Learning to Fly

Live life to its fullest

A New Earth — A New Earth May 22, 2008

Jenn’s thoughts and learnings from the tenth and final week of A New Earth: The Oprah Web Event.

“I am a hole in a flute that the Christ’s breath moves through–listen to this music.”
~Hafiz, as translated by Daniel Ladinsky

For whatever reason–resistance, the timing of the Universe is perfect, etc.–it has taken me over a week (two, if you count my trying to watch it on the plane to Georgia) to watch the final week of the A New Earth web event. And I’m kind of glad it did. It’s given me time to really soak this one up, to savor it, linger over it, which seems appropriate for a finale. Eckhart was his usual jovial self but Oprah seemed a little sad to have it all come to an end. I look forward to watching her continue to grow and unfold, to see where life continues to lead her.

My favorite part
I loved the way Oprah put the “what to call God” problem. She said something to the effect of, Spirit doesn’t have an ego so it doesn’t get hung up on what it’s called. Yes!

How to stay present
At one point Oprah shared that her mantra (my word, not hers) is, “Be here, be now.” She repeats it to herself as a reminder to be present. Mine is very similar, “Be Here Now.” I’m not sure why it needs to be capitalized, but that is how it shows up in my head. It’s almost like the words get dropped into my mind one by one, each word their own reminder. Be. Here. Now.

Growing older, growing wiser
One of the most striking concepts in this chapter for me was how all of this applies to growing old. As I’m sure we all do, I know many people who have so identified with what they DO that growing old has been a tragedy for them. Each responsibility they can no longer manage, each task they can no longer perform, is like an arrow through their heart. The process is nothing but pain, nothing but regret, and they spend their time either complaining, focusing solely on what’s wrong, or lost in nostalgia. However for others, they begin to recognize that there is so much more to life than just the doing. It is through having the doing reduced in their life that they recognize the presence and importance of being. They grow lighter, freer, and end up with a luminescent quality. These individuals have been rarer in my life, but are such lights when you come across them. I know which way I’d rather be, but I don’t want to wait until I’m old–I want to start today! (See the poem I posted this morning for further exploration of this subject.)

What you do is always secondary
There was just something about the way this concept was reiterated in this webcast that got me. What you do is always secondary; how you do it is primary. You want to know how to fulfill your destiny? Do whatever it is you are doing, no matter how seemingly large or small, completely and utterly consciously, full of presence. No what where you are, whether you’re mailing a package at the post office, waiting tables at a restaurant, washing up after breakfast, bring your Presence with you. That’s what showing up and fulfilling your destiny looks like. Placing the plate down on the table in front of your customer with full awareness, consciousness, presence, affects everyone around you. It doesn’t matter what it is you are doing–if you are doing it consciously, you are bringing more Presence into the world and playing your role in the greater awakening of the planet.

Goals and visions
This is one of those concepts I’ve been working with for over 15 years, but I feel like it was presented to me brand new. Your goal, your vision, is not something “out there” that is in the future. It lives within you as if it were already a reality, because on some level it already is. It isn’t a goal you are projecting yourself into, something you will reach someday. It isn’t something coming from a place of neediness or scarcity, it is coming from a place of fullness, the way it would feel if you already had it. Because it is something that already exists within you, ready to be born into form in your life. Eckhart talked about writing The Power of Now in this fashion. He sensed that there was a book within him that had already been written. His job, then, was just to allow this already completed construct to come out of him, to manifest itself. This is where true power lies, because all power exists in the present moment. It is about always focusing on this step, just this step. Whatever this moment is, it is a step on the journey.

Acceptance, enjoyment, and enthusiasm
The key point to this chapter (to me, anyway) is that it is time to choose to do everything with acceptance, enjoyment, or enthusiasm. If you cannot operate from one of these three modalities, you are not in alignment with the present moment, with yourself, with life, and you are causing yourself and/or those around you suffering. So the question to always ask yourself is, what is my relationship with the present moment? Am I okay with this moment, friendly with it? If yes, then you are empowered. If no, then ask yourself what you can do to move towards acceptance. It may be that you need to stop doing whatever it is you’re doing, step aside and into something that you can accept. Or you may be able to find acceptance just through becoming aware of where you are, consciously shifting your attention towards recognizing that this moment is what it is. You don’t have to enjoy changing a tire, but when you accept that the tire is flat and changing it is what needs to be done, as opposed to resisting it, cursing it, getting upset with it, etc., then you will be able to find peace in the experience.

