Eckhart Tolle retreat at Omega, October 2002 - Part 1

Monday Morning

(The following is based on personal notes and taping. Please do not consider as verbatim or as a quotable source for Eckhart’s teaching)

Welcome!

Those of you who have been here or on other retreats before won't be waiting for the retreat to begin. It's begun already. You may detect in yourself as you sit there, occasionally, an urge to get to the next moment. It's quite normal. It’s the normal state of consciousness. And that normal state of consciousness and that urge to get to the next moment are continuously being frustrated here. If you don't have the urge to get to the next moment and you're not falling asleep either...that's important...that means a different state of consciousness is already arising from within you. Falling asleep is another possibility and it may happen to some of you. It happens even to monks in Buddhist monasteries, occasionally.

But to detect in yourself that urge, that need for the next moment, that's really all that is necessary, to notice that. Oh. And that already is the arising of a deeper consciousness from where that urge can be observed. So it’s not necessary to create a dilemma on top of the urge to get to the next moment and say ‘I should not have this urge to get to the next moment but I do.’ And you have another personal dilemma and you can think about that for the next few days. And add it to the problems that you have. As if you didn't have enough problems out in the world, you can create some more here. And it’s the human mind that likes to do that because then it has something to do.

So simply to see it is enough, the seeing frees you from being trapped in the conditioned mind, the conditioning of the human mind. Which is not a personal matter, it looks like me and my problems but it’s the conditioning of the human mind. It comes as a personal sense of self, an exclusively personal sense of self, me and my problems, me and my need for the next moment. And what is arising here as you observe the conditioned mind is the arising of what we could call unconditioned consciousness, which is simply to be aware without labeling what is.

Very important throughout these days here is the silence. The words are secondary. The words are not here to give some alternative philosophy or explanation of the universe, but simply to point to something that is beyond words and beyond thinking. Accessing a dimension of consciousness that is deeper than thinking. You could also call it higher or deeper, depends how you look at it, the perspective you use to look at it. A dimension of consciousness that is deeper or higher than thinking. And that in many of you it is already arising and that I sometimes call the new state of consciousness. It’s not really new, though it may be new to you. I've seen a second hand shop that was called "New to You.” It's also relatively new on the planet. Yes, Buddha talked about it, other teachers pointed to it but it’s still relatively new on the planet. It’s not new in the truest sense because it’s timeless, so it can't be new.

But if you start looking into words and analyzing each word that I say, that will lead you astray. That is another temptation of the mind. To take a word or a statement and say "that's not quite right.” Of course not! No word is quite right. So if you expect words to be totally right then you get all drawn into another dilemma which is disagreeing with something, not realizing that it is only a tiny perspective. It's only a little pointer. It's not ‘It’. It only points. All the words only point beyond themselves. To what? To the new state of consciousness which isn't new at all. And that is the state in which you are no longer trapped, totally trapped, in the stream of thinking and the emotions that go with that stream of thinking.

What arises, is already arising in many of you, is that state of simple pure aware presence. And we are here to deepen that, for this to enable to deepen or in some of you, perhaps for the first time, to have a glimpse of that. It doesn't matter, to some of you deepening of what's already happening or for some of you who are sitting here at this moment and wondering "What is he talking about?" If you sit here for long enough you may suddenly get a glimpse of what it is that the words point to. And then the next moment the mind will come in and try to understand the glimpse and immediately the glimpse will have become a problem.

Zen has been trying to teach that also, of course, for a few hundred years. Not many got it, because they tried to understand it, through thought. And so this is why I'm saying the words are secondary. Throughout these days if you can be aware not just of the words, but the silent spaces between the words, which is not something that the thinking mind would be interested in because in the silent spaces between the words there is nothing much to think about. Not only the silent spaces, but also the undercurrent of silence or stillness that is there when the words are spoken. That is our practice. Part of the practice here as you sit here so, that you are not here to listen to a talk. That's only peripheral, on the surface but you’re here to enter a different state of consciousness, or allow it to arise is perhaps a better way of putting it. Allowing it to arise. And as you sit here, this happens simply by being attentive to the silent spaces. That's all that that means is notice that. It's not that difficult.

