Friday, June 4, 2010

Concept of Self

Last night I watched an Eckhart Tolle seminar. I borrowed the DVD from the library. It was a seminar held in the Findhorn retreat, a place somewhere in Scotland. He talked about the ‘conceptual self’ and how the thoughts in the mind churn around this ‘conceptual self.’  Sometimes one’s ‘conceptual self’ engages with another’s ‘conceptual self.’ An interesting idea and I think that my failures to connect to other people in the past are due to my inability to understand their ‘conceptual self.’ I guess I have my own ‘conceptual self’ that I cultivate that also clashes with the ‘conceptual self’ of others. Tolle claims that this results in modern day conflicts.

I tried to align these spiritual views with the movie I was watching; the excellent HBO series on John Adams. It would be difficult I think for the independence struggle and eventual revolution to occur if people follow the ‘conceptual self’ philosophy. There were other concepts being fought such as republicanism, federalism, state rights and so on. I guess it’s only now when one has achieved a modern evolution of the state can one attempt a more advanced transcendence of the self. I think ‘conceptual self’ is needed in competitive environments where one needs to struggle to survive. Otherwise, the ‘conceptual self’ of stronger opponents will prevail. Tolle’s philosophy can only survive in an ideal world where basic rights are guaranteed.

But applying the philosophy to each individual may have some merit. For instance, someone with an insatiable curiosity and a large capacity for new things maybe masking a ‘conceptual self’ that looks for external enlightenment. In fact, internal stillness is the answer where one looks inward into himself to find enlightenment. Tolle says that meditation is but one method which maybe discarded later on when stillness is achieved. It is this attraction towards external ‘forms’ that waylay the individual. It maybe the beautiful forms in museums, or movies, a turn of a phrase in great novels and so on that drive people to claim experiences when one is actually fulfilling the urges of a ‘conceptual self’. Tolle want people to understand that the ‘conceptual self’ is not you. Adding experience, skills and adventures will not help achieve inner awareness.

One’s dream of winning the Wimbledon tennis tournament or being rich and famous as an award winning actor or other such imaginings is an event in the future that prevents people from experiencing the ‘now’. For instance, reading too many books, watching DVDs and numerous travels will not make one a writer. It is really stopping and achieving internal stillness that one learns. Perhaps this will help them achieve or even discard their dreams. These dreams which is really a chasing of ‘forms,’ to achieve the striving of one’s ‘conceptual self’. So instead of focusing on the task that needs to be done now; one is forever chasing ‘forms’ whether it’s new books, travels, DVDs or what have you. Perhaps Tolle is the answer towards curing procrastination.

This is not to mean that one should avoid gaining or improving one’s skills. But one should not get lost in the striving to get external skills that he or she is lost in the true goal. Perhaps being a writer also means achieving internal stillness; to learn more about oneself rather than seeking external ‘forms.’  Perhaps this does not only concern writers but every other profession that require solitude and creativity or maybe all professions as well. Internal knowledge removes the ‘conceptual self’ that often leads to mental confusion. This increases focus by gaining stillness and ‘a silent mind.’ According to Tolle, one naturally becomes oneself without effort and naturally just ‘be’. I think it’s a good path for a writer as well but without neglecting the exercise and gaining of essential skills. It’s the path of the Bronte sisters or Jane Austen rather than Hemingway.

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