I loved what Eckhart had to say about enjoyment, that it will replace wanting. Wanting comes from a place of lack, and when you get whatever it is you were wanting, you feel empty and unfulfilled. Enjoyment, however, leaves you feeling full. It brings empowerment to what you do, flowing through you and allowing creativity to be born in what you are doing. Joy does not come from what you do, from another person, from outside of you in any way–it comes from within, flowing out of you into the world around you.

So my exercise for this week, and yours too, if you so choose, is to pay attention to where I am and see if I can shift the energy. If I feel like I’m in resistance, fighting the moment, then it is time for me to move into acceptance. If it’s something I’m already able to accept, then I can make a game out of it, find a way to turn that acceptance into enjoyment. And if it’s something I’m already able to enjoy, then I can look for that extra something that reminds me this moment is a step towards manifesting my vision and allow enthusiasm to come into play. The new earth already exists within us. Our job now is to allow it to come through us, to be made manifest in form in our lives. Namaste.

Photo: “Dream,” originally uploaded by Jan McLaughlin

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A New Earth — Your Inner Purpose May 7, 2008

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Jenn’s thoughts and learnings from the ninth week of A New Earth: The Oprah Web Event.

“There is always only this one step, and so you give it your fullest attention. This doesn’t mean you don’t know where you are going; it just means this step is primary, the destination secondary. And what you encounter at your destination once you get there depends on the quality of this one step.”
~Eckhart Tolle,
A New Earth

This chapter, Your Inner Purpose, was by far my favorite in A New Earth. Don’t get me wrong, the whole book, this whole web event series, has been wonderful, but this one spoke to a deep place in my soul. My apologies for continuing to be a week behind the live class, but I really wanted to give this chapter the time and attention it deserved.

I think this whole chapter can be summed up by my favorite expression: “Life’s a journey, not a destination.” I love how Eckhart talks about this concept, gives it his own spin and increases my own understanding of it. He speaks of inner purpose and outer purpose. Your inner purpose is about BEING, is about awakening, and is always primary. Your outer purpose is about DOING, and is always secondary. When we usually talk about our life’s purpose, we are talking about the doing, and almost without fail we have placed this doing in the future. True purpose is in the present moment, whether it comes from being or doing. Its focus is not on the destination–its focus is on this one step, whatever it is that is occurring right now, in this moment.

I’ve found myself this week becoming aware of what I’m doing in the moment and saying, “My life’s purpose is to be doing this.” So right now, my life’s purpose is to be writing my blog post. Just saying that immediately makes me expand, makes me more aware, enables me to feel my aliveness and allow the words to flow through me and into my fingers. I am one with life and my inner purpose–I am awakening.

I could probably end right there–that AHA! has carried me through the week and I expect I’ll be playing with it for weeks to come. That one concept opens up my field of awareness and makes me feel so energized, so alive, so fully present, and allows me to distance myself from what has been my goal these past few months, which is to uncover my outer purpose. But the thing is, living from the inner purpose IS the path to the outer purpose. As Eckhart says, once you realize that the primary purpose of your life is the inner purpose, to awaken, then the secondary purpose, the outer purpose, falls into place. By being true to life, being true to this moment, the now, life will become helpful, bringing to you whatever is most appropriate in terms of aligning your inner and outer purpose. This is when the synchronicity associated with following your bliss begins to occur and the world shows up for you, supporting you and providing for you.

There may be a period of uncertainty while your inner and outer purpose come into alignment, but that’s the whole thing about life being a journey and not a destination–life is an adventure, full of the unknown and therefore full of possibility. When you embrace the uncertainty, you open the door for opportunities to arise. When you resist the uncertainty, you block the flow from making itself manifest in your experience. I loved when Oprah was talking about letting the light shine through you. An image came to me, that we are here to become translucent and in so doing, we let the light of consciousness or awareness or presence, whatever you choose to call it, shine through. When this light shines through us, then the light becomes fuel for whatever it is we are doing. That’s when we have the full power of the universe available to us.

