CRACKING THE EGOIC SHELL

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

Back to Eckhart Tolle‘s “Night of Entertainment” on the 2nd day of the retreat at the Omega Institute. Apparently, Eckhart is somewhat fond of “flash mobs“. I recall him starting the evening by distinguishing between “happiness” and “joy” which he may as well have referred to as “dream” vs “reality”, “impermanence” vs “infinite”, or “form” vs “formless”, respectively. The first short clip he played for us was from Oprah‘s interview with Pharrell Williams in which Pharrell emotionally describes how his song “Happy” became a sudden overnight hit:

Despite distinguishing between the states of “happiness” and “joy”, Eckhart views Pharrell’s song as “inspired”. I believe that for Eckhart this means that the song came from the only space of true creativity – the space of presence. Williams himself hints at this when he says: “People were putting up their own videos. It was…no longer my song.”

Eckhart often says that he is merely a vehicle through which the ONE Life expresses itself, reminding us that many artists, musicians, writers, scientists, and others whose creative works have been called “genius” throughout history, where also such vehicles – but only when they were doing that which they LOVED. Notice Williams’ wholehearted claim that “I love what I do”, which implies that he would be doing it whether or not he ‘succeeded’ in the eyes of others. For Eckhart, one is doing what one loves when one is doing something for its own sake, and not as a means to an end. Why? Because the ego can’t exist where action has no ulterior motive.

Can you and I, who are simple, ordinary people, live creatively in this world without the drive of ambition which shows itself in various ways as the desire for power, position? You will find the right answer when you love what you are doing….I think this is the real key: to love what you do. – J. Krishnamurti – (Think on These Things; Chapter 12)

The funny thing is that I never actually seen or heard Pharrell’s song, and so when Eckhart played it for us I found myself once again emotionally conflicted from within:

Up until this time I had maintained a rather ‘hard shell’ of an exterior as I moved about the campus and met with different people. That’s not to say that I was unfriendly or disinterested, but my constant attempt at remaining present translated into a kind of reserved resistance that one might even call “repression”. I was weary of the ego in me and was therefore weary of the ego in others lest I react and defy the entire purpose of this “spiritual endeavor”. The fact is that my conscious watching was interwoven with an unconscious desire to be “So zen [that] I make “The Power of Now” look like the power of then.” (Hahaha!)

My contracted body muscles and serious mind were indications of this effort to BE, which are contradictory states of being. So when Eckhart announced his “evening of entertainment”, subconsciously I didn’t know what to make of it. I think that I was equating my dedication to the priority of BEING with a serious state of mind, and although part of me was aware of this fact, the voice in my head kept asking, “Am I truly serious about this pathless path or am I just like any other seeker who (as some say in the south) is full of “big talk, little do”?

Davi Ozolin

(Photo Credit: Davi Ozolin)

Don’t get me wrong, choosing to BE takes absolute vigilance and absolute dedication from moment to moment. As Eckhart says somewhere in A New Earth (and I paraphrase): “You can choose to BE present, but you have to choose it every moment.” But this vigilance, this dedication, this choosing is not an effort as such. If you’re making an effort to be aware then you’re not actually fully aware. Either one is aware (effortlessly) or one is unaware (mechanically).

Dan Foy

(Photo Credit: Dan Foy)

Now, do you want to know what I believe was actually happening? Despite realizing that I have to work on my ability to laugh at the cyclical grim thoughts and moods of the ego, the ego was creeping back in through the back door disguised as the ‘need to be serious to awaken from the perceived dream’. Can you SEE that the ego was essentially asking me to use more ego in order to get rid of ego?! Damn the cunning subtlety!

Pharrell’s “Happy” song didn’t affect me at first, though I did crack a smile here and there. But the song and video are so beautifully infectious that before long not only did I find the audience clapping and singing and dancing, but I also found myself laughing, smiling, and (dare I say?) feeling energetic and “happy”! “Happiness is the Truth!” Yes, yes it is! But the mind once again took over, causing upset:

Sophia Louise

(Photo Credit: Sophia Louise)

“How did he realize that happiness is the Truth? It’s not fair that he should be endowed with the ability to actually realize this truth while I am only able to grasp its reality in small glimpses. And what will happen when the song is over and we all walk out of this room? Surely you know that you can never sustain happiness for long. Rula will never permanently realize that ‘happiness is YOU’ so what are you bothering about?”

