Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Christianity and The Power of Now 2

Brad Harris is our guest blogger continuing his theme - A New Way of Seeing God.

In my last blog, I said that ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle had totally changed my way of thinking about God, Jesus and the Bible. Whilst this may not be totally true (I have been reading lots of books in this area, and can’t always remember where ideas come from) Eckhart did ‘kick start’ a radical change in my thinking.

As you read my thoughts on each of the Bible verses quoted by Eckhart in ‘A New Earth’ you may only notice a subtle change in my thinking. But these changes resonate strongly with my new spiritual growth, and have helped me to integrate my Christian faith and spirituality. I hope sharing them will be of interest to you.

So here goes. The first verse is Matt 6:28-30. Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith?

My old thinking about this verse went something like this: Even flowers have enough ‘faith’ to trust God for their care and protection and to help them grow. Therefore I should be developing sufficient faith to trust that God will always care for me. If I am faithful enough, I will always ‘bloom’ despite the adverse circumstances that inevitably happen in my life. I will have everything I need. God will provide my food, clothes, house, car, and job - all the good things in life.

I could see God’s hand at work in His creation (who could deny the intricate beauty of the ‘lilies of the field’?), the trouble was I would often become despondent because I knew in my heart I was never good enough to please God.
It seemed to me that I could never have enough faith to deserve God’s protection and nurturing. Why was I so selfish and untrusting? I needed more faith, but it was always a constant struggle to develop and maintain faith during the trials and temptations that life brought me.

Instead of being encouraged by Jesus words I felt like I was being condemned.

In A New Earth Eckhart says, “Jesus tells us to contemplate the flowers and learn from them how to live. We could say that the totality – Life – wants the sapling to become a tree, but the sapling itself doesn’t see itself as separate from life and so wants nothing for itself. It is one with what life wants. That’s why it isn’t worried or stressed. And if it has to die prematurely it dies with ease. It is as surrendered in death as it is in life. It senses, no matter how obscurely, its rootedness in being, the formless and eternal one life.

… Jesus goes on to say that if God clothes simple flowers in such beauty, how much more will God clothe you. That is to say, that while nature is a beautiful expression of the evolutionary impulse of the universe, when humans become aligned with the intelligence that underlies it, they will express that same impulse on a higher, more wondrous level.” (P.268, 269)

In light of what Eckhart says I have chosen a new way of living. I have chosen to be at one with life. I’m not striving anymore for what I don’t have. I’m not wishing I were a ‘better’ person. I am just accepting what is. ‘What is’ must be God’s will otherwise it would not be. In this new way of being I am more peaceful and worry has largely become a thing of the past. Now I know that it is not so much a matter of a test of my faith in God but a realization, a knowing, that God is real. He is less ‘out there somewhere’ and more ‘inside’ me and surrounding me in every moment of my life.

How could I want anything more? Now I KNOW that “the LORD is my shepherd -and I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).

Friday, June 25, 2010

God is for Everyone

'Through the present moment, you have access to the power of life itself, that which has traditionally been called "God". As soon as you turn away from it, God ceases to be a reality in your life, and all you are left with is the mental concept of God, which some people believe in and others deny. Even belief in God is only a poor substitute for the living reality of God manifesting every moment of your life.' P267. A New Earth - Awakening to Your Life Purpose, by Eckhaart Tolle
Could this be why I haven't been able to find a church to suit my children and I? Is it possible that Christian churches in general, are simply engaging in the idea of God, the mental concept of God, but somehow not LIVING it, not experiencing God as a constant presense?
Surely a church that breathed God, felt that One presense, would not be exclusive, would not look for the Devil undercover, would recognise that oneness in others, would not care which path you take to access the oneness, as long as you get there.
A church that LIVES God would surely be an inclusive community.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Escapism doesn't get much better than the Twilight book series. Written by Stephanie Meyer, this young adult story has become massively popular with younger and older women alike. It is the story of a vampire, Edward, falling in love with Bella, a non-vampire.
A friend talked me into starting the series, and I did not stop until I had read all 4 books. Her mother overheard us talking about the books and surprised me by saying that her daughter had got her reading them, too, and she was ashamed to have become completely engrossed - at the age of 61!

