Leonard Jacobson, Journey Into Now:
Most humans are living in a state of unconsciousness. Even though our eyes are open and we appear to be awake as we walk and talk and live our lives, in truth we are not awake.
We are lost in the mind, which is a world of the remembered past and the imagined future. It is a world of thought, memory and imagination. It is a world of opinion, idea, concept, and belief. It gives us a sense of a life outside of the present moment. It gives us a sense of ourselves outside of the present moment. And that is the great illusion.
In truth, there is no life outside the present moment. In truth you do not and cannot exist outside the present moment. The world of the human thinking mind is an illusory world and yet everyone believes that it is real. It is as if we have fallen asleep and the life we are living is a kind of dream, from which we must awaken.
To awaken spiritually or to become enlightened is to awaken out of the past and future world of the mind into the truth and reality of the present moment.
Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now:
Until my thirtieth year, I lived in a state of almost continuous anxiety interspersed with periods of suicidal depression…
One night, not long after my twenty-ninth birthday, I woke in the early hours with a feeling of absolute dread. I had woken up with such a feeling many times before, but this time it was more intense than it had ever been. The silence of the night, the vague outlines of the furniture in the dark room, the distant noise of a passing train â€“ everything felt so alien, so hostile, and so utterly meaningless that it created in me a deep loathing of the world. The most loathsome thing of all, however, was my own existence. What was the point of continuing to live wit this burden of misery? Why carry on with this continuous struggle? I could feel that a deep longing for annihilation, for nonexistence, was now becoming much stronger than the instinctive desire to continue to live.
â€œI cannot live with myself any longer.â€ This was the thought that kept repeating in my mind. Then suddenly I became aware of what a peculiar thought it was. â€œAm I one or two?â€ If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the â€˜Iâ€™ and the â€˜selfâ€™ that â€˜Iâ€™ cannot live with.â€ â€œMaybeâ€ I thought, â€œonly one of them is real.â€
I was so stunned by this strange realization that my mind stopped. I was fully conscious, but there were no more thoughts. Then I felt drawn into what seemed like a vortex of energy. It was a slow movement at first and then accelerated. I was gripped by intense fear, and my body started to shake. I heard the words â€œresist nothingâ€ as if spoken inside my chest. I could feel myself being sucked into a void. It felt as if the void was inside myself rather than outside. Suddenly there was no more fear, and I let myself fall into that void. I have no recollection what happened after that.
I was awakened by the chirping of a bird outside the window. I had never heard such a sound beforeâ€¦The first light of dawn was filtering through the curtains. Without any thought, I felt, I knew, that there is infinitely more to light than we realize. That soft luminosity filtering through the curtains was love itself. Tears came into my eyes. I got up and walked around the room. I recognized the room, and yet I knew that I had never truly seen it before. Everything was fresh and pristine, as if it had just come into existence. I picked up things, a pencil, and empty bottle, marveling at the beauty and aliveness of it all.
That day I walked around the city in utter amazement at the miracle of life on the earth, as if I had just been born into this world.
For the next five months, I lived in a state of uninterrupted deep peace and bliss. After that, it diminished somewhat in intensity, or perhaps it just seemed to because it became my natural state. I could still function in the world, although I realized that nothing I ever did could possibly add anything to what I already had.
I knewâ€¦that something profoundly significant had happened to me, but I didnâ€™t understand it at all. It wasnâ€™t until several years later, after I had read spiritual texts and spent time with spiritual teachers, that I realized that what everybody was looking for had already happened to me. I understood that the intense pressure of suffering that night must have forced my consciousness to withdraw from its identification with the unhappy and deeply fearful self [or ego], which is ultimately a fiction of the mindâ€¦.
What on earth do these two passages have to do with the typical subjects found on this blog? Everything, as Iâ€™ll try to show.
As Jacobson wrote, most people spend most of their time living in their minds, or more specifically in their ego-mind. The thoughts running through our minds are always taking us somewhere away from the present moment â€“ either to the past, or the future, or to some imaginary geography. When the mind is thinking its thoughts, the mental worlds they construct seem very real, and we easily get lost in them and feel separation from everything physically around us.
