One of the earliest insights I had when reading Eckhart Tolle and more specifically, participating in group studying his work led by Michael Jeffreys, was the distinction made about the content and structure of our thoughts.
Much of Tolle’s work centers on first recognizing the overwhelming impact of our “thinking machine”—how we seem to be at the mercy of every thought that arises.
After this recognition takes hold, and we begin to notice how our thoughts can run (and sometimes ruin) our lives, a bit of space is created between whatever “we” are (our being) and the thoughts we are perpetually thinking and often reacting to.
At the next level is the awareness that there is what we think (content), and how we think (structure), and as we disengage periodically from identifying with our thoughts, we begin to see patterns emerge.
Many of our habitual thoughts are about “problems” and “solutions”—and these problems happen to a person, the thinker, who identifies so strongly with the possible consequences that a state of anxiety can develop if there is no space allowed between what or who is thinking, and those thoughts.
For many of us this is a common state, one Michael Jeffreys calls “worry addiction” – and of course the extent to which our outside circumstances reflect and confirm this state can lead to endless loops of anxiety.
One way to deal with this is medication. Another is meditation, which can help to create that space between whatever “is thinking”, and the thoughts that are arising.
Describing the effects of meditation is a difficult if not impossible task, mainly because I have no way of knowing that is happening in anyone else’s mind. Essentially I am diving deep and studying the form or structure of my own thoughts, and connecting physically with parts of me that are not thought—sensations, feelings and processes like my breath.
Now–following the thread of this blog that DNA is a manifestation of programming, let us consider our own experience with our computers as a guide to a deeper sense of our own nature.
Unless it malfunctions or freezes, we take much of our computer for granted. It is only of interest to us when we load a specific program and begin to do things.
But the reality of our computer, and the way it truly functions, is that it is on as long as electrical energy flows through it—and it “wakes up” through various levels that are eerily analogous to our own.
First comes the BIOS, or the main connections with the motherboard and peripherals—then the operating system—a higher level of programming loads from a hard drive (memory) –and then the desktop “runs”, waiting for us to “do something.”
But depending upon our computer setup, even when “nothing is happening” various states of being still take place, beneath the “conscious awareness” of us, the user. (Again, until they go “wrong”, then they rise to the surface and we are uncomfortable until these “problems” are “solved.”)
But the system is still in communication with its “world”. Electricity is flowing, chips are energized, the desktop software is running, and perhaps messages are even arriving over the Internet (depending on how well the machine is “protected”).
Going back to Eckhart Tolle, his point as I understand it is that like the computer user who is oblivious to the constant “being” of his machine, that some software is always running, we remain fixated on the tasks we are doing with the programs that we load and run—the content.
But beneath the surface, with the computer, and entire world of functionality is taken for granted.
And within us, the same situation exists. As Eckhart Tolle puts it, beneath our own awareness as our “intelligence” focuses on the problems and thoughts that seem to be our world, a “much higher intelligence runs our breathing, digestion, circulation and so on.”
Of course, as we know, this intelligence is also a program that adheres to a set of symbols that can be decoded into four letters, A, C, T and G to represent the chemicals that control these functions.
In ancient cultures like Egypt, these natural organic forces were worshipped, studied and revered, in our culture they are to be ignored (so we can do more) or controlled by our intelligence (so we can get on with things).
At best, like the operating system and BIOS of our computers they are simply overlooked and taken for granted.
What can be gained by focusing even temporarily on these processes—perhaps through meditation or simply consciously connecting with our breath several times a day?
To many people it will seem to be a “waste of time”—like staring at the desktop of your computer without “doing anything.”
But for some of us it slows us down, perhaps even connects us with a deeper intelligence, and frequently makes use more aware of the structure of our thoughts.
For example, as thoughts anxiously arise about what we must do, out tendency to focus on worry and fear becomes apparent to “our own software”—whatever it may be that is capable of noticing these tendencies.
We also become aware that we are not so much a thing as a flow of energy—just like the computer’s energy is flowing something similar is seems to be pervading us as we create that space between “our Selves” and the thoughts that are so seemingly important when we lose our Selves.
Gradually, perhaps, an awareness program may begin to run, monitoring the extent to which we are really present or awake.
If nothing else, this reduces our emphasis on the thoughts that generally have so much power over us—as Michael Jeffreys says, “we can hold them more lightly.”
Beyond that, we may also become increasingly aware, as another teacher, Bentinho Massaro points out, that “awareness is always going on.” This may seem self evident and inconsequential to many of us until we consider it more deeply.
When we do, we again create a space between the awareness which we always are, and our thoughts which compete for our attention. We may be moved to a sense of wonder and awe that any such awareness or world exists at all… and thereby connect to a deeper sense of of “what is” – being itself.
In the world of separate objects that we seem to inhabit, where does this “software” come from?
Its meaning can be decoded by supercomputers. Does that raise any flags?
Many of the world’s great teachings suggest that as we focus on what we are—and remain present, rather than becoming engulfed by how our minds interpret what we do, our reality literally changes in a positive way. I have come to believe that that’s how our software is meant to function when properly installed and maintained.