Dialogue on The Power of Now

I’ve read the Preface and Introduction to The Power of Now. Before going into the text, I should say that at some point over the summer, a feeling of joy-in-being came over me. I still feel it from time to time and I can recall it at will. I still feel sad, anger, confusion, pain, but even in this, if I remember there’s joy. I want to put that out there, not as a defense against spiritual enlightenment, but as a knowledge I take to the reading of a book on the development of such a feeling. Second, I am researching for a book on ethics. The goal of living an everyday life for happiness is an ancient one, and I’ve got some ideas. I’ve just read a self-help book on the family, and I have to say that I am far from an objective reader. I am real person with a real history in a real family with real unresolved issues. This research I’m doing into how to live is for myself as much as the people I live with. With that said, I had a physical response of nausea reading those first two bits of The Power of Now. It might be swine flu, or that I was on a moving train, or that I’d just had a domestic situation, but I have the feeling that after reading Eckart Tolle I won’t be the same.

Rodger, who is an objective reader? Every reader, is a real person, with a real family and real issues that are unresolved!

What were you doing/thinking when you felt joy? I have had a similar experience several times in my life. Yes, I too feel sadness, blah, blah, all emotions, but really at several specific moments in my life (and daily moments) I have been flooded with pure love emotion, witness to the emotion (a couple times knowing that it was not an appropriate emotion to feel in the depth of an extreme loss, but still witness to the very real emotion that filled my being). Some tell me this is “the grace of God”, ok, maybe. I am far more open to other realms of possibility than the idea of God as defined by most institutions in the West. I have been flooded with joy/gratitude many, many times in my life. I am grateful for these experiences.

I LOVE Eckhart, even though physically he resembles a pig; that said, I don’t agree with everything he writes, not at all, but certain things he talks about just ring completely true with me. His words resonate as truth with the inner core of my being. It is a sense of knowing (which I will explain further, later on). One is the experience of living in the present moment, which I have felt since I was a small child, a shift in depth of the moment. I get that and love it.

Another is the idea of the pain-body. I can’t wait for you to read that segment and discuss this with me. I see this in the world around me ALL the time. I do not have a dense pain body, but Tate totally does. This explanation really helped my parent Tate much better. This was a new idea to me.

I have given his books to at least 5 people in my life and NOBODY reads them! Either they complain that it is too difficult a read or they just don’t finish it. I love his books and eat them up! I asked Rod to please read them and talk about it with me. I even tried to read to Rod in bed, after sex, before sex, nothing worked.

He couldn’t care less about these ideas. Made me sad for a bit, because really I long to talk about it with someone, and who better than my closest friend and lover…..but then I figured this is where most relationships get messed up. People rely on their partner to meet their needs but we always need to meet our own needs and then we have more to bring into the relationship. So, I read and continue to look for someone to discuss these ideas with. The yoga community has been good for me. Many have read Eckhart and have lots to espouse about his writing. So, this helps me.

Wishing you clarity and wisdom and love at this time in your life. Peace for the children. This is the most important thing, no matter what that means. I see so much divorce (teaching for 12 years). I work very closely with children each year who endure a family separation and I see how much this disturbs the children. The best thing you can do is the least amount of fighting. Even if it means the family is divided. Honestly, I have seen so many scenarios and so many heart broken, anxious children. Just give them all your love and choose the path of least resistance for them. It sucks and hurts, but the shorter you make the war, the less damage on the kids. That is my experience anyways. For whatever it is worth.

Love you and look forward to further discussion…about Eckhart…good night.

Just a note about the Tolle book I’m reading. It was previously owned by a Callie, and I know this because she wrote her name on a book plate that has the “Footprints” story on it. You know the one about God never leaving us? It’s telling, I mean that a reader of Tolle would mark her books with this reminder that she is never alone…

Ok, let’s get this out of the way… Ena wrote about Kate not knowing what love is. I don’t know Ena (and I don’t care to hear how wonderful she is, but I’ll also if ever making her aquaintance not hold such arrogance against her. Of course a judgement has been dropped… luckily, me being of no account, it holds no weight.) What I’m beating around, is that in discussing this book, we’re going to come up against some contentious ideas/propositions. A good example is the quote at the beginning of my copy which funnily enough is Eckart Tolle quoting himself in his own book…

You are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold. That is how important you are! — Eckhart Tolle

There is nothing anyone could say to convince me that the universe has a purpose. And no one could convince me of my importance in some divine unfolding. The response to that isn’t “looks like someone doesn’t understand the divine.” — Jumping to a direct question — When I felt the joy-in-being I think I was just thinking about the summer just passed, what we’re going to do next summer, and generally about my day to day life. It was involuntary this joy. I really do live a good life and I’ve got good people in my life. And I think, in total contradiction to everything Tolle is suggesting, that the ethic, the practice of living that I’m cognitively testing, physically practicing, is a good one. It seems I might not be talking about Tolle’s ideas at all. I don’t think this book was written for me, or my use, and I don’t think it was written for you either, except maybe as a tool for sharing ideas. You, as a teacher, can point to this as a simple easy, pre written resource, a jumping off point for discussion and development. (of course Tolle doesn’t speak of development, development as a concept contains the notion of a future difference. and Tolle, he can’t get away from it, but he wants his readers to understand themselves as perfect the way they are.) See, you know this, love embraces imperfection as it encourages and nurtures development. — there’s something in this about social constructs and their role in the resistance to learning, the aversion to confusion. Our social is loveless, and atomizing, and punitively judgemental.

What interests me about Tolle is his popularity, He’s tapped into a vein of understanding. We are all working with the same material. He has got his facts right and because of this there is a very large readership that recognizes the truth that he’s telling. Those facts are interesting to me, the truth, the reality that resonates. I’ve finished reading Chapter 2, so I got a bit of a taste of the pain-body concept that he’s using.

The watcher is a powerful concept. Ok, my first response is to completely dismiss Tolle. The Power of Instant Gratification. See what I’m saying… A suffering readership is drawn to the Power of Now, because of it’s promise to instantly relieve suffering. “From the very first page… we breathe a lighter air.” But the question then, the fair question then, is, does Tolle deliver on that promise?

The ideas of the watcher, and the pain-body(demon) I think they make a practice that will help. We can all use a little self-reflection, but then I think what good is self-reflection? What I think is missing, and really when you think about it, the condition he’s speaking to, the fragmented, unwhole pain, the lonliness, incompletedness, are there any other potential solutions to those issues? “hey, I’m lonely.” Well imagine yourself as whole. What?? Is that the only solution? Maybe he gets into it later. Maybe we need to feel complete to enter good relationships. Am I the only one who sees the inward turn to solve the problem of living in a loveless world as problematic?

Jodi, you’ve got your mother, brother, my mother, my brother, and a good number of friends, you’re beautiful to watch, people who don’t know the first thing about you, feel the kind of love you feel toward, mountains, and oceans, and grand canyons, you get what I’m saying. And even as this, you, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, sometimes feel that you’re not as connected as you desire. Now imagine you look like a pig… I think would be a loving person, and I mean that in the sense that he’s not instrumental in his relationships. I think love, not pride or possession, not a value in some relationship, other that enjoying the presence of another, I joke now that I want my kids to know how to use a hammock. I love and I find people who love, but it’s a rare quality. I’d suggest that self-love is almost the opposite of love. And another problem is the aversion to pain. I’m all over the place, I’ll stop.

When I wrote I think would be a loving person, Rodney was supposed to be in there. What I’m getting at, is  what I was saying earlier about this book not really being written for us. Sure we suffer, shit happens, but at the end of the day, we are not completely alone. The psychotic break Tolle describes in the introduction as his moment of enlightenment, although he gives no detail, was the suffering of a man completely alone, suicidally alone. We all feel alone at times, and I’d suggest it’s structural/institutional, but there’s definitely a spectrum, and what I was getting at is that you area loving person, with very different issues than the intended readership of this book.

I’m happy you’re all over the place. I can relate. Please disregard typos…I’m just going to free type for a moment, let my thoughts flow without editing, just for the sake of time.

I’m not going to defend Ena; but she read a quote on love that she perceived as negative or love-less. I’m sure she wasn’t meaning to make a judgment. Any judgement would have been about the author not about Kate (she is non-judgmental person when it comes to other people). She was probably just joking around.  Glad you won’t hold it against her.

Speaking of joking around; the comment about Tolle “looking like a pig” was an inside joke to myself (a bad one). I gave the book to a friend of mine and she said she “couldn’t read it, because she couldn’t get past the fact that he looked like a pig”. It annoyed me for a moment but then I let it go. Her comment popped in my head while I was emailing you. I should have elaborated a little.

I think Tolle does “deliver” for many people. I know he has a large readership and this really intrigues me.

Yes, of course I feel disconnected at times. Here is just one current example; I really like the staff at Anderdon. It is one of the best staffs I have ever been a part of, minus my current principal. They are intelligent, kind, hard working, thoughtful and really care about the kids’ learning and development. It is not as stressful as a school like Marlborough. All of my students are motivated to learn (even the ones with pretty significant learning disabilities who lag behind their peers) and there is far less aggression or violence in the building, on the playground etc…so it is easier to be a “great teacher” when all of your energy goes into your students’ learning and not behaviour management/social work etc..My colleagues/friends have even come a long way with efforts to be more eco friendly. We won an award recently after a provincial audit. Out of the 60 schools that applied, we were one of only 3 who met the criteria for Gold School Certification. It was progress.

Anyways, I often feel disconnected to people at work because many of them “connect” in the staff room through jokes and gossip. I don’t want to gossip, it makes me feel like crap. I would rather celebrate the good things people do and chat about that than talk about someone’s eccentricities or make fun of someone behind their back. So, I made a conscious choice not to join in these discussions and ‘bonding rituals’. This leaves me “out of the loop”. I don’t run over to hear the whispers, of whatever it is they are talking about. I reflect about this a lot. They are fun and I often have fun with them but I seem just outside of being really connected to them. I am invited for lunch and often decline. I am included in the social gatherings outside of work but I’m really not connected the way the rest of the group is. Although, in one sense I do feel a deep sense of connection that goes beyond these superficial daily interactions. Probably not explaining this well.

Times I have felt very alone that come to mind:
I was 15, standing in the hallway at Amherst, the week before Christmas, talking on the pay phone. The speaker at the other end of the phone told me my father was still in a coma. They had removed a 3rd blood clot from his brain. He was still in critical condition. My mother was in surgery and still in critical condition. I looked up from the payphone and saw all the kids, so happy. Laughing, tossing books into lockers, so happy and excited the last few days before our Christmas break. I felt completely alone. I remember clearly a voice in my head saying “it doesn’t matter that your life is falling apart and your parents are nearly dead in the hospital…look how happy everyone else is….nobody really cares about you…I am totally alone…we are all totally alone in our existence” This was a revelation I had at 15.

I was 7 years old, grade 2, we moved from the city to the county. I was the ‘outsider’. It was very hard to make friends. It was father’s day and a discussion came up about biological parents. I learned that I was the only kid in the class that didn’t live with my biological mom and dad. The only kid in the class. I felt very different from everyone else, I remember feeling isolated (at 7)…..divorce became popular a few years later and I was there to comfort several friends. I remember feeling some comfort in this situation (I felt sad for my friend whose parents were divorcing). But I felt some relief as well that I was no longer the only one who didn’t have a ‘perfect family unit’. I was 7?!

