Free Your Mind


Recently I came across a very interesting and profound book called The Power Of Now. It was written by a man named Ekhart Tolle and its basic premise lies in its straight-to-the-point title. If we seek peace, we must live in the present.

Many of the ideas I’ll be throwing out here are derived from this book, (which is highly recommended – the author, unlike other spiritual teachers, had an intense personal experience that is the beginning of a journey which led to this book), but also from my own experiences. One important thing to note is that I am far from mastering what I am about to describe – years of egoic pre-conditioning and mind chatter are hard to dissolve in a day – but just being aware of the possibility is a big step in the right direction.

I had my own personal wake-up call in the winter of 2008. Long story short, I had anxiety attacks. Scary stuff. After a few trips to the ER I was referred to a neurologist. She performed a neurological examination, then proceeded to pick up the phone and register me – without even asking, thank god – to something called the Mindfullness Stress Reduction Program.

In this program I first became aware of the basic concept of Mindfullness, which is just another word to describe the act of “being in the moment”. It can be done through formal meditation, but also during ordinary activities such as taking a shower, walking, listening to music, swimming, washing the dishes. Anything really. As long as your mind is not busy with constant thoughts, with mental noise, you’re doing it right. When we are busy with constant thoughts, we usually think about past and future. Past memories are fine, but the dysfunction sets in when we replay events from the past and find ourselves in it, identifying with it, letting it inform our present, usually in a negative way. We create a pre-conditioning which inhibits us and prevents us from tapping into the power of the present moment – from experiencing it fully and seeing it clearly for what it is. As far as future goes, we usually fantasize/worry about it. This is also irrelevant to the present moment, and creates anxiety.
A healthy use of past and future is when it is done for practical purposes: If we need to be somewhere tomorrow morning, we might need to think about setting the alarm clock. Or, let’s say a week ago we forgot to set the clock, so we might think about the past in practical terms: “A week ago I forgot to set the clock. I better not forget this time”.

One way to visualize this is to imagine a large room in our heads. Now, this room is pretty cluttered. There’s junk everywhere. Old stuff, from the past. Let’s call them “Old Magaiznes”. And then there’s those still empty, “plastic receptacles”, that for our purpose will represent the future. Other than those, there are the “pain-bodies”. Negative emotions stored in our bodies and in our psyche. Emotions we failed to face in the Now, i.e, in real time, and ever since then we’ve been harboring them inside, letting them fester. Let’s say the “pain-bodies” are represented by a green, icky mold covering the walls and the floor. Usually we don’t pay attention to it, because the clutter in the room obscures it from us. But once in a while, something happens in the outside world which triggers it, and then, the mold crawls out among the old magazines and empty receptacles and demands notice. It wants to take over the room. Sometimes it succeeds and covers everything. That means we get deeply depressed, agitated, sad, angry, afraid, jealous. You get the picture. Then this matter subsides, and the mold retreats, letting the magazines and the receptacles fill the room again.

Our real self has nothing to do with mind and constant thoughts – it is the room without all the clutter, or actually, the room with neat shelves which contains jars where we store practical, useful mind-objects. That way we can use the mind without it using us. If we could just do it, if we could get rid of all the mental and emotional excess and just see the room as it is, in its natural state, the way it was supposed to be, we would be free of negativity and fear, and we will know peace and joy. We will know what it truly means to be alive. No pre-conditions. No judgments. Just Being.

The best way to even having a small chance of achieving this state of higher consciousness is, apparently, to live in the present as much as possible. To be attentive and alert, to accept it, to yield to it. To respond rather than react. To leave all drama and conflict behind – especially conflict with ourselves, which is the most destructive – and is the catalyst for most external conflicts.

There’s nothing new in The Power of Now. The same fundamental truths were part of ancient eastern wisdom (the Tau is another word for Being), and were preached by Jesus and Buddha. It is the same spiritual principal that exists throughout human history.
These are all different words to describe the same thing. We cannot grasp it mentally, and we mustn’t attach too much importance to words. Words are just signposts to show the way. But in the end, this state of consciousness can be only felt, not understood and labeled mentally. I mean, it can, but then you’ll be missing the whole point.
I had a glimpse of this state of connectedness to the state of Being/Presence back when I was in New York. It was one of the most profound moments of my life. That is why I know it exists. That is why I know there is more than mental noise in the human experience.

