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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Living in Vertical Time

I first tried meditation in the mid-80s, while trapped in a mind-numbing, soul-destroying job at a local university. Fortunately, it would turn out to be the last of its kind, but in the midst of it I needed to find some way to calm my raging anxiety.

And so the meditation, which actually did help. Anxiety, after all, is usually a function of living in the future, of worrying about what could or might happen. Meditation helps keep us focused on the present, on what is actually happening in any particular moment.

Now I haven’t maintained a consistent meditation practice over the years, but will be taking it up again, this time inspired by what Lewis Richmond has to say about horizontal vs. vertical time in his book, Aging as a Spiritual Practice (2012).

Here’s what I just found Richmond wrote about vertical time in a 2008 blogpost:

The experience of aging is an exercise in comparison that happens inside of horizontal time. What I mean is that we tell ourselves a story. I am 61 years old. I have sixty-one years of memories. I am older than I was a year ago. Ten years ago I could do X but now I can’t, I’m older. And so on. We picture ourselves somewhere on the timeline of a life, and begin to see more of that timeline in the rear view mirror than out the front windshield. This leads, inevitably, to a sense of loss, and perhaps sorrow or regret.

There is a whole other way to experience aging and time, and that is through vertical time. Vertical time is the time of this moment.

In his book, Richmond gives us a helpful way to "see"what vertical time actually looks like: “this present moment: this room, this book, this body, this breath.” And so it would appear that as with meditation vertical time can keep us anchored in the present, a place I live way too infrequently.

But as I age, I want to spend lots more time there.  I mean, here.

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