Once, while on a walk observing the wildlife in the neighborhood, I was reminded of something written by Eckhart Tolle. The author suggested that humans are the only animals on the planet who know what negativity is. He stated, “The only animals that may occasionally experience something akin to negativity or show signs of neurotic behavior are those that live in close contact with humans and so link into the human mind and its insanity.” This is actually easy to witness when we watch people with their pets. Often times the pet takes on the same neurotic tendencies of their owner. It takes presence in mind and body to remove such tendencies.
Tolle also told of an experience he had while watching two ducks. The ducks were swimming toward one another and when they crossed paths they reared up and opened their wings and engaged in a brief tussle before moving on. The ducks then flapped their wings vigorously before settling back into swimming gracefully as if nothing had ever happened. The author related this to how we act as humans. We tend to hold it inside and build up tension rather than release it like the duck. Then, when we do release it later after it has had a chance to fester, we release it in unhealthy ways.
The Importance of Feeling Before Reacting
After recalling the story, I considered the importance of observing feelings before reacting. By observing the feeling we gain control of the mind. We start directing it rather than having it direct us. After all, how many times have we found ourselves analyzing things to death, only to recognize in the end that it was the simplest answer all along? The idea had already helped me to analyze my own thoughts and feelings more before acting on them.
I realized that if I could gain control of the mind by becoming aware of the feelings before it begins trying to explain them, then much emotional pain can be averted. Typically we hear information and react immediately to it. We start asking ourselves all sorts of questions about it. We start asking, “How does this sit with me?” Immediately, we begin to judge it. We want to know if it belongs in our life. We become accustomed to react with our psychological self before our authentic self even has a chance to observe it. This is what it means to re-act to something, and it leads to many errors, first mentally, then physically. We begin assuming things and making up scenarios in our heads. Before long, we have completed the entire story before even getting another person’s perspective, or our own!
The Art of Presence
To be present, we must continually be aware of our thoughts and feelings. When a powerful emotion, previously labeled as negative, arises, we can use it to snap back into Presence. It is the inner guide saying, “Be alert!” Then, after becoming very alert and present in the now, we can act from the place of the authentic self. When we accept what is, every moment becomes the best moment. It has to. It’s all there is!
We can practice being present, while at the same time, release any stored energy from previously unprocessed emotions. To do this, we must stop occasionally and ask ourselves, “How am I feeling right now?” As the feeling in the moment is recognized, we can adjust the thoughts accordingly. We can recognize when we are feeling ‘bad,’ and after centering the attention on the feeling and allowing it to pass, trace the feeling back to the thought that created it, and then intentionally change the thought.
Presence in Action
For example, let’s say that a man finds himself feeling depressed but he has no reason why. First he can sit for a moment and feel the feelings and begin asking himself where is it? Does it have a shape? Is it moving? He can simply turn all attention toward the feeling itself without attempting to trace it’s origin. Then, after fully processing the emotion, he can trace the feeling back to the thought that created it. It must be remembered, however, this is much easier to do after processing the emotion, because the mind will be much more transparent without the cloud of emotion coloring the lens of perception. Then, if the thought that led to the depressed state was that the man is alone and has nobody to love, he can change the thought. He can say to himself, “I am a being of light and have the capacity to love anyone, anywhere, anytime. I know that this love will be returned as the love in me is the same as the love in everyone.”
What the man chooses to say to himself matters not. The only thing that’s important is that it’s the opposite of the thought that created the unwanted feelings of depression. To be able to easily change the thought, we need only to meditate on the fact that we are not the thoughts and can choose to change them at will. Soon, we will come to believe this truth and it will become much easier to utilize the method of recognizing feelings, processing them, tracing the feeling to the thought, and then changing the thought to what is wanted.
We Must Not Lie to Ourselves
Of course it’s still important not to lie to ourselves. In having a negative experience, for example, we must not try and convince ourselves it was positive. We must consider what good may come from the experience. In this way, we are training the mind to look toward the positive and away from the negative aspects of life. This is what is meant by move toward the light. We need only continue moving toward the light of the authentic self and away from the darkness of the psychological self. After all, feelings are the Universe’s way of communicating with the authentic self to show what It truly is, whereas thoughts and emotions are Its way of showing what we are not. Therefore, what we must do is surrender to the guidance of the Universe.
Perhaps the greatest part of surrender and acceptance is that we must accept and forgive ourselves first. Only then can we learn to accept and forgive others. By so doing, we surrender to the Reality of All That Is and the only thing remaining is peace. Anyone can actually reach this place. All it takes is complete acceptance and forgiveness of everyone and everything. Those who reach this state are given the title of enlightened one.
Heaven and Hell are Here and Now
Many interpret the Bible to mean that heaven and hell are places we go after the death of the body. However, to me, Jesus was explaining how to experience heaven on earth. A person who is enlightened lives Jesus’ teachings, and will remain in a state of bliss, which is heaven on earth. In contrast, an individual who is trapped in his own mind and has committed atrocities against humanity is in hell now, in the present moment. Even if that person presents an image of one who is normal and happy, in his mind and body he is most likely torturing himself over what he has done. That is God’s wrath. It occurs within the human mind and continues “throughout eternity” because he carries it with him for the rest of his life.
This is where forgiveness comes in. Forgiveness can come to anyone for anything through awakening to the present moment. Once we realize the truth that God is in everything and everyone, and we truly are One in every sense of the word, the sins are forgiven and the mind and body are now free of the pain and suffering endured in the time before becoming awakened, allowing forgiveness to take place.
To learn more about presence see my book on the topic, which can be found here.