Two spiritual practice to help ground us in the beauty of the moment
Getting started with my day, I like to begin with coffee and some type of short video content on Youtube for inspiration (sometimes for unconscious filling of empty space when I am not feeling my best). Today it happened to be Eckhart Tolle speaking on spiritual practices in a clip, Two Powerful Spiritual Practices, which can be found on his YouTube channel.
One of the most profound lessons I have encountered since the pandemic emerged came from Eckart Tolle’s teachings. In his book, The Power of Now, he shares an anecdote regarding his own personal spiritual awakening. It began with a powerful sense of frustration, depression and lack of will to go on living. One night, a thought crosses his mind which is, “I can’t stand to be around myself anymore!” The following thought was an epiphany that shifted the entire course of his life. “Who is the ‘I’ and who can’t stand to be around ‘myself’ and who is the ‘myself’?”. This sent him on a new trajectory, realizing that there are two consciousness’s that exist within oneself.
The commentary thoughts that we host in our minds at all times throughout the day are responsible for the way we often feel. One of the ways we can change course, if we are feeling more negative, is to simply realize and observe that we are having thoughts in the first place and what they are. When we are able to do this, we are also able to choose to let go of the narration and simply be present with no attachments to the conditions of the moment.
Sometimes we find ourselves in a beautiful and peaceful environment with frantic thoughts that we are worrying over and unable to appreciate and take in the peacefulness of the moment because the mind is hosting an inner monologue like “what a mistake it was that I said that wrong thing to that person” or “I’m so angry at what that person just said to me” or whatever the worry may be.
In today’s 10 minute, bite sized content for spiritual sustenance, Eckhart expounded on Two Powerful Spiritual Practices.
Practice No Thought Awareness
Try to spend some time throughout the day in a state of “no thought”. One way to practice this is to observe things around you in nature such as the sky or a tree. If you find that thoughts emerge like, “I hope it doesn’t rain” or “I wish it wasn’t so cloudy” or “Wow, this is so beautiful, I wish so and so were here to see this too” or any thought at all, you gently let them go and keep your focus on the target of your observation. As you enter this state of conscious awareness, you broaden what can be taken in as you are observing. Maybe you hear some birds singing in the distance, or the crunching of footsteps on a nearby path. Maybe the sun’s rays light the sky up in such a way that your eyes follow them to a rainbow that perhaps you wouldn’t have noticed if you were in your head instead.
This state of no thought awareness allows the observer to gain a sense of depth to the perceptions of their surroundings and to “see” things that perhaps would not have been “seen” if thoughts were obstructing the totality of the moment.
Of course, there are times when thought is needed. But it is good to take some time throughout the day and clear the mind of thoughts so that we are not controlled by them.
Practice Refraining from Labelling
The second practice that Eckhart goes into is the refraining from labelling of things around us. He shares a saying by Jiddu Krishnamurti, “The day you teach a child the name of a bird, the child will never see that bird again”. When we observe a tree and decide to call it a tree, the mystery of the tree is eliminated. We are no longer able to learn more about the tree because we have named it and suddenly we think we know what the tree is and cease to observe more about it.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn the labels but that we must learn to refrain from labelling as we are observing in this state of no thought awareness. We rob ourselves of the depth of connection we can truly feel when we call things names and spin yarns about what it is we are sensing.
Real World Application of Spiritual Practices
As I am listening to Eckhart’s teachings this morning, the thought came to me of how these practices can be applied in our tense period of conflict and great division. I see and hear how the current political and economic atmosphere has arrived at a place where endless arguments arise between families, friends, and strangers.
Common discourse almost seems an impossibility because the larger narratives regarding the pandemic have seemingly created different world views and depending on which world view you are subscribing to, anyone who subscribes to the other world view can be seen as a threat to your thinking. We call each other names like “anti-vaxxer”, “racist”, “sheep”, “allies”, “alt right”, “leftist” and so many more hurtful and limiting labels that diminish the totality of the person being labelled and reduce them to one word.
But what if we refrained from name calling? What if when we find ourselves in the middle of a tense argument, we clear our thinking mind and look into the eyes of the person we are arguing with and allow ourselves to see them as more than just our opponent? We may not be able to do it in that moment because we haven’t been practicing these techniques of no mind awareness and the refraining of labelling.
If we have just come off of a heated argument, I find it helpful for myself to look back and reflect on my thoughts getting the better of me and try to do better next time. If I am so lucky, I realize my unconscious thoughts contributing to the argument and apologize to my yelling match partner, despite thinking I was in the right.
Being able to look at your fellow human and see more than just an opponent is a super power that we are all capable of doing with a little practice every day. The depth of mystery that every one of us holds within is an enriching treasure that if we can tap into, will bring us into a closer connection with our environment and help to create more beauty and harmony in this world.
And who knows, perhaps all this discord and division that I see is all in my head and maybe the beauty is already there.