“Many people use alcohol, drugs, sex, food, work, television, or shopping as anesthetics in an unconscious attempt to remove the basic unease of ordinary unconsciousness.” - Eckhart Tolle, spiritual teacher.
Tolle’s philosophy is simple, yet not easy to practise. He asks a fatal question; if not now, when? Is this the answer we’re searching for in our journey towards enlightenment? I think so. Let’s explore this philosophy in tandem with the concept of indulgence.
What is indulgence directed outward? In my view, a denial of the present moment. The present moment is the moment that you’re experiencing right now. Life is a series of moments, a series of breaths. Each breath contains the seed of a new life. All human beings have a seed of consciousness planted in them at birth, some water it, and some forget to water it. A ridiculous idea for someone living only through their senses. Why ridiculous? Because the understanding of the concept depends on your level of consciousness or unconsciousness.
It is not uncommon to observe unconscious people leading lives of emptiness. No matter how successful they may be with respect to reaching outward goals, they cannot find peace without getting to know their inner self or being. The pathway to knowing your inner being lives in the timeless dimension of the now. However, the mind cannot grasp the concept or the feeling of the now as it can only be felt. Let’s indulge deeper.
The mind is a wonderful tool and a faithful servant. Yet, in our lives, at one point or another, the mind has reigned supreme. It is not because we willingly gave it the reins of our life, but because we were ignorant of the fundamental laws of the Universe. They are so basic; you’ll ignore them as being too simple. Take gravity as an example. How often do you wake up in the morning, and thank the Universe for the law of gravity? Hardly ever, it is so basic. In a similar fashion, how often do we take the present moment for granted by thinking about the past and the future.
The external environment bombards us with images of never being or having enough. It doesn’t want us to be content with what we have. There’s always a better shaving gel or a better car that you can acquire and satisfy the ego. Excessive consumerism is a perfect example of the influence of the external environment over the mind. But do material possessions improve the quality of consciousness? Yes, and no, both.
If you are completely identified with the egoic self, the material possession will give you temporary satisfaction. If you are operating out of a present-moment awareness of life, then you will understand that any material possession will never make you happy. Yet, if the decision comes from a place of gratitude, it can satisfy you. However, it might not necessarily make you happy.
Happiness is an inside job, and many have quit being on that payroll. We deny working for ourselves. We ask the Universe for a lover to love us, but choose to hate ourselves. We crave for intimacy and understanding, yet do not wish to give first. We want material wealth, yet fail to acknowledge the immense wells of wealth inside us that make us unique, creative spiritual beings capable of life-changing transformation.
An unconscious man does not want to peep inside. He has ignored the well inside of him, and the water has dried. He then roams with a dry mouth, in search of water that will quench his thirst. Forgetting that the source of endless supply of water that he desires is within him, and available at all times without an exchange of money.
The one who roams outside looking for the source of water ends up filling his life with things. Things are useful as it serves particular needs but not essential to happiness of the being. Human beings can also use sex or work to fill their life with temporary fun, however, that too will not make you happy or give you joy. It will give you momentary pleasure. I am not suggesting you to give up your lifestyle and become a monk. Far from it. I am suggesting an idea that involves you to first fill your spiritual tank, and then direct your energy outward. It is by filling your inner being with immense wealth that the outer being becomes a rich reflection of what is within.
Take for example the fact that I’m writing an essay on indulgence. I’d like to get it published in a magazine. I am doing so because I relate to the topic. I have the necessary equipment to write and send the entry. After I’ve finished the process, my mind will feel a sense of accomplishment. However, does that have an impact on my happiness and being? Yes, and no, both.
If I was only identified with proving a point to you and want validation for my superior views of life based on my years of research in spirituality and human existence, I have failed, even if the magazine decides to publish it with my name written alongside it. However, If I have an intention to get across a philosophy that I follow everyday and want others to acknowledge a better, more simpler way of life, then I have succeeded in writing this essay, and the act of writing and sending it across is enough for me to feel fulfilled. The end result will make my ego happy, my inner being is happy with the fact that I took action to get these words across. This does not mean that I want to sacrifice my chance of getting published, it only means that my happiness and sense of identity does not depend on it.
