Sunday, December 23, 2018

Onward to a Life of Being Present

After I read "The Four Agreements" and began using it to start (and restart as needed) my day, I dove into "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle.  The Buddhist practice of meditation instructs on letting go of thoughts as they come up while meditating.  Much as I had heard but not understood fully "not taking things personally" before I read "The Four Agreements", I found my ability to let go of thoughts to be limited. In hindsight, I realize that I did not have a comprehensive understanding of thoughts and emotions and exactly what part they played in having success in being mindful.  Tolle's concepts as presented in "The Power of Now" and "A New Earth" have helped me more quickly identify when I am unconscious rather than being present.  

If you read "The 4 Agreements" by Ruiz, you remember that he said we are all asleep and are unconscious because we are in a dream state. Tolle lends more explanation of being asleep that helps me want to splash some cold water on my face to be fully awake or present. Thinking about the past or thinking about the future is neither is real (Tolle) or awake (Ruiz).  Only the Now exists.  The past is a memory of bits and pieces of something that happened.  The future is all the things we anticipate or dread happening.  Most of them will never really occur.  I repeat, only the Now exists.  Ruiz helped me pay more attention to my thoughts by looking for unkind thoughts that judged, by taking things personally making it all about me, or by making assumptions telling myself stories about others and what they meant.  Kindness towards myself and all others (loving kindness/compassion) began to be understood and my moments being present increased.

Tolle's books helped me figure out more about the emotions that arose during the day.   It seems that  every time someone has hurt me, intentionally or unintentionally, I have stored up negative emotions from the event. Every time I have messed something up and hurt another, that disappointment in myself has been stored.  Fear which boils down to fear of annihilation (death) and sadness and despair that I am not good enough (for anyone to love or care about me) set off incessant narration in my head.  These mean things I was saying to/about myself or others is called the ego. The Buddhists tell us that the reason to be present (mindful) is because suffering ensues when we are not present.  The suffering is caused by the ego firing up every time my pain body is goosed/triggered/awakened.  Those mean thoughts cause me to lash out at myself or others.  Now the ego is just doing its job which is to protect me.  The pain body says "warning!" because this reminds me of when that bully knocked me off the swing (which put some fear of death in my pain body reservoir).  So now, when someone does something that hurts my feelings and I feel anxious (watered down fear), I start looking around for the stimulus. If I listen to the thoughts in my head, the anxiety can turn in to fight or flight level fear and sadness as I think of possible outcomes.  In the moment,  my ego wants to protect me so it points at what Sally said, and I feel a bit angry at her. The ego wants to find who is responsible and points not to the past but to something immediate but then every event that mirrors that emotion even remotely pours in through the pain body.  It then may use future possible outcomes or to fuel my current emotion. Using what Tolle teaches, I am watching (the watcher) my thoughts (ego), feeling the emotion (pain body) and observing my reaction (back to watcher).  By identifying with the watcher, I lift myself out of the fray, if you will, and just watch the part of each player.  I can quickly identify the thought, my feelings and realize they are bigger than the incident and have nothing to do with me or Sally because it is the sum total of old stuff being triggered by something she said that really had nothing to do with me but a lot to do with each of us (Sally's with her dream scape or culture and me with my ego and pain body) being asleep (or not in the Now).  

Having watched many including myself struggle with meditation and the whole being present with limited success, I was eager for something that would help.  I practiced as Tolle suggests while reading the books, and I  noticed how quickly I could change my percentage of time being present and decrease the time it took for me to know that I was coming from my unconscious dream (Ruiz) world or ego/pain body (Tolle).

I am trying to boil this down a bit for the purposes of this blog, but REALLY encourage all who are interested to read and begin applying Tolle's book(s).  If you are like me, reading the books will become an ongoing thing.  Instructions or reading and applying Tolle to be more mindful/present/conscious include:
  1. Read and apply in that moment, 
  2. Underline and apply in that moment
  3. Apply when you notice a reaction
  4. Do not resist the reactive emotion but just notice it
  5. Feel the emotion
  6. Continue to watch for thoughts (sometimes they disappear as soon as you notice and feel the emotion!)
  7. If the thoughts continue, breath
  8. say "I am"
  9. Breath
  10. Take a moment when you are in having a conversation to clear a space and remember to be present
Facebook has some great groups for those who are students of Tolle that I recommend following once you have read or listened to at least one of his books.  

Happy Holidays!

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