Chapter 8 begins with an old Sufi story. A king is constantly torn between happiness and despair. The slightest thing would turn his happiness to hopelessness. Finally, he decided to end this cycle and sought counsel from a wise man who was said to be enlightened.
When the wise man arrived, the king asked, “Can you give me something that will bring balance, serenity, and wisdom into my life?”
The wise man gave him a ring with the inscription: This, too, will pass.
At first, these words may seem dismissive, as if your problems are insignificant. They can even be a buzzkill for happy moments as well. But when digging deeper, this, too, will pass reveals the impermanence of everything, the fleetingness of every situation. Accepting this would allow room for non-resistance, non-judgement and non-attachment.
Being detached doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the happy moments. Quite the opposite: knowing that they’re temporary, you can enjoy and appreciate those moments even more. When you’re detached, you can see things from a higher plane. This non-attachment can bring forth another dimension into our lives – the inner space.
When you are detached from form, a deeper peace arises, and is what Tolle calls the inner space. It’s a stillness, a subtle peace that is who you really are, and not who you think you are. Between every emotion (all the highs and lows), between every thought is the inner space.
Our lives are filled with obligations and routines, things to do, things to think about, things to worry about. Our minds are cluttered with endless questioning and debating, day after day, week after week. We are driven by thoughts and emotions, experiencing life primarily through our five senses. This state is called object consciousness, and this is most people’s perceived reality.
Space consciousness means that in addition to object consciousness, you’re living with Awareness. This means that you’re conscious of all these things, able to observe your thoughts and emotions. In other words, you’re conscious of your consciousness. This is how we can enter inner space: by being free from the ego.
Whenever you get upset about an event, the news, or upset with someone, remember that this, too, will pass. These words will point you on the path back to detachment and awareness.
When we drink alcohol (or use other forms of drugs), we may feel more carefree, even more alive. Drinking is often followed by singing and dancing, the universal activity for celebration. However, we fall into unconsciousness: instead of rising above thought, we fall below it.
Space consciousness is not about being “spaced out” where we are impaired, physically and mentally. Space consciousness is about being aware of the consciousness, not escaping from it.
We watch TV to relax, clock out, and to be entertained. Many times, we put the TV on to escape. We forget our problems and just free ourselves from reality. However, this doesn’t draw you to inner space.
Even though your mind won’t be lingering on thoughts, your mind is linked to the TV show and its characters: although your mind isn’t producing any thoughts, its absorbing the thoughts and emotions of the images and sounds from the TV screen. And advertisers know it; they pay big dollars to make ‘their thoughts become your thoughts, and they usually succeed.’
We’ve all done something like this. After watching a YouTube video, you notice the “Up Next” section to the right and click on an interesting video that’s been selected for you based on your search and view history. You then realize how deep into the YouTube black hole you’ve gotten yourself into and need to get back to work. But before that, you feel compelled to share one of the videos with your Facebook friends.
Once on Facebook, you notice that almost everyone in your circle are going to an event that you weren’t invited to. You check to see that you were invited, but then get flustered that no one had mentioned it to you outright. As you scroll, you see a video of a politician you despise, notice the comments, and see that one of your friends actually support him! You try hard to not debate with or unfriend this person.
Like TV, the Internet and social media is a way to escape, but it’s a passive way into the unconscious and it drains you of energy.
We do things so routinely that we often miss the present moment. That is why we often read something, but then have to reread it because our minds wandered somewhere else. (Hopefully that doesn’t happen with this blog!).
Choose an object that’s close to you. If you’re at your desk, for example, you can choose a pen, a mug, etc. If you’re on the elliptical, you can choose an exercise ball, a water bottle, or whatever is in your view. Just make sure it’s an object without words or text, something that wouldn’t make you think. Give your complete attention to it, paying attention to every detail. If a thought or judgment arises, simply acknowledge it and continue being present. Then allow your gaze to go elsewhere in the room.
Listen to any sounds and listen in the same way you gazed at the object. Don’t think if it’s good or bad. Don’t judge. Just allow what is to unfold.
Can you take the thinking out of perceiving? Can you observe without the voice in your head analyzing, commenting, judging or creating a narrative? When you’re conscious but not absorbed by thinking, that is called being in the inner space.
Never underestimate the power of a conscious breath. Tolle talks about breath repeatedly throughout A New Earth. There’s a reason for this: breathing is the foundation of living. Thankfully breathing is an automatic response in our body. We rarely even think about it. However, we can also take control of our breath. The very awareness of breathing automatically takes us out of thought and generates consciousness.
Notice the sensation of the breath; the smell, the texture, the quality, the volume, the sound of the air as it passes through your nose and into your body. Notice your chest and abdomen rising and falling, your blood flowing, your heart beating and the resulting level of aliveness.
Just one breath can create space. And because the breath has no shape or form, there’s no more perfect way of bringing us peace and into the inner space. Being aware of breathing brings us to the present moment, the key to conscious living. It’s impossible to think and be aware of our breathing at the same time. And unlike alcohol or TV, that are dulling and polluted, paying attention to your breath leaves you vibrant, fully awake and aware.
There is an indescribable inner peace that arises when we experience moments of stillness and inner spaciousness. Whenever you recognize the beauty, kindness and the joy of simple things, you’ve reached the inner space.
Practice the methods as much as possible, and inner space will come more often. Pause to really look at the sky, a tree, a flower. No words. Listen intently to the sound of rain or wind. Pet a dog. Smile at the child. If you find peace in these things, you’ll feel moments of stillness, then you’ve reached awareness. These moments of presence won’t last long, but the opportunities are endless.
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