If I was identified with the mind, it was highly likely that on non-publication of this essay, I would resort to go on social media and write a negative review of the magazine. Or I could indulge in self-pity and vow to never to write another word because my sense of self was shattered when my words were not acknowledged for the wisdom it contained. I can blame myself for not being good enough and talk negatively to myself. This contamination of degrading self-talk will lead to anxiety and accumulate into a state of depression. Soon, I will find myself with a cigarette in hand talking about my unmanageable stress levels that I need to curb. A drag takes 21 days to become a packet, and now I am addicted to such an extent that I’m ready to change my group of friends for this habit. Now, I have made a lifestyle change. The vicious cycle of indulgence has begun.
Moving on, since I could not get this essay published in the magazine, someone suggested that the problem was not my imagination but the fact that I didn’t induce my mind enough. He suggested taking marijuana to get the creative juices flowing. It did help to calm the mind, and bring to the fore ideas that were swimming in the backwaters of the mind, but it soon turned into an addiction and a source of anxiety. My focus shifted from writing to scoring. Soon enough, the source of inspiration and creativity became a source of suffering and pain.
However, there’s an opportunity to grow there as well. I believe that through intense suffering comes great awakening. So, when you’re unhappy, you have an equal chance of becoming happy. However, this requires the effort of being present in the moment to allow thought patterns to come to the surface for you to understand and release them. For example, children growing up in a narcissistic environment where they are denied love and affection become adults devoid of these aforementioned feelings. They constantly reject love and affection until they understand their mind patterns and consciously choose to break these patterns.
Till the time you were unconscious of these repetitive mind patterns, you were indulging in them and creating more of the same. Society thinks it is normal to talk and ruminate about it. This mindset can lead to more suffering.
The only way to break out of this pattern of suffering is to become still, and let the thoughts flow. Accept them and let them go. Keep the focus on the now. The now is an untainted beautiful moment that can be coloured by your perception and attitude towards life. Who decides whether a situation is good or bad? The mind. However, is there a distinction between your life and your life situation. Yes, there is.
Your life is your being and it is as fresh as a dew drop. Being radiates joy and inner peace. You can access it by being still. Your life situation is the accumulation of all your external circumstances. You can change your life situation by taking positive action towards a goal you deem fit.
However, do you have a goal that you’re working towards? If yes, you will feel passionate enough to take action. If not, your energy is being wasted. The mind likes to indulge in countless distractions just to keep our mind busy. How many are really worthwhile? Apart from the action that you’re taking in this moment, now, you don’t require your mind. Your life requires your presence. And time and mind cannot survive in your presence. It’s impossible. Indulging in stillness is a sure way to get to know yourself on a deeper level of awareness. Your body is craving for your attention, and needs your love. You can access that inner space of sacredness by being present in the now and living this moment.
Indulging in any activity that can become addictive is denial of the present moment. Famous American psychologist Tal Ben Shahar says that even activities that give us pleasure and meaning cannot be done throughout the day. This points to the fact that we should bring more awareness in our daily lives to understand our goals.
Dr Maxwell Maltz mentions in his famous book Psycho-Cybernetics that the creative guidance mechanism within you is a goal-striving mechanism, and the first pre-requisite for using it is to have a clear-cut goal or target to shoot for. This means that in the absence of a goal to work towards, we enter a state of stagnation. Setting goals that are important to us is vital to moving forward and creating a life that is meaningful and full of purpose.
However, even when a goal in the external world is set and an action plan is laid out for you to follow, you cannot ignore the inner being and state of presence. It is only in the now that you can take a step forward. It is only in the now that you can plan. It is only in the now that you can achieve your goal. Indulging in anything outward leads to unhappiness. Indulging in the now leads to inner joy and peace.
Hence, it might be useful to indulge in the now.