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Does it ever feel forced to you?

Posted: Wed May 02, 2012 6:13 pm
by Jbrooke

I have been reading Tolle's books for a couple of years now. When I first read The Power of Now and A New Earth I found myself comprehending almost everything he wrote about with every inch of my body and mind. I found myself smiling while I read his books and felt a sense of great peace within me as I became more engaged.

I have struggled my entire life with excessive racing, obsessive thoughts and severe depression (I'll spare you all of the clinical diagnostics, though;) I have just recently begun to reread his books and try to include his words into my everyday life. However, I find that it is a lot of work. Which is understandable as I have spent my life stuck in the past and future. I realize that I am "retraining" myself and this doesn't happen overnight. But I am struggling with the fact that it feels as though I am CONSTANTLY trying to bring myself into the present moment and it evades me so very quickly. I spend so much energy trying to practice some of the things he encourages (the mousehole, the observing thoughts without judgement, breathing, etc etc). I feel as though I am trying to do these thing with TOO much effort and my mind is racing and obsessing about how to keep myself present. Which method to try next? If that doesn't work, which one to resort to? and so on. It feels that this constant "work" is a concept that actually defies what Tolle encourages because I tend to obsess and work so hard at getting back in to the present moment over and over and over and the moments are so incredible short lived for me.

Not sure if any of this makes any sense at all! But if so, I wonder if any of you experience this? This feeling that so much of it feels forced at times? And I realize that this is NOT what it should feel like- at least not to this extent. Does it ever get easier? More natural? More fluid? Is it a matter of incessant practice?

Any input is very much appreciated.

Re: Does it ever feel forced to you?

Posted: Wed May 02, 2012 7:00 pm
by runstrails
Hi Jen,
Welcome to the forum!
Jen wrote:
Does it ever get easier? More natural?
Yes. It's the most natural thing.
Jen wrote:
Is it a matter of incessant practice?
Not really, it's more a shift in your worldview. It's more a matter of gaining understanding of and confidence in (your true nature as awareness) rather than practice I've found. For example, on days when you are tired and exhausted, you may not be able to 'practice' being present or meditate or whatever, but you still have the quiet unshakeable confidence of your true nature and therefore you can abide as awareness, regardless of whether you are able to 'practice' any specific technique or not.

Re: Does it ever feel forced to you?

Posted: Wed May 02, 2012 8:02 pm
by ZenDrumming
Hey Jen,

I also experienced a "honeymoon" period with ET's books at first, and I've read about others on here who said the same thing. I wouldn't put too much faith in the idea that you are not making progress, just because things got tougher.

To echo runstrails, being in the moment is the easiest, most natural thing there is.

It is also natural to latch on to these concepts, because that's how we are used to dealing with things. I wouldn't see it as a problem.

It sounds like your mind is creating the concept of "Present Moment", which you are attempting to reach. You may also be looking for the signs of Presence that you read about (peacefulness, bliss, oneness). To wake up has nothing to do with striving towards something, but it has everything to do with removing the obstacles so that the sun can shine through. The way we remove the obstacles is by noticing that they are only mind-forms... they hold no substance whatsoever. If we deny them, or resist them, we only determine them to exist. In acceptance and surrender, they just float on by.

You feel a struggle because your mind/ego feeds and builds off of these obstacles, holding them in place and continually adding layers. Anything can become a layer of obstruction, even the idea of Enlightenment.

All that is needed is to give up the search. The search for presence, happiness, love, peace, everything. It never exists "out there".

Reading ET and other teachers can help point us to our inner Source, but they remain just words in a book, with no value of their own. There are no rules, and no limitations, so if you find yourself frustrated with spiritual practices, throw em out. Go for a walk instead, and notice the remarkable stillness yet vibrant aliveness of nature.

When you do have an "AHA!" moment, it is silly to think how you've been struggling so hard to get there, when it's been Here all along (speaking from personal experience).

Next time you meditate, don't call it meditation. Just sit there, and let your mind do what it will. Do your thoughts have a solid foundation, or are they simply wisps of smoke?

Hope I could help shed some light.

Re: Does it ever feel forced to you?

Posted: Wed May 02, 2012 11:21 pm
by Jbrooke
Thank you both for your input- I really appreciate it.

ZenDrumming, you wrote:
"Next time you meditate, don't call it meditation. Just sit there, and let your mind do what it will. Do your thoughts have a solid foundation, or are they simply wisps of smoke?"

