(Originally posted on WordPress, October 2, 2008)
There are a number of reasons why what I’m doing is a bad idea.
The biggest one is that the mind is constantly working, constantly analyzing. I myself am more prone to this than most, but we’re all prone.
Eckhart Tolle occasionally says that if you fall into analyzing his stuff you’ll find it boring. I’ve never had this problem. If anything, the opposite is true.
I’ve always found deep insights into the nature of being and humanity to be the most fascinating thing around. I’m something of a junkie for it. I can rant for hours about the structure of moral rationalisation, or how we order the world around us to convince ourselves of things that deep down we know aren’t true.
I’m well aware of the human capacity for self-deception because my own is so highly developed. This isn’t to beat myself up about it, it just is the truth. In the past I’ve fought through crusade after crusade, switching one for another and making my life a battle for the privelidge of seeing myself as a hero, or a martyr, or a genius, or whatever.
We all do it.
And the thing is that I’ve done something like this before - never on this scale of course. I’ve saturated my mind for weeks on end with Eckhart’s voice. I’ve had mixed results.
The reason I did it is that I’m prone to deep depression. I’ve been on and off Prozac for a few years, which I suppose makes it official. The smallest glimpse through my last blog will show you some pretty intense posts, and the last year has taken me right to the edge a few times.
Whenever I’d listen to Eckhart it was like plunging a red-hot sword into a pool of water. I could almost feel the hiss and bubble as my mind rapidly cooled.
But no matter how soothing his words, how profound his teachings, my mind would whirr and buzz and weave a web of thought and judgement. I’d construct a philosophy around his ideas, go on missions in my head to “destroy my ego” or “transmute my pain-body”.
I’d go hell-for-leather at it, then get depressed and frustrated as initial insights and successes descended into chaos, confusion and failure.
Still, initial successes that in the end led me back to square one.
I don’t know how much of that was down to the old life I used to lead. Trying to reach a profound level of chill in the situations I’d put myself in was often like trying to build a house of cards in a hurricane.
That’s of course not to say that I’m retreating to a zen mountaintop. Actually, the point of this whole thing is to see what happens when I load myself full of Tolle in the context of a more or less ‘normal’ life. I have a 9-5 job, I have friends I go out with, I have TV shows I like (Supernatural is great, IMHO) and all that jazz.
At the same time, I found myself crashing out emotionally over and over. It hit a point where it became apparent to me that, in the words of Marilyn Manson “all the drugs in this world won’t save you from yourself.”
So I decided to listen to Tolle every night when I slept. Instantly I was more chilled, less volatile. Then I got an interview, and took the job. I really enjoy it, by the way. Great fun. At this stage normality’s like a novelty to me. I feel so official, I love it. The work’s good fun too. Creative, interesting. Not too stressful. It’s cool.
Then I started listening to him in the day.
Then I sat back and reflected on my options. There is a deep anger and agony in the centre of my chest. Tolle’s voice chases it into the background, but it’s always there. It’s like all my nastiest, weakest traits and it’s gone unchecked for a long time. It’s been feeding for a long time.
Thing is, no matter how much I may agree with what Tolle says, agreement won’t save me. No matter how deeply I may be able to understand or articulate his thought, I’ll still get sucked right back into shit when left to my own devices.
The thing is, I don’t think I’m going to be able to significantly chill if left to my own devices. No matter how many flashes of insight I get, no matter how deep they are or how profound, no insight is going to save me.
It’s simple, and really quite prosaic. Truth is, because I’ll just forget.
Given a week on my own I’ll latch on to some other mission, some other answer. And I’ll follow that will-o-wisp into another patch of quicksand.
This way I don’t need to remember anything. Eckhart’s always with me, keeping me on track.
The other thing is this - that in doing this I’ll create what I used to call a Zen Ego. I don’t really like the use of the word Ego in this context (even though I was using it to refer to a conceptual sense of self before I even read Tolle). Not because it’s inaccurate, it’s a great word to use.
At the same time I think it’s all too easy to conflate that word Ego in the sense that Tolle uses it with the word ‘arrogance’. You hear the word Ego and you hear the word Egotistical, but the Ego that Tolle refers to is a much broader concept, a much deeper concept. It doesn’t just refer to arrogance, but to any sense of who you are based on ideas in the mind. Arrogance can easily rise from this - but so can deep self-loathing, so it cuts both ways.
A Zen Ego therefore is not a Zen Arrogance. It’s a conceptual identity based on ideas gleaned from Tolle. Easily done. So how to avoid it over the next 997 days?
The answer is, again, simple. I can’t. I really don’t think it’s possible for me to do this and not build a conceptual identity out of the concepts I’m pumping into my head. It will happen. Over and over.
My theory, and in some ways my bet, is that there will be another process going on under this. The truth is, I’m going to build an identity around whatever I’m doing, be it my job or whatever harebrained project I’ve dreamed up next.
The analytical identity will happen. That’s a given.
But here’s the thing. I reckon that Tolle is a special case. The man sweats Zen. He oozes chill, he oozes presence. I believe that there’s a chance that even while my mind twists itself around his words, his presence itself will undermine that twisted process.
Given enough time.
Truth is, I don’t know if it’s going to work. I think there’s a chance that it might.
And no-one else will be my guinea pig. So I’m doing it.
After the 1000 days are complete, we should have a pretty good understanding of the process.
I’ll keep you posted.