Do You Live In Linear Time or Natural Time? Why It Matters
Do you live in linear time, or natural time? Do you know the difference? Which is better for your physical and spiritual health? Today’s blog/podcast tells us the answer.
Traditional indigenous people the world over speak the language of spirit – what I mean by that is they knew how to have a two-way communication with the natural world around them, because they live in natural time.
As an example, Bear Heart described in his opening to The Wind is My Mother about his mother introducing him to the elements: the Four Directions, Mother Earth and the Sun.
And the introduction went on as his mother introduced him to the wind, water, fire, moon. He went on to explain that native children learned there was life all around them and they were a part of it, on the same level.
That respect for the elements of nature is a language – and nature will in turn acknowledge and communicate back to you.
Virtually all tribal cultures honored the cycle of the seasons; the seasons defined their world and their ability to grow food and hunt and sustain themselves. They watched the skies closely for weather changes and had ceremonies at the equinoxes and solstices.
Around the time of the winter solstice, our European ancestors lit bonfires and decorated evergreen trees to honor the return of the sun and the green. Today, Christmas trees, wreaths and the lights people put on their houses, all come from ancient solstice ceremonies. It was a prime example of understanding the Law of Attraction. What you visualize and focus on comes into reality – the sun and warm weather return.
There are many tribal cultures even today around the world that believe the ceremonies they perform keep the earth spinning on its axis and I believe they’re right.
An important key in understanding the language of spirit and the voices of our ancestors is to understand the difference between linear time and natural time. So I’m going to start there.
The date I’m recording this is May 27, 2019 according to the Gregorian calendar, the most widely used calendar in the world. And some people would write it as 5-27-19 and we would understand to mean May 27, 2019. Interestingly, that number would be as meaningless to our ancestors as when I watched Star Trek and they said the date is Stardate 5943.7, which was a made-up number, by the way. If Star Trek was before your time, Stardates would make no sense to you. Anyway, moving on…
So, what is a calendar?
A calendar is a system of reckoning time. Currently we use the Gregorian calendar which is based on the motion of the earth in relation to the sun, as well as a host of religious holidays. It is a linear way of marking time. Time marches on from one date to the next, in orderly fashion,
How’d calendars begin?
A few thousand years ago, our ancestors lived in the moment and had no need to reckon time other than following the cycles of the moon and sun.
As early as 2500 BC bureaucrats came up with a way of counting days – in order to regulate tax collection. Yes, folks, calendars were invented to collect our taxes!
Lunar time caused problems for large-scale bureaucracies. First, the lunar cycle is not constant. If you pay attention to the moon, it rises and sets in different parts of the sky. It doesn’t have the regularity of the sun.
Second, the actual time of the rising of the new moon varied depending on the longitude and latitude of the observer, so as empires got bigger and bigger, covering more geographic territory, reckoning time by the rising of the new moon didn’t work because it rose at different times in different parts of the empire. This change from calendars based on nature to calendars designed to serve the purposes of those in power was one of the earliest rejections of our relationship to the natural world around us.
The calendar we use today had its roots in the Julian Calendar started by Julius Caesar in 45BCE. Before the Julian calendar was introduced, the ancient Roman calendar was loosely based on a 355-day lunar cycle with a year commencing around March 25 with the vernal equinox. This day was easy to calculate by measuring the shadow cast by the sun.
Adjustments were made from time to time to keep the calendar in step with the sun’s movement. These adjustments were made on the advice of astronomers, but oftentimes priests in the Roman Empire exploited the calendar for political ends, inserting days and even months into the calendar to keep the politicians they favored in office and reduce the reigns of politicians they didn’t like.
Tired of the chaos that this undependable system eventually gave rise to, Julius Caesar set out to make the long-abused calendar something that was standard and irrefutable. The Julian calendar had a 365 day solar year, with 12 months of varying number of days [from 29 to 30], the year began on January 1 but there was a leap year calculation that was not very precise and caused problems for the Catholic Church 1500 years later.
For every one time the earth goes around the sun, the moon goes around the earth 13 times; and from new moon to new moon is about 28 days, give or take a few hours. That’s why one year in any calendar will never be a precise measurement and you need leap years to get back in sync.