Today I feel a deeply, intensely connected to all people, on a certain level.  I’m going to try to explain this. Maybe you ahve felt this too, I don’t know…

Recently, I was grocery shopping and I saw a woman being very mean to her child. She was so full of anger and this poor kid was at the receiving end, so hurt and wide eyed. I could have judged her “what a bitch” or glared at her or felt horrified by her treatment towards her child (part of me did feel that). Mostly though, I felt complete love for her. Love for her. I wanted to hug her and tell her it would be ok. I nearly cried for her, I felt tears coming up. Instead of glaring, I smiled at her; the kindest, most loving, sincere smile of understanding from my heart. This action stopped her in her tracks. She didn’t glare at me, or turn her rage on me, or tell me to mind my own business, she just stopped. And “woke up” from her anger. I SAW a shift in her awareness. Why did I feel love for her when a more normal reaction would have been repulsion?

Gotta go put kids to bed, ….. out of time.

Sorry, my point anyways…I agree there is a spectrum to feeling alone. The problem is that many people who you may think would be the intended audience (like the mom in the grocery store), probably won’t read his books. I think that the language he uses and the way he writes puts his message out of reach for most people. I’m not trying to judge others or say we are much smarter than most people, because I know there are lots of brilliant minds who are much smarter than I am. But the reality is, even in the small group of intelligent people I know, none of them finished the book or really understood what he was talking about. Still he has a large readership. So who is reading his books? By the way, he wrote an awesome book for children. It explains the idea of living in the present moment so well. I read it to Tate and he totally got it. He told me after, “yep, that was a very good book mom.” I’m tempted to buy it for some of those adult friends I was talking about it! 🙂

I met a waitress last year who was really interested in “A New Earth”. I told her I had just started reading it (at that time) and she recommended the podcast that Oprah was playing to help understand the book. I thought this was very interesting. I didn’t get a chance to view the podcast. I really enjoyed reading his books. I want to read about people’s life experiences, ideas, struggles, accomplishments and I want to learn something new. I am often disappointed when I read books on philosophy or life because they don’t offer me a new insight. At least after reading Tolle, I felt I gained a couple new insights. It gives me hope in people, that he is so popular. Especially because of his views on religion, I agree with many of his thoughts, but believe most people would reject his ideas and be offended by them.

I am extremely interested in the exchange of energy between people, the physics of life. I am very interested in meditation and yoga. Yoga changes people. I’m really not quite sure why it works so well. People become happier, calmer and it is not just a side effect of endorphins etc…It is something more. People heal and work through negative energy, they release it. They change the negative thought patterns or habits of the mind. I have personally experienced this and have witnessed it so many times. The studio in Amherstburg is helping people to have better lives, to feel happier, to change the course of their lives, to get out of ruts. And it is inspiring people to reach out and help others, even strangers in Africa. We have been doing some fundraising for non-profit organizations and many people are moved to help out. It is amazing to me. I feel very grateful to witness this and to help be a part of positive change in my own community. I believe every interaction between human beings is a chance to learn something. We don’t always seize the opportunity or learn the lesson but I believe it is always there. I am learning from the people around me every day. Sometimes, I am just reminded how I do not want to behave or treat others 🙂

Have to go do laundry, lunches, get things ready for work tomorrow. Have a great evening.
Peace out,
Jodi
PS. Read on…you could do an ICQ for the next chapter. Pick one thing in the next chapter you find I-interesting, one or two things you can C-connect with personally, (or relate to another book, or the world) and then Q-one or two things you question, disagree with or don’t understand. Only if you want. This is a fun way to discuss a chapter. I have used this technique with colleagues when reviewing journal articles. I have used it with students from grade 4 to 8. I have used it personally when I know I will be discussing or presenting something I have read. I like it. I-interesting, C-connection, Q-question Just if you want. “)

Chapter 3 ICQ

At one point in chapter 3, the part where he says some people get angry when he says their problems are illusions, I wanted to put the book down. I won’t put it down, I will finish reading this thing, and A New Earth, but I question the value, not in terms of money, or time, but in quality of thought.  I am reacting strongly to the book. I think the ICQ might be a way of dealing with this aversion.

What’s interesting is the value of what Tolle is saying. There is something to the idea of doing things with presence. You’ve probably felt this too, when you’re with your kids, but there’s something else you need to do, it’s a very frustrating experience, but when you are freed from any outside obligations you experience the joy of just being with children. I think I understand what he’s getting at from this experience. And I think that there is a time to be in the moment. I’m a huge fan of the hammock, and like I said, I want my children as well to learn how to use one. Taking time for yourself, for art, craft, for reading, and as well for others, for friendship, intimacy, community, and being in the moment with yourself, and with others, this is what gives meaning to life. What’s interesting is that Tolle might be in complete agreement with this. He might even use a similar story to illustrate his “spiritual message.” The value of this ability to be in the moment means the difference between a good life and being out of step with life.

If that’s an interest, it’s also the only connection I have so far. Tolle takes the idea of being in the moment to the point of near moronization. He says,

Focus your attention on the Now and tell me what problem you have at this moment.

I am getting no answer because it is impossible to have a problem when your attention is fully in the Now.

I can do this trick too, i can stand four feet in front of you, with Tate six feet behind me holding up a number of fingers, If I ask you to concentrate or focus on my face, and then when your gaze is fixed, ask you to tell me how many fingers Tate is holding, you can’t do it without breaking your focus or concentration. This is mere trickery on Tolle’s part. but he goes on.

“There is never a time when your life is not in “this moment.” Is this not a fact?

This isn’t a fact. I see what he’s getting at, but the fact is that ‘your life’ is temporal. If you didn’t get enough oxygen in the moments after your birth, this will have a profound impact on your life, no matter how in the moment you become. I understand and agree with the idea that we are living in the moment, and can only live in the moment, but ‘your life’ is the collection of those moments. When you examine your life you consider moments other than this, so no, this is not a fact.

His idea that there is no pain in this moment is also incredibly stupid. I’ve felt pain, and I’ve felt it in the moment as a result of the moment. And I’m sure you’ve felt pain in and of a moment as well. Incredibly stupid, there is really no other way to put it, but then he goes so far beyond incredibly stupid that there’s just no way to put it.

If you create no pain for yourself, then you create no more pain for for others. You also no longer contaminate the beautiful Earth, your inner space, and the collective human psyche with the negativity of problem-making.

Here are some questions: How are we to be present in ‘this moment’? In the Now, at arm’s-length, sight, home, community, city, state, world? Those are really questions. I don’t know the answer. but it seems to me Tolle suggests, a problem-free, decontextualized, completely simple moment, in which we should exist.

The psychological need to become anything other than you are already is no longer there.

Do you really believe this? Are you really the best person, parent, teacher you can become?

and then Tolle asks us some questions:

Do you believe that if you acquire more things you will become more fulfilled, good enough, or psychologically complete?

Are you waiting for a man or woman to give meaning to your life?

I have some things to say about these. First he equates the aquisition of things with being fulfilled, good, complete. But you know when I speak of becoming other than I am in this moment, I speak of development not acquiring things. We both know that things are awesome, and can delight us, but in comparison to our relationships, things are a lesser value. I understand that Tolle is expressing the common conception of the acquisition of things as a value. And I understand that Tolle doesn’t believe the first question and that we are not to believe it either. But the second question might be something to keep in mind as we continue to read Tolle. He seems to devalue others as giving meaning to our lives. Just from the form of this series of questions Tolle may be connecting others with things. It’s not just this question that leads me to think he is far too focussed an individualist for me. At one point he says that the mental disease of psychological time is collectively manifested in the form of ideologies such as communism, national socialism or any nationalism. I am a communist. I know that Tolle is a pop writer and not speaking of my desired communist utopia, but of the historic actually existing Stalinism, but this fear of the commune, is a fear of the other and a desire for connection within our being. But I would answer Tolle’s second question, that I’m not waiting for others, but that my life has meaning because of other. I live with and for others. I think you live the same way.

Ha, ha, ha, ha! You make me laugh…I’m glad you are not giving up…like so many other people I know. Keep reading! See, it is hard to move outside our perception of reality, especially when we can’t relate to something; we discard it, we think it is not possible or “not a thought worthy of quality”. I love your statement that you are reacting strongly to the book. I completely AGREE with the idea that many people’s problems are illusions. Have you talked to anyone lately and asked them how things are going in their life???? Glad ICQ may help you overcome “this aversion”, hence less suffering for you during the book 😉

When I was on the boat with the boys last weekend I was thinking being presesnt is like being in this boat, floating on top of the murky water, feeling the sun warm my face, feeling the wind, watching the sun dance on the waves, hearing the waves flap against the boat, hearing the squawk of the seaguls, distant voices from other boats, the smell of fresh air (at times mixed with someone’s 2 stroke gas motor) drifting by and then fresh again. Watching the clouds float by, looking at the vibrant leaves on trees on land. Truly seeing, smelling, hearing, experiencing everything in the scene (which I was also part of), This is living in the present moment. Where living in “your mind” is like being under the murky water; sights, sounds, become muted, cloudy, distorted. You don’t experience the true essesence of anything above the water. Just get glimpses, fragmented pieces, like birds flying by etc..The latter is how many people live their entire life.

Yes, I agree there is so much power in the idea of being present. I LOVE this!!! Being present enriches your life with more joy, enhances sense of community, personal relationships and your health (relationship with food shifts dramatically). Instead of mindless eating, or eating while doing ten other things, I try to just be present with my meal and eat. This practice has led to better food choices. I am more in tune with the nutritional needs of my body, e.g. I often crave spinach now instead of chocolate (honest!). I eat less food. When you really become present in the moment, there is a shift in the depth of your experience of life. For me things do get brighter, taste better etc…I think in part it may be that the ‘heightened alertness’ leads to heightened senses…I first encountered this idea with Dr. Holland at the U of Windsor, in my transpersonal psychology class. It was a big eye opener for me. Reading Tolle, doing the Yoga teacher trainer and spending a weekend at a silent mediation last year, all reminded me how important it is to be as present as possible in life. To truly as you say “expereince a good life rather than being out of step with life”.

I agree being with children makes it easier to be very real and present because they often demand it from you! Maybe that is why I love teaching. Or perhaps they are so important to us that we don’t want to cheat them with half an ear. I consciously practice living in the moment every day, sitting on the floor, attentively playing lego (or whatever) with the boys, listening to them and remaining present. I work hard not to let my thoughts wonder to “a plan for dinner, work obligations or worries, to do lists, projects, whatever else I need to be doing etc…” I have practiced this for so long, that Reed senses in an instant if I am not present. He will say “Mom!” Until he feels my full attention and presence. He is very in tune with me, even if my body is still and I am looking at him, if my thoughts shift subtly to something else, he senses it. Remarkable. He is the only person in my life this “in tune” with me.

Moronization or brilliance?
Rodger, practice his instruction, daily-several times, seriously, with an open mind and just reflect if you feel a shift or not.  I hear you and know what you are saying. Maybe you are already very present and the message is too simple and redundant for you. But the vast majority of people are so caught up in the negative thought patterns of the mind that they are barely present and don’t even know it! It takes explicit, simple instruction to even begin to penetrate some minds. I see this daily.

