Less complaint and more gratitude. That’s my takeaway from the two-hour seminar held by author and spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, in Vancouver, B.C. on April 16. Having this mindset, we bring inner peace to our lives. With sense of humour, perfect timing for jokes and talent for faces (Eckhart interpreted our thinking delusions, making the whole audience laugh), he discussed consciousness, negativity, enlightenment, awareness and stillness — concepts that have been extensively covered by his books The Power of Now and A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.
The author explained that consciousness happens in the moment we step out of the conditioned mind (thinking) and realize the awareness (presence). He recommended that we practice it until it becomes spontaneous. This shift can help us look at things in a state of stillness, and be more in touch with our selves.
In this state, he says, we stop complaining — one of human beings' favourite habits. Imagine this situation: you wake up, open the window and see it’s raining. You might say, “What a dreadful day.” But it’s not. It’s just raining. This type of reaction, explains Eckhart, shows how our perception is attached to both thinking and judgement. When it happens, the secret is to be aware of the narrative going through our heads.
When we’re still, we’re able to overcome challenges in life, instead of revisiting or retelling our past suffering as if it defined who we are. It can define a life situation, but not our lives.
The author told that we need to be alert to avoid floating from past (where bad memories and suffering reside) to future (where uncertainty lives). “Your life is never out of the present. It’s in the now.”
Negativity is one of the main problems of this out-of-present journey, and it shows itself more frequently through repetitive thoughts. Two examples show how these patterns work. Scenario: sunset at the beach.
Script 1: you may say, “That’s so beautiful.” You perceive the beauty, and acknowledge it. That’s awareness (you’re present). But, because you live in Vancouver, which is famous for its rainy weather, you may say, “It’s a pity it won’t last long.” That’s no longer awareness. That's thinking (your conditioned mind out of the present).
Script 2: on your way home from the beach, you happen to meet an unpleasant person. The next day, when you wake up, you don’t remember the sunset, but that person. And you keep talking about it with everyone you meet.
“The best way to learn about the human mind is to observe yourself,” Eckhart teaches. Consciousness is commonly absorbed by our thinking, which can be painful. This suffering, however, can lead to a separation between our thinking entity and our alive presence. When this separation occurs, our entity will no longer be into the stream of thinking. Consciousness will have freed itself, and we won’t be determined by what our mind says we are.
Our life situations, reminds Eckhart, are generally problematic — and that’s okay. “Life is not meant to be easy, but it can be easier. Just don’t add unnecessary baggage.”
Here’s a tale (the full version can be found in A New Earth):
A pregnant teenager, when confronted by her parents about who the baby’s father is, says that is the Zen master. Accused, he doesn’t react. “Is that so?” The story is spread out. He loses his reputation. The girl’s parents demand he raise the kid. “Is that so?” The Zen master keeps the baby until the girl confesses that someone else is the father. Her family comes back to apologize and take the baby. He says, “Is that so?”
In life, says Eckhart, be like the Zen master. Adopt the state of non-resistance, and respond only to what happens in the now. There’s no point in resisting a situation that's already there or revisiting past suffering. Surrender thinking.
The author reminded the audience that if we hadn’t faced challenges, we wouldn’t be in that seminar. Our presence also reflected a process of awakening, as we were all searching for knowledge and inspiration. Awakening is a space beyond the personality. Everything is impermanent, so we’ll face challenges while we live. They’re vital to help us evolve. “Let’s be grateful when they come,” he suggests. To change our mindset, we need to practice acceptance. A good tip is to start with small challenges.
There’s a voice in our heads that's constantly talking, and we believe in every thought we identify with. This concept reinforces the importance of avoiding negativity and criticism because, when we judge others, we no longer sense their being. “You dehumanize other human beings because you did it already with you.”
We should love each other in the purest way. Eckhart’s definition of love: the outflow of benevolence and goodwill towards the other, which happens when you recognize the other as yourself. This shift in consciousness, he suggests, makes life more pleasant to you and others. Let's try it?
Photo credit: Glauce Fleury