Jaci Stephen: 'I've started to see my debt differently. It is joyous, of the now'

Way Out West
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The Independent Online

This self-improvement lark is proving a bit stressful. I can just about manage the four-mile round trip to Borders to buy the materials for my transformation, but it's putting what they contain into action that is proving more difficult.

The major stress is deciding which books are going to be the most helpful. My non-drinking lifestyle means I happily pass the "You're a pisshead, nobody likes you" shelves; I am never tempted by the "Madonna's into it so you can't afford it" section; and I automatically reject anything by a man sporting a full beard, as I am a big advocate of the adage: "a man with a beard is a man with a secret", and although I think that all men have secrets, it is my experience that men with beards have bigger ones than most. Their disguise just hides them better.

I made a semi-exception in the case of the latest accomplice in my rejuvenation programme, Eckhart Tolle, but only because he's recommended by Oprah's Book Club. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't have gone near him; his beard lies in a half-crescent at the bottom of his face, as if he was caught mid-shaving when the doorbell rang and forgot to return to the bathroom mirror.

In The Power of Now, he asserts that we spend too much time dwell-ing on the past and the future and miss the joy of living in the present. I thought that with my dwindling finances, the chapter headed "Mind Strategies for Avoiding the Now" might prove particularly useful.

"Tomorrow's bills are not the problem," states Mr Tolle. If I make them so, I am apparently holding on to a "core delusion" and turning a "mere situation, event or emotion" into a personal problem, which is the real cause of suffering.

I tried it out with my bank manager, who is curious to know when my overdraft might be paid back.

The thing is, I explained: what we have here is not a problem, it is a mere situation, and if you were to free yourself from the bank's imprisonment in psychological time, you would start to see my debt differently – as something in which to be joyous, because it is of the NOW. Outside the NOW, you lose your essential Being, which is a common problem to the egoic mind when it takes over from Presence. OK?

He said I still have to pay back my overdraft.

Mr Tolle also says that waiting is just a "state of mind" and you should simply "snap out of it". Given LA's travel times, that's an awful lot of snapping, and to be honest I'm finding the snapping more stressful than the waiting.

When my friend turned up late for tea this week, I had been drumming my fingers next to the muffin tray for nearly an hour.

"Sorry to have kept you waiting," she said, when she finally arrived.

I did what the book recommends and replied: "That's all right, I wasn't waiting. I was just standing here enjoying myself – in joy in my self."

I tried; but the words didn't come out that way. They came out more along the lines of: yes, you bloody well have kept me waiting and I'm sick of it, etc. Happy just waiting in the joy of myself? Bollocks to that.

I am already regretting having bought Mr Tolle's follow-up, A New Earth, which promises an "Awakening to Your Life's Purpose". I'm just not optimistic. My bank manager's life's purpose seems to be to get me to pay back my overdraft; my life's purpose is not to do so. You see what I mean? Stress, stress, stress. Sometimes I wonder whether this enlightenment stuff is leading me into a new kind of darkness. But I'm too well travelled on the journey to turn back. I've already forgotten what it used to be like to be me.

To read Jaci Stephen's blog, LA Not So Confidential, in full, go to: LAnotsoconfidential.blogspot.com