Thursday, 19 August 2010

Rising Above Thought

In his bestseller The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle says that "the single most vital step on your journey toward enlightenment is (to) learn to disidentify from your mind." Easier said than done, right? Who wouldn't give their right leg or arm to be able to do this! I don't think I'm wrong in saying that most of the time it's human nature's worst habbit of overthinking that disables us from true happiness and"enlightenment".

Tolle advises his reader to stop taking their mind so seriously that it begins to define ones sense of self.  However, how can it be that we can be anything but our thoughts? Is it not our thoughts that define our individuality and act as the reason why we are not just mere clones of one another?  How, then, can we rise above thought without removing thought (which would be impossible)?

"Your mind is an instrument, a tool.  It is there to be used for a specific task, and when the task is completed, you lay it down.  As it is, I would say about 80 to 90 percent of most people's thinking is  not only repetitive and useless, but because of its dysfunctional and often negative nature, much of it is also harmful." (1)

We are not aiming to rise above thoughts which are necessary. Thoughts are valuable and you do not need to diminish them to attain enlightenment! However, there are necessary thoughts and then there are "repetivie and useless... harmful" thoughts, which is what many people find themselves trapped in at many instances in their lives. So how does one prevent such an instance arising?

" taking any routine activity that normally is only a means to an end and giving it your fullest attention, so that it becomes an end in itself  For example, every time you walk up and down the stairs in your house or place of work, pay close attention to every step, every movement, even your breathing.  Be totally present.  Or when you wash your hands, pay attention to all the sense perceptios associated with the activity: the sound and feel of the water, the movement of your hands, the scent of the soap, and so on." (2)

In the busy lives we lead, we allow thoughts to eat up our minds and to an extent take over our lives, but we forget to enjoy the small joys in life which help us understand our true sense of presence.  Clearly, we give our past and future way more importance than our present.  There's a famous saying along the lines of...“the past is history, the future is a mystery and today is a gift. That is why we call it the present"... then why is it that our ego has us constantly viewing our present with eyes of the past and expectation of the future?

Accoring to Tolle then, one can only attain true enlightenment when thoughts of the past and future are given less importance than the present moment we should be enjoying. Again, I'll repeat - easier said than done! However, it's food for thought and definitely something to make an attempt to aim towards.

The Power of Now, copyright 2005 by Eckhart Tolle, published by Hodder and Stoughton (UK)
(1) p18, (2) p17

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