An Invitation to Freedom
By Heather Mullin
This is an experiment. I hope you don’t mind me experimenting on you. I seem to be in a ‘po’ moment in my life. A ‘po’ moment is something I heard about from a friend of mine. He was telling me that in the 70s companies devised this concept of ‘po’ in response to times of uncertainty. If a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ was called for, and someone offered ‘po’, the answer was actually, “Let’s admit it: we don’t know. Let’s play with this a little. Let’s experiment!” This is also an experiment in the spirit of Gestalt. And it is hopefully a reflection of Carl Roger’s concept of a ‘fully functioning person’.
Power in Potential
Personal power has been a bit of theme for me over the past couple of months. I’ve come to know this time and the personal crisis I have been experiencing as both a continuation of a process of what some spiritual writers call a death of ego, and an invitation to claim my own power and use it in the world. At first this might seem like a paradox, but it isn’t. As we shall hear from Eckhart Tolle, our power does not lie in the ego, but in the Spacious Presence of Awareness that both holds and infuses all of life.
I want to suggest that Eckhart Tolle’s conception of Spacious Presence is another way of conceptualizing the life force that gives rise the ‘actualizing tendency’ that Carl Rogers observed in his clients. Rogers suggests that all living organisms have a movement inherent in them towards the realization of their potential. The force of life is so great, so strong, so powerful, that even in bleak conditions, it continues on in the direction of fruition. He writes about the potatoes that were kept in the basement when he was a child:
‘The conditions were unfavorable, but the potatoes would begin to sprout – pale white sprouts, so unlike the healthy green shoots they sent up when planted in the soil in the spring. But these sad, spindly sprouts would grow two or three feet in length as they reached toward the distant light of the window. They were, in their bizarre, futile growth, a sort of desperate expression of the directional tendency I have been describing. They would never become a plant, never mature, never fulfill their real potentiality. But under the most adverse circumstances they were striving to become. Life would not give up, even if it could not flourish.’ (Rogers, 1990, 380)
My Pixie Teacher
Let me introduce you to Eckhart Tolle. Some of you may have been blessed to have met him already. I call him my pixie teacher. His teachings are simple but profound, and they come from a place of purity that really is quite rare. Eckhart really does seem to be the embodiment of what he teaches.
Eckhart Tolle is a German spiritual teacher who had a profound experience of awakening in the midst of his own terrible suffering around the age of 30. His teachings are based on the experience of a Buddhist truth that the content of our lives – the thoughts, feelings, situations, relationships, ideas, opinions and things we identify ourselves with – are impermanent, but that we cling to them as if they were the truth of who we are. There is an inherited, unconsciously compulsive part of us, which he calls our ego that attaches itself to the impermanent conditions of our lives in order to find an identity. The ego attaches itself because it carries a deep sense of not being enough. Our consumer culture is founded on ego. There is an insatiable desire to consume more, in order to become more, which can never truly be fulfilled. The ego robs us of our power as it attaches itself to our stories. It believes the stories because without the stories, is the deep fear of non-existence.
The truth, states Eckhart, is that we are not our stories. Who we truly are is the living, breathing spacious presence that holds the stories, holds and infuses all of life, graciously, compassionately, and lightly. And that is more than enough.
Recovering Our Power
We give our power away when we get caught up in the stories of our lives. It is the content of our lives that make up the content of our stories, but these stories we play out come from a myriad of sources: the dynamics we experienced in our families of origin, what the people in our early life said and didn’t say about us, societal norms, gender roles, the dominant myths and legends of our culture, and the media, etc. Often our stories come from our pain; they’re ways for us to make sense of our experiences. Our stories usually limit us, keep us stuck, and tend to provide basement conditions for us.
It’s been a great help to me in my reading of Eckhart Tolle and personal reflections in these past few months, to really see how my personal stories are actually shared stories – often universal stories. This is essential to my application of Eckhart’s teachings, for in de-personalising your story, you immediately create a distance from it and are no longer ‘in it’, thereby allowing you to dis-identify with it.
At the heart of these stories are our wounds. They are wounds that we share with the world, wounds that are passed on to us as we are born into a wounded world. As we begin to dis-identify from our stories, we find the space to meet our woundedness, and as we begin to see our woundedness as personal expressions of a wounded world, then true compassion is born – compassion for ourselves, for others, and for the world – and we can begin to heal our lives and our world on a deep level. If we can begin to see our stories, the situations we find ourselves in as we go through our lives, are actually personal expressions of more universal, sometimes more tragic, stories, then we can begin to respond with compassion, and take our power back.
The Ego Judges
The ego is that part of us that causes us to either inflate or deflate ourselves in relation to others. Because of its deep sense of not being enough, the ego attempts to justify itself by making others wrong and judging them for the way that they are and the things they do. This happens to varying degrees in the contexts of relationships, and on a societal level (for example with racism and homophobia). An aspect that is unacceptable to our egoic sense of self is projected onto the other and persecuted in them. This adds to a sense of fragmentation. We are literally experiencing ourselves from the inside out. You can be sure that if strong feelings are arising in you in response to another person, that they are reflecting back some disowned aspect of yourself – an aspect especially threatening to your ego’s sense of self. These disowned parts of our selves make up our shadow.
When you experience a crisis in your life that brings about upheaval, great loss, and suffering as a result of that loss - like the death of someone close, the end of a significant relationship, or losing a great deal of money - then you are close to letting go of your stories. In the midst of such suffering there is nothing left but to surrender; and in that surrender is acceptance, and with acceptance is freedom. But although surrender may be easier in the midst of suffering, I believe it is possible right here and right now.
As we surrender, we move into the space around things, we give up our hold on them. We accept things as they are, and so let go of our stories around them. There is a process of letting go – the deeper we let go, the deeper we allow ourselves to relax into the Spacious Presence of Awareness.
I call this space Home. You’ll know it when you feel it. It cannot be adequately theorised or understood mentally – it is an experience. It can be known simply in the silence of stillness. Just being. It is the space around things, a space that holds all things, and by which all things are connected. It holds the changes of the seasons, birthing and dying, welcoming and letting go. This Conscious Awareness gives us a sense of connectedness to everything because it is the life force that infuses and surrounds every being. And it is with this sense of connectedness that we can finally trust: we are enough.
It is from this space of Presence that we find the power with which to make choices and create our lives, and influence the lives of those we love. For as this is the same presence that holds all forms, so it gives birth to and creates new forms. It is from this presence that we hold a counselling process, listening with our whole body, our whole being, being present at once to the pain and the joy, the feelings and the thoughts of our clients. For this presence is who you truly are, infinitely now – your essence, not separate from the essence of the universe; moving you from the limitations of your stories toward the realisation of your potential.
Find out more about the teachings of Eckhart Tolle and the practical application of other spiritual ideas in Sho's meditation workshops. See www.karunadetox.com or phone 0800 112 3033 for details
Cleaning the world... One person at a time!
This article was posted by Heather Mullin