Letting Go Of Psychological Time

By Eckhart Tolle

Learn to use time in the practical aspects of your life — we may call this “clock time” — but immediately return to present-moment awareness when those practical matters have been dealt with. In this way, there will be no buildup of “psychological time,” which is identification with the past and continuous compulsive projection into the future.

Clock time is not just making an appointment or planning a trip. It includes learning from the past so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes over and over. Setting goals and working toward them. Predicting the future by means of patterns and laws, physical, mathematical and so on, learned from the past and taking appropriate action on the basis of our predictions.

But even here, within the sphere of practical living, where we cannot do without reference to past and future, the present moment remains the essential factor: Any lesson from the past becomes relevant and is applied now. Any planning as well as working toward achieving a particular goal is done now.

The enlightened person’s main focus of attention is always the Now, but they are still peripherally aware of time. In other words, they continue to use clock time but are free of psychological time.

Be alert as you practice this so that you do not unwittingly transform clock time into psychological time. For example, if you made a mistake in the past and learn from it now, you are using clock time. On the other hand, if you dwell on it mentally, and selfcriticism, remorse, or guilt come up, then you are making the mistake into “me” and “mine”: You make it part of your sense of self, and it has become psychological time, which is always linked to a false sense of identity. Nonforgiveness necessarily implies a heavy burden of psychological time.

If you set yourself a goal and work toward it, you are using clock time. You are aware of where you want to go, but you honor and give your fullest attention to the step that you are taking at this moment. If you then become excessively focused on the goal, perhaps because you are seeking happiness, fulfillment, or a more complete sense of self in it, the Now is no longer honored. It becomes reduced to a mere stepping stone to the future, with no intrinsic value. Clock time then turns into psychological time. Your life’ journey is no longer an adventure, just an obsessive need to arrive, to attain, to “make it.” You no longer see or smell the flowers by the wayside either, nor are you aware of the beauty and the miracle of life that unfolds all around you when you are present in the Now.

Excerpted from Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, pages 56 to 58. For more from this book, click here.

18 responses to “Letting Go Of Psychological Time

  1. I’m a therapist and I sometimes have clients coming and asking for help to “remember more of my past”. I wonder why we have to Remember everything, and what it can serve us.

  2. The power of now is the book that I recommend to my friends where they’re having “bad times” in their lives.
    It helps me now and I’d like it to help them.

  3. I see time as space, a plane span for content to be and persist. When something occurs that i resist i actually have no space for it, turn my head aside and say i have no time for this. In this relation i cant help but connect those two. When there’s acceptance i unwittingly don’t want anything else in that space for as long as possible. But that fell into history when i responded to something Mr. Tolle said ‘the next moment will not be any better than this… so its fine’ the space dimension is expanding and i see it. Time- space… it honestly does not matter – as long as there is calmness to what happens within and about, and that i see it.. that i see it crystal clear, no theories and explanations – just quiet softness of being present in the midst of all. Thank you Eckhart, it is true gift that you placed our attention on one thing that only matters

  4. I read your book years ago, but never realized that the power of now is this powerful. I am so lucky and thankful that I got it now. Thank you, you are born to teach in this world.

  5. Thanks for the reminder. It resonates.

    The Power of Now brought me out of a low, low funk I was in last spring. It happened instantly as soon as I remembered that I was not my thoughts but the Awareness.

    Liberation is so sweet.

  6. This book is the salvation of my life and the key to understanding many important things…as well as all the other books of Eckhart Tolle..
    I do not “read” them and live with them forever!!!
    Immeasurable Gratitude!!
    Thank God for such a master!

  7. I have had such bad habits, such as always living in the past and future in my head.Being a negative and unhappy person that I have to constantly practice to stay in the now. It makes me happier when I do. Thank you for being so wise.

  8. I love the teachings from the Power Of Now. Just have to keep working at it, until I learn to live this way everyday. Thank you so much.

  9. I read this book years ago…have been reading many others since….. from each I have learnt a little…but for peace I come back here.

  10. Chronological time is created by the mind, which is thought, yes, thought is time. Is it not? A mind caught “in time” can only create chronological time, thereby, creating it’s sorrow. “Thought” is an interval which is a movement (time). A mind free of time is in the “now” which is the present and free of sorrow which is thought.

  11. Sir Eckhart, Had read Power Of Now Years back while following Spiritual practice. However could not relate to it & understand the true meaning of it. However read it two years back after having experienced the awakening of Consciousness, then could relate to every work written in its true essence. Your writings are indeed a blessings to mankind to unable them come out of the mind situations which are related to the past or the future. Very few masters are able to teach above the level of the mind and we are very fortunate to have you. Do let me know if you plan to visit India any time. Would love to be of any assistance if required. Lots of Love in Divine friendship. Bension Jacob.

  12. Last week I noticed I had been keeping time, in my head.
    It became quite obvious, to me, that I was ‘keeping’ time and that I was somehow using it to delegate tasks for future events (I’m in the now most of the time). I still felt some pull to acknowledge the past and future. I was afraid of letting go of knowing the time, basically. And all that comes with knowing what time it is.

    And here, I still had another level of illusion happening, I was still identifying with time. Like it was an authority to be acknowledge. I was not just giving it up.

    Yes, this is all very subtle. Most people accept the time as part of the process of working and or living. I see that as a cope out.

    But my point is, I was fabricating a reality based on what a metal circular object was telling me, and not what my heart was.

  13. Funny I have never actually read the power of now BUT I have listened to Eckhart read it as an audio book and I find this is how you can listen to 100 times and immerse yourself in his incredible understanding of what is.
    I love logic but ET helps us become one with life, one with what is. What could possibly be more sane? Yet how many people argue every moment with what is. The mind made little me, the victim, egoic self, how it takes over.
    “Enlightnment; what is it? The end of suffering.”
    “Let go (forgive and accept) or be dragged! (Suffer).
    That’s et and I have listen to awaken to your life’s purpose, and stillness speaks over 100 times.
    I get it; and of course, now I have peace.
    Do I want peace? Or do I want drama? Ask that very second of your life.

  14. I read this passage in the Power of Now sometime ago, but it was only in drafting this post that i realised how much the clock/psych time distinction had influenced me. http://fluxcomb.com/2015/01/27/day-four-the-return-of-vision/ In the post i explore how my life-vision returned when i took on the challenge of dropping some drug habits and approaching reality head-first – the passage of linear, horizontal time is necessary for this vision to come to fruition, but i needn’t be obsessed with the end goal of that vision, which doesn’t exist anymore than unicorns – in our imagination.

    Thank you, Mr Tolle. I’m sorry i called you a charlatan.

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