This series of articles may say some things to you that you’ve never thought about before. If so, then welcome to something really special! I suspect many of you will find what is said here to be something you’ve heard before and might even agree with on an intellectual level.
Here are the other parts to the series:
Whether this is new to your or not, this series of articles is a plea to you to do more than just accept these ideas intellectually. Whenever I hear these ideas, I say to myself something like “That’s great; I’m going to really do it.” Maybe I do for a bit, but I usually find myself slipping back into old habits that seem to never die. I know these ideas work because I have experienced something wonderful when I practice them. The problem is I seem to never fully internalize them and keep it going.
This stuff is hard because it is not natural to people who live in our modern world. I’m willing to bet that most of you who think you live in the now much of the time, really don’t. You only think you do because you are not aware most of the time. You mind is churning away and you don’t realize it.
As a non-stop thinker, I originally found these ideas impossible to believe. Eventually I suspended my disbelief and gave them a try. That may have been the best decision I’ve ever made.
You will see extensive quoting of Eckhart Tolle in what follows. I don’t agree with everything he says especially when he gets really philosophical. However, regardless of what he actually believes, his practical advice is unsurpassed in my opinion.
Your Mind is a Tool. It is Not You
Your mind is an instrument, a tool. It is there to be used for a specific task, and when that task is completed, you lay it down. –Eckhart Tolle
Sentences like that used to have me screaming “Bullshit!”, but not anymore. Lay it down? You have to understand what that really means.
As it is, I would say 80% to 90% of most people’s thinking is not only repetitive and useless, but because of its dysfunctional and often negative nature, much of it is also harmful. … It causes a serious leakage of vital energy. –Eckhart Tolle
If you get caught up in non-stop thinking you will go mad in a way. I’ve spent most of my life in that condition. You will find that no matter what your intent, if you constantly think, you will dwell on the past, worry about the future, and quite simply forget to actually live; really live. You will do exactly what Tolle says and think repetitive and useless or harmful thoughts. This will happen automatically no matter what your intent. That bold phrase is the key. I can’t prove it to you, but it’s simply the way your mind works.
One of the keys of cognitive therapy is to recognize that you are not your thoughts. They are nothing more than thoughts that you can observe and choose to put aside. You are not your thoughts and therefore you are not your mind.
We all need to start using our mind as a tool for our practical decisions, when it is required, and then lay it down. The rest of the time we need to experience the now and really live. I can’t believe I’m saying that because it is so not what I would have called “me” for the last 47 years. But it works in a way that you have to experience to believe and so I suggest you try it. If you accept it intellectually, then commit to really internalizing and living that way. I am committing to do so.
Yes, we need the mind as well as time to function in this world, but there comes a point where they take over our lives, and this is where dysfunction, pain, and sorrow set in. –Eckhart Tolle
The Present Moment, the Now is the Key
Your life will change to the degree you start living in the present moment. No matter what situation you find yourself in, notice how constantly sitting in judgment of the situation creates pain and unhappiness?
Are you stuck behind rude people who drive the same speed across multiple lanes and trap you? This seems to happen to me all the time and is a source of unending irritation. I judge them to be idiots and rude and create anger and unhappiness for myself. Did it change the situation? No. This is insanity. I could actually be enjoying the drive, enjoying my life, and living in the now. This is an example where thinking is repetitive, useless, or just plain harmful. Yet it is something most of us do whether we are aware of it or not.
Notice all the things you think about that make you unhappy. You complain about people in general, your health, the government, your neighbor, your co-workers, or anything else about your life situation. When you do that, you are living in a past that is already over and done with. You don’t get a do-over. You are not learning from it when you complain about it. You are reliving it and prolonging the pain. You are polluting those around you as well.
Time is mostly an illusion. The past is a memory happening in the now and the future is a projection of the now into a possible future. Nothing happens except in the present. When you are not living in the now, you are trapped in a memory or in an anticipation.
… the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time – past and future – the more you miss the now, the most precious thing there is.
So break the old pattern of present-moment denial and present-moment resistance. Make it your practice to withdraw your attention from past and future when they are not needed. Step outside of the time dimension as much as possible in everyday life.
This does not impair your ability to use time – past or future – when you need to refer to it for practical matters. Nor does it impair your ability to use your mind. In fact it enhances it. When you do use your mind, it will be sharper, more focused
If you can really internalize and practice the above, you will discover something life changing. I’ve done it briefly and then forgot about it as my old habits reemerge. To be life changing you can’t just do this occasionally. It needs to be your normal state with only occasional visits to the past and to the future. Let it go and really live.
To be continued…
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