For example, I’m teaching yoga and ask my students to “close their eyes, come into the present moment by feeling the air enter the nostrils, feel the air leave the nostrils. Notice the temp. difference; air is warmer as you exhale…” Some people are so disconnected from their bodies, they cannot feel the air move past the nostril. Requiring everyone to be still for even two minutes, presents a huge challenge for most people (they must not own hammocks;) So, I continue, “Bring your awareness into your body” etc… EVERY class someone comes to talk to me after. One beautiful 26 year old girl, Robbie, came to me very teary and said “she can’t stop her mind. She is constantly jumping from one thought to another, she worries about things until the point of exhaustion, she never really listens to anyone because she is so distracted by her own thoughts. She doesn’t listen to her friends, family or husband.” She said she feels like “she is missing out on life”. She knows she is not living right, but doesn’t know how to fix it. She said she has to come to yoga nearly every day just to “feel good”. I recommended Tolle’s book. Totally helping her. But, she needed that explicit, simple instruction to get out of her ego and the chronic “mind stories”. The number one prescription for teachers is anti-depressants. Why? 3 out of 5 of my closest girl friends take anti-depressants!! 3 out of 5!

I completely agree with your last paragraph. Yes, we share the same ideas about living with others, for others and the importance of loving relationships.

The idea of pain, and a pain-free present moment. I thought that was more about not creating current pain, from old memories of painful experiences, by re-living them over and over again, in this present moment (even though the pain stimulus is absent some people continually create pain and suffering). I’m going to find my book and re-read that part,….

And the thing about attachment to a group, church, political party makes sense to me…in that the attachment and identification of that attachment becomes ego centered for people. In the mind, if a person belongs to a different group then they are enemy. This does not create a loving community, where we look at all human beings as part of our human family. I don’t think he means the “ideologies of a specific group” create mental disease but rather the attachment to a specific group and aversions to “other groups” …like the common joke or irony of being Christian (where you should love your neighbour as thyself) but actually you can’t stand your neighbour because he is some other religion.

I’ll re-read “The Power of Now” along with you, so I can comment better.

Ha, ha, ha, ha! You make me laugh…I’m glad you are not giving up…like so many other people I know. Keep reading! See, it is hard to move outside our perception of reality, especially when we can’t relate to something; we discard it, we think it is not possible or “not a thought worthy of quality”. I love your statement that you are reacting strongly to the book. I completely AGREE with the idea that many people’s problems are illusions. Have you talked to anyone lately and asked them how things are going in their life???? Glad ICQ may help you overcome “this aversion”, hence less suffering for you during the book 😉
See this is one of the difficulties I have with Tolle. I agree with you that there are illusory problems out there. Just Wednesday I was talking with one of the parents at Rene’s soccer practice. The parent was second in line at a convenience store check-out. The woman behind the counter was animatedly chatting it up with the first, current, now served customer. When it was the soccer parents turn, she say animatedly “And how are you doing today?” The next in line says, “Did you just gesture for me to leave?” The parent and clerk look at this decked out gansta punk, and the parent says “No, she was talking to me.” And the kids say, “No it looked like she wanted me out of here.” and then he says, “This kind of thing always happens to me.” I don’t know if this really happened or not but the parent says he said sacrastically, “Really.”

I hear you people make shit up all the time. So there is truth to the illusory quality of problems, but where Tolle goes wrong is to say that all, and he does say all problems are illusory. He also says that time is an illusion, essentially denying history.

When I was on the boat with the boys last weekend I was thinking being presesnt is like being in this boat, floating on top of the murky water, feeling the sun warm my face, feeling the wind, watching the sun dance on the waves, hearing the waves flap against the boat, hearing the squawk of the seaguls, distant voices from other boats, the smell of fresh air (at times mixed with someone’s 2 stroke gas motor) drifting by and then fresh again. Watching the clouds float by, looking at the vibrant leaves on trees on land. Truly seeing, smelling, hearing, experiencing everything in the scene (which I was also part of), This is living in the present moment. Where living in “your mind” is like being under the murky water; sights, sounds, become muted, cloudy, distorted. You don’t experience the true essesence of anything above the water. Just get glimpses, fragmented pieces, like birds flying by etc..The latter is how many people live their entire life.
Here too I agree with you more than I disagree with you. And I need to be clear. I am not criticizing you here, of course you know that I would. And I don’t think Tolle buys his own product, he may be brilliant, but he’s selling stupid pills. He goes so far in the direction of the now, at least in his writing, because what he’s prescribing is impossible.

When you say many people live their entire lives in their minds, I don’t know. maybe. But I think distracted might be a better description, many people are distracted, and missing the moment, confused. But Tolle’s message that there is only the moment, is moronic.

Yes, I agree there is so much power in the idea of being present. I LOVE this!!! Being present enriches your life with more joy, enhances sense of community, personal relationships and your health (relationship with food shifts dramatically). Instead of mindless eating, or eating while doing ten other things, I try to just be present with my meal and eat. This practice has led to better food choices. I am more in tune with the nutritional needs of my body, e.g. I often crave spinach now instead of chocolate (honest!). I eat less food. When you really become present in the moment, there is a shift in the depth of your experience of life. For me things do get brighter, taste better etc…I think in part it may be that the ‘heightened alertness’ leads to heightened senses…I first encountered this idea with Dr. Holland at the U of Windsor, in my transpersonal psychology class. It was a big eye opener for me. Reading Tolle, doing the Yoga teacher trainer and spending a weekend at a silent mediation last year, all reminded me how important it is to be as present as possible in life. To truly as you say “expereince a good life rather than being out of step with life”.
Yes presence is a key. But for Tolle presence is both inward and simple. When you focus you exclude. Remember our friend Alex, focussing on patterns, connecting dots? I tried to explain to him that the patterns he’s seeing emerge through exclusion, as do the dots. That his method was reductive and simplifying, losing all the complexity of reality. The stuff of the dot exists as a construct, but to call the dot illusory is incorrect. The information, the fact of the dot exists, but not in isolation, there’s a complete covering over of the face of reality, so no dot exists because the information we focus on extends and connects infinitely, we create the dot, out of really existing material, but the relation of that material never begins or ends. This is far from simple to conceive and impossible to comprehend. Nietzsche calls these illusions necessary, and Marx calls us natural, corporeal, sensuous, conditioned and limited creatures. We are limited. We are incapable of comprehending the complexity of our relations. But we can construct illusion, or the imaginary in which we live, but the material we use to construct is not real, it is a symbolic construction, we’ve really got to believe in reality, but we can not deny the real, which is also incomplete, manipulable. It’s in this complexity that we are present.

I agree being with children makes it easier to be very real and present because they often demand it from you! Maybe that is why I love teaching. Or perhaps they are so important to us that we don’t want to cheat them with half an ear. I consciously practice living in the moment every day, sitting on the floor, attentively playing lego (or whatever) with the boys, listening to them and remaining present. I work hard not to let my thoughts wonder to “a plan for dinner, work obligations or worries, to do lists, projects, whatever else I need to be doing etc…” I have practiced this for so long, that Reed senses in an instant if I am not present. He will say “Mom!” Until he feels my full attention and presence. He is very in tune with me, even if my body is still and I am looking at him, if my thoughts shift subtly to something else, he senses it. Remarkable. He is the only person in my life this “in tune” with me.

That’s awesome. Love and connection, full attention and presence. Kids demand it. Does Tolle remind us that Jesus said to be as children? He just might have.

Moronization or brilliance?
Rodger, practice his instruction, daily-several times, seriously, with an open mind and just reflect if you feel a shift or not.  I hear you and know what you are saying. Maybe you are already very present and the message is too simple and redundant for you. But the vast majority of people are so caught up in the negative thought patterns of the mind that they are barely present and don’t even know it! It takes explicit, simple instruction to even begin to penetrate some minds. I see this daily.

For example, I’m teaching yoga and ask my students to “close their eyes, come into the present moment by feeling the air enter the nostrils, feel the air leave the nostrils. Notice the temp. difference; air is warmer as you exhale…” Some people are so disconnected from their bodies, they cannot feel the air move past the nostril. Requiring everyone to be still for even two minutes, presents a huge challenge for most people (they must not own hammocks;) So, I continue, “Bring your awareness into your body” etc… EVERY class someone comes to talk to me after. One beautiful 26 year old girl, Robbie, came to me very teary and said “she can’t stop her mind. She is constantly jumping from one thought to another, she worries about things until the point of exhaustion, she never really listens to anyone because she is so distracted by her own thoughts. She doesn’t listen to her friends, family or husband.” She said she feels like “she is missing out on life”. She knows she is not living right, but doesn’t know how to fix it. She said she has to come to yoga nearly every day just to “feel good”. I recommended Tolle’s book. Totally helping her. But, she needed that explicit, simple instruction to get out of her ego and the chronic “mind stories”. The number one prescription for teachers is anti-depressants. Why? 3 out of 5 of my closest girl friends take anti-depressants!! 3 out of 5!

I think you hit two nails right on the head. First I want to say that I think your Yoga practice is awesome. It is the greatest thing. You are a teacher, a complete teacher. You are loving and brilliant. And an inspiration.

Ok. The Nails. One. I am very present. (hey if you are going to start rereading, look for his use of the word “love.” Just now I flipped through the book and found some usage of the word, which I think is paramount to freedom, but I don’t recall any use of the word in the early part of the book. If you do reread, keep that in mind.) And since I’ve practiced as Tolle suggested. It’s totally easy for me to be present. Rene too. It might be genetic, we lose ourselves in the moment. I’m not kidding. I spent hours, like six, one day this summer paddling along a shoreline, and for six hours, I was totally and completely in the moment. And even that notion of non-resistance that Tolle puts forward, is something I often do. Like you know how, nature is supposed to be pure and unadulterated? I find human artifacts, like pipelines and powerline, railway tracks, even strip malls, beautiful. I recognize the problem of subdivisions, but I can also see the beauty. So Tolle isn’t telling me anything I don’t already know, and enjoy.

Of course, I also think a lot about making the world a better place. And I think that resistance is necessary. So when Tolle suggests that we spend all our time present, how fucking stupid and incapable of boredom would you have to be? Imagine a constant focus on this moment? But Nail Two. You suggest he overstates this moment for people who are never present, not at all in touch with their actual surroundings, or their body. People who suffer their illusions. And I think you’re right about that.

I completely agree with your last paragraph. Yes, we share the same ideas about living with others, for others and the importance of loving relationships.

The idea of pain, and a pain-free present moment. I thought that was more about not creating current pain, from old memories of painful experiences, by re-living them over and over again, in this present moment (even though the pain stimulus is absent some people continually create pain and suffering). I’m going to find my book and re-read that part,….

And the thing about attachment to a group, church, political party makes sense to me…in that the attachment and identification of that attachment becomes ego centered for people. In the mind, if a person belongs to a different group then they are enemy. This does not create a loving community, where we look at all human beings as part of our human family. I don’t think he means the “ideologies of a specific group” create mental disease but rather the attachment to a specific group and aversions to “other groups” …like the common joke or irony of being Christian (where you should love your neighbour as thyself) but actually you can’t stand your neighbour because he is some other religion.

I think my problem is the simplicity of his statements. I want to live the best life that I can. I am now of the mind that living in a loving community is that best life. Why I react so strongly to Tolle, is that he takes away the future. What he says is that the mental disease is psychological time. Pyschological time is the belief in a better future. He says that this disease is manifested in collective movement like communism. We all know that Communism and National Socialism are bad, so too, according to Tolle is this disease of desiring and acting towards a better future. This thinking is so reductive it’s flabbergasting. It’s in chapter 3 under the heading The Insanity of Psychological Time. He drops a few doozies in this section. Toward the end when he says that some people get angry when they hear him say that problems are illusions, is where I wanted to stop reading. Thing is I’m fine. I’ve got love, and friends, I’m relatively content with my life, but I’m one of the lucky ones. I get it, like he says in an emergency you live or die, either way, no problem. I get that. But we don’t always live in a state of emergency and we are not alone. Ok. I’m going to stop. But seriously, watch for his use of the word love. And notice his anti-human stance.