So what is it that is so appealing about Twilight? Undoubtedly,it is the unshakable connection that Edward and Bella have: like destiny, or two past lives meeting, or soul mates. That connection (does such a thing really exist, or is it a fabrication of the female Psyche?) is so appealing to women. To have a man that is completely and utterly devoted to us.
And there is the danger element, the constant tension, the restrained passion and the out of this world-ness. All rolled together women want to re-read the books, re-watch the movies and make stars out of the actors playing the movie roles.

Are the readers happy, though? Are they having fun?

Twilight is a fantasy more obvious than most fictional love stories. I mean, vampires don't exist. There is no chance, therefore, this story could become a reality for anyone reading it. I am not sure that undying, unshakable love really exists, either, in therealm of humans. Danger definitely does exist in the human world, but it is rarely romantic.
So, when we become involved with a story that is outside reality, like Twilight, we escape our own world. But we also begin wishing (no matter how far fetched the story) for a differnt life from the one we live. We hope for the passion, danger, excitement, only to be disappointed with the ordinary life we lead. We look to our partners and can only find them wanting compared to our fictional hero; we become dissatisfied them. We might ask them to be different, but our partner is just human and doesn't understand what we want.
And then we are a long, long way from being present in the Now, and a great distance from happiness, joy or peace. In this place we are in a realm directly opposite that which the Buddha suggests we need for non-suffering - acceptance and allowing what IS.
Twilight has been a great ride, but getting off is a bit like breaking an addiction. Refocusing takes some time and effort, as we suffer withdrawal.

I'm starting to think the ride isn't really worth the toll.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Christianity and The Power of Now

A guest post by Brad Harris

Although I can’t quite remember exactly when I first read The Power of Now, I do remember the circumstances in which I became aware of the book and how it just ‘jumped into my lap’ in my favourite bookstore in Bowral. Having just been told about Eckhart Tolle and the concept of ‘living in the Now’ by a counsellor, I went looking for the book soon after when my wife and I were day tripping in one of our favourite destinations, the Southern Highlands of NSW. Not even sure if I would find the book, and before I had even made my way to the rear of the store where the ‘spiritual/self help’ books were located, I looked down to see a whole row of hard cover special editions of The Power of Now (it was an anniversary edition I think). Anyway, the book seemed to be yelling at me “but me, buy me!”

I bought it, read it and my life has not been the same since.

The last book that had anywhere near the life-changing effect on me was ‘The Road Less Travelled’ by M. Scott Peck. That book started me on a journey of seeking God in a spiritual sense beyond that which I knew of Him in a religious sense. Having grown up it a Bible-based fundamentalist church and having attended Sunday School, Bible Study Classes and Gospel talks all my life, I felt I had a good understanding of who God was, who Jesus was and what life was meant to be all about. I even thought I knew the future of the world (a big claim when I think of it now!) For me the Christian life was all about living according to a set of rules now in order to experience ultimate happiness in the future – an eternal future. It was the only way of doing Christianity that I knew.

Again I am not sure what came first, my awakening or my reading of the Power of Now. The book either contributed to my new way of being or explained the strange but amazing transformation that was happening to me.

I had discovered that I was not the ‘I’ of my thinking. I had become aware that there was a part of me that was continually thinking (usually a lot of meaningless rubbish and untruths about myself, my circumstances and other people) and that part of me was not the real me but my ego. This new awareness has helped me know myself more fully, relate better to other people and most of all opened my eyes to a new way of seeing and experiencing God.

This new relationship with God had serious consequences for my world view and my long held beliefs about Jesus. What for me was once a nice neat package of beliefs that formed a picture of the world that made sense to me, was sent into a mad spin by my newly emerging outlook on life. It was though my religious beliefs were a completed jigsaw puzzle that had been thrown in the air and I was now sitting on the floor picking up the pieces and trying to put them all together again. But first I had to work out what the picture should look like. A friend said she liked that description of what happened. She asked “I wonder where Jesus fell?” That question has been plaguing me ever since and my search for the real Jesus is has become my highest priority.

