THE POWER OF NOW by Eckhart Tolle
What about all those people who, it seems, actually want to suffer? I have a friend whose partner is physically abusive toward her and her previous relationship was of a similar kind. Why does she choose such men and why is she refusing to get out of that situation now? Why do so many people actually choose pain?
I KNOW that the word “choose” is a favourite New Age term, but it isn’t entirely accurate in this context. It is misleading to say that somebody “chose” a dysfunctional relationship or any other negative situation in his or her life. Choice implies consciousness – a high degree of consciousness. Without it, you have no choice.
Choice begins the moment you dis-identify from the mind and its conditioned patterns – the moment you become present. Until you reach that point, you are unconscious, spiritually speaking. This means that you are compelled to think, feel and act in certain ways according to the conditioning of your mind. That is why Jesus said, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
This is not related to intelligence in the conventional sense of the word. I have met many highly intelligent and educated people who were also completely unconscious, which is to say completely identified with their mind. In fact, if mental development and increased knowledge are not counterbalanced by a corresponding growth in consciousness, the potential for unhappiness and disaster is very great.
Your friend is stuck in a relationship with an abusive partner, and not for the first time. Why? No choice. The mind, conditioned as it is by the past, always seeks to recreate what it is familiar with. Even if it is painful, at least it is familiar. The mind always adheres to the known. The unknown is dangerous because it has no control over it. That’s why the mind dislikes and ignores the present moment.
Present-moment awareness creates a gap not only in the stream of mind, but also in the past-future continuum. Nothing truly new and creative can come into this world except through that gap, that clear space of infinite possibility.
So your friend, being identified with her mind, may be recreating a pattern learned in the past in which intimacy and abuse were inseparably linked. Or, she may be acting out a mind pattern learned in early childhood according to which she is unworthy and deserves to be punished. It is possible, too, that she lives a large part of her life through the pain-body, which always seeks more pain on which to feed. Her partner has his own unconscious patterns, which complement hers.
Of course her situation is self-created, but who or what is the self that is doing the creating? A mental-emotional pattern from the past, no more. Why make a self out of it? If you tell her that she has chosen her condition or situation, you are reinforcing her state of mind identification. But is her mind pattern who she is? Is it her self? Is her true identity derived from the past?
Show your friend how to be the observing presence behind her thoughts and her emotions. Tell her about the pain-body and how to free herself from it. Teach her the art of inner-body awareness. Demonstrate to her the meaning of presence. As soon as she is able to access the power of the Now, and break from her conditioned past, she will have a choice.
Adapted from The Power of Now, copyright 1999 by Eckhart Tolle. Reprinted with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA, 800-972-6657 (ext. 52). Visit www.eckharttolle.com.