It’s day 2 of the Eckhart Tolle weekend retreat and the Universal Hall sits in stillness. Perhaps some of us have shed a little of our story and glimpsed, if only for an instant, the indestructibility of the present moment. So where do we go from here?
Eckhart took the stage as softly and silently as I have ever seen anyone do. And we waited…. in stillness…..until we heard the song of a bird ringing through the Hall. Eckhart began slowly and steadily, “The bird is teaching much better than I could. Such a divine sound and an exquisite balance between stillness and sound. Each bird sound is fresh and new. The bird is teaching the balance between form and formless. Things and no-thing-ness.”
In this teaching, the dimension of stillness is emphasised because our entire civilisation is lost in form, in thoughts. That’s why there is a particular emphasis on what is missing. We are surrounded by information, more information, more things. Eckhart questions, “Will this save the world? Are we going to find our selves in something that was created by thought forms, by excessive thinking in the first place?” As Jesus said, “What does it profit you if you gain the whole world and lose your soul?”
Eckhart points out that form also includes time. We cannot deny that time seems to be real on the surface of form. Time gradually erodes form. Everybody is suffering from a lethal disease whose outcome is the end of the form. Eckhart’s dad often says as he gets older, “Mirrors are not the same quality as they used to be.” The art is to live in a world where, although time seems to control everything, we realise there is a portal into a formless, timeless dimension; a narrow gate that leads to life. Not many find it. To find it, we need to roll up the scroll of our lives on which our story is written, past, future; hope, fear, which way is it going? The form-based self has a heaviness to it. It gives us our sense of self which causes us to be lost in form – thought form.
Eckhart believes that we are transitional beings awakening into the Now. In this evolutionary stage for humanity, we are dysfunctional because we’re in transition from the old to the new consciousness. The old still has a momentum within us as the “new” arises, although it’s not really new; it’s ageless and timeless. To illustrate the point, Eckhart said he was once in a second-hand shop that bore the sign “New to You”. No words can precisely tell the truth because language is still thought and form, yet what we are describing is beyond form, particularly spiritual discourse. Words are simply sign posts. We learn to bring a balance into our lives between the world of things and not getting lost in things, in the world, the external and mind-made world in the head.
The outer reflects the inner. External civilisation is extraordinarily noisy. If it’s not machinery making the noise, then we create noise and call it music. Albeit some music is very beautiful when it arises out of the fragrance of stillness; the difference, Eckhart says, between art trapped in form and art that is an access point for the sacred. In this case, the sacred shines through form. It’s always more than what we see or hear, and that is what is happening to us! For us to become that work of art, we need to no longer be trapped in form. Something emanates through form. Eckhart points to holy people in India, for example, who never did anything, they just sat there, they were not trapped by form. However, the West says, “What a useless existence, what a life, get a life. They are parasites on society; they should work for a living like myself.” This is a case of mind looking at form and misperceiving it. In India they haven’t lost touch, but sometimes they go to the other extreme and lose form altogether.
The question is, “Where is the balance?” Eckhart recounts when he himself was completely lost in form, then lost in formless (from a mental perspective) and it looked like he had “lost it” as they say. He had a promising career, then lost it and just started sitting on park benches and tasting the sweetness of being. The ability to manipulate the world of form was gone for a period, then later re-established itself.
Eckhart feels it is our destiny to balance form and formless. What is the new state of consciousness that is arising – balanced, the manifest and the unmanifest? We become the work of art. It is not necessary to speculate the future of all humans living the new state; it is just important to enter that state. What does that do to our story? How does it affect where we live and what we do?
Civilisation is not sacred; it is profane. Mainstream civilisation is dreary in fact; people are weary, civilisation is grinding them down. They are still running around not even knowing why. Those who are still sustaining it cannot carry the burden of their own creation. It is a reflection on our state of consciousness. The voice in the head that never stops speaking is obsessed with form. It has become meaningless. Many people are waking up. The numbers are getting larger. Each one of us here is a part of the transforming consciousness. Stillness points to stillness. It’s already within us. It’s already here. It’s not about doing; it’s about being. That’s the problem with spiritual methods. They create a barrier to the self. The stillness that is already, at this moment, in us fully, is the stillness out of which the thoughts come and go back in.