Eckhart spoke of his writing practice, and it’s one that I want to take into my week and try out for myself. He said that it was never about the end result. If he’d been trying to write a great book whose purpose was to bring awakening to the planet, he would have been getting in his own way. Instead, he was coming from the place of inner stillness. He listened to the voice that told him it was time to write, and sat down with a pen, a notebook, and the stillness. When a thought came to him he would utilize his intellect to review this thought for its truth, for its quality. If it made sense, then he would write it down. If it didn’t, then he would let it go and return to the stillness, allowing the next thought to come. It’s a small moment, focused on the inner purpose, but when those moments stack, what unfolds leads to greatness. Take this attitude, this approach into everything you do this week and watch how it changes the work you are doing. Namaste.

Photo: “Autumn Stream,” originally uploaded by Kimberly

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A New Earth — The Discovery of Inner Space April 30, 2008

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Jenn’s thoughts and learnings from the eighth week of A New Earth: The Oprah Web Event.

I have to say, while I enjoyed taking a week off from my usual routine, I really did miss diving deeper with Eckhart and Oprah and A New Earth. It’s good to be back!

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor
I was so excited that they were talking about Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor! Apparently Oprah is having her on the Soul Series radio show after A New Earth is all over. If you haven’t yet seen the video that’s been going around, take a few minutes to treat yourself to a viewing. Really inspirational stuff. Apparently, she thinks that your right brain IS the consciousness, the awareness, the presence that Eckhart talks about. It’s all connected!

This, too, shall pass
One of my favorite expressions that you run into on the spiritual path just about everywhere, really, is “This too shall pass.” It’s an incredibly powerful concept that allows you to let go of the outcome of any experience. Most people find it soothing it times of stress or sorrow, a reminder that tomorrow is another day full of new possibilities, but don’t like to apply it to the happy times, seeing it as a reminder that the joy can’t last and feeling like it’s a bit of a buzz kill. The thing is, nothing lasts, and once you truly come to understand this, you can truly accept the present moment without judgment, without expectation. It is an expression of true freedom, allowing you to enjoy this moment and not think about what is going to come next, relieving you of any sense of dread or worry, enhancing the joy and pleasure.

Spiritual does not mean passive
A young man was asking about how one stays present and follows one’s true purpose but still manages to pay the bills on time and take care of the mechanics of life on this planet. Oprah really got into this one, I think because it’s a fairly common misunderstanding, this idea that somehow being spiritual means we’re supposed to be passive. It’s akin to the misconstrued idea that if we all followed our bliss then everyone would want to be an artist and no one would be a garbage collector. Truly, it’s about aligning yourself with what resonates with you and allowing things to flow from that place. Oprah is a perfect example of how it works–she is someone who has shown up completely as herself and the universe has said, yes, please, more of that! She did not sit on top of a mountain and meditate and expect things to come to her, however. She took action, showed up, and allowed the universe to flow from that point. The same is true for everybody. You go to work, staying fully present to Who You Are and aligning your action with what resonates for you and things will flow for you. In Religious Science there’s a saying, “Treat and move your feet.” It essentially means pray, set your intention, and then get out there and stir things up and see what falls out. Try it out yourself–take steps in the direction of your dreams, stay present and connected to your true self, and see what happens.

Everything is amazing
Towards the end of the webinar, one of the callers was talking about how present she’s felt being on vacation but that she’s worried when she returns home she’ll fall back into her old patterns. Oprah’s response really stuck with me. She was basically saying you just have to be really conscious about bringing this work into your daily life, making sure you take the time to practice awareness. But then she said, when you really put this into practice, EVERYTHING is amazing. It’s not just that nature is beautiful and the sound of a child laughing is joyful and whatnot, it’s that even just the act of breathing in and breathing out takes on a whole new level of consciousness and presence that just simply BEING is amazing. Wow. When she said that, I really got it, really felt it for that moment. What a way to live, to truly live your life. And you don’t have to go anywhere to find it–it is always available to you, within you, right here, right now.

