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Welcome back to the fifth week’s commentary, the halfway mark, on the Oprah Winfrey/Eckhart Tolle ‘A New Earth’ Worldwide Web Event. Monday night’s class, based on Chapter 5 “The Pain-Body,” is now available for viewing (at Oprah.com or here at Beliefnet).
First off, I want to say that I was apprehensive about this chapter on what Eckhart calls the pain-body, the accumulation of unprocessed, painful emotional memories that we all carry around with us. My radar goes off whenever too much new terminology starts to creep into a nonfiction book or class; I call it my “cult radar” for lack of a better term. I am not implying there are any cultish elements to Tolle’s teachings, but I do get an alarm or two when new terms are taught because I wonder what’s wrong with our tried and true standard terminology.
That being said, after watching Monday night’s class, I have a much better understanding of what he means. In fact, the book’s definition is pretty self-explanatory:
Any negative emotion that is not fully faced and seen for what it is in the moment it arises does not completely dissolve. It leaves behind a remnant of pain. … This energy field of old but still very-much-alive emotion that lives in almost every human being is the pain-body. (pp.141-142)
Emotion is energy. Thought is energy. Negative energy has to go somewhere (unless you’re a duck and you can flap your wings [pp.137-139]) and so it goes within and chums around as part of the ego. We can call it a pain-body and it’s wise to know about it since we, ultimately, mistake the pain-body for ourselves from time to time.
Eckhart didn’t say this explicitly, but any deeply held negative belief that contains the words “all” or “always” or “never” (and the like) may lead you straight to evidence of your own pain-body. These are statements like “all men are pigs” or “every parent screws up their kid” that feel factually true based on your own experience, but are ultimately the judgments surrounding the experiences that validate those sayings and not the experiences themselves.
Loving bad news is of the pain-body. Many, if not most, news outlets quite consciously don’t sell news…they sell negative emotion. Periodically I’ll look at the homepage of a trusted news source and just read negative term after negative term and remind myself that that is not a representation of what the world is really like, but rather a tabloid-sensibility existing for purely economical reasons.
As usual, Oprah and Eckhart (I’m so tempted to call them Opreck for short) started off the class by spending a small amount of time in silence. As he says, going into silence is going into the present moment and the essence of the present moment is life itself. That’s a wonderful revelation for me that I doubt that I’ll ever forget—to be present is to be alive. Powerful.
Then they both went on to elaborate on their experiences, Eckhart saying that every place is holy when you connect with the present moment and Oprah saying that even doing these opening meditations for a only a few weeks, that everything starts to feel sacred. She finds a calmness and a stillness to almost everything now.
I have quite a few friends who are consciously looking for that stillness out in the world…in a different country…in a different religion…somewhere “out there.” My standard response is that they should give some of these awareness exercises a try if they ask, especially if its sends them deeper within themselves, which is the point of any religious or belief system that effectively helps you to reconnect with the Divine.
The sacred and the holy are here and now. How could they be anywhere else when there is only ever the present moment, right?
As usual, here are my highlights from the fifth class, insights and points that made me sit up and say, “Boy, this is all just so perfect…this life thang!”
1) Oprah brought up a quote from the book, which I’ve elongated here:
The greater part of most people’s thinking is involuntary, automatic, and repetitive. It is no more than a kind of mental static and fulfills no real purpose. Strictly speaking, you don’t think: Thinking happens to you. (p.129)
Even a small amount of most any form of meditation will bear this out pretty quickly. We are not our thoughts and thinking seems to have a mind of its own. Being aware of this fact is the first step to transcending the noisome chatter in our heads.
Also, thinking is no more than a tiny aspect of the totality of consciousness. Awareness itself is vast and has limitless potential. Likewise, thinking can become a secondary tool or catalyst for creativity, but creativity comes through and from the space of awareness. If you reflect back on so many innovators and scientists, inspiration does not come through their thoughts, it actually pops through in their space of awareness.
So if people want to know what their purpose is in life, they’re best served to develop their sense of awareness since, as Tolle said, “You’re never going to think your way to your purpose.”
2) Oprah mentioned that the body doesn’t know the difference between a thought and the actual situation:
Although the body is very intelligent, it cannot tell the difference between an actual situation and a thought. It reacts to every thought as if it were a reality. (p.134)
Have you ever thought about a situation or a person that really upset you? Did you then stop and take stock of your increased heartbeat and the complete transformation your body was undergoing…just at the thought alone? With a little perspective, it seems like complete magic that our thoughts hold such dominion over our poor, along-for-the-ride bodies, doesn’t it?
3) This one is a biggie! At some point in your life you realize (or you don’t, I guess) that your parents and everyone else have only done the things they knew how to do at their own level of consciousness. Holding onto painful memories or resenting those that raised you will only create and maintain one’s pain-body.
I don’t remember what sparked this realization in my own life, but with it came a great sense of personal peace. Since that is most likely the longest-standing and most formative relationship you have with anyone in the world, that with your parents or guardians, to connect with this truth can significantly obliterate your own pain-body.
4) Oprah and Eckhart spent some time talking about violence in our modern media and how it relates to our personal and collective pain-bodies.
If you were not familiar with our contemporary civilization, if you had come here from another age or another planet, one of the things that would amaze you is that millions of people love and pay money to watch humans kill and inflict pain on each other and call it “entertainment.” (p.153)
Does it strike you as a little odd after reading that how much violence we unconsciously digest in our lives in the form of entertainment? Think of any summer blockbuster or the MPAA motion picture ratings board that is much more aghast about sexuality on-screen than it is about harm, or death even, to human characters. That just feels so strange to me right now.
As Eckhart explains, it’s the pain-bodies that write the movies, act in them, produce them and then it’s more pain-bodies that buy the tickets to go see the films or keep us from changing the channel on the remote control.
5) Since we’re all on the same proverbial page, this quote that was mentioned during Oprah’s class will resonate more than if I dropped it into a regular blog post here at Idol Chatter:
A problem cannot be solved in the same consciousness in which it arose.
The Internet hasn’t offered up indefatigable proof of whether it was Carl Jung or Albert Einstein who said that, but my latest search attributed it to Einstein. My apologies to the Jung estate if I’ve erred.
I must admit that after all this talk of the pain-body, I wanted to know how to effectively deal with it!
I’ll bet you a hundred bucks that the answer is to “give it more awareness.” Luckily, we have all next week to figure it out as Oprah and Eckhart will be exploring, in detail, Chapter Six which is titled “Breaking Free.”
I’m quite looking forward to it. See you in class!