Hi George x, it sounds to me like you suffer from depersonalization. It may be that Tolle's Eckhart material triggered it for you. Depersonalization is a dissociative disorder. I have had depersonalization myself, also combined with generalized anxiety disorder. I didn't really understand what happened to me until I went into therapy. My therapist and I looked at what it was that caused the anxiety that made me dissociate from myself (depersonalization) and from reality (derealization).
It happened to me when I was around 10 years old and later again in my adolescence. In the last case, marihuana was the trigger for me, as it seems to be in many cases.
The self that I had assumed myself to be didn't appear to be real any longer, and this led me on a quest to find out what I really was. Western philosophy always seemed mostly narrow-minded to me — over-educated gentlemen trying to impress each other with difficult words.. They seem to be stuck in their minds, whereas in the Eastern approach, they examine what their experience of thought is, and what their experience of themselves and reality, independently of thought is. That's what appealed to me because it was my very mind and its thought-fabrications that no longer seemed satisfactorily real to me.
In my search for truth, the most important thing I found is that what is most essential to what I am is not the mental image I have of myself, but the awareness that perceives that image. Since that awareness can't be experienced as any kind of concrete or abstract form, it seems fitting to me to call it formless. This is exactly the main point of what Tolle writes, if I recall correctly. He distinguishes form and formlessness, and encourages the reader to examine their identification with form, so that they can become aware of the formless essence of what it is that identifies and experiences.
He had a sudden shift of identification from his form-self (ego) to formlessness, when he questioned the thought that kept running through his mind when he was about to kill himself. That thought was "I can no longer live with myself." He then wondered (paraphrasing): "Who can no longer live with who? What is it that observes this self I think I am?"
In my experience, the recognition of the unreality of the self-image can either be hellish or heavenly. It's hellish when you don't recognize that there's a higher truth to yourself (what Tolle calls formlessness), and heavenly when you do. I have experienced both.
In this video, meditation teacher Shinzen Young explains this difference and similarity between awakening and DP/DR (depersonalization/derealization):
I should note that when you awaken to a higher truth of yourself (formlessness), this is possibly a new trap, a new opportunity for dissociation. It should be a transient perspective, leading to the recognition that this essence that's the true nature of yourself is the same true nature of everything (all form), and that neither form nor formlessness is a complete description of this essence. For example spiritual teacher Mooji encourages you to embrace the formless and deny the reality of form, and you can see that people following his teachings can get stuck in a dissociative state.
To quote myself from a previous post:
there exists the phenomenon of an intense "awakening" experience in which you recognize that what you really are, the true subject of experience, was never located in this reality (spacetime), because it's timeless and spaceless. This experience comes with intense energy and bliss, and a feeling of having arrived, having found the truth, and often with a desire to share this truth (some would call it "zealotry"). But it's only half of the truth; there is still identification with separation (with what's called "the watcher dimension" in this description of the ox herding metaphors for 10 stages of enlightenment~ [blog.buddhagroove.com
] , see stage 7).
That stage of identification with formlessness and disidentification from form is stage 7 in the link from my quote: "Ox Forgotten, Self Alone."
Stage 8 is:
Both Ox and Self Forgotten. Separateness and duality evaporate as as we see ourselves and all things as part of the All That Is, the Oneness. It is a visceral experience, not just an idea or concept.
In conclusion: for me, the only way out of depersonalization seemed to be to find out more deeply what I really am, and in my case the Eastern approach (and most of all: meditation) was most appealing. But what's true for me isn't necessarily true for you. I can only tell you what was/is true for me, and when I do I feel it's important to mention the caveat of potentially encountering a new dissociative trap: stage 7.
One more thing about Tolle: his sudden awakening (i.e. shift of identification from form to formlessness) resulted in a greatly diminished amount of thoughts. It was the self-centered, habitual and petty thoughts that dropped away. That doesn't mean we should strive to think less. You can't make your unhappiness disappear or "awaken" by trying to think less. But that is how Tolle seems to think
it works. He drew wrong conclusions from what happened to him. His thoughts aren't any more reliable than your or my thoughts.
And who's to say that Tolle accurately portrayed the inner events and states that he experienced and experiences? He may have strongly exaggerated it or even fabricated it. Even if he experienced an awakening, he may have slipped back into his pre-awakening state afterwards. This usually seems to happen, which is why the initial awakening in many Eastern traditions is seen as just the beginning of the spiritual path, with a lot more purification and meditation needed to be done to establish any sort of lasting awakening.
If you want to know about the phenomenon of diminished thought after awakening, look into Gary Weber. After decades of meditating two hours a day, suddenly his self-referential thoughts stopped and never fully returned. Being a scientist himself, he can explain the phenomenon clearly and rationally. He has been examined by neuroscientists (using brain-scans), and what they found is interesting.
More about that here: [psychologytomorrowmagazine.com
] and here: [psychologytomorrowmagazine.com
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 02/01/2020 06:31PM by zizlz.