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The Inner Dinner Party and The Power of Now
by Joanne Sales
December 14, 2007 Published in Common Ground of Vancouver, BC

Imagine that you are sitting at a table at a dinner party, and enjoying the group conversation. Then the person next to you grabs your full attention to tell you all the graphic details of living with his ex-wife. At first, you listen, then nod, then glance around and look for an escape. You’re stuck. Your other neighbor is complaining about taxes and algae. The couple across the table is planning a trip to Barbados. At one end of the table you’re witnessing a temper tantrum, at the other end, a nervous breakdown. “Excuse me, I need to use the ....”

Merciless rants at a party are painful to witness but easy to escape. But what if the relentless ranting is going on inside your own head?

Recently I met a young woman whose brother in Australia spends a lot of time in a mental institution. “He hears voices,” she said. His situation really struck me. I asked this young woman, “Don’t you hear voices?”

“Of course,” she answered.
“So do I.” I affirmed.
Finally, we recognized one huge difference between her brother and the rest of us. Her brother believes the voices.
“Oh.”
We were both humbled, for we also had to acknowledge that we too had the nagging habit of believing the voices that spoke inside our heads. Those voices were our opinions and cherished beliefs. Recognizing how close we were to “clinically insane” added a personal punch to the bumper sticker on a friend’s car: “Don’t believe everything you think.”

I guess we could take some comfort in knowing that we live in a society of people dominated by inner voices. But we have our escapes, don’t we? We can overwork, overeat, get drunk, watch TV, go shopping, read the news, play loud music, complain, get a divorce, etc. But these things only cover up the rant. They don’t bring peace to the voices.

What are all these voices, and why don’t they just shut up? How do we bring peace to inner dinner party of the mind?

This is the subject of the teachings of Eckhart Tolle, the author of the New York Times best seller, The Power of Now. I went to see him on Dec 2, in Vancouver, along with 2000 friends.

His is a fascinating story. Born in Germany in 1948, raised in England, he was working as a research scholar at Cambridge University, continuing in the pattern of “almost continuous anxiety interspersed with periods of suicidal depression.” At the age of 30, he was at wit’s end. “I cannot live with myself any longer,“ he kept repeating. Finally he heard what he was saying to himself, and was intriqued. “Am I one or two?” Who is it that can’t live with me? Then as he says, “My mind stopped.” He was freed from the noise of the inner dinner party. He experienced a profound spiritual awakening that he did not at the time understand. He spent a couple years on a park bench in a state of unending joy and peace. “People would come up to me and say, ‘I want what you have...’ And I would say, “You have it already. You just can’t feel it because your mind is making too much noise.” The people wouldn’t go away. So he wrote The Power of Now.

Well, there wasn’t much noise in the Vancouver Convention Center room on Dec 2. To some degree, his inner quiet quieted our own minds. How can I condense the wisdom of being in the now into a few paragraphs - especially since the wise ones of every tradition have been addressing our “out of control” minds since the beginning of time? I won’t even try.

We’ll just honor the intensity of the problem with a verse from a pop song of the 50’s.
“Yackety yak yackety yak... Take out the papers and the trash, or you don’t get no spendin’ cash... Just tell your hoodlum friend outside. You ain’t got time to take a ride...Yackety yak - Don’t talk back...”

Enough said about the inner dialogues between the multitudes of me.
We know the problem.

Here’s the good news, as Tolle presents it:
If and when we become conscious, we find out that we don’t have to spend the rest of our lives as victims of our inner static. We aren’t the mental dinner party. Nor do we have to stay there. The power of “now” is that, if we actually take up a chair, and listen to the ranting dinner guests, consciously and peacefully, eventually, they go away. If we give up living in the past and future, we find that, in the present, in the stillness, we are more than we thought we were. Our nature is actually quite benevolent, kind, loving, and peaceful. The dinner party chaos is a mere smoke screen covering our own Higher Nature.

On the absolute plane, our unconsciousness may not matter. But on the relative plane, it does. At this moment, becoming conscious may be the most effective survival strategy for the human race and Earth as we know it.

Bhagavan Das, a young American in India, built a lifetime of fame on just three words that he said in the 60’s. Those words had to be good. Be Here Now.