A friend recently asked me to comment on an Eckart Tolle quote he found opaque. These things are always hyper-subtle semantic issues. Taken from an egocentric perspective, an author can appear to contradict even themselves. In this case, the quote does lend itself to misinterpretation, but that in its own way speaks to the reality of our daily lives.
I’m not sure what context the quote is from, or even if it is necessarily accurate, but that is inconsequential when our point is to clarify its meaning. The quote goes: “When you no longer believe everything you think, you become aware and realize that the thinker is not who you are.”
Whether you think you do or think you don’t understand that, I’ll try to be useful to everyone.
Imagine we as people are individual computers, and our ability to communicate represents our network. Many of us are fortunate enough to be beautifully built out of the very best parts. We will learn to use ourselves by the other computers on that network.
Our location on that web of information is a popular one, but it often only gives us primary access to a few key programmers who end up largely responsible for us (but a lot of different programmers will still have access to you). We can think of these people as being our parents.
In most cases, they will have ensured that we have received all of the popular programs like How to Operate A Physical Body, Language, Reason, and Basic Physics. There are even programs that help you coordinate with other computers, like Regional Cultural Norms, era-specific Beliefs, Hip TV Shows and bands, Popular hairdos, etc. etc.
Along with those very useful programs also came some viruses. These programs don’t accomplish anything —they just use up the computer’s resources and prevent us from playing more music, watching more movies, playing more games, or completing more work. These are programs like Guilt, Resentment, Pride, Envy, Jealousy, and Desire.
Now, imagine that we are running all kinds of software, all the time, and then some person loads in a copy of Philosophical Questions from Scott. And as you run that program, you develop some new and very abstract concepts. Let us say this special programming results in sentience. Let us say you the computer becomes self-aware. Let us say this computer has consciousness.
A conscious computer. So, what would it be conscious of? Well, the only thing it’s doing is running software, so it would become aware of that. It would become aware of its own processing.
As we ran diagnostic programs on ourselves (meditations), we as the computer would eventually become aware of the fact that other people would have used their actions and language to load programs or pathways into the wide open innocence of our physical memory.
We would eventually also realize that the very nature of having those pathways means we are simultaneously cut off from other possibilities. In short, pure potentiality gets replaced by pre-wired ideas.
This means that, while there is undoubtedly a much larger world out there, the world as any computer knows it is created by the programming, not the physical world the computer sits in.
This fact, in principle, means that any computer could potentially have any software. Which means that every computer could potentially have been any other computer. Can we see then, why it is that Enlightened people are often quite peaceful? What sense does an argument make if it’s between two computers who could have been each other?
If we can come to truly recognize that we’ve been programmed by experience to be who we are, and we also recognize our own lack of control over almost all of that programming, then everyone instantly becomes innocent —including us. It is once we become conscious that we can no long escape our responsibilities.
Prior to self-realization, our mistakes cease to exist because they are only temporary calculations made by we the computer. It’s true, many of us are running valuable programs while others run viruses or violence but, even if they are running viruses, that’s still not the computer’s fault if it’s not conscious enough to reprogram itself.
We think from a perspective. That perspective is not us, that is our ego. The real us is expansive and capable of being anyone, just as we were as babies. Our ego is necessarily created as a byproduct of us moving through the universe.
There is no way to move through life without our experiences leaving a footprint on the ego. Fortunately we can work around most of those. But there is no way around the fact that they will colour how we see the world.
How we see things is no more or less valid than anyone else’s way of viewing things, so we can stop trying to be neutral or perfect, and we can stop trying to change other people’s programming, and instead we can just be us. We have to be someone after all. So have a perspective. Just don’t take it too seriously.
We are our thoughts. We are expansive and capable. We are the infinite possibility of light, being projected by our consciousness onto the screen of our reality. What we see is the reflection of our programming. Once we understand our role as ‘the projectionist,’ we are free to use our programmed identity in enlightened ways.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.