When Eckhart pointed to me to come to the microphone and ask my question during the live session I attended last weekend, I pointed at myself, asking – me? He nodded, and I raced down like a contestant on The Price is Right.
I get to the mike, and I have the presence of mind to tell Eckhart how glad I am to be there, how much his work has meant to me, and to thank him. I am inexplicably nervous. I ask my question. I hear the first few things he says, and then the following goes through my mind:
- “OMG! Wait until I tell everyone that Eckhart picked me to ask a question. I’m talking to him right now. In person. Ooo I can’t wait to write about this on the blog.
- Wait a minute… I can’t take notes because I’m standing in front of him. How am I supposed to remember everything he says if I can’t take notes?
- Oh yeah, they’re filming this session. So I’ll get the recording.
- Filming… FILMING!!!” I notice the cameras trained on me.
- I sure wish I had refreshed my lipstick at the break…”
- I stand up taller and suck in my stomach.
- At this point, I register the fact that Eckhart’s lips are moving. He’s talking. Not just talking, but answering my question. I allow myself a silent chuckle at the irony of not even being able to stay present right in front of Eckhart while he’s answering my very own question.
The whole sequence lasted maybe a minute, possibly less. It just goes to show you how much crapola is swirling around in our minds even under the best of circumstances and conditions.
ANYWAY – here is the question I asked (which I had the good sense to write down before I got called on): “You’ve said that it is essential for enough of humanity to ‘awaken’ (*see note below) in order to reach the next level of human evolution. Presumably, as we are awakening, we want to help others grow in consciousness as well. My question is, how can we do this as parents? Can we help our kids transcend unconsciousness or is it necessary that they go through suffering themselves in order to awaken?
Eckhart began by saying my kids were lucky to have a parent who is conscious. I must have seemed like I wanted to look over my shoulder to see who he was referring to, because he added, “That’s you.” I thought to myself, “No, that’s me only a tiny fraction of the time.” Always the resistance.
Here are other parts of his answer.
- It helps to have an animal in the home. This was one of the first things Eckhart said, which really surprised me. He said having an animal is important is because it gives children a way to experience a non-conceptual relationship. Love and communication without words. Children realize that their dog is not judging them. They are loved unconditionally. For more on Eckhart’s views on dogs as “Guardians of Being,” take a look at this interview he gave to Modern Dog magazine. Thankfully, we do have our sweet boy Rocky in the home. Isn’t he just a bundle of sweetness?
- Look to yourself. I was expecting this one, even though I’d hoped for a simpler answer. Basically, the more you yourself can live in the present moment and be fully present with your children, the more they will learn to do so themselves. They learn much more by what they see you doing than by what you tell them.
- Look to your relationships. Yup – this one didn’t come as a surprise either. Be aware in your relationships with others, especially your spouse, that you are modeling either functional or dysfunctional communication. Practice being fully present with your spouse and truly listening – not only listening to the words, but having an energy of awareness behind the listening. If you are familiar with Eckhart’s work, you’ll know that in relationships with those closest to us is when the “pain body” is most likely to arise. We can’t talk to kids about abstract concepts like the pain body, but we can model how to avoid engaging with someone else’s when it shows up in an argument. Or at least, theoretically you can. I’m not sure I’ve ever been successful at this myself. Therein lies the practice.
- Help children build awareness of the difference between a situation and a thought about a situation. Again, young children will not understand the concept of “ego” as Eckhart uses it, or that the ego thrives on thoughts and emotions to perpetuate itself, even (and perhaps especially) those that are irrational. What we can do, though, is help children build a foundation of awareness of the difference between their external situation and their thoughts about that situation. For example, a child struggling with math might say, “I’m so stupid at math! I’m never going to get it.” Here’s where we can point out the situation: the child is having difficulty with math; vs. the thought about the situation: “I’m stupid.” This will help them realize that their thoughts are not what is real, but are only a reaction to a situation. Over time, this will help them become more conscious, more present, and to experience less suffering.
- Hold awareness for them. Many times, children will give over completely to irrationality – whether it is with a tantrum, despair, depression, etc. At those times, all we can do is accept what is happening and hold presence for them. Be in the now with what they are experiencing – without judgment. Do not think, “This shouldn’t be happening,” or “She shouldn’t feel this way.” Simply be present as a witness to their feelings. Later, when the moment has passed, you can ask the child what he or she thinks triggered the reaction. How did it feel? How might you react differently next time? This will help them build their own awareness of what is happening to them when similar situations arise in the future. I suppose in this way, we parents too can be “Guardians of Being” for our children. Maybe this is another good reason to have a dog — so parents can learn from the masters!
All of this advice is so simple and profound and yet SO DIFFICULT to implement in real life. I guess I just take heart that literally every moment presents an opportunity to do better.
How about you? Do you make a special effort to live in the moment and to help others do the same? What works for you? What gets in your way?
*NOTE: For those unfamiliar with Eckhart’s work, he defines awakening as “…a radical transformation of human consciousness. In Hindu teachings (and sometimes in Buddhism), this transformation is called enlightenment. In the teachings of Jesus, it is salvation, and in Buddhism, it is the end of suffering.”
Furthermore, this awakening (and Eckhart’s teaching) is not associated with any one religion, but in fact all of them. In the preface to The Power of Now, Marc Allen describes Eckhart thus: “He is not aligned with any particular religion or doctrine or guru; his teaching embraces the heart, the essence, of all other traditions, and contradicts none of them — Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, indigenous, or anything else. He is able to do what all the great masters have done: to show us, in simple and clear language, that the way, the truth, and the light is within us.”
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