Of the many blessings that have come my way since discovering the teachings of Eckhart Tolle, and later participating in Michael Jeffreys’ Santa Monica group devoted to his work, perhaps none is more significant than the experiential recognition of the limitations of my “formative mind” – or what Eckhart calls the “ego.”
Michael refers to this as the “boss hammer,” because when it is recognized it actually allows one to drop all conceptual belief systems. As they begin to fall away, as Eckhart says, “You can [begin to] notice a dimension within yourself that is far deeper than the movement of thought.”
Why is this so difficult to acknowledge?
As Eckhart tells us, the voice that is the formative mind or Ego is programmed and deeply conditioned habitual chatter.
The Ego is persistent in its need for attention. This ever-present clamor for recognition and validation convinces the person who is listening to it to give it more and more attention, until through conditioning you eventually accept it as “your self.” And in our social conditioning this is powerfully reinforced, and we are led to believe that this voice in the head is our identity.
As Eckhart says, this misapprehension is what is symbolized in the story of the Garden of Eden, symbolized as the apple and knowledge of good and evil. It is the evolutionary ability of the mind to make distinctions, starting with good and bad (good=berry – bad=poison), which enabled the “smart” ones among us to survive.
But the fallacy of this identification with the “voice in the head” is the basis for the world’s very oldest teachings and traditions; I believe that it is the foundation of all of the world’s religions but was then distorted for various reasons by the priesthood and the power structures which then emerged.
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This “esoteric” basic teaching, the recognition of which Jesus referred to as the “Kingdom of Heaven,” has been lost amidst the apparent “success” of scientific thought and achievement. You can find out more in a wonderful book on the subject by Jacob Needleman – “Lost Christianity.”
Traces of the actual root texts have been recently found in lost “gospels” of the gnostics.
Another teacher whom Needleman admires was Gurdjieff, who wrote that “our mind is like a cabby who sits in a pub and drives passengers to different places in his dreams. Trying to work with the mind alone will lead nowhere. The power of changing oneself lies not in the mind but in the body and feelings.” – G.I Gurdjieff, “Views from the Real World“
So what do we do to access this “higher” Mind – to transform ourselves? Do we somehow rid ourselves of the “scourge” of the Ego – if we can even do so – with meditation or drugs or yoga?
In his Hawaiian retreat – which is available on a DVD set entitled “Deepening the Dimension of Stillness,” Eckhart suggests to those in attendance that his message cannot be understood “from [only] the neck up.”
Indeed, he suggests that a major part of the practice of presence involves feeling the aliveness – the energy within the body – and that a good place to start is in your hands. This does not always work for everyone; many of us are disconnected from that “vast intelligence” that Eckhart says runs your circulation, breath, and digestion, and harmoniously interacts with the environment.
With this recognition and the practices of stillness and connection to the body comes the experiential discovery that: “Who you are and Stillness are one and the same.”
Through these practices the formative mind is not defeated or eliminated, instead it harmoniously becomes what it was meant to be, part of the fuller process of Life.
As we discussed in Michael’s meetings, your mind and what you thought was “you” begins to trust life. Each moment becomes an experiment rather than a quest for control. Wonder replaces stress and, paradoxically, life unfolds and often seems to “work out.” As Michael says, “The party doesn’t start until you leave.”
Until the bearer of the apple, the serpent, relents and quiets the need to control, judge, and identify what is “good” and what is “bad,” you will suffer.
So what about when bad or unfortunate things occur? There is disease, war, famine, cruelty to be sure. What is to be our response?
Eckhart suggests a very deep mantra: Can I create a space for this? (Do not mistake this for passivity, however. It is actually a new active frequency of aliveness and intelligence.) Eckhart writes:
“Acceptance looks like a passive state, but in reality it brings something entirely new into this world. That peace, a subtle energy vibration, is consciousness.”
And remember, the formative mind cannot create space – it cannot do anything except raise objections and seek explanations.
Since the formative mind uses thought and language to attempt to establish control and gain attention, separation is guaranteed, because the very structure of language – as teachers like Rupert Spira have pointed out – is subject/object.
Inquiring deeply, can you find a subject and object anywhere in your direct experience?
So where or how does one connect to this higher “Mind” that the formative mind cannot know?
The truth is that you’ve never been separated from it. You are it. As Eckhart says, you don’t have a life, you ARE Life. Death is not the opposite of Life – Life has no opposite because it is Existence or Being “it”self. The opposite of death is birth.
Finally, one of Eckhart’s other important teachings is that one can live or be “above” and “below” thought. The space of silence from which the formative mind is observed is “above” thought. The result of numbing the mind with drugs, sex, distraction, violence, and so on is “below” thought.
The choice as to where you will rest or live, above or below thought, is truly yours, only in the present moment. The gap between your conditioned habitual thoughts (silence) is literally who you are. Try to sense it from the neck down, and then invite what is above your neck along for the ride.
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