Like many seekers on the spiritual path, I recently discovered Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now. Admittedly I’m a little late to the show as the book was published years ago but at least I finally got the message. In case you haven’t heard the primary message is that in this modern society we have developed our rational minds to a level that has become more harmful than beneficial. Our rational minds are constantly turned on and as a result our presence is usually turned off. Our lack of presence is evident in the priority that past and future events take over the present moment. We often dream of the good times from our past and constantly anticipate a distant and better future without appreciating the current moment. According to Eckhart the ego is directly related to the mind and as a result of over developing our minds we have falsely identified with our egos. We believe that we are our professions, possessions, clothes, status, emotions, likes, dislikes, etc. Of course there’s much more to his message than this, but that is the foundation.
“Sattva“, a Sanskrit word meaning “your truth“
If you can appreciate Eckhart’s message then the question arises, how do I quiet my mind, be present in the moment, and find my true self? Fortunately for him the opportunity came spontaneously in only one short night. The story is really quite amazing, basically following years of severe depression he lost consciousness one night and awoke the next morning enlightened. Well isn’t that convenient? Instant enlightenment, though the years of depression don’t sound very convenient. Eckhart says we so completely identify with our egos that most of us don’t know who we are or what it feels like to truly be living in the present. Since most of us will not experience instant enlightenment I wondered whether someday we would develop a chemical that temporarily turns off our minds. Everybody is looking for a quick fix right? Millions of people take anti-depressants daily rather than working on the source of their problem. Soon after I realized this substance may have already been discovered.
Eckhart on LSD
It seems I’m not the only one to have this idea. Eckhart says that over the years many people have asked him if the Now experience is comparable to the LSD experience as they thought it matched his descriptions. He was unable to answer them since he never tried LSD before, but eventually he decided to find the answer. After his first psychedelic trip Echkart could recognize the similarity, but his ultimate conclusion was that being in the Now is far superior to LSD. He states that the experiences simply don’t compare as LSD seemed to quiet his mind by distracting it with an extreme amplification of the senses while being in the Now is more peaceful.
Eckhart Tolle: Wisdom in Daily Life video
Eckhart on MDMA?
I obviously believe a permanent state of presence is far superior than taking a pill every time you want to quiet your mind. Eckhart claims we too can achieve this permanent state by following his recommended methods. Yet my over developed rational mind couldn’t resist wondering if LSD was the wrong substance to compare with being in the Now. Given the opportunity, instead of asking his opinion on LSD I would certainly have asked him about MDMA. For those of you giggling over the thought of Eckhart dancing to electronic music at an all night party, allow me to explain.
Recreational or medicinal?
Most people associate MDMA with the substance Ecstasy which is famous for being consumed at raves. While MDMA is the primary ingredient of Ecstasy, when buying drugs on the street you never know for certain what you are getting, so we can’t always assume they are the same. Most people do not associate pure MDMA with a pioneering form of therapy used to treat people suffering from conditions such as PTSD. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is currently navigating through a federal process to make the substance legal for medicinal use. Sasha Shulgin was the chemist who resurrected the MDMA formula from decades old records of pharmaceutical company Merck. In the documentary Dirty Pictures he expresses disappointment with how our society misused his gift. The federal government has made it illegal, and some recreational users abuse it; meanwhile the healing potential has never been fully explored. Sasha mentions the impact of naming the substance Ecstasy, which implies it is a party escape drug with no medical value.
I must agree that Ecstasy is not an accurate description of the experience. MDMA doesn’t seem to elevate and alter me into some drug induced intoxication as the name Ecstasy implies. The name Clarity would probably be most fitting. I believe the experience is more subtractive than additive except for the amphetamine which adds a mild feeling of increased energy. In the documentary Neurons to Nirvana MDMA is described as the only non sedating anxiolytic known. It is thought to somehow silence the fear sensing region of the mind, thus my description of it as a subtractive experience. With the fear silent it is possible to experience a state similar to your true self and to be in the Now. This brings us back to Eckhart.
Eckhart speaks of silencing the mind, or subtracting it from the equation except for situations when it is really needed. He also says that fear is one of the biggest obstacles that prevents us from being in the Now. According to Eckhart the ego is always searching for problems to solve as a justification to exist. When you begin to reduce use of the rational mind a situation similar to ego death emerges and since most egos are afraid to die you feel even more fear. From my perspective MDMA and Eckhart’s philosophy are two different methods that can achieve a similar goal. As a non sedating anxiolytic MDMA is capable of silencing fear which Eckhart says is the most active emotion that prevents us from being in the Now. Sure the amphetamine fueled mind is still a challenge to overcome, but 20 minutes of meditation should be able to solve that problem.
“Climb up over the top, survey the state of the soul, you’ve got to find out for yourself whether or not you’re truly trying.
Why not give it a shot? Shake it, take control and inevitably wind up finding for yourself all the strengths that you have inside still rising”
-Lyrics from Song for a Friend, performed by Jason Mraz
I’d like to hear what the guru thinks of my suggestion. I would expect Eckhart to continue favoring his method over MDMA, but it still would be interesting to hear him compare the two. Let’s not forget that he was fortunate enough to experience instant enlightenment. I think the rest of us still have old traumas to process, repressed emotions to feel, and trapped energy to release before we can be fully present and know our true selves. MDMA can be a step along the healing path leading to the Now.
MAPS is working hard to make MDMA legal for medicinal use, but founder Rick Doblin says that ultimately the drug has potential to improve the lives of all people who use it responsibly, not only the chronically ill. I can imagine a scenario when people use MDMA to get a preview of what being in the Now feels like. You know, like sometimes you want to watch the 2 minute trailer before paying $10 for the 2 hour movie. If we could realize for only a few hours who we really are beneath the fear and mind chatter then perhaps we would be more motivated to follow the methods outlined by Eckhart. Who knows, people may even discard the name Ecstasy and start calling the substance NOW.