Time, Space and Patience

My definitions and usage of various terms in the following essay (e.g. “waking up,” “leap-frogging,” “The Force”) are found in the initial essays in this blog collection. See the entries posted as Front Matter and Introduction, Waking Up and Leap-Frogging.



Time, Space and Patience


            The process of waking up involves many things, but none so centrally as the three essentials of time, space and patience. The great American prophet and healer, Edgar Cayce, regarded these three as “fundamental measurements of a soul’s experience in the physical world,”[1] absolutely central in the life of any person who is in the process of waking up. Why is this so? To understand the emphasis Cayce put on these three features of life, we need to clarify the meaning of each, and then examine their role in the process of waking up.


            The English language is very rich in its meanings for the word “time:” There are at least 20 different dictionary definitions or usages for this simple word, from “a defined interval” to “a unit of meter in prosody.” This suggests just how much English is focused on temporal concerns, unlike, say, the Hopi, who have no tenses in their languages, and little concern for measuring, dividing, allotting, buying, or killing time.

            How very different the Second Wave world is from that of the Hopi! Not only do we reify time, i.e. turn it into something quantifiable, dividable, and concrete, we equate it with money, and set it as the gold standard for business performance in the new idiom “24/7 365,” meaning operations that never close or take holidays. To the Western mind, and especially the New York mind, time is life’s tyrant, forcing us to go faster, faster in the mindless rush born of “hurry sickness,” in pursuit of deadlines that get shorter and more and more unrealistic. If we want something, we don’t want it now: We want it yesterday! And whole industries have arisen to satisfy that lust for speed, e.g. FedEx, DHL, the Internet and scanners, e-signatures, etc.. In this mind-set, time is something to be conquered, as the omnipresent enemy.

            Ironically, all this is occurring just as modern science–both physics and medical science–is discovering what ancient peoples like the Hopi and the perennial wisdom have always known: Time is a mental construct, a “root assumption”[2] of our Western culture, without a reality outside of our experience. Einstein showed that time is relative, something we experience in contexts that can make it seem longer (sitting on the hot stove) or shorter (relaxing in the easy chair on the beach in summer). Time is a construct of our own making. At the same time, it is something precious, as our word for the immediate moment—“present”—indicates.

            The Indo-European languages all share a mental schema that tenses reality into past, present and future. Few speakers of English ever really think about the labels we put on these divisions of time: “past” comes from the Latin word for step or pace, suggesting the duration or interval it has taken to move across some terrain. “Future” also has Roman roots, from a participle meaning that which is about to be. And “present,” in its Latin origins meant that which is beside us.

            People who are awake appreciate the dual meaning of “present.” It is not only the NOW moment—our point of power—but also a true “present,” or gift from the Universe. In the Second Wave world, very few people live out the truth of this fact. Rather, we live out in the future, making all sorts of plans for how things should be, or worrying about what might happen. Or we live in the past, with recriminations, guilt, shame, remorse and mental anguish full of “if onlys…”. In neither place, past or future, do we have any of the power that is innately ours as human beings. To claim that power, we need to come back into the body—that is, get out of the mental realm where we go when we flee into the future or past–and be here now.

            When we return to embodiment, to experience the flow of life in our physical being through our senses, we are in a inner place where we can appreciate time as the cyclical flow it is. The ancient Chinese appreciated time: The Chinese word for “busy” is composed of two ideograms for “heart” and “killing.” When we rush around in our busy-ness, we are literally killing our hearts![3]

To wake up we must be in the NOW, consciously cherishing time by slowing down, taking ourselves out of the rat race, and giving ourselves free moments of time. Time to relax, to reflect, to be with ourselves inwardly. Time to be fully present to family and friends. Time to “sit in one another’s stillness”[4] and wait together on each other’s growth. Time to play. Time to live in balance, resisting the pressures toward workaholism that are so pervasive in the Second Wave world. Time to live at the soul’s pace. Time to spot all the moments of grace that fill our lives and to savor the epiphanies that The Force offers daily. Time to “waste” time, since “wasted” time is “usually good soul time”.[5] Time to walk, rather than drive. Walking takes on the motion of the soul, according to Plotinus. By walking, we give ourselves more time to commune with our soul. By slowing down, we allow ourselves to enjoy all the good stuff in life.

            We are living through the process of a “timeshift” now, when time as we know it is being bent, folded, spindled, mutilated, compressed, condensed, and subject to all manner of deformation as the mad pressures of Second Wave reality try to obliterate it. The only sane response, in such a situation, is to return to the wisdom of our bodies and souls, by consciously choosing to cherish time as one of the key essentials we have to support our inner work.