Homework
So my assignment to myself and to anyone else who is interested in giving it a try is to practice Active TV watching. Eckhart talks about this in the book as well as on the webinar. The idea is to not allow watching TV to make you unconscious. Pick and choose when and what you’re going to watch–don’t watch TV for TV’s sake, but make sure that what you’re watching is something you truly want to watch. While you sit there, practice staying conscious throughout, feeling the aliveness within your body, staying aware of what is passing through your mind. Don’t allow yourself to glaze over–move your body periodically and look away from the television from time to time, allowing your gaze to fall on something tangible within the room. Use this time to practice staying present instead of using it as a time to escape. Good luck, let me know how it goes! Namaste.

Photo: “inner space,” originally uploaded by Wendy

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A New Earth — Finding Who You Truly Are April 16, 2008

Jenn’s thoughts and learnings from the seventh week of A New Earth: The Oprah Web Event.

“Knowing yourself deeply has nothing to do with whatever ideas are floating around in your mind. Knowing yourself is to be rooted in Being, instead of lost in your mind.”
~Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth

I swear, the A New Earth webinars with Oprah and Eckhart Tolle are just getting better and better. Each week we get to dive deeper and deeper into the present moment, deeper and deeper into one of the most important things we can learn, as Oprah said on Monday, which is to live life from a place of acceptance, of non-resistance to the present moment.

The three levels of every situation
One of the callers this week spoke of being highly sensitive, which leaves her often overwhelmed. I think Eckhart’s answer can be applied to anyone, sensitive or not, in any situation that is dredging up any type of negative emotion. Eckhart spoke of there being three levels to every situation.

1. What is happening: The first level of a situation is whatever is happening at this moment that is disturbing you (i.e. traffic, long lines at the store, loud noises).
2. Your reaction to what is happening: The second level of a situation is your reaction to what is happening, whether it’s a physical reaction (i.e. a contraction in your stomach) or an emotional reaction (i.e. overwhelment, frustration, irritation, annoyance, anger) or a thought pattern (i.e. I’m miserable, I can’t stand this any longer).
3. Your awareness of both of these levels: The third level is your awareness of the situation and your reaction to it, where there’s no judgment, it’s just purely observation.

When we let go of having our self-concept tied up in the way we react to things (like being highly sensitive) and accept what is happening in the now without judgment, we release old patterns of behavior that have left us feeling trapped. This is where true freedom lies.

Reaction vs. Response
I loved the distinction between REACTION and RESPONSE that I got out of this week’s class. Reaction comes from your ego, and always has a piece of what the ego expects to get out of the situation. Reaction is a conditioned response, based in the past and therefore never totally adequate to the present moment. Response comes from a place of truth, from your inner being, your inner wisdom, without judgment or negativity. When responding to a challenging person from a place of awareness, your intuition will provide the right words for the situation. It might be what the other person needs to hear or it could just be the truth you need to speak in that moment, but it will come up without negative emotion or attachment.

Abundance comes only to those who already have it.
This idea is one that I think many people have trouble really wrapping their minds around. I know when I was growing up, I didn’t understand the full meaning of Jesus’s words, “For whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.” But once you understand that abundance comes from within, that it is the divine birthright of each and everyone of us, a light begins to shine on the meaning. We are all abundant–those who recognize this truth live this truth, and money flows to them like a river; those who do not believe this to be true live from a place of lack, and lack flows to them like a river. So how do you turn things around in your life? Begin by recognizing the abundance that is already present in your life. If you don’t see abundance anywhere, you aren’t looking closely enough. Abundance isn’t just in your bank account–it’s in the abundance of fresh product at the supermarket, the abundance of flowering plants in a garden, the abundance of blue in the sky. Appreciate what is around you, truly feeling grateful for it. Oprah even suggested keeping a gratitude journal, where every day you write down at least 5 things you are grateful for. Another way to truly recognize your own abundance is to give to others whatever it is you feel you are lacking. Anyone who can give, already has, and therefore is able to receive more in return.

I’ve been expressing my gratitude all over the place today. I’m grateful for the beautiful contrast between the blue sky and green trees outside my window. I’m grateful for the love of my wonderful cats and husband. I’m grateful to be home with Oprah and Eckhart Tolle today. I’m grateful to this path and to all that I’ve learned. I’m grateful for the little deck garden I created with lettuce and herbs. I’m grateful to have a large deck that can double as an outdoor dining room. I could keep going and going and going . . . So, what are you grateful for this week? Today? In this moment? Soak up that appreciation, write it down, and keep looking for all the good, all the bounty, that is already present in your life. Namaste.

