For me, summer is that time of the year when I can fully and the most intensively focus on what really matters to me: writing, learning and personal growth. Some of you may find the learning part of it a bit strange.. But for me, the real learning begins when school ends. It’s not a nerdy thing, I just simply love to educate myself, to adopt new skills and to learn from personalities who inspire me greatly. Keep in mind that learning and education are two very different terms: you don’t necessarily have to go to school in order to learn (I believe that the best school is the library anyway), and schools, so formal education not necessarily teaches or gives you something. Lately, one of my biggest passions is taking online courses on such platforms that provide quality materials for free (FutureLearn, Skillshare). And I also watch lots of videos, lectures from my inspirators (TED, CreativeLive).
Than personal growth: a term that sounds so overused. Just hearing it makes us think instantly about many clichéd mantras (“Think positively, Love yourself, Be a mindful person, Give gratitude, etc.”) – of course these are very general statements and real spiritual and intellectual growth is a much deeper and more complex process.
I want to live as creatively as possible – and I actually do so, or at least I’m working on it with all my heart, but I always believe that there is more. So I think that I’m only at the very beginning of something mind-blowingly amazing.. I know there’s still so much more in me.
Personal growth is called personal not only because you are the subject of the actual inner growth, but because you grow in your on way, since everybody functions differently. I don’t want to live, think, behave or to express myself according to any rules – I read and learn a lot from influental thinkers, but I only accept the things that fit my personality. Because just because something works for thousands of other individuals, it doesn’t mean that it will work for me as well. The way I see it: if personal growth is a house, than self-knowledge is the ground on which it’s built.
One of my primary goals now is learning how to meditate. I’m so fascinated about the idea of getting into that state of being, which is much more intense, calm, quiet and peaceful than our “normal” mental and spiritual state. Elizabeth Gilbert’s description was terrific in Eat, Pray, Love about her experiences. And just a few days ago I have started reading Eckhart Tolle‘s – one of the most successful spiritual teachers of today – The Power of Now. It’s not a book that one reads for the purpose of entertainment or you know, just to “switch off” – it requires big focus from the reader and we need to take time after every paragraph to think about what was being said. The kind of book that’s not possible to read only once – if you want to learn from it. So far I have only read a few pages, but I can’t help writing about it.
The diagnosis: thought-infection.
The cure: realizing the fact that we are not identical with our mind and thoughts.
In a nutshell that could be the general thesis of the opening part of the book. Identifying with our minds creates the biggest obstacle in the way of changing and – as Tolle puts it – in the way of “enlightment” (which is the natural state of experiencing our unity with our universal existence).
- Existence.. a pretty broad term. The fact that we exist doesn’t corresponds with the ability to think, hence existence is “the eternal, always present unit of life” (of the universal life, not the individual one). Those who have read Walt Whitman might be familiar with this concept (“..for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you..”).
- And identifying ourselves with our minds results in the fact, that we are constantly thinking – which is of course something that is quite normal for us. It’s normal for us that our mind works constantly, that the noise is never – or rarely – stops in there, that our thoughts are flowing like water in the river bed: unstoppably. Virginia Woolf used this process in her writing as her favorite technique: it’s called the stream of consciousness or inner monologue. She wanted to show us how the human mind works.
- Therefore Tolle disagrees with Descartes’ famous quote, which states that “I think, therefore I am”. Thinking is not the essence of existence, nor the essence of our identities.
- We are the slaves of our minds – one of the general conceptions of almost every book written about positive thinking and changing one’s lifestyle. If we use our mind effectively, it can be a great tool, but if we don’t, it can easily become destructive. BUT! Here the thing is, that the real problem is not that we use our mind wrongly, but that we don’t use it at all – it uses us. (Buddha: “Rule your mind or it will rule you”) This statement sounds a bit absurd, right? Like, how is it possible that we don’t use it? Bullshit, you may think. But just because we are able to make things or able to solve something, we are not using our mind – these are instinctive processes for it, these abilities are decoded in it.
- One way to quiten down this little inner talking machine is to immerse ourselves in some activity (a regular one, like washing the dishes or something that we are passionate about, like writing, drawing – this one is more intense). Because when we do so, we focus all our senses entirely on that one thing, we don’t think too much (see: reaching the Flow state).
I’m sure I’ll be writing about this book more, as well as about Eckhart Tolle’s work in general – and of course most importantly about what I have learned from him. If you are interested in this topic, I recommend getting the book, it’s a must-have! And if you have any experiences regarding meditation, let me know in the comments – I would absolutely love to read your tips and advices! Hope your June starts magically! 🙂