Well that was certainly, as the Chinese say, 'interesting.'
The last week's been extremely challenging. My neck was just the start - it was as if outside and inside negativity just unleashed a coordinated attack.
On a personal, emotional and professional level, the last week has been one damn thing after another.
It's interesting, this is the second time this has happened recently. It's like a cascade effect.
Mostly we're in a low-level state of siege. Internal negativity, external shittiness - things come up every now and then. It's as if the darkness is probing our defenses.
Since I started this 1000 days I've been feeling a lot stronger.
I think there are stages you go through when immersing yourself in Tolle. One is annoyance - I never had to deal with this, but I've spoken to many people who get angry at Tolle initially, even as they intellectually agree with him, or intellectually acknowledge him as a shining genius.
Ironically, intellectual agreement is one of the most subtle and powerful obstacles to actually getting anything useful out of listening to Eckhart Tolle.
Some other people get massively tired - he just knocks them out. As I mentioned in the comments to the last post, this is because when you've been drawing all your energy from hate, sorrow, rage or bitterness, you build up a huge fatigue debt in your psyche. As soon as you weaken the negativity, a great tiredness comes.
At the same time, the most recognisable immediate impact this has had on my life is to instill within me a great sense of chill, of inner strength, of peace, calm and acceptance.
As such, the general, low level probing of negativity has been bouncing off me like rain. It's almost surreal to watch the things that would normally have crawled right under your skin and driven you nuts just flow through you without consequence.
But these low-level attacks are not the only weapons open to that darkness. It has cunning, and more control over yourself and others than any of us would care to admit or like to believe.
The neck was just the start. Over the next few days poison and toxicity flooded in from various unconnected sources on the outside. Inside, I became angry, frustrated. That feeling of being hard-done-by, of being unfairly treated by life reared it's head. It was accompanied by deep sadness, and moments of despair.
By Thursday I could hardly hear Tolle. The headphones were on full volume, but my mind was louder. Raging at the wounds I'd suffered unfairly, justifying and blaming in equal measure. Then moments of sorrow at the impossibility of the situation.
That night I poured it all out to a friend. It was good - it helped get space and clarity around my anger. That's not what normally happens when you talk about this kind of thing. If you have someone who enthusiastically sympathises and agrees with you that you are hard done by, that just accelerates the rage, sadness or pain. If you have someone who tries to argue you out of it with logic, that's like throwing petrol on a red-hot coal.
But if you have someone who listens with openness and acceptance, they can provide that present awareness to your anger that Tolle advises you provide for yourself.
This is the value of counselling - and the problem with psychoanalysis. But I digress.
My friend mentioned that I should pray. I haven't prayed in a little while, a few weeks or so. And so, as soon as she left, I addressed the big guy thusly:
"God, help me, man. I'm fucked. I don't know what to do. I'm lost in this shit, again. Again, God. Help me, really, please. I'm out of ideas."
I'm still full of frustration. The talk has helped, but it's getting stronger again, coming back.
I get home and walk into the kitchen. There, sitting on the sideboard is an mp3 player. Not mine, my friends. Attached to it were some in-ear headphones. You know the kind that burrow into your brain and make the music echo around in there, like the band is sitting inside your skull hammering away.
I pick them up. I look through the mp3s available. I've used this mp3 player before as a backup. My Creative Zen player can be a little temperamental, so I've put a few Tolle pieces on this thing. What have we got. Let's see...
Choose To Awaken Now.
In The Presence Of A Great Mystery.
Through The Open Door.
Choose To Awaken Now is good. It's got a funny bit right at the start where there's a deafening scream of feedback in the middle of Eckhart's speech. He pulls it back well - the dude's got quick reflexes. I'll let you find out what it's like yourself.
In The Presence Of A Great Mystery I haven't listened to yet.