And to the thinking mind, that is not very significant. Okay, what comes next? You've talked about the silent spaces, what comes next. (laughter) Each time you notice silence, there's a little space of stillness inside you. We don't need to measure it in terms of seconds or minutes...three seconds...who knows?...three minutes...three hours. It doesn't really matter. Time isn't involved here. What is more important than how long that space is there inside you, you could say is what matters is whether it is there at this moment, how often it comes. The arising of that inner spacious stillness, and all that is needed as you sit here, is to notice silent spaces. The noticing is the arising of stillness inside you, which is consciousness without thought. Just conscious, unconditioned, true intelligence. The most important event in your life, even if we can call it that all words are limited, the most important event in your life is that, the arising of that state of consciousness. And the strange thing is that most important event doesn't come with allot of noise. "Now the fire, there it, its coming is...drums...trumpets... The mind says "where is it?" “What's happened?” Nothing has happened. Enlightenment, a concept, if you are here to achieve it, you probably won't, because you are already making the next moment into a desirable goal that is more important than this.

(Silence)

And as that dimension emerges more and more you find that thinking no longer dominates your life. Still happens, of course, but doesn't draw you in totally. One could say that a space develops between you and your thought processes. A space develops between you and your reflexive emotions that go with thinking. And again those words are limited. It’s not really a space between you and the words; it’s another little perspective on it. It is the realization that you are that space in which the thinking happens, in which your emotions happen.

(Silence)

And that's all that's required this week is that; To know yourself as that space. The arising of inner spaciousness, which I sometimes call ‘space-consciousness.’ That sounds like science fiction. Outer space, inner space. Space-consciousness as opposed to object-consciousness. And that is amazing because if you consider that on the planet even though the shift is happening, the majority of human beings are totally trapped, totally absorbed by object-consciousness. Objects. Things. Object-consciousness of course is thinking. The arising of an object in the space of your consciousness, a thought which draws you in completely. So people’s lives are consumed by, absorbed by objects, the object of their thought processes. But on an external level it manifests as a continuous preoccupation with things that need to be dealt with. Material things. Events. You know how life is, your normal existence. The world making demands on you. ‘This matters, this is important,’ then the next thing is it, then you have five things that are all important. And this is what consumes people’s lives but it comes down to being consumed by, totally absorbed by the objects that arise because really it’s not the external world. It really is an inner phenomenon. Philosophers argue whether there’s actually anything out there because all we know is the inner world where sense perceptions get translated into the nerve impulses that reach the brain. Then the impulses become decoded and some kind of image emerges of what the external world is like. What is that relationship between that image and the actual external world? Is there an external world at all? Is it all a dream that's happening in consciousness? Leave that! You were waiting for an answer.

(laughter, pause)

So your attention being totally absorbed by thoughts because it comes down to thoughts, even the things that matter so much in your life, are not really the things that matter, they are thought forms. Each thing becomes a thought form, a mental image, and that absorbs your attention. Even if only you might be concerned about your shares on the stock market these days, or maybe you've given up already. And so you are not really concerned about the stocks, it’s the thought form of stock that absorbs your attention. There may be no stock market there at all, it may be a figment of your imagination. It could be the collective dream of Wall Street. But whether it is or not we don't need to take a position here and say "Yes, it's real.” And then half the audience would say "It's real, Wall Street exists!" and the other half says "No, it does not exist!" Whether or not it exists out there, what really one cannot argue with, what absorbs your attention is not the shares, it’s the thought forms that have many associations that are to do with me, and my future, and my security, and my old age, and what's going to happen to me? So it's the thought form absorbs your attention.