            The second essential that Edgar Cayce regarded as a requirement for coming to consciousness is space. Like time, space has many dictionary meanings: area, expanse, distance between points. These meanings tend to come with qualifiers, e.g. unlimited, as in outer space, limited, as in a parking space, or reserved, as on a train or plane, but what they all have in common is the basic sense of extension, which goes back to the root of the Latin word, spatium, that is the basis of the concept. The Indo-European root spa- denotes a stretching or drawing. So space represents something drawn out or extended.

            With its tendency toward concreteness, English usually treats space as a thing—something that can be measured, divided, touched, etc. But remember the basic root, and the figurative sense it implies. Edgar Cayce, when he thought of space as an essential for the process of waking up, used it more in its psychological sense, similar to the Tibetan concept of space as “that which makes movement possible.”[6]

            In this sense, space is what we need to feel comfortable. It is more than just the “elbow room” that has been studied by psychologists and cultural anthropologists in different societies, which reveal that Americans, for example, feel the need for a lot more space around them than do the Japanese. Below these various cultural differences, there is a basic sense of space that we all need as human beings.

            We can see this in the very oldest roots of our language. The Indo-European angh means “to constrict,” and it is the basis for German’s angst and English’s “anxiety,” “anger” and “angina.”[7] When we lack adequate room in our heads, it shows up in psychological ways, in anxiety, tension, psychic distress, and a host of physiological reactions, e.g. rise in blood pressure, heightened levels of cortisols etc.

            When Cayce urged people to give themselves space, he was aware of our need for more inward spaciousness. We need to live with a self-concept and philosophy of life that allows us room to grow, to change, to develop, expand and be well grounded.[8] For most people, providing inward spaciousness will require conscious effort: We have grown up in families and environments that forced us to give up parts of ourselves, to live up to societal expectations that betrayed our true being, e.g. the artist forced to become an engineer because doing art was not “manly;” the woman forced to give up a love of athletics, because football was not what a woman “should” try to do. In extreme cases, people are forced to live in their heads, losing their groundedness in their bodies and physical space. More and more, people around the world are now questioning the strictures that box us into narrow roles and activities. As we take this questioning deeper, to begin to change our behaviors and lifestyles, we are opening up our lives and giving ourselves the space we need to be grounded and become more fully who we really are.

            This is not an instantaneous process although some of the insights it involves happen in a flash. It will require time, and thus is closely related to the other two of Cayce’s key essentials. Only as we slow down, relax, and consciously commit time to inner work and reflection will we be able to expand the space in our lives.

            This process can be fostered by the arts—by the creative endeavors that open us to laughter, tears, fun and wonderment at who and how and why we are. These “arts” are not the “high arts” of the Western canon, for which people have to train for years and years–although high art can perform this function too–but any creative activity that so absorbs our being that we get into “the flow,” that amazing realm that exists outside of time. Any good art creates space in our lives.

            The issue of space seems particularly relevant to the wake up process these days, because increasing numbers of people now choose to live behind high walls, razor wire, locked gates and other forms of security designed to keep people out. This prompts the question what impact all the walls might have on our sense of space, and our ability to provide more spaciousness in our lives, both physically and mentally. With so much of the physical terrain highly defended, would our psyches then also be highly defended against external energies?


            Inner work requires more than time and space. We also need patience, the willingness to put up with waiting. And more than just waiting: waiting with effort and suffering, without loss of self-control. Patience was stressed over and over in the thousands of Edgar Cayce readings, which make clear that, for most of us, the learning of patience is one of the major themes or purposes for our being on the physical plane.

            Cayce put a premium on patience, because, of the three essentials, patience is the most difficult, and the least enjoyable. In its eytmology, “patience” reveals the suffering that is inextricably a part of the process: the Latin patior means “to suffer.” We are “patient” only in the context of some discomfort or unpleasantness. It’s something we’d like to avoid.

Yet only the endurance and consistency that are part of patience make possible the growth in consciousness that is the essence of waking up. Only when we are patient can we come to understand the meaning of the events in our lives. Patience will bring us back to the NOW moment, allowing us to act out of our power rather than our weakness. Patience fosters our paying attention to what is really going on around us. Patience supports hope, giving us a sense that the future is open and potentials can be realized. Patience supports our self-awareness, because it is only insofar as we can endure suffering that we can come to know ourselves as we really are, rather than the ego delusions that lead us to think we know ourselves.[9] Patience is also the virtue that brings our higher guidance (i.e. our intuitions) to fruition. Joined with time, patience fosters the development of trust, and trust is a core component of waking up.