Rosanne Haaland

(Photo Credit: Rosanne Haaland)

Fortunately, inner conflict and psychological pain are slowly beginning to shift in role from being “obstacles” to being “openings” or opportunities for cracking the hard exterior shell of “me”. Why this shift? Because I can no longer pretend that I am not responsible for my own state of being. We’re all like seeds in different stages of realizing our purpose of breaking open and giving way to Life.

FLASH MOBS – DIFFUSING THE EGO

After playing “Happy”, Eckhart was now ready to show us “Joy”. Before playing the next two clips, however, he first explained to us why he was so fond of ‘flash mobs’. Essentially, though flash mobs themselves are pre-arranged, the reactions of the people who are ‘flash mobbed’ are totally spontaneous. “Watch the people’s eyes suddenly come to life as if they have woken out of the monotony of some dream,” he said as he showed us one of his favorite flash mob scenes:

Flash Mob: Beethoven‘s Ode to Joy  – Spain (May 19, 2012)

Hmmm…What is spontaneity and how does it fit into our Never Ending Story? Isn’t true spontaneity an act which is totally INDEPENDENT of any chain of cause and effect? Have you ever witnessed or been part of a TRULY spontaneous act which was totally independent from any thought , emotion, or image associated with the past or projected into the future? Going back to the Never Ending Story Posts, can spontaneity be part of a story when the next page of the story is dependent upon what happened on the last page? Is it possible for a boy who is constantly turning the page out of a hunger for ‘more’ to experience total, complete and true spontaneity?

Flash Mob – Heathrow Airport Welcome (2010)

The above two video’s that Eckhart Tolle played allowed us to glimpse a momentary experience of spontaneity as a result of a sudden and unexpected shock (big or small is of no relevance at this point in time). Interestingly, Eckhart shared his favorite “flash mob” scenes with us not very long after we had flash mobbed him

FLASH MOBS – STRENGTHENING THE EGO

Just a day before talking to us about flash mobs, Eckhart’s crew had given us permission to take pictures and videos of Eckhart at the beginning of one of his talks. But as he began to speak there was a sudden crescendo in the amount of video’s and flashes so that he had to go back to the beginning of his sentence and repeat it again. As he repeated it, one brave soul who ran up to the front near the stage encouraged an entire mob of people who soon began pushing their way to the front.

Indeed WE ALL suddenly turned into a runaway FLASH MOB! The crowd’s ego was now a rolling stone, quite unstoppable, full of greedy minds trying to capture a moment in time with a Master who was trying to teach us about timelessness…about un-greed. Well, here’s what the ego energizing flash mob (we) looked like:

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But did Eckhart frown? Did his face turn stoic and serious? Did he become agitated or signal his crew to cut us off? Well, here’s a little clip of how he didn’t react:

Eckhart couldn’t “carry on talking” as the excited energy of the ‘flash mob’ we turned into drew our attention away from the beautiful teachings of the man, and plunged us into the unconscious stream of the collective ego.

Finally, in his quiet, gentle and subtle way Eckhart put up his hand and with a soft smile on his face simply said, “You can use your zooms to take pictures.” Oddly, the crowd slowly but immediately began to disperse, and within two minutes Eckhart had everyone back in their seats in silence, a feat that several of his crew members were incapable of accomplishing by shouting over the crowd. This was yet another glimpse of the power of non-reaction – seemingly benign or even passive on the outside, yet capable of moving a mountain of egos.

Even though this mob seems to have gathered spontaneous momentum, is this actual spontaneity? Are we acting independently of our desires, our greed, or our star-struck eyes? Are we actively ENDING or are we setting our desires loose upon the Nothing, forcing it to become something in our minds which it is not? What were we planning on doing with all of these pictures and video’s we so shamelessly pushed and shoved in order to take? Where pictures and videos of Eckhart not available online by the hundreds?

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Most of us share the same plan – turning the page and continuing the story – “I saw the most spiritual man in the world in person!” – or whatever the last page of the story dictates the next page to be.

The difference between our reactions as an audience who were expecting to take pictures of Eckhart, and the reactions of the people who were surprised by a flash mob as they walked out of the airplane is that our reactions were selfish. For a few minutes, however, the people who came out of the plane didn’t have time to assume or expect or interpret anything in particular. They were taken by surprise and simply watched. For a few minutes those people lost their shackles. For a few minutes, they were FREE from the “next page”.

I wonder who, after the end of the retreat, actually ENDED their story – our story? In fact, as long as our memories live on, Eckhart himself is likely to be added as yet another character in the individual and collective dream which perpetuates the Never Ending Story.

Final Chapter of Eckhart Tolle’s Omega Retreat Coming Up…

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