Photo: “Revealing,” originally uploaded by Kjunstorm

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A New Earth — Breaking Free April 9, 2008

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Jenn’s thoughts and learnings from the sixth week of A New Earth: The Oprah Web Event.

“The next step in human evolution is not inevitable, but for the first time in the history of our planet, it can be a conscious choice.”
~Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth

It was another great week with Oprah, Eckhart Tolle, and A New Earth. I’m loving the ongoing awakening that is happening within me and in the world around me. Can you feel it? It’s almost tangible. And it’s completely infected my language these days–I find myself speaking about ego and awareness and staying present even to people who don’t necessarily know what it is I’m talking about. I figure if they don’t understand what I’m saying they can always ask me, right?

The Monster Within, Take Two
Last week I talked about my big Aha! surrounding the pain-body in me and in those around me. What was so wonderful about this week was recognizing how simple it is to disconnect from your pain-body. Naturally, many people want to know how they can be free of the pain-body and how long it will take to attain that freedom. Eckhart spoke about how it is really a matter of disidentifying with the pain-body through your awareness of its presence within you. All it takes is this moment, the only moment there is, to see that the pain-body has been triggered and to become aware of it. It’s such a beautiful culmination of everything we’ve been talking about here. Being present, being aware of this moment, enables you to recognize your identification with the pain-body in that moment and be free. That doesn’t mean it won’t come back again, but what it means is that the more aware you are, the more present you are, the less power the pain-body can ever have over you, because it requires unconsciousness to continue its reign of terror in your mind and body.

True Love
I loved listening to Eckhart talk about love this week. It totally reminded me of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preserves.” Love is not about wanting or needing, it isn’t about what you get from another person, it isn’t about romance, and it certainly isn’t about wanting another person to change in any way. Eckhart spoke about true love as being the recognition of the essence of the other person, of the divinity within each and every human being. It is truly Namaste, defined by Namaste.org as, “The Light of God in Me recognizes and honors The Light of God in You and in that recognition is our Oneness.” When we are with someone that we love exactly as they are, requiring nothing from them, just allowing them to be, then we are experiencing true love.

Traffic as an Opportunity
At the end of this week’s webinar, Oprah and Eckhart were talking about how many people get frustrated in traffic and how they just don’t understand how people can experience road rage. I’ve spent more time in the car with people intolerant of traffic to be able to claim a lack of understanding–it is easy to see the unconsciousness slip over them. Eckhart talks about it being a matter of taking the traffic personally, which totally resonated with me. Everyone else who is on the road is just as absorbed in their own world as you are, so of course having them move into your lane in front of you isn’t personal–how could it be? They barely even notice there’s another human being in that car, and they definitely don’t know it’s you. The only thing that is happening here is that you are reacting to a situation that is completely out of your control. Getting upset, feeling stressed out about it does not change the situation in the slightest–it just makes it even more intolerable for you. Eckhart spoke about this as being a wonderful opportunity to practice your awareness, and in that case, the more traffic the better. If your car isn’t moving at all, you can even close your eyes for a brief breathing meditation or practice feeling the aliveness within your body. Whether you tend to find traffic frustrating or not, take the opportunity this week to use traffic to your advantage–I bet it will transform your time in the car, and ultimately will leave you feeling more centered, more connected, more awake, and more aware. Namaste.

Photo: “Love is being stupid together,” originally uploaded by Nattu

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A New Earth: The Pain-Body April 2, 2008

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Jenn’s thoughts and learnings from the fifth week of A New Earth: The Oprah Web Event.

Nothing ever happened in the past that can prevent you from being present now; and if the past cannot prevent you from being present now, what power does it have?
~Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth

Ah, the pain-body. There’s some really good stuff to be learned and applied here with this chapter and segment of the A New Earth webinar. In addition to two stories that I’ve heard many times before and still just get so much out of, I had one really big Aha! moment that I’ll share with you.

