Where to start on such a life-changing text? This book has forever changed the way I viewed the world. This book served as a guide during the darkest days of my life and led me to liberation.
For years I had fought against anxiety, and though I wouldn't consider myself cured, this book taught me how to come into accord with the anxiety. To embrace it as part of me and accept my darkest fears. In so doing, robbing it of its power over me.
I have stared at my notes from this book, attempting to organize them. But no matter how I attempted to do so, the results felt wrong. While I have a great yearning for perfection, especially to do such a book justice, I feel as though I must simply annotate my notes or, as Winston Churchill put it, perfection may spell paralysis.
You can't run from the pain and fear. It will always find you. You can't limit it without limiting yourself.
For many years I felt as if I was in a great race. The race had two competitors, my mind and myself. The days where my mind caught up to me resulted in panic attacks. These days became more and more frequent until there wasn't a day that passed that I was not experiencing these attacks. For the better part of two years, I was in and out of hospitals and psych wards as I attempted to use logic and modern medicine to combat my opponent. But my mind kept winning. The anxiety turned into a deep depression as I experienced some of the darkest days of my life. That was when I stumbled across this book. I don't even remember where I got it, but I had just found the spark that would light a fire within my soul.
The Buddha said, "Enlightenment is the end of suffering." He defined what it wasn't, in regard to what it was he said nothing.
I found this passage extremely frustrating. The end of suffering was definitely what I was looking for, but the Buddha didn't seem to hold the answers.
There is no salvation but the Now.
The Now? What the hell was the Now? This was beginning to sound like mystical mumbo-jumbo. Yet I pressed on.
We are here but gone. Living but not present.
This felt relatable. I was definitely here. I was alive as much as I didn't want to be at the time. It was indeed safe to say that I was not present. My mind was never in the moment, rather awaiting the next panic attack.
I can't give you any spiritual guidance that you do not already carry within you, ancient yet rediscovered. There is no need to go elsewhere for the truth, let me show you how to go more deeply into what you already have. A log placed next to a log that is already burning will accelerate the process. This is the role of any spiritual teacher.
This was extremely refreshing. All my life I'd grown up in a religion that had an answer for everything, but only after hours of painstaking effort, pondering, and wrestling with God in prayer. I had prayed often. For answers, for deliverance from my mental afflictions. But no matter how many times I poured out my soul to God, tears streaming down my face, pleading for help, none came. Many told me it was due to my lack of faith. Or perhaps it was due to my being an imperfect sinner. Maybe this was God's way of getting back at me for straying from the path.
You find God the moment you realize that you don’t need to seek God.
It was all making sense. I was finding nothing because there was nothing to find! It didn't necessarily mean that there wasn't a God. But after two full years of pleading with the sky yielded no deliverance I felt betrayed. If there was a God, I was either in his bad graces or he did not care.
Is the word 'God' a help or a hinderance to pointing to that inevitable transcendental existence? Atheists argue against a God as if they knew what they are denying. You have to know about the thing you are against to be against it. Otherwise it's Agnostic.
I recently had started to identify more as an atheist over those last few months. Though I still felt this to personally be true, I found it refreshing that the doctrine being laid before me by Tolle could be in perfect accord with atheism or Christianity. It made the path easier to walk because I did not have to first answer whether or not I believed in a God. While I do understand his point here about atheists not being able to know what they are denying, I saw no evidence to support the existence of a God. Perhaps no one can truly be agnostic, but perhaps that's a matter of intent. I had no desire to find a God where there was none in sight.
Christ and God said, “I Am”.
The simple phrase of I Am somehow carried the weight of eternity. If you have not watched the burning bush scene from the Prince of Egypt cartoon by Dreamworks stop reading this and watch it now. This scene was the closest I can claim to have felt the spirit while in Christianity.
Eckhart consistently returns to the teachings of Christ but interprets them from an angle I'd never considered. Often through the lens of eastern thought. But it was not limited to the words of Christ, but also the Buddha, Zen masters, philosophers, and other intellectual and spiritual leaders.
He gave many examples, as he did so, you could begin to notice a pattern. The similarities weren't contained in their words, rather, to what their words pointed. It was as if all these great teachers were using the words they had available while pointing to something greater. A doctrine that had no words. That could not be described.
That was it! That was what the Buddha was talking about before. I went back to the previous quote.
The Buddha said, "Enlightenment is the end of suffering." He defined what it wasn't, in regard to what it was he said nothing. A negative definition to prevent the human mind from assigning definition.
There it was. Just as Christ pointed to the doctrine with no words so too did the Buddha. Furthermore, the way in which Christ used the term second coming began to sound like the Buddha's Enlightnment. Eckhart even alluded as much;
Perhaps the Second Coming is one that takes place in the mind.
Eckhart proceeded to state how the terminology used by these great thinkers didn't much matter. Words and labels are required to teach but at best, they could merely point at the truth.
Don’t attach labels to what is. Doing so gives them a Being and a time continuum that it didn’t have before. Remove labels and time from a scenario and what do you have left? Now.
This was all so contrary to my personality. It was as if a fuzzy concept existed in my mind but it was beyond description. But rather than bother me, I found myself content for some unknown reason to surrender to the unknown.
Below is a conglomeration of a few quotes which I have combined together to more clearly define the idea of surrender as stated by Eckhart;
Through surrender you gain invulnerability and a reality of immortality and eternalness that needs no proof or understanding. You become an Alchemist. Transforming pain and suffering into consciousness and thus enlightenment. When you accept what is, it is not always positive. It can hold intense pain. Don’t fight the darkness. It will only entrench it deeper. This is your crucifixion. Allow it to bring about your resurrection and accession. Be aware, this is peace.
Suddenly I understood that I had been fighting my personal darkness. I closed the book and sat on my bed, assuming a meditative stance. For so long I had been trying to outrun my anxiety. I closed my eyes and for the first time in my life, I turned to face my perceived enemy. What happened next was unexpected. Instead of resisting I dove into the anxiety. I wanted to experience it to its fullest. My body began to tense as it prepared for an anxiety attack. Rather than resist, I let it run its course.
When you face that pain, accept it and dive deeper into it you have accepted death. When you have accepted death there is nothing left to fear.
This reminded me of what one of my councilor's had been hinting at. She would ask me to state my fear. I did so. She would then ask, “And then what?”. This could continue until it eventually led to something like, "I would die." To which she would say "And then what?" She was trying to prompt me to accept the worst, and in so doing, accept my fear.
Being can be felt but can never be understood mentally. To dwell here is enlightenment.
I would hesitate to use the term enlightenment in regards to my surrender. Enlightenment is after all another label. The word enlightenment also carries some perceived weight of spiritual significance. As if you have achieved something great. But how can something that is already within you be a great accomplishment? What some might call enlightenment, I would opt to call liberation.
That was the last anxiety attack I had for many months following. A few chapters in a book had already accomplished something that years of medical, psychological, and spiritual advice could not. This was equivalent to the miracle I had been begging God for.