The Julian leap year calculation actually over-corrected solar movement and, after 1500 years, the Julian calendar had fallen behind solar movement by 10 days so the Catholic Church wanted a new calendar because Easter had been slipping farther and farther away from the spring equinox and they needed to fix that.
So Pope Gregory commissioned a calendar in 1582 with a new leap year calculation and that Gregorian calendar is the one we use today.
Two Reasons Easter had to be tied to the spring equinox
ONE The calendar regulates the ceremonial cycle of the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. Easter is the most important feast day in the Christian calendar and was supposed to be celebrated close to the Spring Equinox. In the New Testament it’s clear that Christ’s crucifixion occurred the week of Passover; now, Passover is calculated by the Hebrew calendar which is lunar!
But the Julian calendar ignored lunar cycles, so the Easter date kept slipping and occurring later and later, in warmer and warmer weather, which was actually seen as scandalous. Many other religious holidays are calculated from Easter so the entire religious calendar was full of errors and something had to be done. So, Pope Gregory’s calendar fixed the vernal equinox so that Easter would always occur between March 22 and April 25.
Meanwhile, under the Julian calendar, holidays had slipped by ten days. The new calendar jumped the date from October 4 to October 15 overnight. There were actually riots in the street as people demanded their ten days back. See how calendars confuse us?
TWO The other reason they needed Easter to be tied to the spring equinox was that the best way to induce the ancients to join the church without bloodshed was to tie Christian holidays to ancient ceremonies. That’s why even though all evidence is that Christ was born in March, we celebrate his birth in December because our ancestors were celebrating the winter solstice and the return of the sun [s-u-n]. Also, a large number of ancient cultures celebrated the birth of a wondrous male child, born under extraordinary circumstances and conditions, near the time of the Winter Solstice. Christianity incorporated most of the significant aspects of Mithra, son of the Persian sun God. His death was at the spring equinox. Similar stories abound in other pagan cultures. Christianity absorbed the mythic structure of the pagan cultures in order to more easily convert them.
Proposed calendar changes
A change back to a lunar calendar was proposed by the League of Nations (forerunner of the United Nations) early in the 20th century. The 13 Moon – 28 Day Calendar was by far the most popular—98% of 1,300 businesses polled supported it. “The League proclaimed in 1930 that on Jan. 1, 1933 the world would have a new calendar,” says Arguelles. “But the Vatican opposed it and mustered the support needed to defeat it.”
In 1956 the United Nations tried and again failed due to political pressure. In 1972 the scientific community established Atomic time using the decay rate of Cesium and tried to put the earth on natural planetary time, but still the Vatican bankers prevailed so the Gregorian calendar remains the global standard.
So calendars are about money and religious holidays.
Back to Natural Time
The lunar calendar has been in use for over 5500 years: Mayans, Egyptians, Druids, Mediterranean cultures, Celtic, German, Hebrews, Incans, Essenes, Polynesian and Native Americans. Innumerable cultures used a lunar calendar with the new moon heralding the start of a new month.
For cultures around the world, time is measured not by the ticking seconds of a clock or watch, but by seasons, rhythms and subtle shifts in nature that influence and enhance social interaction and day to day life. People of the Andman Islands follow a “scent calendar” ruled by the smells of nature, while a “cattle clock” guides the Nuer in Sudan and myriad sounds and shadows in the forest tell the Karen tribe in northern Thailand when to do what. In those places, life is lived in harmony with nature.
To our ancestors, equinoxes marked the time when seeds were to be planted, and then harvested. Natural calendars tell farmers when to expect the last frost and when to expect rain.
Before modern society became so reliant on technology, people who interacted on a regular basis with the earth learned how to receive communication from her. I had a friend who came from several generations of farmers in southwest Michigan. His grandfathertaught him that the soil had reached the proper temperature for planting in the spring when the leaves on the hickory tree reached the size of a squirrel’s ear. Jim went to college for a degree in agriculture where he was taught to use soil thermometers to determine when the ground was ready for planting. Sure enough, it was when the leaves on the hickory tree reached the size of a squirrel’s ear!
Native Americans refer to the time of day by the actions of the sun or moon. Years ago I was at a Native American ceremony – a big encampment in Oregon and the Native American grandmother of the camp wanted to meet with all the women of the camp at dusk. I was rather lost and wishing she’d stated a time I could tell by my watch. Today I’d do better.