So all the things that absorb your attention, expressed so nicely by Thoreau, Henry Thoreau who said, ‘Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify!’ And really what he was talking about is the continuous, the world of things which we inhabit which is really the world of thought. And our life is frittered away by that, totally absorbed by that. Details. Another beautiful quote about details, Einstein said ‘I want to know the Mind of God. The rest is details.’ It's true, the rest is details. And so this is why we are here, the Mind of God is Consciousness. Know that! Everything else that comes out of the One Consciousness that you are is details. Of course that will go on, that's fine.

So here realizing most of humanity’s state of consciousness is dominated by objects. The objects of the senses, the objects of conceptual thought, object-consciousness. So much so that they have made themselves into an object in their consciousness. A ‘me’! A problematic object consisting of a conglomeration, a coming together of many objects in consciousness, a little bundle of memories, conditionings, reactive patterns, and it's called ‘me.’ A ‘person’! And that absorbs my attention completely because I am such a problem to me. (laughter) And everybody’s sense of [their] me is problematical and it’s a dilemma. Whose life is not a dilemma? And there is the need to solve that dilemma of me. There's the myth of Sisyphus, I believe. It's somebody who has to roll up a big boulder, up a mountain, he pushes it up the mountain and when he gets to the top it rolls down again. To solve that self-created dilemma of the self, is an impossible task although a few times you might think, ‘now I've solved it.’ When the stocks suddenly go up or you've fallen in love.

So to be absorbed by that and now the possibility is there when humanity for the first time on a larger scale, to access a deeper level of consciousness. Not object-consciousness; space-consciousness, unconditioned intelligence. Which already some artists, anybody who is creative, has a little bit of access to that in their field of creativity where they become attentive, alert, almost listening and then the creative impulse comes, the insight comes, the realization comes, or the activity happens, certainly out of that space. Intelligence is at work. And you then find yourself then doing or saying something that you didn't know before. It just happens. So a few people have access to it in their little area of creativity, but this is different. This is the arising of that state of consciousness as a shift not just in one little area of your life, but something that arises and transforms your whole life from this limited sense of problematical little me to something deeper. So that your attention is not totally absorbed anymore by object consciousness and the exclusively personal sense of self which is the dreadful present.

So there are two movements here, the arising of that [space-consciousness], and the movement of the old, the conditioned-consciousness. The entity, the mind-made entity, the ‘me’ is still there, it has momentum, it's a conditioned mind-form. And the fact that you are here on a retreat doesn't necessarily mean that it doesn’t come here also. You didn't leave it at home. It's here and at times it may not be here. Very powerfully at times the new consciousness arises. And then suddenly you get totally drawn back into the old conditioned object-consciousness. Some thoughts absorb your attention totally and the thoughts might be saying "What are you doing here? It's pointless. You left all these problems at home. You should be dealing with that. You should be at home. You should be somewhere else. For example, many other things it could say, the self, the mind made self.

But here the opportunity is there to notice it so that you attention is not totally drawn into it. There is an observing presence. As the old conditioned patterns come up because they will. A few days here is enough to experience all that. Don't expect to experience only bliss. Perhaps you will. You will experience probably the entire range not only externally, probably experience all kinds of weather during these days here. We will also experience all kinds of inner weather while we are here. And so noticing that, the conditioned self with its patterns wanting to draw your attention in again totally and occasionally perhaps succeeding.

You can recognize it. An important characteristic of that self is it doesn't like this moment. There is something not right with it, either there's something completely wrong with it or I need to get to some more significant moment. Simply notice that. Also it likes to complain, fault finding. With whatever it may be...something in your room, something in the food, something in people around you, the weather. Well, today it’s more difficult. Complaining, the self loves that, that sense of personal self, the mind-made self likes to complain, internally or out aloud if somebody listens to you then. And if you find somebody who agrees, you can strengthen each other. This is all sounds relatively harmless but this lies at the root of human madness which in its harmless manifestation is somebody at a retreat complaining about something. This is the most harmless manifestation of that and then you go, ‘how is that related to the madness in the world? How is that related to the Middle East?’ Well, let’s see.

