December 18, 2020

How Eckhart Tolle’s Words Freed me from my Shame.

Words are mesmerizing, whether they’re spoken or written.

They have a way of pulling us in and hypnotizing our thoughts. Lyrics, books, poems, quotes, mantras; all have a special place in our hearts. Each word strung together, intricately and precisely, like a pretty pearl on a string.

It’s no wonder then that my heart sank into my chest when I read Eckhart Tolle’s thoughts on words. In A New Earth, he says, “Words reduce reality to something the human mind can grasp, which isn’t very much.”

He goes on to explain that words are mental labels that elude us from the awe, presence, and wonder of the universe. And, he feels, when we attach words to things, people, or situations, the more shallow and lifeless our reality becomes.

For someone who has spent much of her time connecting words to sentiments, this was hard to read. I spent my whole life trying to find the right words to wrap around heartache, trauma, and discomfort. I believed words were my way out—my freedom from emotional pain and suffering.

Then I thought back to the time when I shared a deeply personal story from my past with a friend. I told her how I had been physically hurt by a loved one. Months later, and on a few social occasions, she casually mentioned my story. I felt ashamed, and I was upset about sharing it with someone I should’ve known wasn’t trustworthy.

I was confused, though, since I’d processed the hell out of that unpleasant story. I had expressed every emotion and then some. I thought all the work was done. I wouldn’t have shared it with her otherwise. And I had all the fancy jargon to show for it. Yet, when it was brought into the light of day, I was humiliated. Maybe all the words and logic hadn’t freed me after all.

Behind all the rationalizations and beautiful words, there was a dark cloud that hovered over me. It said I was broken and somewhat damaged. But I neglected seeing it. The darkness was hidden beneath the warm, fluffy, overlay. And my experience was filed away in a folder, labeled “cleverness.” But wisdom and love weren’t gained and shame has lingered.

When I looked inside the darkness and felt its substance, I saw the truth. I learned there was nothing to hide; just a lived experience that needed love. There were lessons in there for me, but they didn’t define me (nor does any single experience or the combination of them). They can’t possibly sum up a life; we are so much more.

Eckhart Tolle asks us to let go of our attachment to words and allow the quality of our situations to shine through. He points to the essence within everything, which includes our shame and heartache. We recognize, then, that words and thoughts have beauty, but we don’t need to get stuck in them.

Once our bodies have healed and our minds have processed, we may want to know the depth and energy of our pain. We can befriend our wounding. We do this in the same way we listen to a piece of music, inhale a flower’s beauty, or admire the subject of a beautiful painting.

I am learning there is space for light and love to shine on our dark spots too. We can come to know our brokenness for what it is, a tiny little speck of our whole being.

“Do you believe some combination of such basic sounds could ever explain who you are, or the ultimate purpose of the universe, or even what a tree or stone is in its depth?” ~ Eckhart Tolle


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