The Duck With a Human Mind
Eckhart tells this story in both The Power of Now and A New Earth. He was watching two ducks on a pond one day. When they got a little too close, perhaps in each other’s territory, there was a big flutter of commotion and a brief battle ensued. They separated from each other, still agitated, and then both lifted themselves up and shook their wings vigorously, releasing the energy from the fight and leaving them free to float away peacefully. It’s a story that shows you how our human mind and human thought processes are not always a gift. When two people have an altercation like this, they walk away muttering to themselves, retelling the story, preparing themselves for how they’ll act next time based on this occurrence. People relive the pain of a single moment hundreds if not thousands, or even millions, of times, causing ongoing pain instead of temporary pain. There is a great lesson to learn from the ducks about experiencing the emotion and then just shaking your wings, letting it slide right off of you, not telling yourself the story over and over again reliving the pain.

Carrying the Past
Oh how I love this Zen story. I’ve heard it dozens of times, but gain deeper awareness with each retelling. In Eckhart’s words:

“Two Zen monks, Tanzan and Ekido, . . . were talking along a country road that had become exremely muddy after heavy rains. Near a village, they came upon a young woman who was trying to cross the road, but the mud was so deep it would have ruined the silk kimono she was wearing. Tanzan at once picked her up and carried her to the other side. The monks walked on in silence. Five hours later, as they were approaching the lodging temple, Ekido couldn’t restrain himself any longer. ‘Why did you carry that girl across the road?’ he asked. ‘We monks are not supposed to do things like that.’ ‘I put the girl down hours ago,’ said Tanzan. ‘Are you still carrying her?'”

The past is past. The present is all there is. Let it go, let it go, let it go.

The Monster Within
I’ve spent more than 15 years connecting with the wisdom I have within me. My big Aha! this week was about the monster within–the pain-body. Do you have anyone in your life that despite all your best efforts, you still clash with, or perhaps they still push your buttons like no one else can? I’ve got a couple of people in my life that it seems like no matter what I do or say, they find a way to be upset with me, to find fault with me, and ultimately, to push my buttons. Eckhart’s description of this as the pain-body really opened my eyes, made me realize that when I feel like the rug has just been pulled out from underneath me and the person I’m interacting with has just undergone a personality change, it’s really their pain-body coming out to play. And because these pain-bodies have had so much success getting a reaction out of me in the past, they are going to keep coming at me until I find a way to be fully present with these individuals. Eckhart’s advice: don’t react, don’t judge, just be compassionate, stand still in your awareness and allow the moment to be what it is. If you can remain present and not engage in the drama, the pain-body will either subside or go find someone else to play with. The key there is to remain present, as most pain-bodies are highly skilled in triggering unconsciousness in even the most aware people. This is definitely one for me to practice, alongside increasing my awareness of my own pain-body and its methods for manipulating me and those around me.

Photo: “duck on a pond,” originally uploaded by Peter Shanks

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A New Earth — Role-Playing: The Many Faces of the Ego March 25, 2008

Jenn’s thoughts and learnings from the fourth week of A New Earth: The Oprah Web Event.

“There are three words that convey the secret of the art of living, the secret of all success and happiness: One With Life. Being one with life is being one with Now. You then realize that you don’t live your life, but life lives you. Life is the dancer, and you are the dance.”
~Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth

As always, Eckhart Tolle’s presence this week was very timely for me. I had lots of fresh material to work with as I was watching the podcast of last night’s webinar today. I appreciate so much Eckhart’s centered, grounded presence, and the natural way he is able to answer the questions as they come in. This week in particular I felt that Eckhart provided some helpful tools, for me anyway, in dealing with issues as they come up in the moment. I’d like to share a few of my favorites.

* Practicing the Presence. I always wanted to be like Brother Lawrence, practicing the Presence. What it used to mean to me was being aware of your connection to Source all of the time. I suppose this is what Eckhart experiences with his being fully in the present moment, being fully the awareness and the Presence instead of the ego. One caller asked about how to bring this more into our daily lives, into work and relationships and whatnot. Eckhart provided a handful of suggestions for consciously bringing Presence, beingness, awareness into your day, throughout the day, as a reminder of Who You Really Are–a form of practicing the Presence for the rest of us who are still in the process of awakening.

