So the other day I was talking to my therapist (don’t you love posts that begin with someone talking about their therapy - blah blah blah - well, that’s my life right now) and after suggesting I write a letter to my dead father (which I will delay until the last possible moment), he also told me to look up a book called The Power of Now. Now I like my therapist, but I also found a card in his waiting area for some lady advertising “energy healing,” so I’m a bit wary. He also has a very strange beard, sort of like an unusually long, rectangular-ish goatee, but so light you could actually miss it at first or think that it was a large piece of fuzz floating in the air. I’m greatly puzzled by that beard, primarily because I can’t imagine why anyone would find it a good idea. But, facial hair aside, I really like him. At last I have found a therapist who is not the dreaded “Christian counselor.” Blue Cross Blue Shield isn’t considerate enough to let me filter a search in such a way as to weed out the people most likely to get on my last nerve. How hard can it be to find a damn secular therapist in the South?
Anyway, I looked up the title on my beloved public library website, and saw that it’s written by Eckhart Tolle. Well of course I’ve heard of him, somewhere or other. Probably in an inspirational quote posted on Facebook. And man, I am on a waiting list for that book because everyone wants to read him, which makes me suspicious that he’s a purveyor of some sort of woo woo.. On the other hand, the name Eckhart reminded me how much I enjoyed Meister Eckhardt. Someone who takes the name Eckhart can’t be all bad, although Meister Eckhardt has been accused of purveying his own sort of woo woo. But it’s the kind of woo woo I can revel in.
Eckhart reminded me of how much I enjoyed mysticism in general until Southern religiosity hemmed me in on all sides. When I lived in NYC, I often popped into St. John the Divine just to sit. It’s a beautiful cathedral, quiet and dark with a lingering, faint smell of incense. When I lived there they had a gift shop with books by Eckhardt and Mechthild of Magdeburg and so forth. It was a good place. On my own in my apartment I would burn a little frankincense - the sap, mind you, not some powdery stick- and put on some Gregorian chant and just be still for a while. I sought out places I could be still, like the Cloisters and the Medieval section of the Met.
Somewhere I have a collection of Eckhart’s sermons translated by Matthew Fox, an excommunicated Catholic priest who’s so far left he’s staring at the right’s backside. His view of Christianity was so completely different from what I grew up with, and I found it resonated with my satisfaction in meditating on the whatever-it-was that I felt immersed in when I was quiet, or in a special place, or looking at great art.
“I pray God to make me free of God, for [His] unconditioned Being is above God and all distinctions.” “The authorities say that God is a being, an intelligent being who knows everything. But I say that God is neither a being nor intelligent and He doesn’t ‘know’ either this or that. God is free of everything and therefore He is everything.” “If I had a God I could understand, I would no longer consider him God.”
Man, I loved that shit. I wasn’t sure I believed in God at all, but I loved this idea of God. I could relax into that idea, which seemed to describe that feeling of fullness and quiet happiness I would sometimes feel, and which I remembered from certain times in my childhood. I didn’t really care if there were a being out there. And I definitely didn’t do any deep study of mysticism or Eckhardt. I don’t do deep study of anything - I like summaries and the big picture. Still it was important to me.
Then stuff kinda got in the way. I married my first husband, who wasn’t interested in anything I was interested in unless it coincided with his interests. I think he considered this giving us each independence but basically it was his excuse to ignore them in favor of his own, which I enjoyed well enough myself. I just ignored my own. He had a subtly dominating personality. One of his favorite books was The Prince, by Machiavelli, which he thought had been unfairly maligned and which he thought gave much insight into finding your way in the world. Whatever. That’s behind me. Then I married Jeff and had kids and began constructing this new add-on module, the parent.
When I saw Eckhart Tolle’s name, I suddenly remembered a former self who was open, who could be silent and in awe, before I tried to stuff her under a ton of dogma, or hide her behind a facade of respectable belief, and then bury her under the resulting, inevitable cynicism.
It’s a refreshing feeling, this. It’s not that I feel any calling to immerse myself in mystical what not. I doubt incense and Gregorian chants would have the same effect today that they did back then, although I’m not writing it off entirely. It’s just nice to become reaquainted with myself.