Through The Open Door is potent. It's like Tolle with full reverb. The acoustics of the room it was recorded in have an echo to them, it makes his voice so penetrating. On top of that, I think he just got out of the bed on the right side that day. The dude's on form.
Through The Open Door it is. Full volume. In ear-headphone-tastic.
Tolle's voice BOOMS in my head. The volume is teetering on the edge of uncomfortable but I don't give a shit because the second it starts it punches through the darkness in me like a .357 Magnum bullet.
This is the best time to listen to Tolle - when you're fucking furious or massively unhappy. Normally his insights are sharp and crisp, but when you're in the middle of a deep negative mind-pattern everything he says is directly relevant. Urgently so.
And there, finally, after having read his stuff for a year, after having filled my head with it over and over, after having tried so hard to dissolve that gaping hole inside myself, I finally, finally see.
I finally realise what he's telling me to do. What I have to do. It's everything he's been saying for all the time I've been listening to him. And it wasn't that he wasn't being clear - it was that I was layering all my different ideas on top of his, creating chaos and confusion.
It's not about dissolving the pain. The pain doesn't go away. The pain is irrelevant.
For so long I've been trying to get to that state of Zen beingness that would make all the shit go away. But it's not like that. It so much easier. So much simpler than this. So much closer than this - closer to us.
We're not a thousand miles away from salvation. We are each the same distance from eternity. And that distance is a billionth of a millimetre. The Kingdom of Heaven, as the man said, is amongst you. Not amongst you all, but amongst YOU, as in you, yes, you, you reading this sentence, you, right here, right now, you.
For so long I've tried to dissolve the darkness. To resolve the negativity. In the world outside, in myself.
But the negativity has no resolution. The pain in your life cannot be resolved. The pain in the world cannot be resolved.
That's not how it works. That's not what it wants. It wants to live, and given even the slightest chance, it will.
The pain says 'if only X could happen, everything would be fine.' If only this person would agree with me, would do things my way, would see my value, would see my talent, would open up, would calm down, would this, would that... then everything would be fine.
It's the lie, the core lie of all pain - that it has a rational reason and that, by rationality, it can be resolved.
No pain is rational. All pain claims to be. In fact, pain is so strident in it's claims to be rational, that what appears from the outside to be the rationality of a person - or a nation, or a world - is in fact just rationalised pain - agony sculpted into a raging mockery of true logic.
For me, it became 'if only I can build up enough presence through listening to Tolle, then I will be able to resolve the pain.'
It will not work, it cannot work, it will never work.
But the reason I committed to this 1000 days was because I believe there is a deeper truth. That Tolle has done what philosophers have attempted to do for millenia. That he has broken through to something that I do not even know. And that this thing, this thing that I do not even see, may yet make these 1000 days something more than what I believe they are.
The truth is not that the pain can be resolved. The truth is that the pain can be seen.
The truth is not that thought can be resolved. The truth is that thought can be seen.
The truth is not that trauma can be resolved. The truth is that trauma can be seen.
The truth is not that hate cannot be resolved. The truth is that hate can be seen.
The truth is not that failure can be resolved. The truth is that failure can be seen.
The truth is not that the harrowing nightmares can be resolved. The truth is that the harrowing nightmares can be seen.
The truth is not that anything can be resolved. The truth is that anything can be seen.
And it's funny, because this is what Tolle's been telling me this whole time. And he's said that over and over again. And I've been looking at the pain, seeing it, waiting for it to dissolve so I can be enlightened, saved, free.
No, no, no. Silly boy. You're not paying attention to what he's saying, are you, Ciaran? You're trying to use stillness as a bludgeon to batter your pain into oblivion.
Oh, it's so simple. And he's seen it, God bless that tiny German bastard, he's seen it. He got it, he nailed it, he nailed it to the floor.
It is as simple as he says it is.
Normally we're trapped in a stream of thinking. We're trapped in a stream of analysis. We're trapped in a stream of judgements. We're trapped in a stream of labels. We're trapped in a stream of worry. We're trapped in a stream of regret.
