THE NEVER ENDING STORY I

*Quotes attributed to Tolle and Kim Eng in this piece are only close paraphrases. The content of Eckhart’s talks at Omega Institute was filmed and will be made available in months to come on ETTV*

nothing(Image Source: The NeverEnding Story 1984 – Warner Bros)

NO THING

No, I’m not referring to the fantasy movie that mystified and enchanted children in the 1980’s with its dramatic and even terrifying depiction of the “Nothing” – an unimaginable void steadily sweeping over the entire world undoing all manifestations of the imagination. Like the presence of a super massive black hole at the center of every galaxy, the Nothing has the potential to swallow up every ‘thing’ in its gravitational field; for though the Nothing is a void, its boundless presence is capable of undoing the intangible material of the human mind that we call ‘imagination’.

Phil Plait - supermassive black hole eating matter(Photo Credit: Phil Plait – Supermassive black hole eating matter)

I’m not analyzing or retelling the The NeverEnding Story here, but using it as a reverse metaphor for exploring the state of spiritual enlightenment which many have sought, but very few have attained. Actually, I’m wrapping up my account of Eckhart Tolle’s Retreat at the Omega Institute by beginning with ‘nothing’ or ‘no one’, which is the essence of the living being we faced each day on stage. Of course, as a generally deluded audience captivated by the presence of ‘no one in particular,’ what we made of NOTHING was EVERYTHING.

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Although many of us allowed our minds to label Eckhart as “someone special,” I doubt that Eckhart differentiated himself from any of us. By giving Eckhart, the retreat, and ‘other’ people at the retreat different labels, we affected our individual perceptions and experiences, as well as the perceptions and experiences of others. We, however, didn’t seem to affect Eckhart’s behavior or mood in any way.

eckhart

Is it possible to interact with people and things – to LIVE – without allowing the external world to influence or prejudice the mind? Can I look at the world without imagining “my self” at its center, making me the subject and everything else the object? What would be left if I undid the idea of “‘I/me/mine/Rula”? Is it death to perceive from a place of spaciousness, or emptiness, or nothingness – from a place that is devoid of  “the story of Rula”? And who wrote “my story”?

FEAR OF NOTHING

In the movie The NeverEnding Story, the characters in the book that Bastian is reading desperately want to survive, but they can only survive as long as the Nothing is kept at bay by the active imagination of children. If children were to reign in their imaginations, all ‘things’ – all stories – would succumb to the Nothing. All characters, all roles, all relationships and the entire ‘material’ world of Fantasia, which is based and dependent upon their imaginations, would perish.

Atreyu-in-the-Nothing

Most of us, just like the characters in Bastian’s story, are afraid of Nothing – the IDEA of non-existence or death. I see life as ‘something’ and myself as ‘someone’ and I don’t want ‘my life’ to end. But what is “my life” as opposed to the life of another? What is “my life” as opposed to  just Life?

There is ‘my physical body/mind’, and there is also the idea of ‘who I am’ or ‘am not’, which exists in the form of mental images or thoughts (beliefs or perceptions based on information interpreted and stored in the memory), and emotions. So the ‘end’ of ‘my life’ is not only the end of the physical body, but also the end of the perceived story that the mind attaches to that physical body – more importantly, it’s the end of “MY FEAR” of ending…

Alice in Wonderland - Disney Pictures(Image Source: Disney’s Alice in Wonderland)

THE WRITER VS THE STORY

Two days before the end of the retreat, Kim Eng, Eckhart’s long time companion, gave her own ‘talk’. People clearly weren’t as open to her as they were to Eckhart. Still, many came to listen, and this is how she began:

“So, as we all know, the retreat is winding down as we only have two more days left. Does anyone here feel any anxiety about the ending of the retreat? I ask because I remember when I used to go to retreats I would always start feeling very anxious towards the end. I would start thinking of how I now had to make a transition from being in this peaceful and serene place back to the same old life and the same old problems.”

Hyperion(Photo Credit: Niccolò Caranti)

Beginning with the anxiety that we may be feeling as a result of anticipating the end of the retreat was, for me, very insightful of Kim. From that moment on I found myself more receptive to her struggles and experiences as a yet ‘un-awakened’ being living with an ‘awakened’ one. The reason for my sudden receptivity was simple – yes, I was feeling anxious about the ending of the retreat. I imagined the transition from here to ‘there’ and seeing myself going back to ‘my life’ caused some slight anxiety. I couldn’t just end the projection of ‘my future’, which is just an extension of the ‘story of me’ which exists only in my mind. I couldn’t end ‘my story’ and just BE (here Now).

I’m guessing it’s precisely for this reason that Eckhart Tolle wants every human being to KNOW what it actually means to BE (Nothing). What we’re afraid of – ending – is an assumed fear isn’t it? That is to say, we don’t actually end when we end, or die when we die. We spend our lifetimes thinking about death, about ending, and we project our thoughts of what may or may not happen during and after that ending (the idea of life after death, God, etc).

But we haven’t actually given anything up have we? We haven’t given up our attachment to ‘who I think I am’ or as Eckhart sometimes calls it, ‘the story of me’. Why not? Obviously we aren’t going to give up the body until the body gives us up (is the body even ‘mine’ if I can’t ‘take it with me’?) But why can’t we give up our mental identification (attachment) to things’ like people, places, beliefs, judgments, and desires which are all part of ‘my story’ and no one else’s? Are we afraid that in letting go of our perceived identity I will cease to exist? The idea of “me” will surely die, my history will no longer be of concern, but does that mean the end of Life?

Neverending story

After all, while the characters in Bastian’s book are completely dependent upon his existence, Bastian’s existence is absolutely independent of the story and its characters. Does this sound familiar?

Thought cannot exist without consciousness, but consciousness does not need thought.

(Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment)

The IDEA of death, the IDEA of non-existence, the IDEA of Nothing is really the ‘thing’ that we fear most. Just as we project and dream our way through life, assuming we know what it is, we also assume what it means to die. So what would happen if we were to END the idea of ending – end the story and the storyteller; end the projection and the projector; end the dream, and thus wake up, ceasing to be the dreamer?


alice dreaming

What happens if I put down my pen and stop telling “the story of me”, stop imagining ‘my world’ into existence – stop dreaming? If the projector of my image, and therefore the projection of my image were to dissolve, would life come to end, or would the true ME be revealed?

To be continued…

 

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