Weekend with Ekhart Tolle
May 18th 2017
Last weekend I was at an Eckhart Tolle retreat on the beautiful Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. There were so many take home messages and practices and pennies dropping. It was paradise. This week’s blog video shares one of the take home messages that I’m challenging myself to practice this week.
This week we’re talking about the retreat I’ve just come back from in the Sunshine Coast in beautiful Queensland, Australia. It was a retreat with Eckhart Tolle who’s the author of ‘A New Earth’ and the international bestseller ‘The Power of Now’, two books which have completely changed my life. So it was really wonderful to be in the same space as someone I have admired and learned so much from for so long now.
I wanted to share one take-home message I got from the retreat. It when he was talking about what keeps us in a state of stress or anxiety, what disrupts our internal peace of mind, our inner peace? And he was talking about a habit thinking pattern that is so deeply ingrained in our society and in the human psyche that it takes quite a considered amount effort to move out of, and it’s the habit of complaining. So complaining about anything, about a person, about an event, about ourselves really chips away at our inner peace. And the more we do it the more it snowballs.
Ekhart talks about the present moment, and in the present moment right now, you ask yourself is my attention right here, right now, all my focus is it in this moment, or am I depressed, feeling guilty, feeling angry, feeling sad about anything that’s happened in the past or am I stressed and anxious and worried about things I foresee happening in the future?
Those two states, past and future keep us out of the present moment and keep us in a state of restlessness and totally out of peace of mind. So in the present moment is where we have full access to ourselves. We can come with our fullness and all our capabilities. When we’re being drained by the past or the future we are reducing the access we have to our full self because we’re getting drained. We’re feeling tired, we’re feeling exhausted. The more you think about stuff the more it feels like you’ve run a marathon. You haven’t moved but you’re completely exhausted. So when you meet a situation from that state, it’s not going to be as effective as if you just meet the present moment as it is where it is.
How do we break this pattern that’s so deeply ingrained in our human psyche? This habit of complaining, how do we break it? The first thing he says is accept the present moment. Be in the present moment and just accept it for what it is. It could mean that someone’s just crashed into your car, and in that moment are you meeting that moment with presence and with acceptance? The truth is you can’t do anything about what’s going on in your current situation right now, in this moment. You can’t shift… It’s already… It’s happening. It’s already done. The car’s crashed. There’s no point complaining about it. You can’t change it. It is what it is. So in that moment, in this moment, can you accept what’s happening right now? Bring acceptance into the present moment.
He qualifies it by saying it doesn’t mean that what’s happening is correct, is just. Someone could be screaming at you. It’s not saying that you’re accepting the behaviour of other people around you. You’re just accepting it as it is. It’s happened. It’s here. It’s madness to try and change what already is. So after you’ve accepted the present moment you can choose two options. You can accept it and leave it and let it go, or from acceptance you may be called to an action.
When you do that there’s no space for complaining. Complaining happens when you’re not accepting the present moment. They shouldn’t have done that, they should’ve done that, I should’ve said that, I should’ve kept my mouth shut… that resistance to what is is what gives rise to complaining.
I have an example of what happened. Imagine I’m at a meditation, stillness, peace retreat and I find myself in like a trivial situation complaining. So, I was getting drinks for my husband and I during one of the breaks, and there was a bar and a café attached. So I was waiting at the bar to be served because the waitress was serving someone else. So I’d been waiting there for a few minutes while she was making coffee for someone else. And a couple came and stood at the front of the bar, so I was a couple of steps back. And the waitress when she came back served them first instead of me.
Typical, normal situation, like I’m sure it’s happened to all of us. And I could feel the frustration, the annoyance kind of starting inside me. The bartender, the waitress she looked really stressed, run off her feet, so it didn’t seem like she had noticed that I’d been standing there waiting. And so my attention and my focus went to the couple, and I tried to not feel frustrated. I was feeling frustrated and I was resisting that frustration because I was thinking I shouldn’t be annoyed, I shouldn’t be this… I should be peaceful, so I was resisting the present moment as it was arising inside me.
What ended up happening was I got served eventually, I went back, I sat down, and I said to my husband… I told him what happened. And the more I was complaining and talking about it, the more frustrated I was getting, the angrier I was getting. And my husband said to me, what are you feeling right now? I was like frustrated, frustrated at the situation, annoyed at myself for not speaking up, and really irritated with the couple if they had done it on purpose. I was irritated at that. Benefit of the doubt is they didn’t realise I was waiting there. But these are all the things I was finding frustrating.
And he said to me, have you accepted that that’s how you’re feeling? And I was like no, I have not. I have not accepted that I’m feeling frustrated and all the things I listed. I was in a lot of resistance to what I was feeling and therefore what I was experiencing. So not only was I resisting what I was feeling on the inside. I was resisting the situation. They should not have done that. And when you complain you make yourself right. You make yourself right and you make other people wrong. So complaining arises from not accepting the present moment as it is, and it can also arise from not acting the way you wish to in the moment. And that frustration is actually self-directed rather than outwardly directed.
He said would you do anything differently if it were to happen again? And I sat with that and I thought actually I wouldn’t. There are times when I choose to be silent and there are times when I choose to speak up and communicate, and if it’d happen again, I would actually still just remain silent because it wasn’t in my eyes worth discussing or speaking up about. I didn’t want to add stress to the lady that was already stressed and just trying to do a good job, and even if they did cut in on me on purpose let it be. I got my hot chocolate in the end.
My husband was happy, he got his drinks. We’re at a meditation retreat. We’re pretty… we’re in a good place. It wasn’t worth speaking up over and adding to the situation.
When I realised that that would be the action I would take anyway, there was just this acceptance of what I had done, the situation, the people involved, and instantly the stillness and the peace returned and the complaining stopped. Well, the stillness came because the complaining stopped.
My challenge today and this is my challenge for myself and I invite you to join me, is for the next week just be aware of when complaining arises in you. And notice the resistance to the situation as it is in the moment, and any thoughts of this shouldn’t be happening, they should’ve said that, they shouldn’t have done that, I should’ve done this, all that resistance to what’s happening right now, all the things that should be happening as opposed to what is happening right now, bring some awareness to that and notice if complaining arises from that space inside you. Complaining can be internal, so just in your own mind, or it can be projected out, so it can be talking about it to other people as well, so both internal and external.
We’ll see how we go this week, easier said than done. Just know that we’re trying to overcome thousands of years of conditioning. It’s a bit of an exaggeration, but complaining is seen as a very normal thing in our society and it seems like quite a challenge to overcome that and to break that pattern. What’s on the other side of it is our full selves, fullness, our ability to meet every situation with our full selves, not drained but full, present, not distracted by our thoughts, emotions, other people. So on the other side of it there’s paradise, there’s something good, if we can just be consistent with it.