There's a little me complaining. What does that mean? Why is it complaining? Whatever it complains about is irrelevant. It means ‘Me…I am right.’ That which I am complaining about is somehow wrong. That's the essence of complaining. I am not talking about genuine complaints, which isn't a complaint at all, which simply states a fact and says please, this is no good, what I just bought, I want to exchange it. That's not complaining, that's stating a fact. Or saying, the soup is cold, please give me hot soup. That's perfectly fine. That’s not complaining, it’s stating a fact. In certain things you need to say something, it happens. This is not what we are talking about but the inner whining and complaining. The pointless complaint that is designed to put yourself, the self, the mind-made self in a position of rightness and someone else which could be a person or a situation or a place, put someone else in a position of wrongness. And the mind-made sense of self always looking out to enhance its always deficient sense of self, for a moment feels stronger when is has complained about something, or someone, or a place, whatever it may be. Because your sense of self gets strengthened, the fictitious self that consists of object-consciousness can have a mental position of being right. Of course it implies, unfortunately, somebody else has to be wrong. Something or someone has to be, for you to be right, something or someone has to be wrong, otherwise it doesn't work. So for a moment, if you are very alert and attentive, you can sense a strengthening of ‘me’ in your complaint. And that's unconscious usually.

So that's a movement that the egoic sense of self uses allot to strengthen it self. It has other strategies too, many other strategies. this is one of the core strategies of this artificial fictitious self ultimately to strengthen it self. Unfortunately it needs, therefore, some kind of enemy because when you are complaining about something it’s the beginning of having an enemy out there, which is the other person. It may not yet be recognizable as an enemy but it’s the beginning of that mind movement, of; me right, you wrong.

And so you have the same thing then in more extreme manifestations as a collective, a group of people which could be a nation, a religion, a tribe. Being totally identified with their position and their sense of self depending on their position of rightness, their total identification with their mental positions, which says “this is how it is.” And their need therefore, whoever diverges from that mental position, whoever does not agree with your story, becomes the enemy. And you need the enemy because your sense of self would not sustain it self without it, without feeling that we are absolutely right. So you cannot see anymore that all thought is relative. No thought or no mental position can contain the entire truth. You don't see that anymore. You get totally absorbed by one thought, a few thought forms which are then invested with a sense of self. Personal or collective, the same principle is at work.

This was in the New York Times a few weeks ago, an Israeli writer talking about the Middle East conflict, which is absolute madness but its human madness, just an extreme manifestation of what's been there throughout human history, and what he saw there, he saw very clearly, why there's no peace there. It seems no possibility of peace, almost gone, "People's inability to accommodate”, he called it, “people's inability to accommodate a competing narrative.” And so what does he mean by that? The narrative is the story that you are telling yourself. Our position. That's how it is. That's our interpretation and not to recognize an interpretation as an interpretation. This is total identification with mind-forms. And then there are other mind-forms, competing mind-forms, that's the enemy. And so that the need to be right, to assert your rightness can be so strong as you now need to kill the enemy to assert your rightness. So could that be the same phenomena as somebody on a retreat complaining internally about something?

(moaning)

And related to that the reality of the self, related to complaining, another characteristic of the self that is mind-made, that is thought-forms, identification with thought-forms, is its need to react to something. It cannot be for very long without reactivity. And this you can also observe here, as you sit here during the retreat, the sudden coming up of (reactions) and there can be a lot of momentum behind that. You could observe it perhaps in a conversation that you are having over lunch.

