Some claim to be awakened and transformed by this book. Tolle's central message is a good one -- that our Ego (or what ACT and others refer to as language or thinking), can serve us well or for ill. And, there's a great deal of value in learning to still our minds and bodies with mindfulness. It helps us fully experience life and to gain something from experience.
In short, we learn to be just as we are, and let go of the hooks and snares that our mind and old history creates. This is challenging to do. Showing up to life just as it is and just as we are cuts against much of our cultural programming. Yet, if we perist, I think we can learn to just notice our experience (pleasant, unpleasant, hard, soft, rough, pulsating, whatever) just as it is, without judgment, and without the need to be something other than we are, other than that which we are given, right in the moment. These ideas are very old; the science behind it is new.
What I wonder about, and many on Oprah's message boards seem to be struggling with, is this: how to live out "A New Earth" or the awakening that Tolle speaks to. That is, once you achieve presence and are less pulled out of experience by your thoughts, what next? This is where I think Tolle's book falls short and where ACT can be helpful.
ACT links mindful acceptance with actions that matter, and then shows us how to live out those actions to make a difference in our lives. Those actions are how we create a vital life and a New Earth too. This is what others see about us and what we'd see about ourselves if we watched what we spent our time doing or not doing.
As we become less engaged with the goings on between our ears and in our hearts and bodies we have the freedom to focus and engage our lives with our hands, feet, and mouth. Each of us, in our own way, one small step at a time. The bad news is that there is no evidence that conscious awakening will lead to a more vital life, unless we are clear about what it is we wish to spend our time doing; what it is we wish to do or move toward. ACT shows how to link presence and peace of mind with vital action, and has a growing line of research showing that it is helpful for many forms of human suffering.
As you learn mindful acceptance, or practice meditation, self kindness, or other skills to be lighter and more gentle with your emotional life, keep your eyes on what you want to do, right where you are.
- Ask, what is important to me, right now?
- What do I want to be about right now?
- What do I want to do, right here, right now (however small or large)?
- Are my actions consistent with my values -- the areas of life I cherish?
Make the many small moments of this day part of what you considering a vital day.
With A Kind Heart
John P. Forsyth