On Looking Deeper — Finding Gratitude — No Matter What

“True love has no opposite. It cannot flourish until you are free of the interference of the mind.” — Eckhart Tolle

Dear Friends,

Eckhart Tolle has been deemed by the New York Times as “the most popular spiritual author in the United States.” His teachings, which I find both simple and profound, reflect his own experience on The Power of Now (his first best-selling book published in 2001). In the book, Tolle documents an ephinay following many bouts with depression, in which he realized that if he could just be present and available for whatever is happening—regardless of the situation, his reactions and resulting mood would diminish, fade, and eventually disappear. And so how can you be “present and available”—particularly when whatever is going on is painful? Maybe it’s as simple as taking some deep breaths and stepping back from the situation until you can return to neutral—regardless of how long it takes.

Yesterday, just as I was developing this piece, I had an unexpected communication from someone I’ve considered a close friend for years. Her surprising, seemingly out-of-the blue message—harshly attacking me with shocking accusations that were either false, misinterpreted or a misrepresentation of what actually happened, came to me in the form of an email. Her memo, most of which felt like a projection of either her or her mother’s behavior (which she actually admitted) definitely tested my own ability to be present and available—avoiding a firey defense, which was my first inclination. Seeing her words in print was a particularly jarring experience. Somehow, the written word has a way of branding a memo in the brain. Furthermore, that choice of delivery does not exactly lend itself to an open dialogue.

In my last writing, I shared some information from Rick Hansen’s book, The Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom. In the book, he discusses how negativity can shroud our outlook and swing us to the negative. When persuaded by the more primitive regions of our brain—anything that triggers us can cause us to go into a spin or project our pain onto others. Tolle states that our propensities to react from pain (or the “pain body”) in our relationships, will just keep perpetuating the pain instead of resolving it. “Many relationships reflect the deep state of crisis in which humanity finds itself. Therefore, we are under great pressure to evolve.” We do not have to look far to find examples on how that is so—both at the personal (as cited above), national, and global level.

I spent the evening contemplating her grievances. While doing so, and making attempts to just keep breathing through the whole debacle, I was guided to a message from A Course in Miracles (https://acim.org): “In your defenselessness your safety lies…turn grievances into miracles.” How was I to do this? My mind was stuck on what felt like her cruel list of criticisms smoothed over at the end of her note with some “I love you’s” and “you are wonderful’s.” I was reminded of Rick Hansen’s point about how Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Gandhi, and Moses, were able to transcend negative reactions (and negativity altogether) by staying focused on love and compassion.

As I processed her words, over and over, I came to a profound realization. This woman had somehow set me up as an idol, (A Course in Miracles states: “Every false idol will fall…”).  When I didn’t meet her expectations, her disappointment, which, according to her letter she’d collected over the years of our friendship, finally combusted into the litany of complaints and accusations she fired off.

Bingo. How many times had I set my men up to be idols (Prince Charming’s) and how many times had they failed to meet my expectations? Had I ever put myself in the victim role, as she had done with me, repeatedly claiming my innocence while falling prey to their seemingly unconscious ways? I had most certainly done so. Turns out, her message was a miracle. She’d reflected a pattern of my own behavior which I’m deeply committed to eliminating. I know there are no victims or villains. People are just doing what they do. It is up to me to take responsibility for my own thoughts and resulting behaviors—while making constant attempts to become more conscious in the process—asking myself, “What would love do—how would Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, or Gandhi respond in this situation?”

Ah yes, I am most definitely a work in progress, and fortunately I have many wise guides and teachers to continue showing the way. Emmet Fox (one of the most prominent spiritual leaders of the 20th Century) Eckhart Tolle, and the woman discussed above, are among them.

“There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer, no disease that enough love will not heal, no door that enough love will mot open, no gulf that enough love will not bridge, no wall that enough love will not throw down, no sin that enough love will not redeem. If you could only love enough, you would be the happiest and most powerful being in the Universe.”—Emmet Fox

With love and gratitude for you,