Plato’s “Apology” claims that upon the pronunciation by the Oracle at Delphi that Socrates is the wisest man in Greece, Socrates’ ultimate response was popularly paraphrased as: “I am the wisest man because I’m the only one who knows that I don’t know anything.”

      Ekchart Tolle @ Omega Institute

Eckhart Tolle doesn’t know anything.

I realize this not because the voices in my head told me so, but because the vibrations emanating from this rare and beautiful human being touched me wordlessly – undeniably. This is my impression of Eckhart Tolle as I watched, listened and sensed the vibrations emanating from him in the very first talk on the evening of Sunday June 15th, at the Omega institute.

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There wasn’t anything remarkable about the man himself, not in the flesh – but he appeared like a lone flower sprouting from the muck in the tranquility of silence. Eckhart looked gentle, humble to the bone and yet his powerful presence could be sensed in the atmosphere. I sensed in him a complete graciousness without a touch of ingratitude or tension. And although this lone delicate flower was surrounded by ordinary minds ever ready to pluck it for themselves, never did it show any sign of anxiety. Not a single note of negativity did it reverberate or emanate. Eckhart even took the ‘skeptics’ by surprise.

The spark of life, that ‘non thing’ which animates the body at birth and dissolves it at death, shined through him and warmed me from within like the sun warms the earth. His eyes seemed to penetrate the depths of the universe and his smile and soft subtle words never once imposed themselves upon my mind. The message he conveyed wasn’t carried through the spoken word, but emitted from his very being.

Pachmari - India Feb-Mar 2006 (39)

During Eckhart’s first talk I felt utterly peaceful, though I had arrived at Omega battling some (typical) inner conflict. It was during the second talk in the afternoon that I learned my first real lesson:

There is no way that Eckhart can ever reach anyone who isn’t receptive. During Eckhart’s second talk I wasn’t receptive. 

By far the greatest conflict I encountered at the retreat was the “line” conflict. The “line conflict” is the paradox of people attending a spiritual retreat yet fighting tooth and nail to get to the front of the line (aka,“front row seats”). Among 500 ‘retreater’s’ were a few loyal and determined soldiers prepared to do anything to occupy the front rows. These Eckhart ‘die-hards’ (as some called them) didn’t seem to feel conflicted by their relentless desire to see the man up close. In fact, as one charming young man who came from Africa to attend this 5 day retreat said, “If it’s for a good cause then it’s okay [to be ambitious].”

I too decided to arrive quite early for the 10 a.m talk assuming there would be a line. I walked the beautiful green path, had my breakfast at the cafeteria and headed out to the Hall by 8 a.m. Sure enough, there in front of the sealed entrance on the porch was a small gathering of about 10 people. I watched them a little, spoke a little, laughed a little, and finally I joined them.

I can’t deny that second row seats proved to be well worth the two hour wait. When Eckhart came out he was within throwing distance, light as air, a true wonder. He greeted us beautifully after sitting in silence for what seemed like several minutes, his eyes penetrating the NOW. His first talk was about the meaning of “retreat”. By the end of the talk any and all conflict had completely left me. I felt peaceful in mind and body.

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Smiling, I went for lunch. I came back two hours early for the 2 p.m. talk.

Once again the “diehards” were there laughing and chattering in their fun loving way. Suddenly, a man appeared from the side entrance of the porch and sat down five people ahead of me, cutting the line. Our eyes met and he smiled. Clearly this irritated me and I mentioned it to one of the women standing behind me. She said that she saw him cutting in but decided she wasn’t going to bother her mind with such people. “Yes, me too” I thought. “I’m not going to bother about such people. I’m at a spiritual retreat and I’ve checked my ego at the door.” But no matter how I tried, his presence in my mind as a “line-cutter” was eating away at me…

When the doors opened and people made a literal ‘dash for it’, I ended up in the front row! I was so excited! But can you believe who ended up sitting right next to me? Obviously, it was the “line-cutter”. He looked at me again and smiled. I smiled back (“Damn line-cutter!) Still, I had a front row seat.

