What does a Kung Fu instructor from Israel, a state prosecutor from Oklahoma, a Romanian computer programmer, a realtor from Sugarland, Texas, and a Grammy nominee from Tibet have in common? They all joined together with more than 400 other people from around the world to listen to Eckhart Tolle, the spiritual teacher and the best-selling author of The Power of Now, Stillness Speaks and A New Earth. I am at a five-day retreat with Tolle and Kim Eng, an Eckhart Tolle TV event at the Asilomar Conference Center located on the majestic coastline of Monterey in northern California.
I know why people journey from around the globe to be in Tolle's presence; he personifies the awareness and stillness of which he writes. Sitting with a human being who is absent of compulsive thinking, judgments and mental commenting is a remarkable and unique experience. He reflects back to us an undeniably alive inner peace that exists within each and every one of us. He reminds us of our true nature. Oprah said about Tolle: "I think he is a prophet for our time." I agree.
Tolle exudes a magnetic integrity and an endearing light-hearted manner when speaking about the perils of the mind's compulsive thinking and the power of living in the present moment.
Over the five days, the retreat provides a powerful blend of energies to support awakening and stillness. Tolle's sessions are interspersed with Kim Eng's movement and meditation sessions, an interview with fashion designer Eileen Fisher about her experience of creating a business infused with consciousness, and a musical performance by the world-renowned master flutist Nawang Khechog.
On the morning of the second day, a dense fog rolls in from the ocean and clouds obscure the sun, darkening the large auditorium. There is a wondrous and otherworldly quality to the palpable energy flowing through the audience. We all share the universal commonality to experience lives of lasting inner peace and happiness, thus ending fear and suffering.
A request is given to greet Eckhart Tolle in silence. He arrives quietly, sits down on a simple chair, and gazes out at us through his twinkling blue eyes and smile.
Tolle delights in describing the antics of the mind. "All power resides in the present moment because it is the only moment that exists. Resistance to the present moment creates suffering, a continual feeling of unease, alienation, thoughts of not belonging, or wishing things were different, or I'll be happy when ... but, the illusory future we dream of never arrives." Suddenly, the sun breaks through the clouds and shines into room. It's so bright that my eyes begin to water. Out of the silence, Tolle's words strike me like a bolt of lightening: "The end of fear ... fear ends with the end of compulsive thinking. Love does not want or fear anything." When wisdom is spoken, something deep within us stirs in acknowledgement and awakens us to remember the essence of our being. How can we experience lasting inner peace and happiness when our minds are immersed in repetitive, habitual negative thinking, creating a war inside of us? As Tolle wrote in Stillness Speaks, "This is the inner state of war."
Tolle explains: "The mind wants to draw us into every thought, it's like a form of hypnotism. The mind tells you there is something missing in the present moment. There is a feeling of being incomplete, with thoughts that you have so many problems, and the feeling that something is wrong and needs to be fixed."
My favorite new Eckhart-ism is, "The most universal addiction is compulsive thinking." Our compulsive thinking can be tricky to recognize because it's been with us for so long; consequently, it is how we relate to others, the world and ourselves. Here's the thing: We believe the habitual negative voice in our head, or as Tolle refers to it, the ego. We become so identified with our thoughts that we believe we are our thoughts. We attempt to change the situations and people around us to attain a feeling of inner peace and happiness, which never works and only causes more suffering. Tolle tells us, "Life doesn't leave you alone for very long. Behind every difficult situation or event is the potential for awakening consciousness."
The ego, a fear-based entity, masquerades as a helpful and concerned voice. It has opinions and tends to look at your life in terms of success and failure. It is constantly commenting on, comparing, judging and labeling everything and everyone. And, if it's not judging others, it's judging you. The voice is tireless, keeping you up at night with its worries. Tolle gleefully reveals, "Worry is useless thinking that pretends to be necessary in order to hold it all together." The audience erupts in a knowing laughter -- the folly of the ego is comical and ironic when Tolle describes it. Unfortunately, it's not so amusing when you believe its trickery. I equate compulsive thinking to riding on your own emotional seesaw. Sometimes, you are on top of the seesaw feeling superior with thoughts of blame, or comparing and judging others as less than you. Then, all of a sudden something or someone triggers you, and you plummet down with thoughts of inferiority, blaming, hating and judging yourself as not good enough. It all feels so real, important and necessary, yet it is emotionally exhausting and drains us of our vitality. The thoughts have a powerful momentum because they have been running our life for a long time.
If we choose to continue believing our ego, we will spend our lives swinging up and down. The energy behind our compulsive thinking is the energy of fear. It keeps us looking outside ourselves for the next thing, person or project for fulfillment. However, there is a space between the up and down of our emotional seesaw, when we are equally balanced in the middle. The outer and inner noise disappears; this is where we are able to connect to the essence of our being. It is here, in the stillness, we connect to the energy of love, kindness, equality, a deep sense of worthiness and lasting inner peace. Accessible in every moment, it is within you and me, right here, Now. Our happiness and inner peace can't be found in the past or the future, but only in the stillness and awareness of the present moment.
Tolle suggests becoming friendly with the "is-ness" of the present moment, instead of arguing with it, becoming unhappy about whatever is happening, or perceiving situations as problems.
While finishing this blog an email arrives from Eckhart Tolle TV -- A Weekly Present Moment Reminder. It reads, "Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment." -- Eckhart Tolle
As Meister Eckhart the 13th c. German theologian and philosopher wrote, "If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, that would be enough." Thank you Mr. Tolle for reminding us.
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