficult, and to honour a Buddhist teacher I once had the great privilege of meeting, named Arnaud Maitland, I am going to be paradoxical and say that without a sense of time we will never get anything done. And indeed, by aligning ourselves in time, as Arnaud taught, we can accomplish a great deal. The trick is to stay in time, with time, but not forgetting that we ourselves are infinite, with infinite time, and that to stay in the present in that sense of infinity can help us be efficient rather than spiral out of control like the Road Runner, or Speedy Gonzales. Then time opens up and we can move more freely, think more creatively, and meet our deadlines with great efficiency.

Life is all about doing, manifesting, creating. Even relaxing on a Sunday afternoon under a tree with good friends, when we are especially able to enjoy the freedom of a sense of the infinite, as if free of time, we are up to something, whether it only be lying down, talking, eating grapes, having a snooze.

We can harness ease by having spacious awareness of where we are. At the same time, we can have an awareness of when we are, with a clear sense of the time we have, no more and no less, yet without being harassed and contracted by rushing. Yes, we can be clear about what we are up to, clear about our intentions to accomplish something or to simply arrive somewhere. And so we can live full and fruitful lives, get to our appointments in time, and do so with easy grace.

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