The front row was so close to the stage, but somehow I couldn’t seem to concentrate on the talk or on the intense presence of the being sitting on the stage. For some reason the ‘line-cutter’s’ feet, smeared with wet grass from the lawn, kept catching my eye. I was looking at them with a feeling of disgust which I intentionally tried to repress.

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“You’re not disgusted by a pair of human feet,” the logical voice chimed in. “You’re disgusted by the idea of a man who cut in line. Somehow, this thought is being associated with the man’s grass stained feet.”

I cringed at the thought of the grass stained feet.

“Why not see him as your child, running barefoot in the grass? No one can feel disgusted by a child, especially not his own mother!”

The suggestion worked for a while, but again the attention was distracted by the feet. As the feeling of disgust kept rising, I tried to push it down again…pushing and pushing until…”No they’re terrible! They are truly ugly feet!”

“Seriously? How does a man have anything to do with the way his feet look? The body is not the man. Think of Jesus washing the feet of any stranger with his own hands. Think of Christ for Christ’s sake!”

Meister_des_Hausbuches - Christ washing the feet of his disciples

(Christ Washing the Feet of the Apostles – Meister des Hausbuches)

(As I write this story waiting for the 6th talk to begin, The Intending Self appears):

Who were you in those moments?

I was one of the many conditioned parts of “Rula”. I was the “Entitled Self”.

But you’re retreating with Eckhart Tolle…

No, I’m at an Eckhart Tolle retreat. Eckhart retreated 37 years ago, “Rula” has yet to retreat.

So you’re attending a retreat without retreating?

Yes, Rula wasn’t willing to stay behind, she violently insisted on coming.

Violently?

Yes, the ego always is, even in the most subtle ways…oh look, my new friend just nudged me. She and another “die-hard” just went outside to try and sneak a peek at Eckhart as his car drove up to the hall. Can you believe that they actually got past his entourage and upon requesting a hug were granted their wish!? She’s here in tears crying, “I got it! I got it! I got my hug!”

You’re happy for her of course.

Of course I’m happy for her! She’s been talking about wanting a hug from him since she came. She needed it, she wanted it, and she got it!

Yes, I see what you mean…extremely subtle.

Wait! Let me finish ‘my’ story that took place at Eckhart’s second talk.

Remind me again.

Well I spent that evening not with Tolle but with a pair of feet.

Feet?

Well, the feet were real but their story wasn’t. Then the part of ‘Rula” that made up and believed the story started arguing with the part of her that knew it was irrational.

You mean you were not listening to Eckhart?

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Not really. The feet got in the way.

You mean the story got in the way.

No, “Rula” got in the way.

It’s a shame that someone occupying a front row seat was completely unreceptive to the most spiritual man one has ever met, distracted by an obsessive thought.

That’s not the worst part.

Oh?

After Tolle left, I sat feeling bad for having failed to stop the insane battle going on inside my head between the disgusted self and the rational self during the entire talk.

And?

I saw another woman, a ‘die-hard’, sitting close by. She told me that this talk had made her feel so peaceful within, so reconciled with a difficult emotional reaction she had been projecting. I told her that I had the opposite experience during this talk. I told her how I couldn’t stop obsessively thinking about the man who cut in line ahead of us.

“What man?” she asked.

“That man!” I said, pointing him (and his feet) out, still feeling frustrated.

Pointing Finger by Purple Slog(Photo Credit: Purple Slog)

To my utter disbelief she said- “That man? He didn’t cut in line. He was already there before we were, but he had to use the bathroom and when he was done he came back.”

I must have turned a little pale, because I know I felt a bit sick in that moment. Tolle may not have reached me that night, but the universe had.

“He didn’t cut the line!” my mind said in astonishment. “He didn’t cut the line…”

I looked at him from across the way. He looked like a completely different human being. I looked at his feet and saw how symmetrical and tan they were.

Suddenly his eyes caught mine. He nodded and smiled, and as “Rula” smiled back she thought…

I know what she thought…

“My feet are so ugly.”

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