The early Egyptians used a lunar calendar but around 2700 BCE introduced a calendar based on the flooding of the Nile, which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius between the paws of the Sphinx in Egypt and began a new solar cycle, that was their new year. The annual inundation of the Nile River ruled and defined their agriculture and, therefore, their lives. Now, think about that. A star rises in the sky and a river on earth rises and floods. How amazing is that? Everything in the universe is interconnected.
Nature has supplied us with a natural calendar: the 13-moon calendar contains 13 cycles of 28 days, with one day left over. The Mayans decreed the extra day to be one of renewal before the new year. It was called a day out of time when “all the people rest and celebrate life.”
Kalamazoo College in Michigan has a “day of gracious living” where students just have fun instead of going to class. I think we need more of that in our world.
For every one time the earth goes around the sun, the moon goes around the earth 13 times; and from new moon to new moon is about 28 days.
In earth based societies, the 28-day intervals are convenient for reckoning major changes in the environment, such as when the rains come and go, when the bear hibernates, when the salmon spawn or the geese go away, when the nuts are ready to crush to make flour, when the corn should be planted and harvested – the moon names related to lived time. All these events functioned as names of months in the orally transmitted calendars of Native Americans. Native American timekeeping named months for “lived time” – the activities and events that gave them life.
Here are the types of names a Native American tribe would give moon cycles. See if you can figure out what time of year these represent:
Moon of Ripe Berries
Moon of the Grass Dying
Freeze up moon
Rest and cleansing
With that type of perspective of time, you know exactly what was going on in the world around you, it defined all aspects of your life and gives you a relationship with the natural world.
The new year would vary from tribe to tribe depending on their relationship to the seasons, agriculture or hunting. It might be in the spring when the earth became green again, at the winter solstice when the sun was returning. It would vary, but is also irrelevant because time was always seen as a circle surrounding life and always returning.
Some of you may have heard that Native people call North America “Turtle Island.” There’s a lovely story about how that came to be. During the time of a great flood, turtle volunteered for all the animals to live on his strong back and they did. [It was a very large turtle]. But everyone agreed that wasn’t very fair to the turtle, so they needed another solution. Muskrat brought up dirt from beneath the waters and it was spread around and became the land of north America so Turtle could swim away. To thank turtle for her sacrifice, North America was called Turtle Island in her honor.
Even if geologically the continent wasn’t formed on the back of a giant turtle, stories such as these served to teach the harmony and cooperation among humans and the animal kingdom and the inter-connectedness of life.
The story of the turtle gets better, because the turtle’s back is a calendar, representing 13 moons of 28 days each. The ancient vertebrate Turtle has 13 scales on its shell which represent the 13 moons, and 28 outer plates representing the days within each moon.
In addition, historically, the pattern of women’s fertility cycles averages the 28-day, 13 moon ratio! So, A woman’s reproductive cycle was the basis for the earliest timekeeping systems. Nature’s rhythms live within us! Women really deserve more credit.
What’s wrong with linear time?
The order of the universe is rhythmic and we have a psychic and physiological need to be in sync with the earth’s cycles. Modern urban culture has left ancient wisdom of natural cycles behind.
The 12-month Gregorian calendar views nature as irrelevant. The 12-month calendar corresponds to no natural cycles whatsoever – it’s a false description of time. The Church’s self-appointed authority to change time set the stage for its conquest of other cultures. Today, all law and banking activities are tied to its use, underscoring the fact that Time is Money.
Just one example of the problem it causes is that research is showing that the modern hospital birth process is detrimental in many ways to both the mother and child. Because, time is money, and insurance will only pay so much for childbirth, the birth process is speeded up so we end up with a society of people who feel they need to hurry all the time. The cutting of the umbilical cord is a prime example.
According to Christiane Northrup, M.D. in her book, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Clamping the umbilical cord immediately after birth is very stressful for a child. Leaving the cord intact gives the baby time to adjust to breathing air. Once the baby is breathing well on its own, the umbilical cord vessels shut down on their own.
Many doctors and mothers feel that clamping the cord immediately after birth gives the baby a feeling of panic. But in the insurance world of wanting to rush the mother out of the hospital, the child suffers by being rushed, too. No wonder we’re a country filled with stressed people. We learned it at childbirth.
