Last night, I went to see Eckhart Tolle, the author of The Power of Now and A New Earth. He was at the Marin Center, a huge auditorium, and the event was sold out. Tolle's main idea is this:
We must evolve or die, and the disease we must cure is the collective dysfunction of the egoic mind.
I've been using The Power of Now in my Critical Thinking classes at the college where I teach. This semester, I'm on sabbatical, and part of my project is to research and match great literature-poems, short stories-with each of the ten chapters in The Power of Now. For an example, Chapter One is about how you are not your mind. The poem by Juan Ramon Jimenez, "I Am Not I," is a perfect match for this chapter. (See my previous blog "Re-vision, The I of the I"). Tolle explores the dual nature of the self with this statement: "I cannot live with myself any longer." Who is the "I" in that statement and who is the "myself?" He goes on to discuss the ego-identified state most of us are in most of the time, the false self and its dysfunction and suffering.
The Power of Now and A New Earth are the two most important books I've read in recent years. They have changed my life and brought me so much peace. I love passing these books on to my students, and at the same time, connecting the content to the rich dimension of literature. All great literature is about these same ideas. It is a very exciting project, and I feel so thankful to get to do it, to be immersed in Tolle's wisdom and find that wisdom in poems and stories, acted out in the world of literature.
So I was thrilled to be seated in an auditorium filled to the brim with people who wanted to listen to Tolle as much as I did. On a Friday night, too! I marveled at how many people were there, how much people want to feel this peace, to know this wisdom, to make it manifest in their lives.
Tolle walked on stage and sat down in a chair between two vases of flowers. He is an elfin-looking man, his expression sweet and serious at the same time. His humor is ever-present, bubbling beneath the surface, his smile contagious, joyful and tender. He is completely humble and powerful, powerful in the most authentic way. I've only seen three other people in my life who gave me this feeling of "I am in the presence of someone who is his essence not his identity": J. Krishnamurti, Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Dalai Lama. Tolle is the real thing.
What did he talk about? For two hours he talked about our ego and all its various dramas. He started with asking us to ask ourselves, "Am I still breathing? Let me see if I'm still breathing." Awareness of the breath can take us to a different, higher state of consciousness right away. We can rise above thinking just by asking that question. We can feel a peace and an aliveness by asking that question. Instead of constantly being trapped in our thoughts (most of which are repetitive) we can become this aware presence and feel more natural joy, peace, aliveness. We can be in the present moment instead of in the past or future, which don't exist except as phantoms. He made a joke about how there has yet to be an explorer to the future who has found the future, and of course, put a monument there.
Tolle talked about criminal time. Look at that dead body! Time has been here. However, the criminal has never been caught. The dead body is secondary evidence. Time is a phantom. Who kills, then, if there is no time?
The world of form is short-lived.
Our primary purpose is to be here fully. To be fully with the glass of water as we bring it to our lips. The glass of water is the primary purpose, and it is not a means to an end. Quit making everything into a means to an end.
The primary purpose is to live it now. Am I breathing? Yes. That is the Kingdom of Heaven. The consciousness underneath your thinking. That's the realm of wonder and heaven.
There are dramas, and we create them.
You are the light of the world. If we believed this, it would be the end of the madness.
Well, that is just a tiny part of what Tolle said. I've read The Power of Now six times and A New Earth once. I'm reading A New Earth again, and I've joined this world-wide online class with 800 thousand people from 19 countries, taught by Oprah and Tolle, to learn more. You can go to oprah.com to find out about this class.
Just one other story about the evening with Tolle: at one point, a ticket for the event was passed along the row I was sitting in with my friend. One of the volunteers at the event was trying to get this ticket to a person way down the row. So we were passing this piece of paper along, but the women next to me wouldn't take it from me. I kept trying, patiently, to hand it to her. She wouldn't take it. I whispered, "Someone needs this down the row." She still wouldn't take it from me until I pointed in the other direction at the volunteer standing there, waving her hand for us to move this piece of paper along. Finally, the woman sitting next to me took it.
There are dramas, and we create them.
That women's ego didn't want that piece of paper, she did not want to touch that piece of paper, no way, until the Head Authority Figure, the Row Monitor, told her to take it.
Wow. The stubbornness is intense in us. Some of us, anyway. We will not do what it takes, even to save our lives, even to save the planet. We just won't take it, we won't pass it along.
And we like drama.
Still, the woman next to me was there. She wanted to listen to Tolle. She just did not want me to tell her what to do, she did not want that piece of paper from me. I mean, who in the hell am I?
Tolle would say (and all the other wise people who ever lived on earth) we are each other. Beneath the myriad forms, all one.
This is very hard for us. As soon as one of us leaves the room, the rest are huddled around, yakking away, did you see what he/she did, said, etc, etc. We're on our cell phones talking about our dramas, blogging about them as I'm doing now. I know I'm not my short-lived form, but I'm human, too, I do have an ego, I do have an identity for a little minute, and I have to survive, goddamn it, surviving is my business, and protection and winning. Winning, above all. I want, I want, I want, judgment, sadness.
As you can see, I need to keep reading Tolle to really get it.
Or keep asking myself: Am I still breathing?
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