If you’re running on autopilot more than you’d like, you may be missing out on a lot. Most notably, your life.
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist.”
This quote by Oscar Wilde has always been one of my favorites, even though I continually struggle to live up to it. After all, real living entails (among other things) being present in our lives. For all the moments. Not just the “highlight reel moments” or the moments that involve chocolate.
It’s not easy for me to admit that I struggle with this. Especially considering that personal growth is both my life’s work and my life’s passion.
In other words, I know better.
But I’m also a forgetful human.
Granted, whenever I’m writing or teaching or counseling people, I’m usually fully present. I’m usually bringing the best part of me—or, more accurately, the complete me—to the table.
But for many of the other moments in life—from drudgeries like doing the dishes or standing in line at the post office to everyday scenes like distractedly walking my dog or shoving lunch down my face while I type (and inevitably spilling quinoa all over my keyboard)—I can lapse into a sort of autopilot. Unconsciously conscious, I’m there, but I’m not there.
Like many of us, I often devalue these moments as lesser moments. Sometimes, I even disregard them as “throwaway” moments. Never mind that these moments make up the bulk of our lives!
However, all of this changed recently when I attended a transcendent retreat with the great spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle.
In a single, phenomenally powerful moment, he shook me out of my habitual absence from life.
And, bizarrely, he did it by saying nothing at all.
Looking Into the Mirror
For the entire four-day retreat, I’d feverishly scribbled Eckhart’s nuggets of wisdom about presence onto my ever-fattening pile of note pages.
I did this despite knowing full well that presence can’t be grasped through the mind. It can only be experienced, not learned. (And, at its deepest level, it isn’t even really an experience; it’s who we are.)
Yet, my mind kept trying to scoop up the glittering linguistic gems before they evaporated.
Well, the real wakeup call came in the last five minutes of the retreat, when Eckhart essentially closed the session but didn’t leave the stage. Instead, without explanation, he remained rooted in his chair, sitting there completely wordlessly.
His lean, slightly hunched frame flanked by two vases of white lilies, the slightest of smiles playing on his cherubic face, he simply looked out at all of us for minutes. Just being.
The room, meanwhile, went from relatively silent to dead silent. I don’t think anyone coughed or moved or even shifted their weight. From my seat 20 rows from the stage, I beamed to myself, taking in this sacred scene. What an incredible opportunity this retreat was, I rhapsodized. To have been so close to a living master!
While it’s wonderful that I felt such genuine gratitude, you may have also noticed that I’d essentially put a cork in the present moment before it was done.
But the present moment wasn’t done with me.
And what I experienced next was nothing short of extraordinary.
Angel Dust... Without the Drugs
Out of nowhere, a “whoosh” of invisible energy—somehow both electrifying and soothing at once—flowed out of Eckhart and right into every cell of my body. Instantly, I felt the most profound sense of peace, joy and bliss wash over me.
From there, everything in my peripheral vision faded. I could see only this man’s still-unmoving face. What’s more, his pupils now tunneled right into mine, as if we sat right across from each other instead of a good 100 feet away.
At that point, the purest unconditional love emanated from him directly into my heart. The feeling was so overwhelmingly potent and full-bodied. Like being swaddled by a hundred angels inside their warm blanket of wings.
In that moment, nothing was wrong. Nothing had ever been wrong.
Because there was only love.
I was only love.
Everyone was only love.
As hot tears rolled down my cheeks at this awe-striking awareness, I just sat there in a delicious daze, long after Eckhart had finally exited the stage. I’d say it was much like a trance, except it was nothing like a trance, because my awareness was actually heightened.
Only after this transcendent experience would I look up what the heck it was all about—because, of course, my mind still “needed” to know. I learned that if you’re in the presence of a truly enlightened being—a person who’s transcended their ego and their mind, who’s inhabiting their true divine nature—you can experience this exact phenomenon.
Because the enlightened person serves as a mirror. A mirror for us to recognize our own identical divine nature in the reflection.
A Whole New Me. Kind Of.
Once I got home from the retreat, everything was different to me. Or, rather, I was different to everything.
Standing in a long line at the post office, I now calmly waited without feeling any compulsion to whip out my electronic “crutch.”
While driving one day, I discovered that a faraway store which I loved actually had another location just a couple miles from my home. A location I’d passed God knows how many times yet somehow never noticed!
Taking a truly mindful walk with my dog, inspiration struck on an article that I’d been struggling with prior to the retreat. Out of nowhere, the perfect ending just came to me.
Even eating a fairly generic salad turned into a heightened feast for the senses, as I relished the crisp crunch of the raw beets or the mandarins’ bursts of citrusy sweetness as they split open inside my mouth.
Yes, my experience at the retreat gave me a turbo boost into this greater presence, but I realized that the choice was always there.
The choice to “check out” of the present moment or to “check in.”
To merely exist, as Oscar Wilde said, or to truly live.
Forever Changed... But Also, Forever Human
So, did this deepened connection to presence stick around?
I’d like to say so. Or, at least, my ego would like to say so. The truth is, after awhile, much of it faded into the ether.
That said, I’m definitely more present in my life overall. And I’m forever changed by the experience. But also, as we’ve established, I’m forever forgetful.
The thing is, though, if I try to get it back—if I go chasing a past state into the future—I will have missed the whole point.
So, I guess I’ll just hang out in the present as best I can. Open to whatever the moment brings me.
Especially if it brings me chocolate.
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Facing a difficult challenge, loss or trauma?
I help people connect to their own innate power and wisdom, so they can transcend their challenges, heal their past traumas and live with true inner peace and well-being. Learn more at www.painintopower.com or reach out for a free discovery call at firstname.lastname@example.org or 818-233-0433. It would be my honor to help guide you along your path.
Lisa Berzack is an inspirational writer and soul-centered life coach devoted to helping people find inner healing and live a more empowered, awakened life. She is also the author of a forthcoming self-help memoir. To learn more about Lisa’s transformational offerings, visit www.PainIntoPower.com.
© Lisa Berzack, 2022.