“Who’s Minding the Store | Eckart Tolle and Ram Dass” by Guest Contributor.
Eckart Tolle is without question one of the top spiritual leaders today. Best known as the author of “The Power of Now and A New Earth.” In 2011, he was listed by the Watkins Review as the most spiritually influential person in the world.
Along with Ram Dass, Oprah Winfrey, and Wayne Dyer, he has ushered in a new way of thinking about finding peace and happiness by being in the present moment.
I’ve always been fascinated by Eckhart Tolle’s story of personal awakening since I heard it years ago and I was surprised to find that his story is similar to Ram Dass’s experience.
Even though Tolle had achieved much success in his work, he struggled for many years with painful negative thoughts and emotions which led to a negative sense of identity and thoughts of suicide.
Like so many people, he tried to feel better about himself by working very hard academically.
He studied philosophy, psychology, and literature, and enrolled in the University of London, and ended up teaching at Cambridge University.
Even with this massive success, he was plagued by negative thinking and painful emotions. One night it became SO unbearable he couldn’t stand it anymore and this ultimately led to his awakening.
He was in such a dark place that he thought “I can’t live with myself,”
And then the realization came… “Who Is the “I” that I can’t live with?
Coming Out Of Eckart Tolle’s Dark Place
He had the realization that there are two here—“I” and the “self I can’t live with.”
“And then there was another little thought: Who is this self that I can’t live with? This questioning ultimately led him to the place where he discovered the “I” that exists beyond any circumstance in our life. That peace changed his perception of the world of form and led him to feel more alive and peaceful and ultimately write “The Power of Now.”
In a story similar to Tolle’s awakening professor Dr. Richard Alpert better known as Ram Dass recounts his experience through the use of Psychedelic drugs with Timothy Leary in 1961 in his book “Be Here Now.”
At the time, he was a professor at Harvard and had tried to find happiness through the pursuit of accomplishments.
Ram Dass and His “Trip”
While he was on the drug Psilocybin he had an external hallucination where he saw a figure approach him which he realized was an aspect of himself.
It was him in a cap and gown as a professor which had separated itself from him. He was ok with the separateness and realized he didn’t need that part of himself and then the figure changed into a social part of himself and he was ok with separating himself from that and it happened over and over again until all aspect of his identity with who he thought he was were gone.
“Then I saw the figure become that which was Richard Alpert-ness, that is, my basic identity that had always been Richard. I associated the name with myself …
Sweat broke out on my forehead. I wasn’t at all sure I could do without being Richard Alpert. Did that mean I’d have amnesia? Was that what this drug was going to do to me? Would it be permanent? Should I call Tim! Oh, what the hell so I’ll give up being Richard Alpert. I can always get a new social identity. At least I have my body … But I spoke too soon.
As I looked down at my legs for reassurance, I could see nothing below the kneecaps, and slowly, now to my horror, I saw the progressive disappearance of limbs and then torso, until all I could see with my eyes open was the couch on which I had sat. A scream formed in my throat. I felt that I must be dying since there was nothing in my universe that led me to believe in life after leaving the body.
Doing without professor-ness or lover-ness, or even Richard Alpert-ness, okay, but I did NEED the body.
Dr. Richard Alpert’s Awareness
The panic mounted, adrenalin shot through my system — my mouth became dry, but along with this, a voice sounded inside — inside what, I don’t know — an intimate voice asked very quietly, and rather jocularly, it seemed to me, considering how distraught I was, …
But who’s minding the store?
When I could finally focus on the question, I realized that although everything by which I knew myself, even my body and this life itself, was gone, still I was fully aware! Not only that, but this aware “I” was watching the entire drama, including the panic, with calm compassion.
Instantly, with this recognition, I felt a new kind of calmness — one of a profundity never experienced before. I had just found that “I”, that scanning device — that point — that essence –that place beyond. A place where “I” existed independent of social and physical identity. That which was I was beyond Life and Death. And something else — that “I” Knew — it really Knew. It was wise, rather than just knowledgeable. It was a voice inside that spoke truth. I recognized it, was one with it, and felt as if my entire life I’d been looking to the outside world for reassurance –
Now I need only look within to that place where I Knew.
Happiness and Contentment
In both examples, these men tried to find happiness and contentment in identifying with achievement and material possessions but found that they can never give us long-lasting happiness. It gave a temporary false sense of security.
We can only find true peace by going within and discovering that place where the witness dwells. Only when they went within and dissociated with the small sense of self (personality, job, body) did they find true and lasting peace and happiness.
They were both highly educated in psychology and very learned men, but thought alone cannot recognize spiritual truths no matter how highly developed thought is. It’s impossible.
This awakening is about being present and aligned with life. This is where true power comes from. When you are fully in a state of presence no matter what you are doing, this state of consciousness affects everyone you come in contact with and also affects collective consciousness. Instead of being caught in a stream of negative thoughts about the past or worried about the future, you are really experiencing the present now.
I was comforted to be felt surrounded by the love of family and friends during this time. and he also felt the profound realization that there is a bigger part of me that is watching me the daughter grieve my earthly dad and some of the drama that surrounded that time was just what people here do. It was like watching a beautiful play and at the same time being a part of it. Times like death force us to be in the present moment and realize the impermanence of everything but the deepest sense of “I.”
Tips to Be in the Present
Here are three tips to practice being more present
- Do one thing at a time. Really focus on what you are doing at any given moment. When walking, walk when eating, eat- Zen proverb.
- Don’t’ waste time looking to the future or dwelling on the past. You can only be in the past present or future at one time and most people spend 1% of the time in the present. Pick something in your immediate surroundings and really look at it as if you are an alien and you were just dropped on the planet. See the beauty of everything around you as if you’ve never seen it before.
- As a way to check in with yourself, Tolle says to ask yourself these questions: Is what I’m doing right now just a means to an end? Am I truly giving it my full attention?
There are so many practical benefits when you focus on being present:
They include improved listening, better performance, better relationships, better decision making. And freedom from an endless loop of self-destructive thoughts.
Be in the Now
We are here to experience all that life brings to us and if we are caught up in an endless stream of thoughts about our small-self we miss out on the bigger picture. There is a bigger “I” that is a witness to every part of our earthly experience and longs for us to just be here now.
Go as often as you can to that place where you exist that is independent of social and physical identity. Independent of concerns about the past or future. The wise, calm and compassionate “now.”
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