Observe. So one of our practices here is to observe reactions that come, not to say they shouldn't be there, but to observe them. Not to make them into a personal problem and say I should be beyond those things by now. No, just observe. Just bring a gentle acceptance, because you cannot observe fully without acceptance. To observe any phenomenon fully in your life, you need to accept it. You can't observe it completely if you haven't accepted it. So to bring a gentle acceptance to whatever arises here, during these days here, whatever arises inside your self, even if it is the complainer. Now the complainer is of course the opposite of acceptance. That's strange! The reactivity is the opposite of acceptance. So now we are saying something strange; that you can bring a gentle acceptance into what is in essence the opposite of acceptance. Almost a contradiction. But that is the arising of space-consciousness. In Buddhism they sometimes call it the witness, the witnessing awareness.

So our practice then is to internally allow what arises as thinking, as reaction, as complaining, as an emotion, to be there….as it is! So the primordial practice of our retreat is to bring, quite simply, acceptance to each moment. Now ‘each moment’ is not really the right term. To bring gentle acceptance to ‘this moment’ because each moment seems to imply that there are many moments during this retreat but that's not the case. There are only many moments as thought forms that remember or project, but in reality your entire retreat consists of ‘this moment.’ It always is ‘this moment.’ It always is the simplicity of ‘this moment.’ Your retreat is not going to be many moments; these are thought forms that say, ‘Oh, it's going to be a long retreat’ or whatever it says. But if you look at the reality of it, this retreat, and the rest of your life by the way, is never more than ‘this moment.’ It can't be. That is the essence of our retreat, ‘this moment.’ And when we meet this afternoon, this afternoon is only a thought form...when we meet this afternoon of course we'll check in, we'll check again and find out if it still is this moment. It probably will be. And that is such a fundamental truth of such importance, but to the mind it tries to argue with it or say "Well, I don't know if I agree with that. Let me think about that first. And this afternoon I will show you that you are wrong and I'm right." That is also so liberating, that realization that all your life, because now we are talking about this retreat - it is really your whole life, that your whole life is never more than this moment, even when you remember the past. It can only happen within the space of now. You can only remember it now. Or you project the future, the future cannot be more than a thought form because it cannot arrive as future, can't be here. Being and now are one. Life and now are one. You and now are one. You in your essence, who you are beyond thought-forms, the unconditioned essence, you and now are one. And it's an amazing realization, to suddenly see how simple life can be when you are no longer drawn continuously, when you attention is no longer absorbed continuously by object-consciousness which relies on past and future. An you realize; ‘this’ is all there ever ‘is.’ It is always the space of ‘this moment.’ Whatever form comes into the space of this moment, it’s always ‘this moment.’ Your life is always ‘this moment.’ This retreat, it consists only of this moment, ever. And that's all that really matters here.

So we could say that these days here are a setting, protected in some ways, let's call it a green house, where in the green house plants are protected from bad weather. Well, you may not be protected from bad weather here but this is a somewhat protected environment, a retreat setting. And you can practice living in a state of alignment with what is, now, and realize the power that is concealed in the present moment. And how simple and joyfully life can unfold when you live in inner alignment with what is now. And that ‘yes to what is’, is the primordial practice. And you can bring it to external situations here, things, ‘it is’, and in that acceptance you find a goodness. The goodness you cannot find, that lies concealed, often behind the surface appearance of things. Concealed behind the surface appearance of things lies a deeper benevolence, one could almost say a goodness. And that is experienced as what one might call inner peace. No matter what the external situation is, there's the realm of inner peace. And inner peace is the realization that at the core of things, there is an essential goodness.

Even though the surface appearance of things maybe good or bad in any situation. The surface appearance of things may be destruction. It happens. The surface appearance of things may be death, at this moment. Death is happening in nature all around. It's the time of year when things die, all the leaves falling off. Is it that bad? No. With nature you can look at death and say "how beautiful it is." Now in the human realm usually we call death bad. And react. We bring gentle acceptance to what is. The mind might say "Yes, but this obviously is bad." Yes but with the allowing the "isness" of this moment comes the realization of goodness even though on the surface it may not appear so. Even in the face of death that realization of goodness can be there because death is the ending of the form. The leaves are forms of life. The human body is a form. The ending of a form is death.