My re-imaging of God and Jesus, while helped by Eckhart Tolle’s insights has been an ongoing journey, with lots of doubts, lots of further reading and lots of new discoveries. I look forward to sharing some of this journey with you in future blogs where I will take each of the Bible verses quoted by Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth (the follow up to The Power of Now) and give you some insights into how Eckhart’s way of interpreting these has changed my thinking and my life.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The NOW - an escapist pursuit?

I sometimes wonder if the enjoyment of the Now is just another escapist pursuit, like a reading a good book, or being involved in a movie. Is it just another way to avoid reality? Am I just being taken for a ride by the soft, quiet tones of Eckhart Tolle's words?
But, unlike other escapist past times, the Now wont end, wont become a disappointment somehow, or an annoyance over time. It will constantly be available when I choose, and wont disappear, perish, grow old, or die.
So, although my mind may have me question the peace and stillness of presence as real, the Now rings true. And the gentle calm, and acceptance that being present in the Now brings cannot be denied - even by a rational mind.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Canvas

I have been thinking that being present in the Now, our stillness, awareness, just being-ness is the canvas on which life comes and goes. When you can stay aware of the canvas, feel the space in which life is evolving, and the silence into which sound is playing, and the stillness in which life moves, well, then you can see how it is all spiritual, for the canvas is spiritual.
Eckhart Tolle offers us many ways to access the Now and Being through silience and space, and they felt like different places. Now I see that that they are all the same presence, the same canvas on which life skims over. They simply seemed seperate because that is the only way we can rationally understand it using words and our minds. But when we stop trying to understand, and just feel, it is possible to sense the space and the silence, and the Now as one.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Fantasy Future

I have always been big on planning. Mapping out the path to success, riches, secruity, grand holidays and different lifestyles. Ideas of excitment and change and growth. I have always been prepared to work toward them, motivated by the end goal.

This has kept my head, and thoughts, firmly in the future.

So, when Eckhart Tolle says to remain present, have your thoughts only in the Now, or rather, don't think, just BE in the Now - I can struggle. In fact, it can seem a little dull, to be HERE, rather than in the exciting future.

However, it is becoming more and more difficult to avoid noticing that that shiney future isn't getting any closer. I strive toward it, but it is not making it actually materialise. Which means, the wonderful future I keep my eye on is in reality just a fantasy land - or might as well be. Like constantly reading an engrossing book, or being really envolved in a movie THAT NEVER ENDS, fantasy future land isn't real and is a distraction from experiencing what IS real. Do I want to keep living like that?

While my head is in fantasy future land, what am I telling myself about Now? As I strive toward more, better, greater, freer, I am feeding the concept that what I have Now is not enough - not good enough, special enough, free enough. It's easy to see the problem with that. (And is most likely why fanstasy future never comes true.)

The ironic part is, that with a reminder from Eckhart Tolle, when I look at Now, it is really fine, sometimes wonderful. So, why all the struggle to get away from the reality of Now?

Fantasy land has been part of my journey. It has kept me positive when I could have been down. It has kept me motivated and energetic when I might otherwise have stagnated. It has given me hope when I might have accepted defeat. But I think fantasy future land needs to be over for me Now.

Fantasy future land has served it's purpose, and in many ways has lead me to spirituality. The striving, running, onward and upward has been the freeway part of my journey, but I see a sign post, and have slowed down enough to read it.

I have decided to take a new road and get off the bypass.

Introducing Rob Bell

I think in many ways christian beliefs and Eckhart Tolle's teaching are compatible. However, I have struggled to find a church that I am able to sit comfortably in with my Tolle ideas in my head. So, it seems, in theory I could be both a christian and spiritualist, but in reality I feel I need to choose. That was until I was introduced to Rob bell. It is my good fortune to have met a man struggling with his faith after reading Eckhart Tolle. He discovered the American pastor Rob Bell and shared him with me. Rob Bell is a young, energetic, passionate christian. He seems to believe in the adaptability of the bible and faith. Rob Bell encourages his church goers to express their doubts, believing that it is not possible to never have some. Bell looks at changes in the bible, and varying interpretations of it to support the idea of versatility of the bible. And frequently Bell will encourage us to be present in the moment we are living. All this either allows a place for the spiritualist in christianity, or positively encourages it. Rob Bell helps me have faith that Christianity and spirituality can be interconnected. In fact, he makes the claim that Everything is Spiritual.
Check this snippet out: