Summer Sun (4)

Welcome back to the Summer Sun series — brief, spiritual passages for a relaxed summer agenda.  I hope you’re enjoying this approach to staying connected with each other.  You can always find all posts in this series by going to Categories (on the sidebar) and clicking on Summer Sun Series.  This post is Number 4, and I would like to share some highlights from a 4-day spiritual retreat I recently watched via live stream from the Omega Institute — its 195-acre campus in Rhinebeck, New York.

Omega, since 1977, has been dedicated to “awakening the best in the human spirit” via creativity workshops, yoga retreats, conferences, educational programs on meditation, spiritual retreats, and so on.  When I learned that Eckhart Tolle would be holding a spiritual retreat there in June, I immediately wanted to tune in.

Tolle’s retreat consisted of six sessions, several that included Q & A sessions.  And even though I was watching on my computer screen, it was a wonderful experience.  He has a keen sense of humor and is quite animated before a live audience.  At the end of most sessions, Tolle offered a period of silence.  And the good thing about live stream is that each session can be watched again via video or downloaded for future reference.

  • Empathy

Tolle talked about the importance of empathy and how it is connected to our ability to be spiritually present.  When empathy is lacking, people become less real, and relationships are based on heavily subjective mental images we have created for each other.  He pointed out how this dynamic feeds dysfunctional societies and prevents authentic connections based on “being.”  The goal is to see the inherent spirituality of others and to offer compassion and empathy instead of quick judgment based on a purely mind-based reality.

When you don’t cover up the world with words and labels, a sense of the miraculous returns to your
life that was lost a long time ago when humanity, instead of using thought, became possessed by thought. 
~Eckhart Tolle

I would add to this the importance of consistency.  As a society, we often laugh at questionable behavior — movies, comedy shows, daily life.  Humor is good, yes, but it can also be used to sidestep the reality of situations that are less than humane or kind.

  • Have you witnessed this dynamic on television or otherwise?  How did it make you feel?

It seems that children and youth, in particular, could be misled by this kind of inconsistency.  They hear adults laughing about an unfortunate situation, perhaps, and yet, they are told not to behave in that fashion.  What can result?

Confusion.  Mixed messages.  Experimental or destructive behavior.

  • What do you think?

Being spiritual has nothing to do with what you believe and everything to do with your state of consciousness.  ~ Eckhart Tolle

But getting back to the Omega retreat …

Eckhart covered a good deal of material from his books, especially, The Power of Now — A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment and A New Earth — Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.

I enjoyed reading both of these books.

But you will probably want to read them more than once.  Each sentence connects to the overall message in a way I’ve rarely witnessed.  In fact, each idea builds on the next almost poetically.  After reading his books, I wanted to know more about the man behind the powerful message.

If you get a chance, look for his biography or watch an interview with him.  Tolle’s life has been anything but traditional.  Something in him always seemed to want to find the deeper story behind humanity’s journey.

As I understand it, in his late 20’s he suffered greatly from serious depression, felt on the verge of suicide, when an “awakening” transformed his life.

The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but thoughts about it.  Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking.  Separate them from the situation, which is always neutral. It is as it is.  ~Eckhart Tolle

During the retreat, Tolle seemed very moved at times, as though tears were near the surface.  He obviously feels deeply about his beliefs and I, for one, find him to be an incredible gift to the world.  There is something genuine about him that is almost impossible to overlook, and even if you are not tuned into “spiritual thought and inquiry,” his books might give you pause.  After all, who can afford to overlook their own spirituality as unnecessary or impossible?

I’ve met people over the years who actually seem closed to spiritual discussion.  Content to believe whatever they believe, it’s as if they have closed the door on personal growth and exploration.  But why?  I’ve never been able to answer that question.

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