I’ve read part way into Chapter 4 and then stopped. I went to some outside sources, I can’t deal with this alone.

Chapter 4: Mind Strategies for Avoiding the Now

What do you think of this? Tolle is writing to his category, which is living a very dysfunctional existence. It’s almost as if he is presenting a Practice of Prozac. By focusing so completely on the Now, by seeing himself as perfect and complete, he’s avoiding both history and possibility, and comforting himself and his readers in a fictional perfection. Now don’t get me wrong, I love you Jodi, for exactly who you are. Kate, and my kids, and my friends (which I must admit are few) can do whatever they want and I will support and love them. Accepting what is is not to see things as perfect, but to accept people and circumstances as they are, and loving them, working with them as they are, working with yourself as you are.

Check out the introduction where Tolle explains the origin of the book. He can’t live with himself, but does he accept himself and work with himself and others? No. It appears to me he has a psychic meltdown. He goes from unbearable to perfect. Both are fixed concepts. First his self that he couldn’t live with, he never understood as capable of development, capable of change. In love we can be what we are, but we are free to develop in loving relationships. Our shortcomings are not unbearable or fixed, but a changable reality. Why are we teachers if we don’t understand human development? So Tolle breaks with this concept of a fixed unbearability, to a concept of fixed perfection. Do you really not see the extreme thinking here?

This is from wikipedia:

In Carl Jung’s psychology, metanoia indicates a spontaneous attempt of the psyche to heal itself of unbearable conflict by melting down and then being reborn in a more adaptive form. Jung believed that psychotic episodes in particular could be understood as existential crises which were sometimes attempts at self-reparation. Jung’s concept of metanoia influenced R. D. Laing and the therapeutic community movement which aimed, ideally, to support people whilst they broke down and went through spontaneous healing, rather than thwarting such efforts at self-repair by strengthening their existing character defences and thereby maintaining the underlying conflict.

I used this here: https://notlefttochance.wordpress.com/2009/03/11/he-loves-his-mother/

The symptoms are there in the introduction, but Tolle brings it up again here in chapter 4.

In some rare cases, this shift in consciousness happens dramatically and radically, once and for all. When it does, it usually comes about through total surrender in the midst of intense suffering.

See “total surrender” is a little extreme. And I’m not saying that we should always be in control. There are times to let go, to accept, to watch the inevitable. There are things we can do nothing about, and when these moments come, they come. What we can’t control, we need to accept, but we don’t need to totally surrender. It’s extreme. And misses the complexity of life. Is it fair to ourselves and our loved ones if we totally surrender? That’s just Rene… maybe, but I think I owe it to Rene to shape his character, behaviour, mind. It’s something we do together, and you know, that our little ones change us as much in this process as we change them.

I can go on about the following statement:

Physical violence would be impossible without deep unconsciousness. It can also occur easily whenever and wherever a crowd of people or even an entire nation generates a negative collective energy field.

First, in the second sentence, he once again shows a distaste for collectivity. Consciousness for Tolle is a very individual, isolated from others, way of thinking.

The next few paragraphs could be quotes pulled from Hagakure – The Way of the Samurai. The Samurai cut down enemies in complete awareness, completely in the moment, undistracted. Tolle says things that might sound good, but a complete consciousness would include everything.

Resistance to the Now as a collective dysfunction is intrinsically connected to loss of awareness of being and forms the basis of our dehumanized industrial civilization.

There is definitely a “resistance to the now.” That an elephant can be in the room, that things can be hidden in plain view, are symptoms of a limited consciousness. We do suffer from living in a limited Now. But Tolle’s concept of consciousness as total immediate presence is limiting as well. Wouldn’t a consciousness of our present, past, and possible futures, the possible consequences of our actions in the now help is solve these problems? And Tolle contradicts himself. Doesn’t he admit to the existence of a problem that we need to free ourselves from?

Here Tolle is again reversing cause and effect. Do resistance to the now, and the connected loss of awareness form the basis of industrial society? or would these be symptoms of industrialization?

Still at work. Can’t wait to read this again carefully. Yeah, I totally thought he had a major psychotic break down when I read his book the first time. He says so himself, in not so many words. Doesn’t he? Lots of psych theory ran through my mind. See four years of psychology at university was good for something:) I started reading last night. Will comment later when I have time.

When you learn to be the witness of your thoughts and emotions, which is an essential part of being present, you may be surprised when you first become aware of the background “static” of ordinary unconsciousness and realize how rarely, if ever, you are truly at ease within yourself. On the level of your thinking, you will find a great deal of resistance in the form of judgment, discontent, and mental projection away from the Now. On the emotional level, there will be an undercurrent of unease, tension, boredom, or nervousness. Both are aspects of the mind in its habitual resistance mode.

Tolle’s not speaking to me here. I am very often truly at ease with myself. This can’t speak to you.

I will also say that Tolle’s way of being all in the moment is a little like The Way of the Samurai.

This is difficult to discover. Once discovered, it is again difficult to keep in constant effect. There is nothing outside the thought of the immediate moment.

That was written in the early 1700s by Yamamoto Tsunetomo. (Helena handed me a paper today. An one side was all the names in our family and on the other rtnbu Helena.) The Way ends with four vows:

Never to be outdone in the Way of the Samurai
To be of good use to the master

To be filial to my parents

To manifest great compassion, and to act for the sake of Man.

There’s some good stuff in the Way of the Samurai, and like I said I was reminded of it when Tolle said that in the moment there can be no physical violence. Here’s another bit from the Way of the Samurai that goes exactly where Tolle does, the lightness of living in the moment, but then adds a depth a complexity that is missing from the Power of Now.

How should a person respond when he is asked, “As a human being, what is essential in terms of purpose and discipline?” First, let us say, “It is to become of the mind that is right now pure and lackingcomplications.” People in general all seem to be dejected. When one has a pure and uncomplicated mind, his expressionwill be lively. When one is attending to matters, there is one thing that comes forth from his heart. That is, in terms of one’s lord, loyalty; in terms of one’s parents, filial piety; in martial affairs, bravery; and apart from that something that can be used by all the world.

But there is no outright denial of time, and clearly no denial of violence in mindfullness. Self-improvement within the context of a group is also stressed.

If one were to say in a word what the condition of being a samurai is, its basis lies first in seriously devoting one’s body and soul to his master. And if one is asked what to do beyond this, it would be to fit oneself inwardly with intelligence, humanity and courage. The combining of these three virtues may seem unobtainable to the ordinary person, but it is easy. Intelligence is nothing more than discussing things with others. limitless wisdom comes from this. Humanity is something done for the sake of others, simply comparing oneself with them and putting them in the fore. Courage is gritting one’s teeth; it is simply doing that and pushing ahead, paying no attention to the circumstances. Anything that seems above these three is not necessary to be known.

You can see the quality of this mindful and present consciousness is very different than what Tolle is discribing. But the similarity is there. I looks like I’m going to quote the whole book. But this will be the last one, and I like it because, it reminds us to be creative and judgmental. But it also reminds us to look for other discussions of the concept of consciousness and the concept of witness.

Today, however, there are no models of good samurai. In light of this, it would be good to make a model and to learn from that. To do this, one should look at many people and choose from each person his best points only. For example, one person for politeness, one for bravery, and one for the proper way of speaking, one for correct conduct and one for steadfast of mind. Thus will a model be made.

In that way, here are a number of quotes. Four on consciousness, and one on witness. (reread the Tolle quote on the top of this note, notice the limit of his witness.)

Consciousness

The method is, in fact, the external form of consciousness manifest in acts, which takes on the fundamental property of consciousness – its intentionality. The essence of consciousness is being with the world, and this behaviour is permanent and unavoidable. Accordingly, consciousness is in essence a ‘way towards’ something apart from itself, outside itself, which surrounds it and which it apprehends by means of its ideational capacity. Consciousness is thus by definition a method, in the most general sense of the word. [Alvaro Vieira Pinto]

 

Critical consciousness, conscientization, or conscientização (Portuguese), is a popular education and social concept developed by renowned Brazilian pedagogue and educational theorist Paulo Freire which focuses on achieving an in-depth understanding of the world, allowing for the perception and exposure of social and political contradictions. Critical consciousness also includes taking action against the oppressive elements in one’s life that are illuminated by that understanding. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_consciousness

 

The awakening of critical consciousness leads the way to the expression of social discontents precisely because these discontents are real components of an oppressive situation. [Paulo Freire]

 

A deepened consciousness of their situation leads people to apprehend that situation as an historical reality susceptible of transformation. [Paulo Freire]

Witness

The essential elements of witness which do not vary historically include: consistency between words and actions; boldness which urges the witnesses to confront existence as a permanent risk; radicalization (not sectarianism) leading both to witnesses and the ones receiving that witness to increase action; courage to love (which, far from being accommodation to an unjust world, is rather the transformation of that world in behalf of the increasing liberation of humankind); and faith in the people, since it is to them that witness is made – although witness to the people, because of their dialectical relations with the dominant elites, also affects the latter (who respond to that witness in their customary way). [Paulo Freire]

Love the idea of looking to each person for best quality, to use as a model. I often see the “best self” in a person. Choose to seek out and draw out the best in people around me. In turn helps me to live life as highest best self.

“The art (as opposed to the technology) of reading requires that you develop a beautiful tolerance for incomprehension.”

“[Second-order illiterates] like direct statement (they learned from that school reader) and have low tolerance for complex argument-really for complexity of any kind.”

These two quotes from this article ( http://www.good.is/post/michael-silverblatt-on-books-2/ ) are both interesting from an educators point of view and can be generalized to our discussion. I think this Silverblatt has hit on something. You know how you can sit because you’ve dealt with your shit? I think also dealing with the shit, being at ease with your “incomprehension,” that you don’t and can’t really know what’s going on or coming next.

I don’t know if developing a capacity for complex argument would help, it might actually contribute to anxiety, but making unconscious our limited comprehension, cutting of our curiosity, has got to contribute to the malaise, boredom and anxiety Tolle attributes to the human condition.

“The art (as opposed to the technology) of reading requires that you develop a beautiful tolerance for incomprehension.”

Yes, I agree with this. Many concepts are incomprehensible, in a true sense of understanding. Once I tried to read about the technology of how we really fly to the moon, land and take off again, and make it to earth. I have developed a tolerance for my incomprehension in this area of science and technology!

“[Second-order illiterates] like direct statement (they learned from that school reader) and have low tolerance for complex argument-really for complexity of any kind.”

Why does he have to say “school” reader? Doesn’t he know we are working hard to teach children to be critical thinkers? To make connections between: text and self, text to text, text to world. That “school readers” now contain great articles on relevant social issues and we explicitly teach students how to infer, analyze, synthesize, predict, to be critical thinkers etc…And we teach them about metacognition, how to activate schema in the brain so they have to use less cognitive energy to form a new concept, and can actually attach new concept to previously learned idea ect… The last 3 decades of neuroscience has informed educators and improved instruction and learning.