My thoughts are often racing, overwhelming, intrusive and tortuous and continue to interfere with being in the present moment regardless of how much I observe what is around me and take it all in etc. Just "being in the present" and letting my thoughts do what they will is so difficult for me. And when I hear that being present is the easiest thing in the world, I question, "What am I doing wrong? Is being present impossible for me? If so, why?" I realize that this is the ego talking, but at the same time the reality is that I can't seem to maintain a sense of presence 100% of the time. I always have to catch myself slipping out of the present moment and try to bring myself back in. Does this make sense? I wonder if it takes others a lot of time to get there as well?

Re: Does it ever feel forced to you?

Posted: Thu May 03, 2012 2:56 am
by GiveUpTheGhost
Hi Jen, I'm asking myself these very same questions. Now that I've dipped my toes in the water and gotten a sense of what living in the Now is actually like, whenever I'm suffering (which is a lot of the time) I have this nagging sense that I'm doing it wrong. The truth is that all I really want is to feel better, and constantly striving after a more blissful or peaceful state is frustrating but it seems to happen automatically, I can't not want to feel better. My current fixation is trying to find some foolproof way to enter the state of presence, but it's so elusive. Then I wonder if it will get easier with more practice, and already I've lost myself in future. In those moments where I do feel connected to Being, my thoughts are usually along the lines of "oh, that was easy, it was there all along", but if that's true why am I still struggling, it's such a peculiar thing.

All the best,


Re: Does it ever feel forced to you?

Posted: Thu May 03, 2012 6:15 am
by Jbrooke

I felt a sense of relief when I read what you wrote. Knowing I am not alone with these inner conflicts. I can completely relate to the nagging sense of doing it wrong- the relentless need to get to a better place. And I realize that this alone is contrary to simply just being. I imagine this is where acceptance steps in. I don't know. But finding a way to enter the state of presence without having to struggle to "get there" is a challenge for me. I want to just BE there. And those evasive moments in which I do experience true presence seem to be so few and far between. It only makes me want more of it. Those moments entice me. And then I realize... This is the very problem. There is an ongoing desire to just get the hang of it all immediately. You are right. It is a peculiar thing.

Thanks for your input,

Re: Does it ever feel forced to you?

Posted: Thu May 03, 2012 9:04 am
by erict
Hi Jen,

It sounds like maybe the single biggest source of suffering in your life is your own mind's hyperactivity. The racing thoughts and their negative, dysfunctional nature is wearing you out, generating mental and physical tension, causing you to feel overwhelmed. And now that you've discovered Eckhart Tolle, your mind is tormenting you in your attempts to apply his teachings. Maybe you even feel a little worse now that you're focusing so much on your mind and its craziness.

I think that maybe the practices Eckhart Tolle recommends may not be the optimal thing for you now. You should look for whatever helps your body and mind naturally relax. Perhaps physical activity, or engaging the mind in writing or art, maybe time spend in nature, or you can try various breathing exercises or some form of meditation. Experiment with different things, until you find what works for you, what feels natural and good. Trying too hard with methods that don't really work for you is surely only serves to create even more tension and increase the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Once you find the things that help you slow down your mind and relax your body, it will be much easier to practice the various things Eckhart recommends.

Re: Does it ever feel forced to you?

Posted: Thu May 03, 2012 9:16 am
by erict
I'm not sure (was it Eckhart Tolle or Adyashanti) who it was that said it's not important how long you remain present, but rather how often you bring yourself back. And your case, watching your racing mind is probably only going to make you feel even more overwhelmed.
But you can try something really simple, like every once in a while (every hour?), just stop. Stop whatever you are doing or thinking about, and take a few slow, conscious breaths. Alternatively, you can stop and focus on the shapes and colors of something in your surroundings. Again, whatever feels natural and effective for you.

I find this to be a really simple way to bring myself into the present moment, breaking the stream of whatever I was doing or thinking about, and just relaxing into the moment. It's such a simple thing that it's difficult to struggle with it :)

Re: Does it ever feel forced to you?

Posted: Thu May 03, 2012 3:14 pm
by ZenDrumming

What has helped me the most with racing, instrusive, rolling thoughts is lifestyle changes. When the mind is in a feeding frenzy, the worst thing I can do it to give it more things to think about or more stimuli. In a way it's like a drug addiction. There's some discomfort when you stop feeding it, but that's the only way to break free. The mind has a certain momentum that may take some time to die down. I think Eric gave great advice.

Re: Does it ever feel forced to you?

Posted: Thu May 03, 2012 6:14 pm
by Jbrooke
This all makes a lot of sense. Taking the time to breathe and observe without judgment every so often. And of course, now I'm obsessing about the fact that I will never get to integrate Tolle's practices into my world. But I guess I have to start somewhere as far as calming the mind somewhat so that I can proceed.

Thanks, everyone,

Re: Does it ever feel forced to you?