Eckhart suggests that you make sure you’re bringing your spiritual practice out into the world with you. While all practice helps you ultimately become aware, it easier to focus on your awareness, your aliveness when you’re at home alone than it is when you’re, say, at work. Take a few moments throughout your day to just be. You might allow your phone to ring two extra times, breathing in and noticing the aliveness within you before answering the phone. Or put a flower on your desk by your computer, periodically turning away from what you’re doing to appreciate the beauty and aliveness in the flower and feel its aliveness in you. Even one conscious breath, in and out, is a short meditation. There’s no need to wait until you’re home alone or until you feel you have plenty of time to meditate–you can bring it with you wherever you go.

* The awareness gap. I’ve heard many people over the years, myself included, be frustrated when they don’t find themselves applying their awareness enough in advance to avoid falling into an old pattern they thought they’d already let go of. Eckhart reminded us that the first step is awareness in any form. If you find yourself identifying with a role, behaving in ways that don’t serve you, or any other form of falling into old patterns, the first step is to become aware of it, even if it is after the fact. As you become more and more aware of what you tend to do, the gap between the act and the awareness begins to shrink until you find yourself becoming aware of what is happening while you are doing it. And as you continue to practice awareness, you will get to a place where you can see where you are headed even before you get there. So have a little patience with yourself, celebrate your awareness whenever you are having it, and the gap will keep shrinking until one day it vanishes.

* Facing challenges. I don’t know about you, but I definitely have areas of my life where it is easier to practice what I know and areas where I seem to keep tripping over my own feet. Eckhart says most people face one big challenge in their lives, whether it’s an illness or a traumatic event or a person. When we come face to face with that challenge there are really two ways we can react to it: 1) we can fall into our old patterns, our old ways of being–like if someone gets angry with you and you join them in their unconsciousness, getting angry back; or 2) we can allow the challenge to wake us up even more, becoming even more present and aware in the situation and taking steps to disconnect from the ego’s desire to react and just be. We can rail against a situation or we can surrender to it and go with the flow. We can get sucked into someone’s drama or we can just be with them and provide them a space to get it out of their system. One of Eckhart’s suggestions that I just loved was to pretend that you are transparent and just let whatever it is pass through you. He recommended practicing with a loud noise like a jackhammer, feeling the noise but allowing it to pass through, without reaction, without irritation. The more we practice with those smaller challenges, the more we can see the gifts in the bigger challenges and rise to the occasion.

* Guardians of being. Anyone who knows me knows how much of an animal person I am, and a cat person in particular. A caller asked about why it is that she always seems to be more present when she is with her dog. Eckhart spoke about pets (cats and dogs in particular) generally being more present than we are. I personally think it has to do with the way their memories are structured, but if you watch an animal, you can see that they are completely invested in the moment, fully present wherever they are. Right now my cat Morgan is cleaning herself in a sunny spot — she is completely focused on the task at hand, so much so that usually she only cleans one paw, like there aren’t three others for her to think about. Our pets become “guardians of being” when they bring that beingness to us. I think part of it is that as we engage with them we become fully present really in whatever it is that they are doing. But I also think that they elevate the level of beingness in the space, and when we occupy the space with them, we join them in that beingness. I didn’t really need another excuse to love having cats more, but it is always a good for me to remember the special spirits they are.

* Focus brings success. Perhaps my favorite part of the webinar was when Eckhart was clearing up a misconception from last week. A lot of people had come away with the idea that there’s no room for planning and ambition in the Now, and they wanted to know how you can still have a life of passion. He spoke about how much greater the passion and joy are when you stay in the present moment, when you stay focused on what you are doing now. The more you focus on where you want to get to, the more your passion degenerates into stress. Make plans, set intentions, have dreams, but then live each moment as it comes. Everything in life requires steps to get there, however the delusion is in the idea that the fulfillment somehow only exists in the future. As we’ve talked about before, life is a journey not a destination. Enjoy the ride.

Eckhart told a story from a Zen master that I think applies well to all of life. The gist was that if the archer focuses on winning, he steps out of the present moment and his need to win drains him of his power, keeping him from being able to hit the target. Mastery comes from being in the moment. Live each moment as it comes, experience the energy that moment contains, then let it go and move onto the next, experiencing it with just as much focus as the last. This is the path to true success, to true enjoyment of life, to true passion, to living life fully. Namaste.

Photo: “Masked figures,” originally uploaded by Frank K.

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