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29 May 2004 Day 1 Eckhart Tolle Retreat Eckhart Tolle: a pleasant, unassuming, kind and gentle man with a humbling message, a lightness of spirit, and a keen understanding of the human condition. Eckhart graced us with his full presence today in the Universal Hall during day 1 of a weekend retreat. The theme was stillness. He simply, briefly, and methodically revealed to us several of the patterns of egoic thinking and relating to the self that keep us from the sacredness of the present moment. I must say, more than a few of them hit home to me. Perhaps you?ll recognise a few patterns in yourself.....
After a period of simply sitting quietly in stillness, Eckhart began by describing stillness. It is inseparable from who we are in the depths of our being. One could say we are still already. Stillness doesn?t need to be found, doesn?t need to be created because it?s already there. The only thing is we may not notice it. If mentally active, we may not notice. We don?t notice the stillness within that is far deeper than the movement of thought, the mind-created movement of the sense of self.
Who we are and stillness are one in the same. Eckhart humorously explained, ?If you have not already gone completely mad in the madness of this world, you must have found some stillness.? He told us that part of why we don?t notice stillness is because it is not interesting to the mind. He joked that so far in the retreat nothing interesting had happened and that perhaps nothing would. ?Interesting? is of the mind. ?Interesting? is not the ultimate, except of course to the human mind. Look at a tree, a flower, a sunset. Could you say this tree, this flower, this sunset is interesting? The oak tree becomes interesting if you analyse it. Eckhart contends that, yes, there is a place for analysis in this dimension, but we usually have to kill a thing first in order to analyse it, or the analysis itself kills it. If you just be with it, it is far deeper than interesting; it is awe-inspiring. It defies analysis by the mind. The mind reduces it to a set of thoughts.
Eckhart says that most people are trapped, compulsively analysing, labelling, and interpreting people, events, and situations. When we do this we have a reactive relationship to things and can no longer perceive the sacredness because we approach it only through thinking. We end up in a prison of our own mind while life becomes reduced to a conceptual reality of thoughts, viewpoints, opinions, knowledge. Even knowledge is a mental constraint - an illusion that ?we know?. It?s still just a thought that loses its depth and aliveness. When we relate to reality through a veil of thinking we become an egoic self with an unfulfilled personal history, an unfulfilling sense of self based on a story - it?s all thought form. It is the same with the future.
So where then is this sacredness to be found? - Only in this moment. This one moment is inseparable from the life that we are, from stillness. The essence of the present moment is always stillness, sacredness. The only place it can be found is in awakening to this moment.
We are here to deepen our awareness of that dimension. There is sacredness everywhere, something that shines through all the forms. Mind believes it is hard to be present but it is really the other way around. It is easy to be present and it is hard not to be present. Life actually becomes a struggle when we live for the future, trapped in thought. Nothing can ?work out? because thoughts and forms die and so there is always disappointment. ?It? is already as it should be at this moment. That which is beyond form is indestructible. This is how to see the sacred in everything, even in a prison camp. The prisoner who has a glimpse of the now sees beyond the form to the indestructible.
How then do we still the mind? Eckhart believes there are good meditation methods and techniques, but that these have to be put aside because they put a space between us. He encourages us to use our methods until we don?t need them anymore, then leave them behind and be still. Every thought in our minds, when we?re not aware of it as a thought, has a sense of self in it, the ?I?, unconscious thought. We are hoping to complete the insufficient sense of self through the happy ending to ?my story?. Eckhart tells us, ?Go ahead and create whatever you?re called upon to create in this world. On the level of form, we have to see that certain things are no longer possible as life reduces us in form and we grow older. The question is, ?Are you looking for yourself when you?re trying to do more?? There is a compulsive striving to add more to who I am.?
Another way we become attached to the egoic self is by searching for specialness - ?When am I going to be discovered?? Eckhart light-heartedly points out that there are two ways of being happy: ?not getting what you want? and ?getting what you want?. Universal recognition does not produce peace and happiness because, once again, people?s opinions of us are only thought forms.
Eckhart spoke about the illusion behind the mind-created image. He says that once we go beyond those things: wealth, property, recognition, attainment, we can have a sense of self that is not egoic; we begin to have a sense of the fullness of life. Few, Eckhart tells us, break through to a deeper level within themselves.
Illusion can never fulfill itself because it is a thought form, still derived from movement of thought and ensuing emotions. There is a constant neediness so satisfaction is never achieved. Another trap we fall into is comparison, comparing ourselves to another. The self loves others to be wrong so that we can be right! To the egoic self the purpose of life is to strengthen the ?fiction of me?. This is not an easy thing because we often feel ?less than....?