And so the realization comes of that which is beyond form. That realization can only come to you when you allow the form that this moment takes to be as it is. I am not saying you become passive, that you are no longer capable of action. No, it is an inner accepting of ‘this is what is.’ Then action, intelligent action, if it's necessary, arises out of that. It's the basic, the ground, the basic realization is the "isness" and then action is no longer reactive. When you do not allow the ‘isness; of this moment, action is reaction. It is not intelligent, it is conditioned. It is perhaps intelligent in a relative or limited sense but not in a true sense. It is not intelligent, it is conditioned action, it is reaction. And that is the meaning of the Eastern term Karma, because Karma translated means action. Karma is reaction, action-reaction, which is a continuous cycle that keeps you trapped in the same conditioned existence. You re-enact continuously.

So it’s only through first of all realizing this is all there is, this moment is life itself. This moment is as it is because the totality has brought it about. Whatever event is happening at this moment is connected to the totality of the cosmos. Nothing is separate, there are no separate events. Even physicists these days will agree with that, they have seen the interconnectedness of all things. Buddhists have seen it also, even 2,500 years ago they saw it. And so it is as it is. You allow it to be. You see the immutability of ‘is.’ You can't really argue with ‘is.’ ‘Is!’ And that becomes the basis, that inner alignment becomes the basis for action if action should be needed, very often action is not needed. A simple allowing is enough for greater intelligence to come into play and you could sit there and things develop in the right way.

So allow the form that this moment takes, to be as it is, instead of reacting to the form that this moment takes. Allowing this form to be takes you to what we could call the formless-consciousness, unconditioned, not the object-consciousness. The reaction is the object-consciousness. So this is a strange, almost a paradox. People want to reach the, whatever they call it, "ultimate reality", the ‘transcendent.’ And usually they regard the forms that surround them in their daily existence as an obstacle to reaching the transcendent, or reaching who I truly could be, or who I somehow suspect I could be, the essence of who I am or could be. Somehow it seems the universe is conspiring, my daily life and my existence seems to be conspiring to hold me back from that. I am surrounded by so many limiting and limited circumstances in my life that there seems to be some kind of conspiracy and it wants to prevent me from fully being myself. Does that sound familiar? I want to break out of this limiting life situation that I am in. For some people it’s their circumstances, their living circumstances. For some people it’s their work situation. For some people it’s the physical body which is beginning to be limited. Can't move that fast anymore. What is this? I want to break out of this. To know myself fully as that which is beyond form and yet all the forms that are in my life are limiting me, impinging upon me from all sides and when I free myself from one limiting form for a little moment, and then, then the next thing comes in! And that's in the nature of object consciousness, one thing after another. And so people then live in continuous reactivity...now to a limited extent yes you can improve the forms around you. To a limited extent, this is true. You could be living in a very unpleasant little noisy dirty hole (laughter) and then through incredible effort and energy, ten years later, five years later, you finally made it and you live in a mansion. This is nice. And you of course will have created different life circumstances; you are in a different life situation now. After a little while of the feeling that you have made it, the new life situation will manifest as other limitations. You will find other limitations on you, perhaps you created a business empire. That's why you could afford the mansion, and then lots of things there impinge upon you. The stock market becomes important. A few people I've spoken to told me that they experienced recently ‘the Dark Night of the Soul.’ I said ‘what happened?’ They said ‘the stock market.’ (laughter) Well, I don't know, perhaps, perhaps. And so in your new situation you find other limitations. And then you try to get free there.

So there comes a point when you realize, yes, to a limited extent you can play in the world of form, improve the forms. But not as some ultimate answer to who you are. Not in an attempt to find who you are. In that sense forms around you are not going to help because you will always encounter the limitations of forms around you. So you can play around with the forms in your life. This is a beautiful game to play but without expecting self-realization or self-enhancement through finally achieving a certain configuration of forms in my life that is absolutely perfect and right. It can be for a little while and then you encounter the other side, that every form has built-in limitations. Once you know that the play of form is beautiful, you can participate in it.