Posted: Fri May 04, 2012 4:12 pm
by heidi
Hi Jen - There are many teachers all saying the same thing in different ways, and as you go along you find each teacher throughout the ages pointing to the same thing using different words to describe the indescribable - but they are all pointing the same Way! Candice O'Denver and her balanced view people say: Short moments of clarity (what they call open intelligence) repeated often become continuous - what Tolle calls awareness or presence or spaciousness (take a moment to see what the next thought is, breathe to feel inner body awareness, dig the brief flower just being, etc.) When the thoughts are racing, I find it a wonderful gift, an invitation to fall back, to go to where I call Home.
A zen monk once said to me, "You tinky too much." So I understand how you feel. The mind is a wonderful thing, and we can use it to find our way to that place of peace. John Sherman has a wonderful pointer that's especially good for people like us who tinky too much. :-) We can use our minds to learn to stop thinking, to instantly find our way Home.
When we see how easily we can direct our attention and shift that attention Home, we can rest in awareness at will. Yes, the ego dies right then and there. And the more we do it, the more we are in presence - Not because our mind wants to force us to do it but because it is our natural state of open awareness, awakened aliveness, from where we can operate with skillful means and be of benefit because any actions we take are springing from pure Home - the place from which we are manifested and manifest. Because there are no words to describe it, the busy mind gets so excited! For this manifested imp, I find that when I fall back and direct my attention Home I am in that space before "I" was born, before the sperm even met the egg, and after my body expires; I'm in a timeless spaciousness; I'm in this space of aliveness - body and brain manifested for now - of everything and nothing where potential is infinite, and my mind appreciates more and more getting a vacation. :D

Woops, I didn't answer your question. I used to try to quit thinking, but now thinking quits me. :-)

Re: Does it ever feel forced to you?

Posted: Fri May 04, 2012 6:08 pm
by Jbrooke
You DID answer my question, actually! What I felt I needed to know was if bringing myself back to the present as often as possible could eventually become more fluid and automatic. At this point in my life I need something somewhat tangible to grasp onto. Something I can do on a physical vs thinking level that will help incite more awareness of my surroundings. Of my position on earth as it is RIGHT NOW. And using my mind to get there is like beating a dead horse and then only cycles the obsessions into a furious state.

So- directing my attention to the now the moment I find myself wandering is the starting point I assume. I have been doing that these past days and will continue to do so. I simply look at my surroundings and consciously breathe. Look at the colors and the patterns of what is surrounding me. It doesn't always feel natural and it doesn't necessarily bring me peace every time, but I continue to do it. I will be taking a look at that site you recommended to see what it can offer me. Thanks for the rec.


Re: Does it ever feel forced to you?

Posted: Sun May 06, 2012 10:25 pm
by rideforever
In my view just trying to be "In the present moment" all the time is not going to be very easy and may add to your difficulties.

Yoga has many practical techniques to stabilise your entire life.

For instance if you have spent your life with racing obsessive thoughts then there can be a lot of "damage" in your body-mind. You physiology has become conditioned to be excited, worried, obsessive. Trying to think your way out of this is going to be painful.

The food you eat. The exercise you do. The music you listen to. The friends you hang out with. The internet that you watch. ... Surround yourself by supportive things. Yoga is quite comprehensive, and has a technique for almost everything.

Using just your mind ... will be painful, and perhaps repeat the problem.

As for does it get easier ? It can take time to commit yourself ... you dip your toe in the water, try it out it feels good, then you put your whole foot in ... then the other one ...

What you are trying to do is a revolution of your being. Commit to it, make changes in your life ... and that will support you ... your mind will be more peaceful.

The "forcing" is a stage of experimentation. Through doing many experiments you sense which is the right way. It gains momentum, and then pulls you through.

Often we are taught to "go back to the breath" when it gets difficult. Go back to the body. Your physicality is the foundation, treat it well and everything will be easier.

Re: Does it ever feel forced to you?

Posted: Mon May 14, 2012 3:29 am
by indy
Go back to the basics, mind becomes active when you are not happy with your current situation. Your current situation now is your mind running wild. Accept that situation and watch/observe it but not as a means to stopping the mind to run wild.

Re: Does it ever feel forced to you?

Posted: Mon May 14, 2012 4:07 am
by Jbrooke
Yes, I agree- just going back to the basics is what I am now resorting to in these frenzied moments and stretches of time. Just breathing in and out and focusing on the visuals in front of me. I find I have to do this a LOT during any given day. But I imagine that the more I implement this into my days the more natural it will become. I have to remember that it took many years to condition and feed the ego and the ego isn't simply going to stop fighting for it's survival simply because I want it to. I am learning, too, that patience is incredibly valuable and integral. Not something I have ever had much of. There really is no choice but to befriend patience in this process.