“Most people are still completely identified with the incessant stream of mind, of compulsive thinking, most of it repetitive and pointless.” — Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Discovering Your Life’s Purpose
As I’ve noted before, I don’t go to church. But there have been so many spiritual teachers along the way, some of the best of them in places you’d never think to look.
Take Albus Dumbledore, for example. If you haven’t read the Harry Potter series, I’m sorry (not for the reference, but that you haven’t had the experience). One of my favorite Dumbledore quotes is, “True character is how you act when nobody is watching.” I use this with my kids all the time.
Another Dumbledore inspiration is the Pensieve, a bowl filled with silvery liquid (or maybe gas) that is used to review memories. As Dumbledore explains, “One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form.”
I’ve looked for a Pensieve on Amazon, but have had no luck. Instead, I write everything down–thoughts, lists of all kinds, words I like, images I want to remember. It’s not as magical as pulling memories from your head with a wand and pouring them into a big stone basin, but it serves the same purpose. Once I write it down, I can delete it from the clutter of my mind. It’s only a thought, after all, to be viewed objectively at my leisure.
When I first read–or actually “heard” via audiobook–Eckhart Tolle’s description of mind-made thoughts vs. the true intelligence of our deeper self (in other words, ego vs. Being), I stopped dead in my tracks. I was gardening at the time, and I literally dropped my trowel.
The image that immediately came to mind was the scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and team are cowering in front of the huge and terrifying wizard head, presenting the burned broom of the Wicked Witch of the West. Toto runs off and pulls back a curtain to reveal the true “wizard,” a very unimposing man in need of an eyebrow trim.
“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” the gauzy image of the wizard head exclaims. The man, seeing he’s been discovered, stops turning the cranks and the scary face dissolves.
It’s exactly the same thing that goes on in our heads all the time. The ego says, “Pay no attention to the fact that I’m filling your head with useless blather. Keep listening to the compulsive stream of thoughts and imagined scenarios I’m running here. And whatever you do, pay NO attention to that deeper, quieter voice of calm beneath it all. I’m in control here, not your own Being.”
Once you see it for what it is, it’s easy to laugh at. The curtain is pulled back. The cranks stop turning. The scary image goes away, and you are liberated.
I’d love to hear your stories of unlikely sources of inspiration. Please share them in the comments!