Seventeenth in a series
Chapter Four of The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is about what Tolle calls, "presence." This is a difficult concept to grasp, and there is no way that I can do it justice. Again, I suggest you read the book if you haven't yet, or if anything in this series intrigues and interests you. I cannot and am not trying to explain Tolle: I am trying to relate what I have learned from him to living with chronic pain and my spiritual life.
That disclaimer being made, I turn my attention to his discussion of "ordinary unconsciousness."
"What I call ordinary consciousness means being identified with your thought processes and emotions, your reactions, desires and aversions. It is most people's normal state...It is not a state of acute pain or unhappiness but of an almost continuous level of unease, discontent, boredom or nervousness -- a kind of background static." (page 73)
If I allow this "almost continuous level of unease, discontent, boredom or nervousness" to coexist with my chronic pain, I am surely making things worse for myself. So what attracts me about Tolle's spiritual teachings is that he shows me where I have a choice. I have little power or control over the migraines, but I have immense power and control -- if I choose to wield it -- over my state of mind, over how I react to situations around me, and over whether or not I choose the Now.
This is empowering. And it is not as easy as it may sound. What Tolle says about ordinary unconsciousness being most people's normal state is a deep spiritual truth. It is therefore often hard to hear, difficult to recognize in ourselves, and even more difficult to overcome. But if we can choose to rise above (if that is the right way to put it) the "background static" as both a spiritual practice and a pain management skill, then we make our way much closer to the peace of heart and spirit that is the best pain management tool I know.
In the same section of Chapter Four as the quote above, Tolle also writes about "deep unconsciousness." I'll write about that next time, and then put the two concepts together for a practical discussion of how they teach us pain management skills.
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