I picked up Eckhart Tolle during a time of sadness in my life. Actually, I would say that it was given to me, not by anyone in particular, but it showed up when I was meant to read it.
A few years ago, I was meandering through life with no particular direction.
As a kid (seventeen or so) into early adulthood, I gave a big push. I wanted to break into the industry as a talented makeup artist. I worked and worked and worked at it. I sacrificed being in a relationship to pursue my calling, and it paid off.
But into my mid-twenties, when I had landed firmly in the Toronto film industry, I was the key makeup artist on a Disney show, I loved my friends, and Toronto in the summertime, I was going on dates... I had nothing particular in my sights. I was content. My hobbies were watching The Office and going for drinks. It was fine and good.
Then I met someone really special, and I wasn't ready for it. I latched on with both bewilderment and certainty. There was nothing that could have convinced me that they were not the one.
They introduced me to books. On our second date they read Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet to me, and in that moment, I felt this deep sense of peace and alignment that I had never felt before. Like something had just clicked. Like I didn't know that that was all I ever wanted. No small talk, no drinks. Just a feeling of serene calm and fulfillment.
The feeling was mutual, I am sure. For a couple of weeks, or a month. Before fear crept in.
Both of us likely with an avoidant attachment style. Could this be it? It couldn't possibly. What if it's not? What if I am too obsessed. I should get my own life, and be more cool.
It was pulled away just as quickly as it had appeared.
To be honest, I've never felt a pain like that before. Not when my dear Granny died. Certainly not over the loss of anyone else whom I've dated before or since.
I was losing it, a little bit. Unable to find joy when with my friends and family. At work I was completely unable to focus. I should have been happy. I was on the biggest Netflix show being made, but all I could think about was that special person.
Though it seemed like anything I could do would hurt me, I knew I had to try as hard as I could to make some healthy decisions for myself.
I signed up for a Wim Hof workshop with one of my best friends in an effort to distract myself.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Wim Hof method, it's all about using the power of breathing to control your physical state, like your body temperature during an ice plunge.
It was good. It was pretty cold. Happy I did it, but probably wouldn't do it again.
But - I found a little piece of gold during a presentation by the instructor, Dan Coniglio.
In a brief description of his life and his work, he mentioned a book by Eckhart Tolle that he said changed everything for him. He said the book was first given to him by a relative, and he set it aside. When the book was presented to him again by someone else, he felt the need to read it.
Intrigued, I went home and I ordered the book. I'm not sure which one Dan was referring to, but the one I ordered was A New Earth.
It sat around. I think I was reading Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss at the time.
It sat on the bookshelf for a couple of months until I took it travelling with me to South East Asia - another decision I had made for myself while in grief. A trip to the other corner of the world, where I could be Lara Croft.
Through Vietnam I carried it around in my luggage and then I opened it at the onset of a long bus ride to Cambodia.
Everything changed for me when I opened the book. Here I was after all this time, going along with my life, and it was like I had never stopped to notice it. I was living my life from one distraction to the next.
In reading, I felt that I was starting to understand what it all meant. I paused and went back to the songs that I had always listened to. By The Beatles and George Harrison, and now I understood what they were talking about in the lyrics.
As I read, I couldn't stop the tears from flowing.
He quoted Jesus in a way that reached me as an atheist. Stripping religion and institution away from those earliest and purest values that Jesus taught.
On the night that I spent alone with food poisoning in a 2-star hotel room in Siem Reap, I read, "How do you know that something is right for you? Because it is what's happening to you at this moment."
He talked about totalitarianism. And the idea that anything rooted in hate that's seeking destruction can never succeed.
As I was walking through the killing fields and S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, he talked about genocide and the Khmer Rouge regime.
He introduced me to the fundamentals of buddhism, citing the teachings of the Buddha and the Dalai Lama, and on that evening I was taken to my first buddhist temple. It was there that I met God.
The book said that all of the answers we seek and long for already exist inside us. There is nothing that can be fulfilled through external sources. Everything I already had was everything that I needed.
The timing of it all was miraculous. When I returned home, covid was looming. My curiosity piqued by the book, I walked into church for the first time. It was the last in-person service before everything came crashing down. No more job for the foreseeable future. The world lived in uncertainty.
I'm not sure how differently I would have taken things if the book hadn't prepared me, particularly through the excerpts I read on page 188,
"Ultimately all things are small things because all things are transient.
You might say, 'I know I am an immortal spirit,' or 'I am tired of this mad world, peace is all I want' - until the phone rings. Bad news: The stock market has collapsed; the deal may fall through; the car has been stolen; your mother-in-law has arrived; the trip is cancelled; your contract has been broken; your partner has left you; they demand more money; they say it's your fault. Suddenly there is a surge of anger, of anxiety. A harshness comes into your voice; 'I can't take any more of this.' You accuse and blame, attack, defend, or justify yourself, and it's all happening on autopilot. Something is obviously much more important to you than inner peace that a moment ago you said was all you wanted, and you're not an immortal spirit anymore either. The deal, the money, the contract, the loss or threat of loss are more important. To whom? To the immortal spirit that you said you are?
... If peace is really what you want, then you will choose peace. If peace mattered to you more than anything else and if you truly knew yourself to be spirit rather than little me, you would remain nonreactive and absolutely alert. You would immediately accept the situation and thus become one with it rather than separate yourself from it. Then out of your alertness would come a response.
...The world always makes sure that you cannot fool yourself for long about who you really think you are by showing you what truly matters to you. How you react to people and situations, especially when challenges arise, is the best indicator of how deeply you know yourself."
Covid was my challenge, and now I had faith.
When asked in an interview on Oprah what led him to write the book, Eckhart said that the book came to him during a time of stillness, through an impulse while he was attentive and alert. He said that rather than him wanting to write a book, it was a book that wanted to be written.
As for that special person that it didn't work out with - I am so grateful to them. That time lead me searching and look what I have found.
"The veil that clouds your eyes shall be lifted by the hands that wove it,
And the clay that fills your ears shall be pierced by those fingers that kneaded it.
And you shall see,
And you shall hear.
Yet you shall not deplore having known blindness, nor regret having been deaf.
For in that day you shall know the hidden purposes in all things,
And you shall bless the darkness as you would bless light."
- The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran
Books: A New Earth, Show Your Work, The Prophet
If you are wondering where I got the audacity to write such a thing; I was reading a bit of "Show Your Work" by Austin Kleon today, and the lessons, I think, are marvellous. The main takeaway that was resonating with me, and that I've been picking up elsewhere lately too, was not to be embarrassed. I want to be authentic so that I am better able to connect with people. When you are honest, and you don't conceal the things that matter to you most, you're more likely to meet people that are just as excited about the things that you are.
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