When I was 18, I met a new friend with a large library of spiritual books. He loaned them to me. I became a ravenous reader of spiritual and occult books. I studied whatever interested me for 13 years…and then I got tired of the search (for truth). I felt with every new book that it was a regurgitation of stuff I had already read. Curiously enough, I had not read anything in non-duality or Advaita…I never bumped into it.
Over the years of practice and study, I had heard about “living in the present moment,” “detachment” and “mindfulness,” as well as all the other common phrases and buzzwords in spirituality. I even thought I knew what was meant and that I was doing it. I thought I was making spiritual progress.
In November 2005, I checked out a copy of the Eckhart Tolle’s DVD, The Flowing of Human Consciousness, from the Ridgedale Public Library. I kept hearing of Tolle and wanted to see a video (not read a book). It spoke of being present…which I thought I was doing, but it taught it in a new way. It taught inhabiting the body. Suddenly, I was feeling the body instead of thinking.
I was truly present for the first time…and my mind slowed down and became still. Then I noticed something about how Eckhart spoke. I could sense something else behind the words. He called it speaking from presence, but I could feel it (even from video). Presence was conveyed. I think I was just ready, but this was the little push I needed to awaken.
It was a “eureka” or “a ha” moment when I saw through the illusion I was taking for reality. It was like seeing the mirage for the mirage it was and not the water I had been thinking it was. I saw, too, that the ego was a mirage. The mirage doesn’t disappear when you see it for what it is…it just no longer fools you and causes confusion and suffering.
It was instantaneous and complete. There was no going back…not that I wanted to. There was nothing to integrate or try to practice. My realization and understanding changed how I saw and acted in the world on a fundamental level. Just as realizing a mirage is a mirage fundamentally changes how you act towards the mirage.
I also realized that all my studies and seeking really had nothing to do with awakening. The spiritual progress I saw was an illusion. I saw clearly that there was nothing that I did to awaken…and that in awakening nothing was gained. Who and what I was could not be any more or less than it was…so gain was impossible.
The only thing that changed was that the mirage was no longer believed to be what it appears to be. I understood it was a mirage all along.