I recently returned from a life-altering trip to Europe which included a week-long retreat with spiritual leader Eckhart Tolle. I’ve been a student of Eckhart Tolle’s for about a decade now and he, as well as Deepak Chopra, has been the primary reason I now teach meditation and marry my meditation teaching and guidance with my counseling practice today.
During the retreat, on a very deep level, I was reminded of what I’m really actually teaching my students on a regular basis; that what takes us out of the present moment is simply our thoughts. That sounds pretty simple, right? But oftentimes we aren’t aware that those thoughts are typically thoughts from the past or thoughts consumed by what might happen in the future. The thoughts that consume us from the past are most often thoughts that stem from our mental and emotional experiences, oftentimes from our childhood, which Eckhart calls the “pain body.”
If you haven’t yet had an opportunity to read one of Eckhart Tolle's most well read books, The Power of Now, I strongly encourage you to do so. In it, Eckhart Tolle explains in great detail how when we are consumed by our “pain body” or triggered by something either someone says or does, it literally hijacks us from the present moment. Once we’re triggered, it’s near impossible to stay in the present moment.
But the flip side is also true. The pain body cannot survive when we are present.
The only way in which we have any chance of staying in the present moment and living our lives from this very moment in the here and now, is to first notice that we have been captivated by our “pain body”. In so noticing, it is then that we can begin the process of actually dissolving the emotion and the pain associated with the emotion.
Eckhart Tolle makes some suggestions outlined below on how we can go about doing that:
Steps to Becoming Aware of Your Pain Body
- Focus your attention on the feeling inside you
- Know it is the Pain Body
- Accept that it is there
- Don’t think about it
- Don’t let the feeling turn into thinking
- Don’t judge or analyze
- Don’t make an identity for yourself out of it, i.e. I’m not loveable, I’m not worthy, etc)
- Stay present
- Continue to be an observer of what is happening inside you
- Become aware of not only the emotional pain but also of the one who observes - the silent witness/watcher.
It is with these practices that we can help the pain body dissolve.
To me, one of the most important of these steps is the last one. Literally bringing awareness to the emotional pain itself, allowing it to be there and be felt and then stepping back, almost as if you are zooming out on a camera lense and staying with it as a witness or an observer.
So how can we actually not only accept that the pain body is there and not make an identity for ourselves out of it, but also stay present?
One of the greatest practices for staying present is meditation. The more we make meditation a habit, the greater we strengthen what I like to call our “noticing muscles.” We all know that we can’t change what we don’t acknowledge. But if we aren’t aware that our thoughts have taken us over, we are instead at the mercy of them.
With your meditation practice comes your increased ability to stay present. With that presence comes your ability to become the witness or the observer of your thoughts AS they arise instead of allowing them to run the show. Once you begin to notice how your internal dialog is consistently triggering your reactions and responses to the people, places and things in your environment or in your past, you can then look deeply to resolve them. This is where life coaching coupled with meditation come into play.
I am so grateful to have had the privilege to spend a week with one of the world's most important spiritual leaders of our time and be reminded of why I do what I do.
If I can support you along your journey toward noticing and dissolving your pain body and help you live a life of meaning and purpose, please reach out to me at (858) 248-0488 or schedule a complimentary consultation.