Only a truly “enlightened” man/woman can get rid of all the clutter in the room. Most of us can’t do it, at least for now. But there is a way to maybe make it easier. Let’s imagine we can project a duplicate of ourselves into this room. It will look like us, but it will shine with white light, or blue light, or whatever light you wish. And this conscious personification of us will stand guard in the room, and watch and observe. And whenever our mind starts getting really entangled with all the riveting drama in those old magazines from the past, our little luminous angel in the corner will first cough politely, and if that doesn’t help, if our stalwart reader is still with his nose deep in the magazines, the luminous figure might say: “Hey, you. Yes, I’m talking to you. I see you there, sitting there, indulging in the past. You can go ahead and knock yourself out, but just know that you’re not allowed to be in this room anymore by yourself, I will always be here, watching you”. The idea is that the minute the pre-occupied past-reader hears the voice and sees the presence, it will wake up from its trance and vanish from the room, back to the present moment which is taking place right here, right now, outside of the room, outside of the head.
The same principal can be applied to thoughts about the future. Whenever our smarmy little ego is not happy with the present and sneaks out into the room to fill those receptacles with fine scenarios/fantasies/wishful thinking, all kinds of chocolates that are insubstantial because they are just a projection and can melt and transform in any moment, or if he’s just staring at those receptacles, worried what to fill them with, the guardian will be there, watching him, jerking him back to the present.
And perhaps more importantly, whenever the mold, or the pain-body, begins to crawl again all over the room to make us miserable, we will let it crawl but we will watch it. We will not leave the room unobserved. We will watch the mold crawl and say: “I see you. I feel you. I acknowledge you, but I will not let you take over my mind and my body and my behavior and my identity.” We accept the pain instead of resisting it. It is not for the faint of heart, but if you can master it, if you can face deep-seated pain, especially when triggered violently, you have transcended and escaped the vicious cycle of emotional pain.

All our pain and suffering stems from neediness. I want. I need. If I’ll have this or that or this person, then I will be happy. But those are powerful illusions, because all you need, all you desire, well, you already have it. And the rest is just a game. Life is a stage, and we’re all actors. The secret is to actually experience it. Consider: when you don’t identify mentally with anything, when there are no attachments. When there are no attachments borne out of need, how much more simple and easy life would be.
But then, where would the ego be without the drama?

The answer is that it wouldn’t be. Just Imagine. A world without ego. No wars. No violence. No destruction of nature. Just us, Human Beings, not separate of the world and the universe but a part of it, connected to it, feeling the pulse of the cosmos inside us.

Once you are aware of this principal, you start noticing it around you where you didn’t see it before. I am currently reading a book called The History of Western Philosophy and find that many philosophers of ancient times incorporated these ideas into their teaching. You also begin seeing it in art, in certain movies (I hope to have a post soon about movies which include these ideas), and elsewhere.
If you want to have a perfect example of stillness in the present, all you need to do is watch animals. Animals always live in the Now. I actually recognized it in my (then) cat a few years ago, although I couldn’t really explain why I envied her so much. Or why I felt at this moment to in tune with her, and why all I wanted to do is pick her up and hug her. It was because she showed me presence, while I was sitting there, sulking, she showed me the way out.

And if I can turn mushy for a second, this is actually what Love is. “What the world needs now is love sweet love”. Remember that song? Truer words were never spoken. This is not the “love” that is created by the ego: a love that can turn into hate and jealousy and despair and un-love when things aren’t going right or when we feel threatened. This is the true love that has no opposite. To know that we are not adrift in an uncaring universe, but a part of it, a part of the same energy source that created everything around us, plants and animals and even rocks. Yes, one of the best ways to experience this state to some degree is to go out to nature, with no distractions (leave the i-pod at home), and just pay attention.

And by the way, the person writing this words is a great cynic who used to stay far away from anything that smacked of “universal love”. I just came to a point in my life where I recognized the truth in it.

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2 comments so far

  1. shel berman on

    I liked your “mind as a room” analogy, and the use of guided imagination as a way to deal with things.
    A a whole, I accept the general principle of trying to live in the present as a way for a peaceful life, although some of the details of the implementation can be opened for debate, and some more principles, who can seem contradictory (as: believing in yourself, along with, knowing thy self), added. I don’t think we should (or can) lose our egos entirely, we just need to find a more balanced way of managing it.
    As a personal guideline I can accept this way of thought, but the universal utopia seems too simplistic for consideration, at least as you described it.

    • Lior on

      When referring to “ego”, I, like in The Power Of Now, refer mainly to the destructive, limiting attributes of the mind. The objective is not to become a pod person, but to control those limiting, negative thinking patterns and use the mind in a more constructive, positive way.

      It was also not my intention to allude to a certain specific utopia, but it has to be said that if all mankind was to learn to free itself from the mind’s petty control and rise above it, it could be a next step in evolution and life on Earth could become different for the better. It doesn’t really matter if we call it “utopia” or some other word. There’s all this talk about the “human condition” and how human nature never really changes. All true. But this is it, a time where human nature might actually change and the human condition will have to be redefined. But nobody knows when and if that will ever happen, or in what shape or form.


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