Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Another Envelope

From another M. and S. envelope, from (I'm guessing) Eckhart Tolle:

Nobody's life is entirely free of pain and sorrow. Isn't it a question of learning to live with them rather than trying to avoid them? The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life. The pain that you create now is always some form of nonacceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. On the level of thought, the resistance is some form of judgment. On the emotional level, it is some form of negativity. The intensity of the pain depends on the degree of resistance to the present moment, and this in turn depends on how strongly you are identified with your mind.

Interesting stuff, huh?

Maybe I'm all softened up from finishing Beyond Blue last night (a must read if you have, or someone you love has, a struggle with depression). But what I was thinking about this morning was this: I agree with Tolle. A lot. I feel like I have worked hard to change self-defeating thoughts and have improved my life and my interaction with others a lot by doing so. They still creep in now and then (remember the chattering teeth on my shoulder? The little flying pig?). But for the most part, reminding myself that I'm one with a greater power and that I am free to express love have been really good for me. Cognitive-Behavioral work has done wonders for my life.

That said, there have been times when I would have not been able to even remotely disentangle myself from my suffering, or my mind. I would not be able to take any of the distance needed to see what my big old ego was up to, scampering around like an over-grown gorilla. I only get glimpses of that distance if I take care of my physical self enough (by taking my birth control every day, eating right, exercising, etc.) to achieve a baseline of wellness.

And then there was the trip to Idaho, when I should have been reading this particular passage. I certainly didn't step back then. I was firmly in the land of nonacceptance and resistance. Even now, when I think about that time, about the words my Mom said to me when she was not herself, I become a child again and am deeply wounded, alone, and separate. The healing from that is coming so slowly.

Like in any religion, the new thought movement (of which Tolle is a figurehead and to which I largely subscribe) has its extremists. There are those who might believe that someone who is suffering is causing it themselves and they only need to get on board with some right thinking to fix it. Others might see New Thought as one more goal they can't attain. They read that quotation from Tolle up there and think, well why am I feeling sad? Why am I struggling? Why can't I just fix myself?

Both approaches are unfortunate. Because they're just about piling judgments on top of judgments, and that doesn't help anyone. There's no compassion in either stance. Tolle's a loner, you know? He's on the mountaintop. The rest of us may not be there, and hitting ourselves over the head (or each other over the head) because we're not there doesn't help us do any climbing.

So I'm wary about pulling quotations like this out of context, because I don't think Tolle is trying to shut the gates against us. I don't think he's staked a claim to the mountaintop. I think, generally speaking, he's trying to throw us ropes. We're just at different points on the mountainside, and need different ropes at different moments. The rope this quotation represents is short, and many days it feels impossible to reach it.

Is this too elitist a metaphor? Am I being exclusionary, implying some are more spiritually advanced than others? Am I implying there is one spiritual path? I hope not. I'm trying to say the opposite: there are many paths, many tools needed for getting to the top. We shouldn't beat ourselves up if there are ropes we're not ready to reach for yet.

But let me know. I'm just trying to work this all out in my own head.

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