“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.” — Hafiz
In his book, “The Power of Now,” Eckhart Tolle opens with a powerful story about an old beggar.
The old man had been sitting for many years on a beat-up old box by the side of the road. A stranger came along one day and the beggar wearily held out his cap and asked, “Can you spare some change, sir?”
The stranger looked at him and replied, “I don’t have anything to give.”
He then asked the beggar, “What’s that you’re sitting on?
“Just an old box,” replied the beggar. “I’ve been sitting on it for years.”
“Have you ever looked inside?” asked the stranger.
“No, what’s the point? There’s nothing in there.”
The stranger insisted that the beggar take a look inside the box and, upon managing to pry it open, he was astonished to discover it was filled with gold.
We’ve all, at times, slipped into a state of being in which we feel more present, expansive, connected and alive than normal.
It can happen when you’re fully absorbed in something you love doing, in a moment of profound presence, such as during childbirth, or when you witness a scene of intense beauty such as a spectacular sunset.
The psychologist, Abraham Maslow, coined the term “peak experience” to describe this state of heightened presence, connection and aliveness.
I remember being in The Shetland Islands years ago and seeing The Northern Lights for the first time.
It was so spectacular, my mind was stunned into silence.
Time stopped. I felt a tremendous sense of presence, stillness and connection in what seemed like one impossibly long moment. I know it sounds like an old cliche, but I felt like I was one with everything.
And then the thought hit me, “I must run back into the house to fetch my camera.” And just like that, the experience was gone. I snapped straight back into my thinking mind.
And this is the key with peak experiences.
They happen in the absence of thought activity—when something stuns the mind into silence.
People involved in traffic accidents or soldiers on the battlefield also report an experience of time slowing down or being overcome by a tremendous sense of peace and presence.
When thoughts subside, we are a given a temporary ‘peek’ behind the curtain of the mind… a peek experience into the timeless, boundless nature of the true Self.
In the absence of mental activity, we catch a glimpse of the gold within.
Finding Our True Wealth
Continuing on from the beggar story, Eckhart Tolle goes on to say:
“Those who have not found their true wealth, which is the radiant joy of Being and the deep, unshakable peace that comes with it, are beggars, even if they have great material wealth.
They are looking outside for scraps of pleasure or fulfillment, for validation, security, or love, while they have a treasure within that not only includes all those things but is infinitely greater than anything the world can offer.”
The riches are already there. The task is to quieten our busy minds enough to notice the gold underneath.
Your Peace Is Much Closer Than You Think
Whenever I offer meditation taster sessions to the public, it’s always fascinating to see how people who have never meditated before can often have experiences of profound peace the very first time they try it.
Even long-term sufferers of anxiety or depression experience peace, sometimes for the first time in years.
Why is this?
It’s because, as unlikely as it may seem to some, peace is your true nature. It can never leave you.
But you can leave it.
“When the mind is quiet, the peace, love and joy of your true Self naturally shines through.”
The Buddhists sometimes use the metaphor of looking at your reflection in a clear pool. If you splash your hand in the water, you get a distorted reflection of your face. When the water is still, the reflection is crystal clear.
Our busy minds create a lot of turbulence and distortion, preventing us from experiencing the presence of our true nature.
Most people experience it in rare glimpses—on the random occasions when the mind happens to become quiet through external causes.
We can also learn to consciously access our true nature through spiritual practice.
The Conditioned Self vs The True Self
If you observe young children, the qualities of the original, unconditioned Self shine through unimpeded. They are present, joyful, loving, creative and full of life.
Unlike adults, they don’t spend their days worrying about the future, judging themselves as unworthy or comparing themselves with others.
They don’t have a personal story that shrouds them like a heavy blanket, obscuring their inner light.
Rather than engaging innocently and spontaneously with each unfolding moment as children do, most adults spend their days absorbed in thinking—up to 100,000 thought per day, according to researchers.
It is little wonder that the light of our true nature is hidden.
How to reconnect with your original nature is the theme of my book, “Awaken The Happy You.”
In it, I use the analogy of a lighthouse to describe the human condition.
When the lighthouse is shrouded in thick fog (dense thought activity) the powerful beam inside APPEARS to dim.
No matter how thick the fog appears to be, however, it is only an appearance.
In truth, nothing can dim the light of who you are—no matter how busy the mind is and no matter how far from peace you believe you’ve strayed.
Taking ourselves to be the ever-shifting fog rather than the unchanging Light is the primary cause of human suffering and unrest.
So, how do we disperse the fog of unconscious thinking to reveal the light underneath?
How To Quieten The Mind And Unlock The Treasure Within?
For most people, thinking is unconscious and runs all day long on autopilot.
Our attention is so captivated by the content of our minds that we fail to notice a deeper part of our experience which is ever-present beneath the surface—awareness itself.
The first step when learning to meditate is to become consciously aware of your thoughts, feelings and emotions—to notice that you’re able to step back and watch the mind objectively, as you would watch a movie in the cinema.
There are two parts to your experience in every moment—the ever-changing thoughts, feelings and emotions that come and go constantly and the silent, present, timeless awareness that is still and unchanging—your true Self.
We unlock the treasure within through learning to identify less and less with the comings and goings of the mind and through creating a deeper, more intimate relationship with the unchanging part of our experience—the gold within.
Learning to be present as the watcher of the mind is key.
The best way to achieve this is through developing a regular meditation practice (affiliate link). It also helps to have a mentor to point the way.
The still, silent space within isn’t difficult to recognise with a little practice.
If you’d like to learn to meditate or need some help with quietening the mind, check out my new page,
Contact me to arrange a FREE 30-minute consultation (more like a friendly chat).
What have you got to lose, other than your overactive mind?
What Is Enlightenment?
In Eckhart Tolle’s words:
The word enlightenment conjures up the idea of some super-human accomplishment, and the ego likes to keep it that way, but it is simply your natural state of felt oneness with Being. It is a state of connectedness with something immeasurable and indestructible, something that, almost paradoxically, is essentially you and yet is much greater than you.
Enlightenment is finding your true nature beyond name and form.
If you enjoyed the article, please leave a comment.
Or maybe you’d like to mention a peak experience you’ve had?