I was rereading some of Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now today and I thought I would share a bit of it with you all. I’ll issue my normal caveat that while I don’t agree with some of his more mystical ideas, he offers up a lot of powerful insights.
“What I call ordinary unconsciousness means being identified with your thought processes and emotions, your reactions, desires, and aversions. It is most people’s normal state. In that state, you are run by the egoic mind, and you are unaware of being. It is a state not of acute pain or unhappiness but of an almost continuous low level of unease, discontent, boredom, or nervousness – a kind of background static.”
I highlighted that last sentence because I think it is such an insightful observation about how the overwhelming majority of people live.
“You may not realize this because it is such a part of ‘normal’ living, just as you are not aware of a continuous hum of an air conditioner, until it stops. When it suddenly does stop, there is a sense of relief. Many people use alcohol, drugs, sex, food, work, television, or even shopping as anesthetics in an unconscious attempt to remove the basic unease.”
I think Tolle’s point about using those “escapes” is outstanding insight. If you do those things then ask yourself why.
Because this background noise is so normal, it may not be easy to detect in yourself. Here’s what you can do:
“Make it a habit to monitor your mental-emotional state through self-observation. ‘Am I at ease at this moment?’ is a good question to ask yourself frequently. Or you can ask ‘What is going on inside of my at this moment?’ Be at least as interested in what goes on inside you as what happens outside. If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place.”
The whole idea of observing your own thoughts is key to all of the. Step outside of your mind and observe your mental state.
“Direct you attention inward. Have a look inside yourself. What kind of thoughts is your mind producing? What do you feel? Direct your attention into the body. Is there any tension? Once you detect that there is a low level of unease, the background static, see in what way you are avoiding, resisting, or denying life – by denying the Now.”
Do you resent some person or thing? Are you unhappy with your job or your partner?
“Do you realize that the energy you thus emanate is so harmful in its effects that you are in fact contaminating yourself as well as those around you? … Do you have a choice?”
And then the best answer that I have ever seen:
“Maybe you are being taken advantage of, maybe the activity you are engaged in is tedious, maybe someone close to you is dishonest, irritating, or unconscious, but all of that is irrelevant. The fact is that your are resisting what is. You are making the present moment into an enemy. You are creating unhappiness, conflict between the inner and outer.”
That paragraph above contains the essence of the whole matter in my opinion. Are you going to clean up the mess?
“Either stop doing what you are doing, speak to the person concerned and express fully what you feel, or drop the negativity that your mind has created around the situation… Anything that is done with negative energy will become contaminated by it and in time give rise to more pain, more unhappiness.”
“You are responsible for your inner space; nobody else is…”
Notice I highlighted the word “you” in the passages above. It’s all about your own responsibility for your own inner state. It’s not about anything external to you.
“How do you drop a piece of hot coal that you are holding in your hand? How do you drop some heavy and useless baggage that you are carrying? By recognizing that you don’t want to suffer the pain or carry the burden anymore and then letting go of it.”
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