Then there is reverse specialness which happens when we play the victim identity. This identity can be strongly entrenched as we build a sense of specialness around the story of suffering as a victim. We become afraid of losing the story, abandoning it, stepping beyond it. The story must become really unpleasant in order for us to discard it, similar to a dream. The dream must become terrifying in order for us to awaken from it.
The egoic self uses others to advance itself. Two things happen when we relate to others in an egoic sense: we use them or we fear them (protect ourselves from them). This is not a true relationship because it is distorted. Complaining and blaming sets in. The ego loves it because it makes us right and the other wrong. It keeps us constantly in a conflict position with the present moment. Many people feel they cannot be themselves or be at peace because either something has happened or something hasn?t happened. Eckhart encourages us to recognise when it happens to us. It?s a collective human mind that keeps us trapped in our surface movement - the level of form. The little moment of joy seeping through the depths of our being is what?s keeping us sane. Danger, in the form of physical illness, wakes us up. Some people are kept sane by animals because animals don?t create or impose thought forms. They keep humanity sane; animals live more deeply connected to the source of life, they still have oneness with totality whereas humans have separated; created a barrier: ?There?s me and the rest of the world.? The stronger we?re trapped in an egoic sense of self, the more we create a sense of ?other?. The other becomes a caricature of our thought forms.
The mind looks for conflict to keep its sense of self intact. The human story is an incredible tale of suffering inflicted on one another. We see how mad the collective consciousness is in its present state, yet here we are in the Universal Hall, learning to be still, to be present. It could be called a collective mental illness. We may say, ?How can God allow the human collective to become so ill or me, personally, to suffer? Of course, within the larger whole, everything is as it should be. Many humans who are here would not be here unless they had experienced dysfunction and suffering. Our physical suffering, to some extent, began to dissolve the egoic structures of the mind. We suddenly found ourselves becoming interested in the present moment and found ourselves here now, at Findhorn, in the Universal Hall, on this weekend retreat. The outcome is that we are stepping out of the level of form.
Eckhart shares that personally he could look at his whole life as a complete disaster. He tried many things, then one day his mother said, ?Okay, you are 45, what have you achieved?? When he was 29 years of age, Eckhart gave up his sense of story. A failed story can produce a flower, the flower of consciousness. It is important to note that the mud may be needed to grow the flower. There is nothing more beautiful in life, Eckhart says, than a failed story. No forms last, the story is destined to fail. And the eternal shines through the forms.
Stillness, presence, beingness exists before getting mixed up with the ?story of me?. Thought obscures the fact. There is a beauty and preciousness that is not egoic. The self is an illusion. To Eckhart this is the greatest human awareness, discovered by the Buddha, 2,600 years ago. Essence is timeless, formless. Know yourself as that which is beyond form. Eckhart cautions us, ?Do not lose yourself; this is what creates suffering - looking for yourself in form, when in fact it is formless. We can only find it when we stop looking in the future.? The one place to find ourselves is in the present moment. We are already complete. We only needed time to hear the message that to be who we are, we don?t need time. Frustration drives us out of identification with form. The nature of form is that nothing remains the same. It is a relief to recognise that the world, situations, people, attainments cannot make us happy. When we see the truth of it, we?re already becoming free of it. What is it in us that is able to see the truth of our own frustrating story that is not ours personally? It?s the human condition of the unconscious human, that which can witness the impermanence of form. The light of awareness shines on it. It loses its frustration when we no longer identify with it. Eckhart talks about the ?isness? of life, whatever form this is, and encourages us to accept what is. Then we can simply be with what is. ?Don?t demand happiness from the form?, he tells us. Bring an inner alignment with Now. Drop the demand that life should be other than it is, then something arises within us that has nothing to do with form. We might as well embrace it. Action arises out of the alignment with what is.
It?s beautiful to play with forms in our lives, but not to look for ourselves in it. Bringing a ?yes? to this moment requires a certain degree of presence. There is aliveness in every cell, stillness, animating intelligence. When we step out of the story, love and joy arise and transform even the story when we no longer depend on it. Then we experience the ?I am? that is deeper than ?I am this? or ?I am that?.
We do not solve problems by thinking; we create problems by thinking. Eckhart gently chided, ?Don?t pollute the garden of Findhorn with your walking story, with your heaviness. All life forms feel that pain. Step lightly. Don?t carry the burden of personal self. Take one step at a time, be there with every step. With full presence, perceive every flower and tree with stillness. Nature will teach you to be one with life. That which sees it is the stillness.?
Remember the Now, all there ever is. You can feel the subtle aliveness within. The power of now is the power of life - the deeper being that you are, being itself. Things still come and go, but life becomes more pleasant because there is an underlying peace that is who we are - life living through us. We don?t have a life - we are life - the one consciousness - the one life. It can live freely through us and flower. The flowering is love that is a recognition of oneness.