            When we are patient we are willing to live and wait with some measure of discomfort, holding the tension between our desire to grow and our desire for comfort. This is not easy, and our modern Second Wave world gives very little support for such work. It lives at a breakneck pace that does violence to both body and soul. Our world misuses and misconceives time, fails to recognize the nature and value of space, and dismisses or denigrates patience. Living under tight deadlines, in lives full of anxiety and narrowed horizons, driven by the “hurry sickness,” Western people have great difficulty in waking up. Edgar Cayce offered the image of a three-legged stool for getting out of the sickness that is contemporary Western life: time, space and patience.

Waking Up in the Context of Time, Space and Patience

            If you are interested in using Cayce’s insights to foster waking up, reflect on questions like these in your meditations:

What are my priorities in life? Do I live these out in the work I do, in my interactions with my friends and family, in my personal devotions?

How do I use time? On what things am I spending my time each day? How do these things reflect my values or do these things reflect my values? Am I living out what I believe in?

Are the things I am living out daily serving my spirit? my growth?

Do I give myself sufficient space, or is my life filled with stressors or unquestioned assumptions I inherited from my past (family, teachers, etc.)?

Do I live behind high walls or other forms of exclusionary devices? If so, is it because I’m afraid of what’s out there? How might this fear be impacting my inner life, perhaps closing me off from valuable energies that might enrich my life?

How might I create more spaciousness in my life?

Do I find it hard to wait, to be patient, in daily life, e.g. on lines, in traffic, in dealings with other people?

Am I willing to change, to alter my responses to life events, so as to give myself more time, space and patience?

            After you have reflected on these issues, if you come to any insights, take them to the next step: Integrate them within you, and then pay attention to what happens. As they manifest in outer reality, your life will begin to change.

            You might also want to try creating and living by a “time budget.”[10] This is set up like a financial budget, with categories like the following: time to work, time to play (mental and physical recreation), time to grow (doing activities that foster your mental and physical abilities), time to eat, time to rest (e.g. sleep—most adults in the Western world are chronically sleep-deprived), time for social activities, and time for spirit-nurturing activities (e.g. meditation, prayer, devotional practice etc.). Such a budget is especially helpful for those who find it hard to live in a balanced way, because it assures that no aspect of life is overlooked or ignored (that is, if you commit to living within the budget you set up).  If this is something you want to try, discuss it with family and friends, for their support will be crucial as you live within the budget.


For Further Reading

Brussat, Frederic & Mary Ann (1996), Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life. New York: Scribner.

Dossey, Larry (1982), Space, Time and Medicine. Boston: Shambhala.

Friedman, Norman (1994), Bridging Science and Spirit: Common Elements in David Bohm’s Physics, The Perennial Philosophy and Seth. St. Louis: Living Lake Books.

Gunn, Robert Jingen (2000), Journeys into Emptiness: Dogen, Merton, Jung and the Quest for Transformation. New York: Paulist Press.

Hollis, James (1994), Under Saturn’s Shadow: The Wounding and Healing of Men. Toronto: Inner City Books.

Katz, Nathan (1991), “Dakini and Anima—On Tantric Deities and Jungian Archetypes,” Self and Liberation: The Jung-Buddhism Dialogue, eds, Meckel and Moore. New York: Paulist Press.

Roberts, Jane (1974), The Nature of Personal Reality. New York: Bantam Books.

Streng, Frederick (1992), “Mechanisms of Self-Deception and True Awareness,” Self and Liberation: The Jung-Buddhism Dialogue, eds. Meckel and Moore. New York: Paulist Press.

Thurston, Mark (1996), The Great Teachings of Edgar Cayce. Virginia Beach: A.R.E. Press.


[1] Thurston (1996), 25.

[2] Friedman (1994), 159, quoting Seth, the entity channeled by Jane Roberts.

[3] Wayne Muller, in Brussat & Brussat (1996), 313.

[4] Sue Monk Kidd, in ibid., 198.

[5] Thomas Moore, in ibid., 213.

[6] Katz (1991), 315, quoting Govinda.

[7] Hollis (1994), 56.

[8] For space as a necessary psychological “container” see Gunn (2000), 276.

[9] Jung recognized this, which is why he put great stress on patience; Streng (1992), 238.

[10] See McArthur (1993), 218-222, for more on creating a time budget.