I have noticed that my relationship to time changes as I grow older. A few months ago I heard a nonagenarian being interviewed on the radio about his recent skydiving adventure. When asked “what are your plans [to do this again] in the future?” he answered “you know, at my age, you stop planning for the future.”
Conversely, at a young age you believe you are immortal, that the possibilities in the future are limitless, that summers are endless and there isn’t much in the past – yet.
So how does this change one’s perspective of time shift one’s Dharma practice? In a lot of ways, I think. With an awareness that “tomorrow” may not be a possibility, “here and now” becomes much more clearly all that there is. And a focus on the present moment and taking refuge in awareness of the present moment leads to freedom.
Because “time” and “self” are bound up. A sense of who you are in the historical dimension gives definition to this sense of identity – I am a father, I am a son, I am from Switzerland, I was like this and I am now like that and I will become the other thing. But awareness of the present is outside of time – it is in that sense “eternal”. It has no beginning and no end.
So while it is possible to be burdened by your history as you grow older, it is also more possible to let go of the past and not be so concerned with the future. To take refuge in the here and now. To be free.