But! To know yourself beyond form, the world of form cannot help you. Here comes the paradox that I pointed to earlier. The paradox is allowing the form that this moment takes to be as it is, internally. Let's say you are living in an unpleasant place. It's cold, it’s wet or damp, or noisy, or cramped. And there you are sitting on a chair. It is the form that this moment takes, and you realize the limitations of that form. And yet you allow this moment to be as it is. Some people confuse that with accepting a story they are telling themselves in their head concerning this moment. And that is a mistake that some people make, I have noticed that. When we speak of allowing this moment to be they confuse that with creating some interpretation of this moment which is a story and saying ‘Well I might as well accept that this is how it is.’ An example of that would be; say the stock market has crashed and your wife has left you, a synchronistic event, (laughter) and then the story comes in, in your mind which says ‘Okay, you've worked for nothing for 25 years. All that is built up, all the energy, 80% of it you lost, and your marriage has failed. You failed at that also, you failed at your business and you failed at your marriage. There's no point in even carrying on now because it at your age what can you do? Who would want you?!. You haven't got enough time to build up another business empire.’ The story goes on in your head. It's an interpretation of this moment. I failed. It's been pointless. My life has come to nothing. And this is a simple story, most stories are more complicated than that. The story is not this moment. The story is the story in your head. It's mind-forms. Object-consciousness. So what is this moment, what is the form of this moment? The form of this moment is not the story about this moment; it is the simple appearance of this moment which is chair, walls, window, cold, noisy neighbors, an unpleasant smell. But even unpleasant is the beginning of a story.

Just sit, Just this. This is the moment. This is Now. And you are sitting, perhaps you still have a chair. You're sitting on a chair. And that's a strange thing, what happens if I allow this moment without the story. And then, oh, strange, suddenly by allowing the form, suddenly there's a peace that arises, from a deeper place. And you look around at the forms and it is that spacious presence that is there then. When the forms are no longer obscuring that. But, you can only get to that when you allow the forms... that which appeared to prevent you from finding yourself is actually, becomes actually the doorway. The forms that appear to be the obstacle become the doorway if you allow the forms. Not the story, the simple form of this moment to be.

Some people have found this without any spiritual teaching, simply by experiencing the limitations of their physical form. Some illness came. Some disability came to them. And at first they had a long story about it. Their life story became very unhappy. Their story based identity became a very unhappy story. The me became very unhappy. A lot of resistance to what's happening. Why to me? Why did this happen to me? And then after awhile the pain just became too much and almost accidentally or by the grace of the Divine which is the one Consciousness, there was a moment of simply staying with the simplicity of this moment. Pain, not even perhaps call it pain anymore. Weakness, disability, just allowing, not bringing a NO to it but simply a yes. That's how it is right now. And some people who don't know how much longer they have to live, by the way nobody knows. But to some people it becomes clear that they don't know...maybe because somebody told them ‘we don't know how much longer you have.’ And so some people can suddenly… are reduced by circumstances, you are reduced to this moment only. ‘This is what life has done to me!’ This is the last story, the last line of your story is, this is a sign of an ending story and the last sign of a story that's coming to an end is for example, ‘Look, this is what life has done to me. All I'm left with is this moment. I don't even have a future anymore. Life has taken away even that from me. Me!’ And so you didn't realize it, you just wrote the last line of your story. You don't have a future anymore so where is the story going? Nowhere. You are reduced to this. Some people through illness are reduced to just this moment. And suddenly they wake up out of the story of me, absorption in the story. And then they look at you, a light shining through their eyes. They may not know that the story has come to an end. They may not have any explanation for what just happened. But just…their life has become so simple, so easy. And if you asked them, "What happened to you? You were unhappy yesterday and now... They may not be able to say anything about it. So I've met a few people, it's wonderful, it's so beautiful to meet people who without spiritual teaching or teacher, it happened to them. The illness became their teacher. That’s what's left is, this. Which means what happened? Their story collapsed. In the absence of future, there wasn't much to keep it going anymore. The story of ‘me’ collapsed. It doesn't mean that this person no longer remembers their past, but they have no self investment in their memories anymore. So who are they? They are the aliveness of this moment. They are the presence, the spaciousness of this moment. They are consciousness itself, looking through these eyes, unproblematic. And so it is beautiful when a story comes to an end. Not your memories, self-investment in memories. Not even your reactive patterns, they have momentum, they may go on for awhile. But even there, self-investment and self-identification with the reactive patterns comes as simply, the reaction is seen for what it is. There is spaciousness around it because you not only allow what is externally, you allow what is internally; emotions, reactions, thoughts come and go. That's the form that this moment takes.