Here I pause and reflect, hmmm this is a bit of a trigger for me. Must have too much ego involvement.

I’m being light and joking around, teasing my slight urge to be reactive and defensiveness about education. (Since  we are reading “Tolle”).

Seriously though, your quote is a very relevant statement for educators, of course. I can tell right away when a student has the ability to “retell” a simple text but cannot relate the ideas to anything else, some kids (people) really struggle to see those connections and access higher level thinking. The next level of comprehension is reflection or complex thought and argument. You, my beautiful friend, seem to have aquired all of these skills to an expert level. I’m sorry I don’t have time to pull in my connections to other text with quotes, I have barely had time to catch up to where you are in the Tolle book! Still, I am greatly enjoying your commentary and inquisition into these concepts!

These two quotes from this article ( http://www.good.is/post/michael-silverblatt-on-books-2/ ) are both interesting from an educators point of view and can be generalized to our discussion. I think this Silverblatt has hit on something. You know how you can sit because you’ve dealt with your shit? I think also dealing with the shit, being at ease with your “incomprehension,” that you don’t and can’t really know what’s going on or coming next.

I don’t know if developing a capacity for complex argument would help, it might actually contribute to anxiety, but making unconscious our limited comprehension, cutting of our curiosity, has got to contribute to the malaise, boredom and anxiety Tolle attributes to the human condition.

Developing a capacity for complex argument is important, I don’t really think it contributes to anxiety. As long as you separate a complex argument from personal investment to your “side” of the argument, then people can intellectually discuss things without becoming emotionally rective and upset. But Tolle speaks to the idea of not over analyzing, intellectualizing or comparing his ideas to similiar text. Right in the very beginnng he refers to the idea that he is speaking to the “knower” inside of all of us, not the just the intectual mind. This is interesting to me. As you read do you feel that there is undeniable truth to some of the concepts he presents? Do you like the book? Dislike the book? What are your personal thoughts and experiences of monitoring your self-talk?

Personally, hope you are well. Please give all the kids a big hug and kiss from me. Tell them I miss them and hope to see them soon. We are all doing well.

I took note of his reference to the knower inside us, and that we aren’t to compare his ideas or terms to any other work. That’s the reason I think he’s after our moronization, self-lobotomization. “You’ve got a brain, but could you please refrain from using it while reading my book? It sure will make things go more smoothly.”

About any truth to the concepts he presents I don’t know. You saw the exchange on Tammy’s Canfield quote. Here’s another peddler of feel good “truths.” But before it starts to sound like I’m just being contrary, I should point out that my contribution was completely positive. I link Canfield and Tolle because I see them both as part of the self-help industry selling simple solution to life’s problems. I go on beating the same drum, but and Tolle is right about the knower inside us when he says there’s nothing he can tell us that we don’t already know.

I know this to be true from experience. The other night I watched The Ice Storm. I’d seen it before I had kids and I remember the scene where the father is walking home with his daughter, Kevin Kline plays the father and Cristina Ricci is the daughter. She’s supposed to be 14 in the film. She might even be 14, but years ago I remember thinking it weird when the father carries the daughter home. There’s a sexual undertone to nearly every scene in the movie, and I thought this scene was just creepy. But the other night, the scene made total sense to me, and it wasn’t creepy at all, it was quite moving. Ben Hood is the dad, he’s having an affair with his neighbour and he’s waiting for his neighbour in her bedroom. She doesn’t come home, so he decides to leave. When he’s walking through the house, his daughter Wendy is the living room getting frisky with the boy next door. The father breaks it up and then tells his daughter to go home. They walk home together, it might be raining, but the ground is wet, and he says “your feet are getting wet, let me carry you.” So he picks her up, pretty much the same way I carry my girls, and she puts her head on his shoulder, and they snuggle in a way I completely understand. And when I think about it now, 14 is still very much a little girl. It really is a loving scene. But I never knew that kind of love, and I couldn’t see it before. Maybe someone could have told me, like maybe if I was watching it with a twenty-something kid I could explain the emotional signifigance of that scene, but without the experience, it would be a different kind of knowing.

What I should also say, is that I didn’t even know that I was missing something. I actually read the scene. It never occured to me that my experience was limited, and that I couldn’t understand what was going on. There’s a book, I wonder how the words describe that scene, and had I read the words, would I have learned the possible emotional state of the father, and as a childless reader would the words have meant anything to me?

With this said, it’s possible that I don’t have the experience of an inner self, a true self that I can relate to what Tolle is talking about, but I also think I understand my existence in a different way. It might sound arrogant, but I think my understanding is more complex. Look at that back and forth with Tammy. It might also sound arrogant to say I want to change the world, but I want to change the world

My laptop was running out of power so I sent that, mid-paragraph.

right… I want to change the world. I don’t want to change myself in accommodation to the world. I don’t want to get right with the world. So when Ena says, “look deeper within to realize the power within you, that is the truth” I see she is familiar with Tolle’s ideas. And when Tammy says, “happiness must be found from within” I recognize that same spiritual simplification.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_(philosophy)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_(physics)

Check out these definitions. Power is measured by the effect of an action. Power is not in us, it is in our relation to the world. But how many books are you going to see if you shatter the self-esteem of your reader by measuring there effect in the world. It’s totally humbling. The world we change will for most of us be only a tiny patch. But we should do what we can.

And I’m not belittling imagination, understanding, thinking. But these are developed by our experience in the world. In a essay on “The Literature of Knowledge and The Literature of Power” De Quincey writes,

The directions in which the tragedy of this planet has trained our human feelings to play, and the combination into which the poetry of this planet has thrown our human passions of love and hatred, of admiration and contempt, exercise a power for bad or good over human life that cannot be contemplated, when stretching through many generations, without sentiment allied to awe. And of this let everyone be assured — that he owes to the impassioned books which he has read many a thousand more of emotions than he can consciously trace back to them. Dim by their origination, these emotions yet arise in him and mold him through life like forgotten incidents of his childhood.

I think it’s important that we recognize our debt to art and history, and any other human creations we can think of, before we turn inward towards our “selves” to both remind us of the creative power of others in our self, and that self’s creative power on others.

Kindness is what kindness does… A friend just wrote this to me. I want to share the context of our exchange but I am driving to Stratford for a funeral.
A couple comments…
First, I find much joy in reading your emails. I too, have a deep desire, driving force to change the world. I want to create a kinder place with more love and less anger and abuse. I could go on and on about equity and acceptance …a world where every one has clean water to drink and food to create health in the body.

That stated, I start with myself, reflecting and learning and living as the best person I can be. As an individual towards myself, as a mother and wife in my family (not “playing” a role) but truly loving and guiding and building a positive, healthy family environment. Then keep extending outward, doing the best I can in my school as an educator, colleague to build a community that is more aware, kinder to all, especially to the planet. Extend again to the wider community and the Yoga studio; now there is a
place in our little town where every person is accepted and can work towards health. Now we are creating a yoga community of like minded people who are becoming more aware, grateful for the things in life we have to feel gratitude. This small community is reaching out to help people around the globe. I know it is merely a drop of water in a giant ocean but it is what I can do to create some positive change. I remain acutely aware and open to bigger opportunities that may arise, where I will be an agent to help more people, to reduce much more suffering.

Just fyi; Ena hated the Tolle book, she never finished it.

I understand exactly what you are saying when you described the scene in the movie. I see this experience in my children’s lives. Small example, Reed often asks to really kiss me (he means with tongue, open mouth). I explained that is not how you kiss your mom I explained that there are different kinds of love and kissing. He was intrigued and continues to revisit this topic. He told me he just doesn’t understand the different loves. Why can’t we kiss like that? It looks fun and he “loves me so much” I explained he will understand one day when he is older and has experienced it. (Mental note probably early sex ed and safety talk for this one!)

I have much more to say about this, how the brain develops concepts but am typing from the phone in the car as I stated so will need to finish later.

I will read the definitions of power. I disagree with the moronization and labotomization idea. Look forward to expressing my thoughts about this. Much love to you Rodger.

I just finished reading chapter 4 and my immediate reaction isn’t positive. But I will say that he is skirting a truth, I mean he’s presenting as willfull ignorance a great truth. He’s not presenting a great truth, he’s stripping the truth of its potential, and presenting medicine.

I am really interested in this. With a whole lot of work the partial and as a result impotent ‘truth’ Tolle is presenting… I’m stopping the sentence. I mean a whole lot of work. My feeling is a subtle hint. Tolle goes off in a very bad direction, but the idea of Being, if he understood what he is playing with could be revolutionary.

I am also going to say that I think you’re reading more of your own understanding into Tolle than he’s putting out there. I mean I think you’re finishing his work in a way he couldn’t.

exits and entrances
by bpNICHOL

we have come up against the problem, the actual fact, of finding as many exits as possible from the self (language/communication exits) in order to form as many entrances as possible for the other.

the other is the loved one and the other is the key, often the reason for the need/desire to communicate. how can the poet reach out and touch you physically as say the sculptor does by caressing you with objects you caress? only if he drops the barriers.

there is a new humanism afoot that will one day touch the world to its core. traditional poetry is only one of the means by which to reach out and touch the other. the other is emerging as the necessary prerequisite for dialogues with the self that clarify the soul & heart and deepen the ability to love. i place myself there, with them, whoever they are, wherever they are, who seek to reach themselves and the other thru the poem by as many exits and entrances as are possible.

I should have know. I mean the book Is called “The Power of Now: A guide to spiritual enlightenment.” I feel a conflict with my dismissal of pretty much everything Tolle says. (By the way, I’m well into chapter 8) Shouldn’t I keep an open mind? Shouldn’t I listen and work to understand what he’s trying to say? I can answer those questions. It’s not like they are deep and unanswerable. I do have an open mind. I am not attached to any belief. I have a desire to remain open. So my dismissal, and you know what, I’m not merely dismissing Tolle, I’m not throwing the book down in disgust. I am reading his every word. I know he says what he’s getting at cannot be understood, but I think he’s going for a depth, an imaginary profundity far beyond his own scope. I admit nausea in trying to untangle the knot he’s proposing; the magical knot (trick) he’s weaving. And maybe this kind of trickery, like setting your clock ahead 10 minutes so you won’t be later, works for some people, but I prefer to seek other solutions to mental trickery.

Patient: “Doctor it hurts when I do this.”

Doctor: “Don’t do that.”

Tolle starts in slow, ok, other than his immediate admission that he’s suffered a mental breakdown. But as the book goes on he goes in a direction I just can’t abide. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to force myself to read on. My main issue is foundational. In so many ways I can see the value in what he’s saying, because I start from a very similar foundation. But Tolle does something that changes everything. I started this conversation with you before. And I know I’m not going to be able to convince you, but regardless, there are some very practical issues that become perverted in Tolle’s world view. I’ve made a lot of notes in the margins as I’ve read, and I’ll probably not deal with every point, because who’s got time? But see, I know that you and I have different world views.

I just want to make it clear that I am not closed to the possibilities. You know the bible thumpers who come to your door? Every one of them was just like you, used to think just like you did. Is it just me? Or does the same thing happen to you? I always say, “No you weren’t. If you really did think like me at any time you wouldn’t be thinking what you’re thinking right now.” I do it with a smile. But the truth is, that I used to feel and experience, know and believe in god, ghosts and spiritual beings. I really did. And now I have a different concept of the world.