Sense perceptions get us a little closer to stillness. When we perceive and do not label it, just let it be, then there is the perception of form. A canvas on which perception is painted; a background of spacious stillness. It’s the self, simply being able to sense that which underlies form. Our normal existence is like a dream. It dissolves very quickly. Nothing is really solid. It’s just energy fields in motion, already dissolving. It’s a liberating notion to see how short-lived every form is. The aware presence – we become more still the more we see this.
Our civilisation is constantly trying to hide death because it is terrifying to those identifying with form. When we don’t run away, it is liberating to see. There is something in us that recognises the impermanence of all forms and that is the formless. You and the formless are one. You are more fully aware of your self. The awareness that is the essence of “who I am” becomes aware of itself. It’s miraculous, beautiful. It’s what has been termed self-realisation. Our consciousness is no longer trapped in the form. Realisation of consciousness as the formless. Reincarnation is about being born again and again until we realise this. It can happen every day, every time we lose our selves in a thought or emotion, in the reactive pattern. We identify with a form, so we are completely incarnated in the form, reacting to forms without awareness, without space in the background. Eckhart cautions, “Do not lose yourself in form, but also do not reject form for that is too much the other extreme.” Instead embody the awakened state. Sense yourself as the still being. That essence that we sense ourselves to be is also present in all forms. Allow the mysterious. If we get stuck with labels, we can never go deeper. We will only hit the surface of things. Depth will not reveal itself to us. We live in a civilisation that is only on the surface.
For many people to become present, they need to notice sense perception. We cannot look at anything without stillness because there is always a first moment when we initially look at something, a brief moment of non-labelling. The mental label replaces the aliveness that was there, then the mind enters and labels it. Eckhart suggests that when something new enters our perception, try to be conscious of that first moment of no labelling. Once we start noticing, the moment may become longer. This is one way the stillness in us expands. As we move about our lives, that state of consciousness also flows into what we do. We can do things better if we do it in a state of still consciousness, even simple actions, like looking out the window, turning on a tap. Don’t label. Just let it be. Let the depth reveal itself. The depth is the aliveness that is also in us, the so-called new consciousness. We break the continuity of the old story. Love comes in. True love is the recognition of the formless of the other and oneself in the other. If form still arises, recognise it as a thought, not who that human being is.
Natural things are less challenging that humans. Eckhart suggests we start with nature, then bring in humans. Listen, give still attention, give the other person space. You are there as the spaciousness, to be still with another human being while you listen. With challenging individuals, be in your body, be aware of every cell in your body to help you stay present. The other person may reveal their pain body – the stored up emotion that hasn’t been dealt with. It’s an energetic entity which sometimes lies dormant waiting for a trigger so it can come alive. The pain body is an addiction that most humans carry. When it is triggered by a partner, for example, the other partner’s pain body can become triggered too and they feed off each other. Then the drama begins. It is possible in the middle of the drama to know what’s happening. Part of your consciousness steps out of form and becomes pure consciousness. The pain subsides because it no longer has your complete identification to renew it. Each time you may catch it a little earlier. The pain body waits for triggers to give it life. If you are not present, you will experience similar episodes. Relationships are a great example because it is a ground for triggers. However, if you are not in relationship, the pain body will use your own mind.
There is a great deal of collective pain body. It is not personal. It is just that we identify with it. Stillness, presence isn’t personal either, but it is essentially the being that you are. Ultimately, there is nothing personal. It has nothing to do with the person. In fact, the word person comes from the Latin ‘persona’, meaning mask; the roles that we play. We play the scripts of our mind until we become fed up with the suffering and the readiness comes to step out of it. And that is the end of reincarnation!
Eckhart ended the session the same way he began, with an extended period of stillness, the direct experience of the power of now.