When we fight these things they are like the hydra of Greek legend. One head comes off, two more grow in it's place. The monster just gets stronger. We get more lost. We get more broken. Either we give up and resign ourselves to a hateful life, or we resist and suffer untold damage.
It's not a great list of options.
But if you look at what is happening - if you look at it, then YOU are looking at IT. You become you. It becomes it. You're not lost in the rage anymore, or the sorrow, or whatever. You're above it.
That's it. That's all he's saying. And it's not like IT then dissolves. It doesn't. That's not what's going on here. That's not where the payoff is in all this. That's entirely secondary and completely outside your control.
Do you hear what I'm saying? All this time we're focusing on how to 'escape the ego' or to 'dissolve the pain-body' or to 'be healed of the pain'.
We're still thinking that the pain is the barometer of our success in this.
It's not. The barometer of our success is the seeing.
Because that brief moment of peace, of introspective silence when we look at ourselves... that's not the route to dissolving pain.
It's way more than that. The pain-dissolving powers of that brief moment where we look at the hate/pain/rage/despair or whatever are incidental.
Do you understand? Incidental.
Now Tolle keeps saying that that 'seeing', that 'awareness' has amazing powers to dissolve negativity and entrenched pain. And I'm not saying that's not true - it is. It's very true. But as long as you're getting the presence in order to dissolve the pain, you're still the pain's prisoner.
Once more in bold - As long as you're getting the presence in order to dissolve the pain, you're still the pain's prisoner.
It's the key to this whole thing.
The presence, the seeing for it's own sake. That's where the action is. And as soon as you realise that - or more specifically as soon as I realised that - this shit just got one hell of a lot more simple.
There I was lying on my bed with Tolle booming at me and the rage boiling inside. And I saw the rage. The rage didn't go away. I just saw it.
But - oh, how to describe this in a way that makes sense - I was me again. I was me looking at the pain. And not some "super-advanced-Enlightened-Ciaran-2000-series" me. Just me. Just plain old me. The me I've always been. The me I am just in general.
Just me looking at the rage. Nothing spooky. Nothing metaphysical. Nothing mystical. Just me.
And it wasn't like it normally is. Brief (or even extended) interludes of presence that I pour onto the negativity in hopes of dissolving it, always ending in frustration because the pain doesn't get dissolved. And either a minute or a month later when the rage/despair/arrogance/whatever arises again I feel like shit because 'it didn't work'.
It will never work. It's not about it 'working'. If it's about it 'working' then it will never happen for you.
That seeing of the thought stream or the negativity is important for it's own sake. Not for what it does to the pain. That's good but incidental. And it's not rapid as in all your pain just evaporates.
It's just rapid compared to every other method, because presence does permanently dissolve pain, even if it takes a while - and nothing else does.
But again - it's not about the pain.
Most of us who look deeply into this do so because we've just had enough of shit kicking off in our lives.
And so we want the shit to stop.
But as long as that's your motivation you're still looking to the shit to tell you if you're successful. And the shit is shit. It's a universe of Godless horror that doesn't give a fuck about you. It will lie to you, build you up, give you false hope, then tear you apart again.
But the seeing - it is so deep. It's so friendly, and so close. It's like slipping into the oldest, most comfortable pair of slippers you own and it's always there, right here, right now. Yes. For you.
Don't agree with this. Your agreement is irrelevant. Your agreement isn't you. It will make you think it is. You agreement is a lie your mind is telling you. Fuck agreement.
Don't argue with this. The world is full of meaningless argument. If you want to disprove it, do it and see what happens. That way, if you want to take this down you can do so with impact.
But yeah - crazy days. Just goes to show that the darkest times are when the darkness is the most vulnerable and exposed.
Just make sure you've got some in-ear headphones and the Through The Open Door mp3 set handy.
It's ever so good.