I was watching Eckhart Tolle talk to Russell Brand the other day and amongst many insightful things he said, Eckhart explained a metaphor about a room.
I’m sure he did a better job that I am going to do, but I’ll give it a go anyway.
If you consider yourself to be a room – what do you think of?
Do you think of the décor? What colour the walls are, the curtains that are hanging, the lightshade?
Do you think of the furniture in the room, the chairs, tables, the cushions?
Do you think of what the purpose of the room is? Is it for sitting, or eating, or playing?
These are all ways that we relate to what we are. The décor is like our appearance. The furniture is like the skills, attributes or habits we have. The purpose is like our jobs or roles in life.
The décor is the outside appearance, how things first look. It’s quick and easy to change the clothes we wear, our hair, even our weight given a little more time. So our décor, how we look, isn’t really who we are.
The furniture is changeable, so are our skills and attributes. We can learn new things as easily as bringing in a new chair. We can kick old habits as easily as throwing out a wobbly table. We can tidy up and move things around easily, whenever we choose. So that isn’t really who we are either.
Our purpose, our jobs or roles in life change over time as well. A nursery doesn’t stay a nursery for long, and we can up and change jobs with 4 weeks notice. Some are more fixed, but with some work you could strip the units out of a kitchen and change it into a living room if you wanted, in the same way that I could stop communicating with my family and effectively decide to no longer be part of it. (Not that I’m planning on that, sorry if I got your hopes up! Haha!)
So, if the essence of a room isn’t the décor, what’s in it or what it’s used for, what is it?
If the essence of you isn’t what you look like, what your skills or habits are or your current role in life, what is it?
It’s the space.
Whatever it looks like, whatever is in there, whatever it’s used for, that space is the essence of the room, the one fixed thing. Even if you removed the confines of the four walls that space would remain.
And perhaps we are the same. Whatever we look like, whatever we’re filled with, whatever our role is, the one fixed thing is that space.
It’s a little harder to picture that space within ourselves because it’s the absence of everything physical or verbal. It’s that quiet part of us that is there to witness our lives. The part that simply listens to our thoughts without judgement. The part of us that is left when everything else is stripped away.
You are the space.