I’m reluctant to go there immediately, but I think it will come out in the chapters on body, and relationships. What Tolle does in these chapters is bad. How’s that for judgment? This is a bit of a preamble before I basically tear apart Tolle’s work. I need to work on articulating my world view, and I think Tolle’s description is so wrong that I may, simply in negating his words, paint a positive picture of my world.

My World

See the idea that I went into reading Tolle with preconcieved notions is good and fair, but to go further with that and think that those preconcieved notions are fixed, rigid and non-valent is false. I am totally open to new ideas and concepts. I read daily. And daily I add something to, change something about the way I think about the world. So I’m not rejecting Tolle out of some ego-protection plan. In fact my world view is completely ego shattering. Kate and I share similar world views and the simple statement of these views seems violent and angry to those living under the ego-protection plan. I don’t say there is no God in anger, or that the universe doesn’t care in anger, I say these things as a matter of fact. But what’s interesting about Tolle is that he recognized those same facts, but he brings something to the text that isn’t there. He goes to this space of silence and nothingness. I go there too. I see our surroundings of silence and nothingness. But then he does something, wait, Tolle really works hard to get us to experience this nothingness, and you’ve got to understand that I go there with him. But then he does something that makes no sense. Sure he does a number of tricks, that I’ve noted (in the margins), and one of them is to say that we can’t understand this and shouldn’t even try, but he gives the nothingness purpose, and in this nothingness our purpose is revealed. Instead of an empty, nothingness, that if you think about being surrounded by nothing, but while still calling it nothing, Tolle, like all spiritualists, adds something, imagines something positive in the negative space. There can not be something in nothing. Nothing can not have a purpose.

But I have a question. Who suffers from ego? The person who sees some provider of personal purpose in the nothingness, or the body experiencing nothing but nothingness?

Tolle is grasping a purpose, a really real reality. I think it was the Buddha who suggests Killing the Buddha, and Nietzsche whose madman seeks God with a lantern in the daytime. Maybe God is the the highest form of grasping, superlative attachment, our greatest weakness.

I know Tolle asks us not to, but compare bpNichols concept of exists and entrances with what Tolle has to say about portals. (that’s for chapter 7)

Chapter 4

Freedom from Unhappiness

“Whether your thoughts and emotions about [this situation] are justified or not makes no difference. The fact is that you are resisting what is. You are making the present moment into an enemy. You are creating unhappiness, conflict between the inner and the outer. Your unhappiness is polluting not only your own inner being and those around you but also the collective human psyche of which you are an inseparable part. The pollution of the planet is only an outward reflection of an inner psychic pollution: millions of unconscious individuals not taking responsibility for their inner space.”

WHAT?!?!? See here Tolle again goes too far. I attribute it to his misanthropy. It might work. But is utility really the criteria that we want to judge the way we live? A situation, he says, whether the unhappiness you feel in it is justified or not, doesn’t matter. You need to accept it. I understand this in one sense, but I think I’m changing Tolle’s meaning. I feel bothered by what he’s saying, because while accepting reality, or situations as real, and understanding the maluability of reality is a necesary step to taking action in creating a life/world that you can live with. That’s how I understand, accepting the present moment. You do need to accept it as a moment, a moment that will pass, a moment that will repeat itself endlessly unless we act in the moment. And Tolle sort of says as much, but then he sees pollution, real toxic waste, as simply a reflection of our collectively polluted inner space. And maybe if there was a clearing of global consciousness, right? Some sort of magical psychic change people would connect their actions and relationships with pollution, of course, but Tolle isn’t saying this. He’s got an idea of consciousness as having one foot in another dimension. But isn’t that what’s got us into this situation? Isn’t the collective understanding of a spiritual dimension the mindset/consciousness that diminishes the importance of flesh and earth?

“Negativity is never the optimum way of dealing with any situation. In fact, in most cases it keeps you stuck in it, blocking real change.”

This depends on the way you conceptualize positivity. If positivity is what is, the actual, what exists in a moment, then what doesn’t exist is the negative. So if you’re unhappy now, that’s positivity, and happiness, which doesn’t exit is the negative. This is relativity. Real change is a negative concept, it is something other than what is.

“You have a choice, you are not just a bundle of conditioned reflexes”

I totally agree with this, but in this we need to understand that we are a bundle of conditioned reflexes, but not just, we have agency, but changing our conditioning isn’t going to happen over night.

“…the mental, emotional and physical violence, the torture, pain and cruelty they continue to inflict on each other…”

notice that “they” do you see how Tolle seperates himself from humanity?

“Now they are engaged in destroying nature and the planet that sustains them. Unbelievable but true. Humans are a dangerously insane and very sick species. That’s not a judgment. It’s a fact.”

wow. This is misanthropy I was mentioning.

“…there comes a point when you need to go to the next stage…”

Sounds like Ena. How does he reconcile your perfection in the moment with a need to go to the next stage?

“If you don’t, your “acceptance” just becomes a mental label that allows your ego to continue to indulge in unhappiness and so strengthen its sense of seperation from other people, your surroundings, your here and now.”

“…everything is “okay”… ….which of course is true…”

“When you speak out, you are in your power. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.”

who’s mad? So if you can’t change it now, give up? Wouldn’t you agree that some situations are complex, need a level of analysis, and maybe some tactics or strategies that will occur in time, to make the change we want to see in our lives?

Action arising out of insight into what is required is more effective than action arising out of negativity.”

peddling in common sense…

Any action is often better than no action, especially if you have been stuck in an unhappy situation for a long time. If it is a mistake, at least you learn something, in which case it’s no longer a mistake.”

yes, experimentation … no, shouldn’t our actions be considered? being stratified is not the worst thing that can happen to you.

“If there is truly nothing you can do to change your here and now, and you can’t remove yourself from the situation, then accept your here and now by dropping all inner resistance. The false, unhappy self that loves feeling miserable, resentful, or sorry for itself can then no longer survive. This is called surrender. Surrender is not weakness. There is great strength in it. Only a surrendered person has spiritual power. Through surrender, you will be free internally of the situation. You may then find that the situation changes without any effort on your part. In any case you are free.”

This is good…”Stress is cause by being “here” and wanting to be “there,” or being in the present but wanting to be in the future.”

splitting yourself in two.

“The bourgeois whose existence is split into a business and a private life, whose private life is split into keeping up his public image and intimacy, whose intimacy is split into the surly partnership of marriage and the bitter comfort of being quite alone, at odds with himself and everybody else, is already virtually a Nazi, replete both with enthusiasm and abuse; or a modern city-dweller who can now only imagine friendship as a “social contact”: that is, as being in social contact with others with whom he has no inward contact.” (Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno. Dialectic of Enlightenment. p.155. Continuum, New York)

“Die to the past every moment. You don’t need it. Only refer to it when it is absolutely relevant to the present. Feel the power of the moment and the fullness of being. Feel your presence.”

hmmm. Really, if we don’t solve the problems of the past, we will repeat them in the endless moment.

“Life is primary. Life is your deepest inner being. It is already whole, complete, perfect.”

This is just feel good verbiage. But also a negation of the outer world. The earth and our relationship to it is not spiritual. When we eat spinach our digestive process extracts minerals. We know this now. We know that we are consuming proteins and not animal spirits when we eat meat. Life is a very real physical process.

“Gratitude for the present moment and the fullness of life now is true prosperity.”

But why prosperity? and why the earlier comment about white man, and this dismissal of ancestors?

Hi Rodger,

Dug into the book very late the last few nights and just Started Chapter 6!

I love that you are tearing apart Tolle’s work. I love hearing your world view and watching how you analyze, compare and critique his work. We share many similiar thoughts, though his work did not provoke such a strong distaste or reactivity in me. I enjoyed his books. I even liked “A New Earth” better than the “Power of Now”. Although, many peices of the “Power of Now” resonated with me as truth, sounds like they do with you as well, on some level, despite all the fault you find with his work. You are probably right that I infer my own meaning into his words. Or perhaps, the shared experiences I have (with Tolle); the stillness between thought, being the watcher of my thoughts, moments of intense presence in nature and different times in my life; I understand what he is talking about but from a slightly different perspectve. I also picked up on the fact that he says “you” and lifts himself above the human race slightly. This left me with a negative sense about him. Rather “egoic” I thought. Some parts of the book, felt empty or a bit wrong to me….wasn’t sure how to express this, but you nailed it in one of your paragraphs. Will come back to this later.

I also read with a very open mind. I am searching for new ideas, not an attachment to cling onto, but ideas to broaden my scope of understanding of the world, life and our human experience. I like to take what I can from an author. I can read, with an open mind, ready to understand and incorporate ideas, then after some thought and some analyzing, dismiss the ideas. I understand what you are saying that you did not throw the book down in disgust..etc..

I love the Rumi poem that talks about meeting in the field beyond what is right and wrong. Once I think you quoted it as your status line.

I believe that I understand very well the world view you and Kate share. My dad, Frank who raised me from the time I was 7 to young adulthood shared a similar world view. He did not believe in God. Drove my mom crazy. He was also highly intelligent 😉

My World View; hard to explain, very open. I am not attached to a specific religion or belief. Like taking the best attribute from an individual and admiring that attribute and trying to live up to it in my own life. I think I do the same with religion and my world view. My belief is very ecclectic, choosing elements of specific religions or beliefs that resonate with me. I don’t think there is a church/synogogue/temple that I have not attended. Truly, I am a ritualist and enjoy community. I have visited them all, listened to the message, read the works and scriptures, sang the songs and hymns. I enjoy this experience. Lived in a convent at age 19, in Israel for three months. I even attended the Hare Krishna temple in Detroit, really enjoyed the food there and the singing! That kept me attending for a while! Today, I don’t attend church. Haven’t for several years. But the ritualist in me and sense of community that I enjoy, is completely fulfilled though my yoga practice. If I woke up tomorrow and learned for a fact that there was no God. I would be fine with it. If I woke, and Jesus was in my living room, I would be fine with it. If I had to claim a religion, I would claim the religion of “Love”.

The religion of Love:
When Jahovah Witness come to my door (which is often), I don’t feel angry or judgemental. I listen to them and look to find the admirable trait in this individual standing in front of me, sharing their beliefs. I always tell them, I do not share their belief but thank them for the positive message. They are not hurting anyone. I don’t find the jokes funny, that tease them either. This use of humor against groups or religions is more harmful than the guy knocking on my door to share his message.

I learn from my mistakes and the mistakes of others. I try to reduce the suffering of others and just help people out. I believe in the energy exchange between people and that the universe does guide us on some level…opportunities/lessons are presented to us and through our own intuition, work and openess; great happiness can be achieved in our lives. I believe in synchronicities. I know that there are workings in the universe beyond my scope of understanding. I have so much love in my heart. I’m going to share how I feel with you, most people do not understand this idea. It repulses people and brings forward a lot of reactivity but, here I go; I really have enough love in my heart to fogive the Taliban, a rapist, a pedophile (I am completely disgusted by the acts of violence from individuals/groups but understand the sickness and the societal disease that has created them). I do not excuse individual acts of violence but work to understand things from an individual, psychological, societal and global perspective. It is devastating to be the victim to these acts of violence and no person deserves this. I have a depth of empathy that has cut me to my core at times, other people’s sorrow has broken my heart. I can feel victims pain and cry for them. All of this creates such a strong desire to right the wrongs in the world, to eliminate the anger and violence and atrocities that take place every day. How???? Starting with myself, I choose to come from a place of loving kindness, no matter what I am confronted with. I really hope to recognize the highest self in each person and learn what I can from others. There is always a lesson if you can see it. I have no desire to judge and condem others. We all have our own lessons to learn and journeys to live that are deeply interlaced and connected to each other. If everyone came form a place of love, it would change the world. Challenging, but this is my choice and I do my best every new day. Hope this makes sense to you. I am not just a “bleeding heart”, I am self protective. And actively working to create positive change in the world.

