August 16, 2018 § 6 Comments
Time loops are a popular plot device used in works of fiction. In a time loop story, a brief period of time continually loops back on itself, leaving the characters caught in the loop to re-experience the same minutes, hours or days, until someone finally breaks the cycle freeing all concerned.
Time loops don’t actually exist but they are an apt analogy for the ego-bound mind. As mentioned in previous posts, the ego is a steady state system. It acts to maintain it self as it is, which means it must continually reassert itself over time. However, unlike the works of fiction where the goal is to return to the normal flow of time, ego time loops end with the conscious re-entry into the present moment, or now.
Even novice meditators quickly see that most thinking is just a rehash of what was thought before. What they may not realize is that this “loop thinking,” as I have previously called it, is the means by which the ego keeps itself going. By continuously re-thinking the same thoughts, the ego cuts off awareness of the present moment and perpetuates the illusion that it is the only true and permanent reality.
A comparable situation is the texter who keeps his nose buried in his phone all day. He might say that he’s awake and aware of his surroundings but even as he’s saying it he’s probably thinking about his next text! As we grow in practice meditation it becomes clear that we, too, spend most of our time caught up thought. Even when we do focus on our surrounding we look at it as if through a veil of thought. Is it any wonder that mystics say that humanity is living in a state of relative unconsciousness? Or why they describe meditation as a continuous ‘waking’ to the present moment?
Initially, I considered loops only in relation to thought but I’ve since noticed that thought has an emotional component that also repeats. Emotions take many forms but essentially they are all energy that seeks expression. In the normal course of time that expression is usually found and life goes on. Emotion caught in a loop, however, has no place to go so its energy builds until it starts to radiate outward. Bursts of anger or generalized anxiety are examples of this radiation.
The pairing of loop thought and emotion is an ideal situation for the ego to maintain itself. As emotional energy radiates outward, it stimulates thought that in turn gives more energy to the emotions. The ego inserts itself into this feedback loop, altering the thoughts and feelings so that they are all about it. For example, a critical remark sparks an emotional response that starts ‘me’ thinking that ‘I’ should be treated better or, conversely, that ‘I’ am not worthy. As these thoughts and emotions keep looping they feed the ego, giving it a strength and sense of reality that it doesn’t really have.
It is when we attach emotions to events, thoughts and the ego that they appear more real than they are. Clearly, strong emotions generate strong beliefs. And the stronger a belief in a thing, the more real it appears. That is why an event that seems trivial to one person may be quite important to another. The latter is caught up in a loop of strong emotion that makes the event feel real.
Whenever you find yourself in a loop, take a moment to look at it. Chances are it’s accompanied by a strong sense of something real that justifies your feeling the way you do. Unless there is some such actual thing in your immediate environment, that thing is not real. It is part of the loop.
The loop may be compared to a movie playing endlessly on a screen. Each time the movie comes around you feel the same emotions and have the same thoughts. That’s the world you’ve been living in. Only suddenly you realize that your responses are all based upon something imagined, a work of fiction! Which means that your responses are also a work of fiction. You need only see this once to undercut the very foundation of the thoughts and emotions looping around inside your head. And without the loop, where will the ego get its energy to dominate your life?
You may see from the above why I compare the ego-bound mind to being caught in a time loop. The analogy re-enforces the idea that trying to fix the loop or make it better still leaves you trapped inside. The solution is to wake up by turning the attention to the present moment. Mindfulness is one way of doing this but often the strong call of the ego pulls us away from the present moment. But if we see this pull as nothing more than an invitation to enter an endless loop unconnected to reality, we may find it easier to choose reality.