On Friday March 7th, the American Book Center and Penguin Benelux organized the first of in total three discussion-evenings on Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth in the ABC Treehouse in Amsterdam. And what a meeting it was!
More than 60 people showed up; special guest Susan Smit (Dutch author, book reviewer and writer for the magazines Happinez and Marie Claire, among others) shared her insights on the awakening process with us and we watched parts of the first New Earth-webcast, organized by Oprah Winfrey and Eckhart Tolle, together.
By now the second and third webcast by Oprah and Eckhart have been broadcast (they can be viewed on www.oprah.com). Millions of people worldwide are participating in this “Online Class on Awakening��? and the number is still growing.
During the second webcast (March 10th) Eckhart and Oprah introduced us to the concept of the Ego. According to Eckhart, the Ego is our false sense of self, based on mental concepts. These concepts consist of social conditioning, ideas we learned from our parents or other authority figures during our youth, and conclusions we have reached ourselves as a consequence of dealing with painful life experiences in our past. What all these concepts have in common is that they are based on fear. The Ego clings to them because they provide the Ego with an identity: ‘Me and My Unhappy Story’. The Ego is a mental construct, and it needs this story to survive. But the past is not the Ego’s sole obsession; it is also obsessed with the future. The Ego either worries about the future or expects it to deliver some sort of completion: to save it from its current unhappy state.
Because the Ego is made up from thoughts about the past and future, the biggest enemy of the Ego is the Now. If we become alert and really experience the Now, we stop the maelstrom of thoughts and leave the confines of the Ego. By practicing being present in the Now, we loosen the grip the Ego has on us and we begin to experience who we really are: pure Consciousness, temporarily focused in a physical body.
So HOW do we become more present? How do we step out of our all familiar thinking mode? Not only are we trained by society and our upbringing to use our mind constantly, many of us are actually addicted to thinking. The impulse to think and label is so strong because many of us are almost completely taken over by our Ego. Interrupting our thought processes provokes heavy resistance from the Ego, which feels threatened in its existence.
Luckily, there are some relatively easy ways to become more Present. Eckhart gave us the following tools, all of which have in common that they stop our continuous stream of thoughts and help us to more fully experience ourselves and our surroundings:
1. Do breathing exercises, for example during meditation practice.
2. Be in nature; pay attention to all the flowers, plants and trees we see and truly experience their essence (instead of labeling them mentally).
3. Feel the inner body, meaning the energy field inside of our body. Sports like yoga, tai chi, chi qung and aikido all help us to become aware of this energy field.
A fourth way of becoming present is to become aware of your emotions. You could call this tuning in to your emotional body. The action of becoming conscious of how we feel takes our attention away from our thoughts and helps us become present, just like the tools offered by Eckhart.
But there is another reason that paying attention to the way we feel increases our awareness. All our feelings correspond with thoughts. Negative, fear-based thoughts produce corresponding negative feelings – these thoughts make you feel heavy, contracted, tense and down. Positive feelings, on the other hand, make you feel light, free and energized.
Thus, by checking how you feel, you can catch yourself when you have slipped into a worrying mood. Your negative emotions will function as alarm bells, letting you know that you are thinking negative thoughts. Even if you do not succeed in changing your negative mood by turning the downward spiral around and reaching for thoughts that are more positive,* at least your awareness of your negative thoughts has created some ‘space’ around them. You are not completely identified with these thoughts anymore and don’t take them to be the Ultimate Truth. This creates a feeling of relief: you become aware of your freedom to redirect your thoughts, instead of running on autopilot and letting your thoughts control you.
At this point I would like to ask you, dear reader of the ABC Blog, what your own methods of stepping out of your mental maelstrom are. What kind of tools do you use to become present? Does physical exercise help you to calm down your mind, or activities as listening to beautiful music? Please share your habits and insights with us, so that others can learn from them as well!
I hope to see you all on our 2nd discussion night – on Friday April the 4th in the ABC Treehouse in Amsterdam! In the meantime, keep on eye on this Blog: another article on the Oprah/Eckhart webcasts will follow! For those of you in or near Den Haag, there will be a discussion night on April 10th at the ABC Treehut.
* Esther Hicks (The Teachings of Abraham) has written an amazing book on this subject: The Astonishing Power of Emotions: Let Your Feelings be Your Guide, available at the ABC.