Thank you for the resource: bp Nichol. I don’t know why I did not have his name on file in my brain. I am aware of the genre of poetry that he helped make popular in Canada. He’s a famous Canadian poet and he has written children’s lierature and missed my scope! Thank you.
His poem “exits and entrances” is so beautiful, real, sensual, descriptive, stirring…..

I will do the comparison.

I really like the idea of the pain-body. This makes sense to me on so many levels and brought some clarity to certain situations that I have faced. On a physiological/energetic level it makes sense too. And the idea of not reacting to the pain-body or feeding into it is helpful, to diffuse anger, whether it is in the self or others. Mentally to remain non reactive is the key! Stay present, focus on the breath and be calm. I watch Rod and Tate trigger each other endlessly! Often would drive me batty. If I can stay non-reacitve and calm, the situation is far less likely to escalate into family drama. Common sense.

I want to address something in your other email. I’m going to it now.

So I’m thinking about Tolle’s Power of Now, a lot. I mean I’m really trying to figure out why it’s so bothersome. This is what I’ve got so far.

Reading it with you, understanding that you see value in the work, I’m reading it in sympathy with you. I’m looking for something good, something to connect with, but the frustrating thing is that I can almost agree with some of the stuff he says. See what I’m saying? There is absolutely nothing there for me. The closest I come to anything is almost, and he always goes in a direction, obviously the spiritual, and I can’t go there.

I can’t go in the spiritual direction, and it’s not because I’m protecting my ego. I will admit to “my thinker” as a conscientious objector. ( I hope you read this with the image of me smiling as I type.) What concerns me is the value, or where value is placed in a spiritual image of the world. You can see that everything physical becomes illusion for Tolle and the spiritual dimension is the only real value, it is the place where we find freedom. The physical world is an illusion where we surrender ourselves, and live freely in our inner world. Because I value only the physical world, because I don’t recognize the existence, other than imaginary, or the spiritual world, the devaluing of the physical world is contrary to my way of life.

That 2 million people by this book, is a testament to the number who value the spiritual world above all else. I would argue that many of our problems grow out of this misplaced value. The argument isn’t that simple. But here’s something to think about. Fetishization is something like idolatry, where a value is placed inside an object. That we see God in a rock is to fetishize the rock. Marx uses the concept of the fetish to explain what happens to objects/products in capitalist systems. So the issue I have is with the placement of values. I’d like to talk about this with you, because I really am writing a book, and I want it to speak to people, I want it to communicate. And I want to know how you make sense of what I just wrote.

But also this quote:

“The bourgeois whose existence is split into a business and a private life, whose private life is split into keeping up his public image and intimacy, whose intimacy is split into the surly partnership of marriage and the bitter comfort of being quite alone, at odds with himself and everybody else, is already virtually a Nazi, replete both with enthusiasm and abuse; or a modern city-dweller who can now only imagine friendship as a “social contact”: that is, as being in social contact with others with whom he has no inward contact.” (Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno. Dialectic of Enlightenment. p.155. Continuum, New York)

I agree with this completely and see in it an ethic of living together everyday. You see that inward contact is key to this idea, so I’m not denying your inside, what I’m denying is the quality that Tolle attributes to it.

And I’ve finished reading The Power of Now. I skimmed through A New Earth and it’s more of the same, so I probably won’t read it. But if there are sections you want to talk about. I’d love to. You’re more interesting than Tolle. I made a lot of notes in the margins of the chapters on the body and relationship, but the last chapters, I noted a few things, but it was all repetitive. Did you notice that he says the same thing, over and over and over again?

I can totally see you smiling while typing! Funny! I have been thinking about Tolle’s “Power of Now” a lot too. Maybe you will run into him and you can go for coffee and chat it up 🙂 I think he lives in Vancouver….never know, universe has a mysterious way of bringing people together….could you see me smiling while I typed that?

Rodger, you are very interesting to me. Your word choice of reading in sympathy with me, intrigues me a little. Do you think you have a deep understanding of my feelings and emotions, even though we have fairly different world views?
You wording flattered me a little 😉

I really look forward to reading your book one day. Truly, I enjoy your commentaries!

Yes, this is interesting, something to ponder. I can see the dualism, “splitting” of the life…. The description of the city-dweller reminds me of a study I read long ago, forget the author, but remember the message. The gist of it was that “we” have experienced a shift in human relationships (social relationships) directly opposing our actual physical proximity to each other. He stated that when houses were miles apart, separated by farmers’ fields, people were deeply connected. They would gather around kitchen tables, drink coffee, socialize, do the harvest together, celebrate, dance, play music, etc… You knew your neighbour very well, in a meaingful and connected way. Now, in common big city, high rise dwellings, people are living in closer proximity than ever before, meters apart, lives separated by mere sheets of drywall, but it is common for these people not to know each other at all, may not even recognize a neighbour that is living just feet away from them month after month. Hence, the close social contact but no inward contact at all.

I agree with this completely and see in it an ethic of living together everyday. You see that inward contact is key to this idea, so I’m not denying your inside, what I’m denying is the quality that Tolle attributes to it. Interesting.

Rodger, have you ever spent time meditating? Seriously meditating. Have you ever had a lucid dream?

I know I have developed my own definition of “spiritual” and really it equates to the metaphysical (and I know we could write volumes alone on the idea of metaphysical).

I have spent a lot of time meditating and have a deep connection with my inner physical self. I can lay still and feel my heart beat (might sound funny but a lot of people cannot do this because they are so stuck in their heads and disconnected from their bodies!). I can feel my pulse in my hands and even if in my left big toe if I bring my awareness there. I can feel the sublte body that extends beyond my physical form. I really can feel pulsing just beyond my hands. Can you? Science has confirmed all of these experiences. We know we are all created from atoms, you, me, the air between us. And depending on your perspective; you see me as a solid form, I see you that way, and we see the air between us as nothing. But a microscopic bug could fly through me the way we would walk through a forest of trees. So we are really just an atomic soup. There is an energy flow. A life force…..I have to go feed the boys and help get them to bed. Family won’t wait another second! Will finish this later.

If you really want to write a book that communicates a message, use simple language. This is the way to speak to the masses. Clear, simple words to express your message. Good luck and I would love to give you feedback if you would like.

Right clear and simple language. Just this morning as I was leaving the house to pick up Helena from school, she finishes at 11:25, I had this feeling of being overwhelmed by the inability to communicate with people. There were a couple bits that set it off.

One was a line in an article on The New Canadian Morality in the latest issue of Maclean’s. There was an expert on ethics who said that morality predates religion, that the faculty, or the moral instinct was what made us receptive to religion.  I am having some issues in my family life here as well, that might be part of the overwhelming feeling. But the fact is that there needs to be an opening for any exchange of ideas. The strongest example I have comes from an anti-oppression training session I attended. There was a bit of a revolt in the session. The session leaders were two very young, very inexperienced girls. They were still in the process of working on their BA in women’s studies and actually read directly from course books at one point. The people in the session were Media Democracy Day organizers. This is important because these are people who are interested in making the media democratic. That might seem redundant because it’s so obvious, but it’s important. It’s important because a group of activists working for the democratization of media should be critical of the acceptance of our standard of democracy. But because we live in an equal society, oppression isn’t really something we do (I disagree with this completely, by the way) or even something that’s part of the system. Really everyone has the opportunity in our society, so I’m kind of uncomfortable with the idea that I might be reproducing oppression in my day to day dealings. The idea that we live in a democracy, which means there is equality, dominates and question that this might not be so. I guess what’s overwhelming is the dominant thought, and it’s cyclical reasoning. So simple won’t cut through it, but it is all we’ve got, our best hope.

Do you think you have a deep understanding of my feelings and emotions, even though we have fairly different world views?

Yes. I don’t think our world views really matter. Ok they matter, but for feelings and emotions, no, Your world view, especially the view to the world you desire, completely overlaps with mine. i think this is why I could argue with you for the rest of my life. You know, there’s so much common desire, so much common will, that and difference we might have is worth talking over.

CHAPTER FIVE
The State of Presence

This short chapter was pivotal. This is where Tolle and I part ways. What’s interesting is that we’re all dealing with the same facts. I think there’s a fairly broad consensus that people are unhappy; that prozac and other drugs are being used to maintain social functioning; that addiction is a social and prevalent disease; that divorce or simply bad relationships are so common we cynically accept it as normal or human nature. Tolle suggests surrender to this reality while retreating into a divine presence. Sure inspired by this divine presence we can act in the world of illusion, but oh well, it doesn’t matter that much anyway, because there’s a better place filled with joy. So long suckas.

The tools I suggest for dealing with this reality are history and desire. (But for Tolle history too is an illusion. You can see why that might bother me? The tools we can use to change how we live in the world are dismissed by Tolle. Really? Surrender?) But the search through history for a difference that might matter, is a long and effort filled struggle. And even then what you’ll find is not salvation, but a tough row to hoe.

So when the Questioner asks what do you mean by rooted in the body? I’m not hopeful, already Tolle has proved himself scornful of reality, the body, humanity, real life, but this concept of ‘rooted in the body’ in the mind of someone who loved their body, and other people, could be liberating at least for others. I think that needs to be understood, that it is we who liberate others. We can’t be liberated without our liberation being the will of others. And this is how my view differs from Tolle. Our connection to the world is others. It is through others that we know.

Tolle says:

It means to inhabit your body fully. To always have some of your attention in the inner energy field of your body. To feel the body from within, so to speak. Body awareness keeps you present. It anchors you in the Now.

My only problem here is the inner energy field as body, that the body he’s refering to is an imaginary body, within the physical body. I think we should inhabit our bodies fully. And by body I mean our physical body. Imagine there is no spirit. Imagine only flesh and bone. Our flesh is alive with nervous energy. Our history is written in the flesh. Our memories are literally embodied. Our heart is beating. When Tolle suggests the meditation where we imagine light, this isn’t incompatible with a real physical body. We can close our eyes and explore our physical body. We can feel the nervous energy, we can prime it. And the imaginary spirit, like heaven or hell is a concept that can be added to the body. This is why the idea that we are spiritual beings doesn’t really matter. If you love, and you believe it’s spiritual, you still love. And if you believe that love is a physical faculty, that imagination, and memory, trust, and bonding are physical qualities. The reality is that a child who doesn’t know love, will never know love, like a child who doesn’t learn to speak by 15 will never learn to speak. We have physical capacities that develop through exercise. This is why the practice of attachement parenting is so important. We develop socially through our bodies, we have social faculties, like language that develop in social settings.

But you can see I have some reverence for the physical world, for social life. So I notice when Tolle writes:

The mind left to itself creates monstrosities, and not only in art galleries. Look at our urban landscapes and industrial wastelands. No civilization has ever produced so much ugliness.

Earlier I mentioned the beauty I see in the urban landscapes. Tolle shows himself as clearly misanthropic. What I also have trouble with is the way he sees the mind as isolated,  and that the spirit, or other place, is also somehow separate. But Tolle gives plenty of examples of misanthropy:

If they do not free themselves from their minds in time, they will be destroyed by it. They will experience increasing confusion, conflict, violence, illness, despair, madness. Egoic mind has become like a sinking ship. If you don’t get off, you will go down with it. The collective egoic mind is the most dangerously insane and destructive entity ever to inhabit this planet.