So demanding here [at retreat] to have a certain experience of enlightenment will stop you of course from having it because nothing is needed beyond the form that this moment takes. It's that simple. Nothing is needed beyond the form that this moment takes. Not in essence, to know yourself, nothing is needed beyond this. Form, as far as your form reality is concerned, which is secondary, things may be needed. But not at this moment otherwise you wouldn't be sitting here. (silence) So this is a gentle coming to an end of the story, the story based identity and the patterns associated with it. Our practice then is simply gentle acceptance of the moment, the form of it, and you go beyond form to a deeper goodness.

(silence)

We will spend of course time also in silence as part of the retreat. Some of you may not want to speak at all during this retreat. That's fine. Your mind of course will still be there, the internal dialog may still be there. For those who don't want to speak there may be a few tables in the dining hall, for those who don't want to engage in conversation. I will announce certain periods during our retreat when we are going to keep noble silence. Not throughout the whole retreat. Some people say, ‘why can't we be silent for the whole retreat?’ Well, you could. It’s good to learn to bring that spaciousness into interactions. We may be addressing that also, to bring the spaciousness into interactions with people.

Questions. Also if there are any questions left in a couple of days, if you have a question, wait a day of two, if its still there please ask, unless its something that you need to ask immediately concerning this retreat. I'll be very happy to address questions during this week later on, not yet today. Answers may come also, who knows. You may find that quite a few questions subside as you go into the retreat.

(silence)

The totality of the situation here is the teaching, the totality, not just the words. The silent spaces, walking between here and your room. Not making this moment into a means to an end. Not making this step into a means to an end, the next step, or getting there. Just being with what is. We will also be talking about nature, making that part of the teaching, especially at this time of year when nature seems to be breathing out. It's the out-breath of nature. Fall. It's called Fall in American English I used to call it Autumn. But Fall is more immediate because nature's breathing out. A cycle has come to an end. Death in a way and there is beauty hidden there. Spring is different, manifestation, everything is moving to new, forms are manifesting, thousands, thousands of new forms manifesting. And now the manifestations, many of the manifestations of nature, are coming to an end, the forms. So if it’s the in-breath is the Spring of Nature, the out-breath is now. The out-breath is beautiful for going beyond form because it’s when forms dissolve.

(silence)

I will ring these bells. The opening of our retreat, a little bit late but fortunately it's still now

(laughter)

One or two people sitting here may be feeling unhappy for some reason. If that is the case, allow it. Let me be unhappy then. It's not that bad. That's a strange thing to do, allow the unhappiness to be there. Okay, I'm unhappy. You could look upon yourself as an actor and it happens to be that your part, the part assigned to you at this moment is to play the part of an unhappy person. Play your part. Through this little allowing, suddenly, there's a little bit of space around your unhappiness. Just a little at first. And then you allow more. And then you notice considerable space around your unhappiness. Here's the unhappiness which really it is the self, the knot of the self, and there's space around it.

(silence)

The bell, an ancient device, is the call to attention, presence, awakening out of identification with mind forms, out of thought.

Bell Chimes


Continue: Part 2 - Monday Afternoon

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