Having watched videos of both Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra for years — along with their last webcast, which also included a visit by Wayne Dyer — I was curious to see how attending a live event might be different; to see what could be learned and, perhaps more importantly, experienced in such a setting.
Echoing the platitudes of some politicians, who were mentioned in passing but not dwelled upon, one thing is clear about consciousness:
1. It’s a Movement with Momentum
This event marked the 20th year anniversary of Chopra Foundation, with over 6000 attendees. As I entered the Shrine Auditorium, the energy was high, feeling more like a major rock concert or sports event.
2. There is deep appreciation for the message
Sitting as part of a huge audience which rose to its feet for both participants, there was a palpable groundswell of unity in comprehending that there is a way to approach wisdom beyond the intellect.
3. The humility and brilliance of Eckhart
Eckhart simply sits in a chair without notes and speaks directly to the audience, holding their attention from the first word. He uses easy humor and never raises his voice for emphasis, allowing the depth of the message to sink in.
He quietly quotes Rumi, paraphrasing here:
Ego weeps for what it has lost — Spirit rejoices – and the meaning seeps through – it’s a powerful pointer – there is something within us (Essence) that clamors for the silence of the Ego and the loss of all identification, and when that is experienced, there is joy.
4. Observing one’s thoughts is a commitment to a practice
Eckhart suggested that one adopt a sense of intensity toward noticing consciousness and commit to a practice to experience “thought-less awareness” so as to begin to sense presence in the space between thought. There should be an intention to invite spaces into your life.
5. Everything, even science, arises within consciousness
Eckhart calmly asserts that one can’t prove reality or existence is not a dream. The only thing anyone can know for certain is the sense of “I am.”
The things that burden you drop away and disappear with this deep recognition. You can choose to bring it into your life by questioning everything beyond this truth – “Neti Neti” – and discovering in each case that it appears as a thought in consciousness.
6. Essence identity is the only true “you.”
Eckhart teaches that the Universe is conscious through you.
7. 80% of thought is futile
Drama comes from nothing, reminiscent of Byron Katie’s question, who would you be without that thought?
8. Find a balance between being and doing
Both have their place in the proper proportion, but reserving a space for breath and recognition of the movement of thought allows for more “productive” doing than blind commitment to ideas.
9. Man is a hybrid between form and formlessness
Reality is the Universe becoming conscious of itself. The purpose of human existence unfolds within the evolution of consciousness.
10. You cannot prove your life is not a dream.
Realize experientially (not intellectually) through constant self-observation that the only thing you have ever known with deep certainty is that you are here now.
11. Deepak uses scientific inquiry to link to ancient wisdom
Using a synergy between neuroscience and Vedanta, he describes 5 levels of consciousness:
Awareness without experience
Subject object split
Subject object split
“Now” state of awareness — an ever present witness is watching.
Cosmic or Divine consciousness — a clear sense of something not “higher” but expansive. Oneness.
According to Ananda or the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, with sufficient discernment one can sense everything in flower.
This is sometimes also referred to as Brahman consciousness — or the “creative principle which lies realized in the whole world.”
12. Worth repeating: “Not higher consciousness but expanded consciousness”
This leads to the deep recognition that reality is a verb. There are no nouns but arising as thoughts within consciousness.
13. The smallest mundane noticing leads to insight
When Deepak and Eckhart sat down to talk, Eckhart’s chair was wet. “Not a problem. Just another experience.”
14. What is consciousness?
Eckhart: “Silence — the best answer.”
Quoting Rumi: “Silence is God’s language. Everything else is poor translation.”
15. Can consciousness be known through conventional science?
All science is inferential. Description of experience is not it. Labels are not what they are labeling nor the experience of whatever is labeled.
Both science and religion are systems of thought. As such, because thought arises within consciousness, they cannot ever “explain” reality.
16. The Universe loves to create.
17. Deepak: What is your “Greatest achievement?”
Eckhart: “I don’t think if I don’t need to think.” That way I am no longer trapped in an unhappy and illusory sense of myself.
18. Referring to Tagore
With a glimpse of the formless I was blessed.
19. David Chalmers’ identification of qualia
Deepak reminds the audience of the reality that the “quality of experience” of a red rose is never the actual ‘object’ of a red rose. We can find no “picture of a flower in the brain.”
20. SIFT Acronym for the aspects of consciousness
Sensations Images Feeling Thought — none of which are essentially “you.” The Brain is simply another process in consciousness. “Chemicals are labels.”
21. Sense of Perspective
The Scientific age is only 500 years old. (And by the way — software is about 50 years old.)
22. No ultimate distinction between the personal body and the Universal body
23. We can agree to disagree.
In attendance was Leonard Mlodinow, a co-author with Deepak taking the scientific perspective in a book they shared: War of the Worldviews, A Briefer History of Time, and The Grand Design. He has a PhD in theoretical physics from UC/Berkeley and is now at Caltech.
He says, “I believe in a kind of God. I think all scientists, in a way, believe in a certain God, in a certain order of nature.”
One has to wonder — if the universe has order, does not that imply intelligence — and with that Consciousness?
Michael Shermer, friends with Deepak and publisher of Skeptic Magazine . also attended. He is a monthly columnist for Scientific American, a regular contributor to Time magazine, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University and a strong proponent of strict scientific inquiry.
Therefore the event had a unique “spirit” in that all viewpoints came together for respectful inquiry for one magical night. I am grateful to have shared it.
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