There is so much wrong with this short passage. He disdains the collective, which is the only place real, as opposed to imaginary, connection can be made. He rushes his readers, telling us that time is running out, after pages upon pages devoted to explaining the illusory nature of time. And then there is the idea of an ability to get off, like somehow we’re not all in this together.

These last two notes, just show Tolles patheticness. I mean, the guy is a total loser, and he’s written a delusional tract on how to deal with loserdom.

He considers himself an enlightened master, but because he has no false self to uphold he’s more ordinary that even ordinary people. But this line that follows is telling:

Anyone with a strong ego would regard them as insignificant or, more likely, not see them at all.

It just reads a little to personal, for a guy who doesn’t have a sense of self to defend.

Any kind of exclusivity is identification with form, and identification with form means ego, no matter how well disguised.

It’s this kind of anti-materialist stuff that is purposeless. Imagine a world where you included everyone, all the time. The reality is we need to be somewhat exclusive to develop any sort of friendships. Is enjoying the qualities of a few friends identification with form? Is this ego disguised well?

Ok. Ego gets a bit of a bad rap, but you were a psychology student. The ego is a bit of a neutral concept isn’t it? Isn’t the id our body in action, the ego our sense of our body and the super ego our sense of community?

Chapter Six
The Inner Body

The body can be a point of access to the realm of Being.

The body is more than an access point. The body is being. What do you think of the idea of the body as a way out, or a way to something other? Me? I value the body above all. I see nothing beyond or behind. There is for me no way out. The idea of the body is totally complex. What I mean by that is body issues. For women, men, gay men there are body standards, images, expectations, that complicate the idea, or they make divergent a good (healthy) consciousness of the body. These are social issues, but the sensuality, the physicality of the body need to be understood for health. There are spiritual practices or ways of thinking about spirituality that are much more sensual than Tolle. Liberation theologists, some of them anyway, interpret the Apostle’s Creed, the belief in the resurrection of the body, in a way that unites spirit and flesh. The idea is that death is total. And the resurrection of the dead, is the resurrection of the body, the flesh, because there is no life without flesh. The word becomes flesh. This way of thinking, where the word/spirit becomes flesh which lives totally or dies totally, demands that the flesh is fed, satiated. Jesus was a big fan of feeding the hungry. I can handle this kind of liberation theology, but this free spirit that has no connection to the body, that uses the body as a vessel, places a higher value on death because death is freedom from the body which is a meat cage.

Being can be felt as the ever-present I am that is beyond name and form.

What is beyond name and form? Purgatory? Just like with the liberation theologists understanding of the flesh as the word become, critical pedagogists find power in naming the world. Tolle surrenders. What about the poor, the hungry, the alone? What if this is it? Sure either way it doesn’t matter whether you live or die. If the lights go out, at least when the hungry die, it’s like that unconscious sleep. nothing. But while we’re here shouldn’t we work, plan, imagine a better world. What we’ve got to fight with is only our physical, sensual being. Tolle would have us hide behind the meat, seek an imaginary happiness, we can’t share, can’t really share, not like food anyway, with others.

LOOK BEYOND WORDS

The word becomes less important

See this is what I’m talking about, the word and the flesh are real. The are what we do. The only thing we can be, the way we commune.

Of course there is something wrong with you — and you are not being judged.

I don’t mean to insult you personally, but do you not belong to the human race that killed over one hundred million members of its own species in the twentieth century alone?

First, yes there is something wrong with us. But what is wrong with judging? How do we decide what is right or wrong? Is it right to deny the flesh, and your humanity? Tolle does this quite a bit. There are a number of examples where he appears to be on a different, higher plane of existence. He writes like an alien from another planet offering advice. Doesn’t Tolle belong to this same species? But what he’s done is found a realm of being beyond name and form, he’s got one foot in this god zone, and he’s here to tell us about the joy. Do you really feel he’s writing from a place of joy? I get the sense that he’s writing from a place of resentment. He’s quit and he’s showing you how to do it with a sense of pride. I’ve gone out the door through my body to a better realm, I’m better than all of you humans. If you want to be better than everyone else too, go into the realm of god, and feel the joy.

That insult continues.

But Tolle is describing a solution that is the very problem he’s trying to solve.

Free from the illusion that you are nothing more than your physical body and your mind.

Tolle betrays the body. He uses its physical energy, and faculty of imagination to separate from itself. Tolle totally denies the body:

What you percieve as a dense physical structure called the body, which is subject to disease, old age, and death, is not ultimately real — is not you.

But couldn’t this solution, be the insanity Tolle is attempting to solve? It’s not like Tolle is working with new material. We’ve all heard this before. The idea of surrender sacrifice, the meaninglessness of the body, isn’t this how war is possible? Without the promise of another more real reality who would throw away the only existence they’ve got? If we became conscious of our bodies as real, of our historical situation as real, wouldn’t we be more inclined to fight for a better organization, more justice in this world?

The body should be valued. And communication between bodies is necessary for any hope to understand the world. But Tolle’s analysis is weak…

Most human relationships consist mainly of minds interacting with each other, not of human beings communicating, being in communion.

Tolle villifies the mind. The mind is the source of all the evil in the world. He might be right about that, but the separation of mind and body, and the imaginary addition of a god source in another dimension that is the bringer of good into the world if we only allow it, denies the minds capacity for imagination. It’s totally possible that there is no god, and that both good and evil are human activities. To totally villify man and mind, and then attribute all good and beauty to another dimension, this is the kind of thinking that permits genocide and nuclear weapons. What does it matter if we drop bombs on evil corrupt flesh. And the good will be set free.

But he’s also wrong about most human relationships consisting of mainly minds interacting with each other. I wish that were the case. Imagine humans actually interacting as real bodies with common interests. Most human relationships are mediated by money, power and institutions. Think about Little House on the Prairie. When Pa needed help he’d ask his neighbours, Ma would cook for the helpers. Pa would play his fiddle and they’d all dance and sing after dinner. And Pa would later help his neighbours. These interactions were human. The mind was at work in these interactions. But today if you want a new roof you hire someone, sure some people still see the humanity, but the interation is mostly mediated by money. The workers become tools that we purchase. We purchase our food, transportation, childcare, think about it the people who spend the most amount of time with our children are paid to be their. This mediation removes the mind from the interaction, removes the humanity, speeds the communication, makes interaction more efficient.

Tolle taps into an already existing world-view (duality (this illusory world and the real spiritual one) the same world view that got us into this mess and tries to continue to get us out of it with it, but at some point we need to become conscious of the reality of all the problems Tolle is trying to solve, and that any solution will involve an engagement with the outer world where the problems are.

I’m familiar with this thinking (Liberation theologists). When I lived in Israel with Father Tom he often shared ideas similar to this. I remember walking with him along the Mt of Olives; he pointed out these small rock “huts” and piles. He explained that the people believed when Christ came again to resurrect the dead, the physical bodies would rise. The rocks are placed on the ‘graves’ to keep the bodies from rising until it is the right time (when Christ comes again).

Christ said “breathe me in”, he talked about the word, and breath, over and over again in the bible. I agree with your thinking about the body on so many levels, so completely. But there is something nagging at me, “there’s more, there’s more, there’s more”. Not because I need to believe there is more but because there is knowledge within me that knows there is more.The breath is not form, yet it sustains the physical body, keeps it alive. So, the body needs the breath to sustain itself. The breath comes from outside the body,is shared by all forms of life (a small portion of the breath ‘argon’ is not modifiable and has not changed in all of time- David Susuki explains this science in one of his books. I think it’s ‘We are the Earth’), these exact molecules have been in the nostrils of dinasaurs, in this way, I think, the body is “an access point to the realm of Being” or source of life. The body draws the breath in, it permeates the entire body and then we exhale and the cycle begins again. The entire planet is a living, breathing planet. I do believe in the ‘spiritual realm’ as a connection to our inner most self, ultimately a connection to the collective unconscious. So, in a way I can understand Tolle’s thinking. But, I think I am reading a lot of my own beliefs into what he says, again. I believe humans, and all life forms communicate energetically. The idea of pheromes, attraction…etc.. I think of it like the science of cell phones. My phone can send a signal to a cell or tower and then the signal is sent to your cell phone. All of this communication is really beyond form, there are no wires carrying the signal….I believe we have the capacity to communicate the same way. In my Transpersonal Psychology class the prof shared a lot of examples through history that may provide supportive evidence for the collective unconscious and the idea that the body can be an access point to this collective energy. He said throughout history discoveries in science and medicine have been made simutaneously around the globe. Often one country would accuse the other of stealing the ideas or believed that a spy had leaked info. But, many people believed that a sort of ‘tapping into this global consciouness’ had led to these amazing coincidences.

I agree that it is totally possible that there is no god and good ane evil are human acitivities. Thinking that each human contains the potential for either extreme on the good-evil continuum, each person has a highest ‘best’ self and lowest self, should combat the thinking that permits genocide. We have all been in those places personally, on some level.

The mind is so complex and multi-leveled. I agree that the ‘ego’ presence in the mind, where much of our self talk is generated can be quieted and stilled and the effect beneficial to the whole being. When we let go of that ‘sense of self’ and ‘other’, often it is only during this time that the dancer dances most beautifully, the painter creates a materpiece and the writer brings forth words that could make any soul weep. I think moving beyond the more self centered ‘ego’ allows for imagination and creative presence.

I perceive it as one and the same (this ‘illusory’ world and the ‘spritual’ one), when I read Tolle’s books I saw a connection to what he was saying. I don’t think he really denies our engagement in the outer world to solve the problems.

Tate asks me a lot of questions about God. He was laying in bed and expressed a real void to me, maybe I shared this with you, already? He said “Mom something is missing in my life. Either I am hungry or there is a hole in my heart where God should be” OMG! He might as well have slapped me. His words struck me. I felt very sad for him suddenly, and inadequate as a mom. I love him so much, how can he not feel whole and complete? Did I not provide enough, in his life, to feed that? I always answer his questions honestly, talk about ideas and views from all religions. I tell him what I believe; that God is love and God is in everything. God is your intution that guides you down your best path etc…My mom shares a very typical Catholic view and he knows friends in our lives who do not believe in God.

He asked me to bring him to church. I explained that I believe you can find a connection to God in yourself, nature, art, poetry etc…but that I would bring him to church if he wanted that experience.

My time is up…Rod just left to coach a wrestling tournament in Riverside. I need to make breakfast for the boys and get myself ready. Your mom is on her way over to watch the boys while I teach the yoga class this morning. Then the grade 12 media class is coming to film. They asked us if they could make a promotional DVD for the studio, for their media project.

I often wish we lived in Vancouver, closer to you. I think I would love living there. And I would love for our kids to grow up together. The pictures of the girls are so cute. I talked to Rod about it (moving) several times, but he has no desire to move. I feel like I need so much more than is offered in this area; like the yoga studio, a nice little organic market, non conservative friends, the option to cycle to work, more art and poetry and nature in my everyday life….etc…..so I go about searching for and creating what I need.

About Eckhart, I wondered the same thing, is he really enlightened? Coming from a place connected to eternal joy, really? And I enjoyed his books but needed this dialogue with someone and you are the perfect someone, so thank you so much!


 

 

 

 

 

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