By contrast, when the mind is quiet, we can be fully here in the present, right here, right now. Not only that, but we feel a connection, a unity with everything around us. Our ego diminishes and we feel a part of the universe, one that is alive and all around us. There is no separation between us and the universe.
When we are present to the now, when the mind is quiet, the mindâ€™s contents and structures are experienced as not having all that much substance or reality. We have our viewpoints and our beliefs and our agendas, but they no longer dominate us, and we are capable of setting them aside because theyâ€™re only mental creations. We can detach from them fairly easily. This lets us be skeptical or even dismissive of our mental creations, the healthy need for which, Maha has been writing about in the Wisdom of Doubt series.
With practice, this quiet deepens and we relax into it, and it becomes our normal way of being. The mind then becomes a servant, a tool to be used as needed, and put aside when itâ€™s not, instead of something we get lost in, dominating us with its concepts, ideas, its rush of thoughts, and its bouncing between the remembered past and imaginary futures.
When our ego mind disengages, when we are still and fully aware in the present moment, we feel a unity with everything around us. We experience other people still attached to their egos and their viewpoints and their beliefs, with compassion, as people who have yet to awaken to this larger reality, that is nonetheless innate to all of us.
This is what Jesus meant when he said to turn the other cheek when your enemy strikes you. Donâ€™t answer your enemy from the same level of consciousness as they inhabit. Go to a higher, more inclusive level of consciousness and respond to your enemy from there. This doesnâ€™t mean be a masochist, it means donâ€™t answer their provocation on the same level as it is given.
This most definitely relates to the political battles we face with the right. Itâ€™s very easy to be provoked and hooked emotionally by the attacks of the right, and this is part of their intention. Itâ€™s important to learn to stay centered in the present moment, while evaluating how to respond. Many times, no response is required at all, but on other occasions it is important to interact with what theyâ€™re saying, to set these people straight, to deflect or cancel their attack. To correct them.
While I personally am aggrieved at how the right is destroying this country and this planet, and while I have had scores of negative personal encounters with members of the right, culminating in a very painful firing from a job, I also understand the importance of not getting dragged into their drama. They are, after all, only playing out the programs in their minds, often as unconsciously as a player piano. â€œFather, forgive them for they know not what they do.â€ Itâ€™s important instead to be centered and to get busy creating the world to come. The one that is superseding their tiny, disintegrating world, which is an extension of the little self, the ego-mind. As Jacobson writes:
Because of our technological advances, we have become too destructive to continue living unconsciously upon this earth.
Itâ€™s my belief that out of the ashes of the destruction of the current order, a new human race is being born, one whose level of consciousness will be quite different from what created the current order based on fear, which is the basis for the ego. In another hundred or two hundred years, there are going to be a lot of enlightened people on this planet.
I personally believe George W Bush is unconscious and seriously deluded. He thinks he is doing the will of his Father in Heaven (truly a frightening thought given Wâ€™s narcissistic, sociopathic personality). However, consider that perhaps God / the universe / life itself really is using W, by forcing us, in a manner similar to Eckhart Tolleâ€™s pressured awakening, to wake up. Childhood is ending, whether we want it to or not.
Both Tolleâ€™s and Jacobsonâ€™s books cover similar terrain, but Tolle writes with a stark clarity befitting the kind of dramatic awakening he went through. I heard Ekhart Tolle speak, a few years ago. He walked into a hall filled to capacity with about 2000 people, and spoke, extemporaneously for close to three hours. Every single person in that hall was spellbound, hanging onto each word during the whole time. Tolle is an intense human being.
Jacobson, a relaxed Australian, by contrast offers a lot of practical guidance anyone can do to become more fully present, and to make this a permanent state. His book is much more recent than Tolleâ€™s, and his work to some extent builds on Tolleâ€™s foundation and yet makes it very practical. Jacobson offers workshops and retreats. Tolle, being an international star, is a bit harder to catch in person.