Also, women’s bodies were designed to start the menstrual flow every 28 days. In indigenous societies in harmony with natural time, women start their menstrual flow on the new moon because Grandmother Moon is in charge of the tides of both the earth mother and women’s bodies.
However, in modern society, where we live by artificial light, it throws our biological clocks off and today women rarely menstruate in time to the moon’s cycles yet for thousands of years they always menstruated at the new moon. The modern woman’s body is out of kilter with its original design.
Deepak Chopra has presented studies showing that “the stress of linear time contributes directly to an acceleration of the physical aging process, including deterioration and disease.”
A calendar produces the lens through which we see our world. We no longer see the cycles of the moon and the subtleties of the seasons. It produces a culture whose minds perceive only dense matter as reality.
The Gregorian calendar has no correspondence to the actual cycles of the seasons and the natural and spiritual world around us. It’s a progression of years: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 which makes you feel, oh, that year’s gone and will never return. No wonder those of us who live according to the Gregorian calendar view death as an end!
But there is no end – all of life and creation is a circle and a constant returning: the sun always returns, the trees will bud again, the frogs will return, berries will ripen again, ducks will fly. Isn’t that a beautiful way to look at the world? Doesn’t it make you feel a part of something magnificent?
There’s no death, you leave your physical body behind and become a spirit, an ancestor, a guardian angel.
In the famous words of Chief Seattle: “There is no death; only a change of worlds.”
Quoting Mark Comings, Quantum Physicist: “The intrinsic folly of this unnecessary yet widely promoted artificial dependence upon machine technology is that it discourages the development of, and even serves to hide the existence of, a vast spectrum of inner capacities – psychic, mental, emotional and spiritual potentials – that lie dormant within the biological human body in time.”
So he’s saying that, when the whole world gets in touch with natural cycles, it will be much easier to connect our thinking and ways of living as a race rather than as individual, competing nations. The 13 Moon calendar helps us re-harmonize our bodies and minds to the natural patterns and cycles of the Sacred Hoop of Life.
I’m not proposing we throw out our clocks and miss all our appointments, but think for a moment what your life would be like without them. You’d start noticing the sun, moon and stars and the natural world around you in order to know when and where you were. I’m recommending you spend more time noticing the natural world. Know where the moon is in her cycle, is she waxing or waning? Do you even know what those terms mean?
Notice how low or high the sun sits in the sky from month to month. Look at the constellations at night. The stars are a map of the heavens, that’s how St. Brendan the navigator, the Chinese and the Vikings all reached Turtle Island centuries before Christopher Columbus.
The Lakota Holy Man Lame Deer said::
“The spirit still has something for us to discover – an herb, a sprig, a flower – a very small flower,
maybe you can spend a long time in its contemplation, thinking about it.”
And then White Bison Wellbriety Movement expanded on that with this commentary:
“The world today is about hurry up! get there faster! Work harder, produce more, hurry up, eat quickly, be on time, don’t get stressed- headaches, conflict, drink to calm down, go to training on stress management, time management-STOP! STOP! STOP! STOP! STOP! STOP! STOP! Go spend 5 minutes with a flower or a plant. Look at it-think about it-look at its beauty, smell it, close your eyes and smell it again. Touch it; touch it with your eyes closed. Listen to it; listen to it with your eyed closed. Slow your mind down. Think about the little things.”
That is great advice for trying to live in the natural world. One of my Native American teachers said that every blade of grass has a name, and a song.
Another said that when you walk by a tree, stop and reach out to one of its branches and shake the branch as if you were shaking hands with a human. The tree will recognize and appreciate it.
I was taught to always make an offering if I took something from the earth as a way of saying thank you. Tobacco, corn meal or chocolate are good offerings. Talk to the trees and the plants. Make offerings of appreciation to them. They’ll understand your intention.
When you communicate with the earth, you will experience it communicating back to you. And you’ll be living in a whole new world. The world of natural time!
Four more teachings on living in harmony with nature, get the book I co-authored with Bear Heart: The Wind Is My Mother; the Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman.
Molly Larkin is the co-author of the international best-seller “The Wind Is My Mother; The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman” and other books on health. She is passionate about helping people live life to their fullest potential through her classes, healing practice and blog at www.MollyLarkin.com