By Dr. Tan Kheng Khoo
He was born as Ulrich Tolle in Dortmund, Germany into a German Catholic family. Eckhart Tolle lived with his father in Spain from the age of 13 to 19, between the years 1961 and 1967. He changed his name to Eckhart in homage to the German spiritual leader Meister Eckhart. He moved to England after that. He had no formal education between the ages of 13 and 23, refusing to go to school because of its “hostile environment”; but he pursued his own creative and philosophical interests. Despite all this, he went to the University of London and is acknowledged by Cambridge University to have matriculated as a postgraduate student there in 1977, when he was 29.
After leaving Cambridge, Tolle in 2003 went into a steep mental decline. He was unhappy, depressed and anxious. He said: “I was not trying to become enlightened or anything like that. I was looking for some kind of answer to the dilemma of life, but I had been looking to the intellect for the answer; philosophy, religion and intellectual inspiration. The more I was looking on that level, the more unhappy I became.”
For many years he lived in a state of great fear and continuous fluctuation between states of depression and high anxiety. One night he woke up in the middle of the night, as he had many times before, in a state of even more intense dread and fear. The mind had lots of reasons why he was feeling fearful, and yet that state was continuous no matter what the external situation was. It became so unbearable that suddenly the thought occurred to me, “I cannot live with myself any longer.” That thought was the trigger for a transformation. The thought kept repeating itself many times in my head and then suddenly there was a stepping back from the thought and a looking at the thought. He asked, “Who is the ‘I’ and who is the self that I cannot live with?” Am I one or am I two? And that triggered me like a koan. It happened to me spontaneously. I looked at that sentence: ‘I can’t live with myself’. I had no intellectual answer. Who am I? Who is this self that I cannot live with? Who is that self? And then, beyond thought, there was the recognition of the “unhappy me”, as I later called it, as being something completely non-substantial and fictional. The consciousness withdrew completely from identification with the “unhappy me.” At that moment the whole structure of the “unhappy me” and its pain collapsed because the withdrawal of identification was so complete. What was left was simply beingness or presence. There was still a moment of fear. It felt like being drawn into a hole within myself, a vast whirlpool, and a realization arose in my chest, “Resist nothing.” That was the key. Then resistance was relinquished and I don’t know what happened after that.
All I do know is that the next morning I woke up and even before opening my eyes I heard the sounds of birds and it was so precious; everything was so precious. Then I opened my eyes and everything was alive and new and fresh as if I had never seen it before. And I walked around and picked up things and looked at them. I amazed at everything. There was no understanding of it. I was not even trying to understanding anything. It was so beautiful. Then I walked around the city in the same state, even in the midst of traffic. I was in a state of amazement and it was all so beautiful. He spent the next two years sitting on park benches “in a state of the most intense joy.” And then he wrote his first book, The Power of Now. This book was a best seller for years. After the transformation, the next few years were devoted to understanding, integrating and deepening that change. This is the beginning of an intense inward journey. He began to work in London with individuals and small groups as a counsellor and spiritual teacher. Since 1995 he lived in Vancouver, The core of his teachings lies in the transformation of consciousness, a spiritual awakening that he sees as the next step in human evolution. An essential aspect of this awakening consists in transcending our ego-based state of consciousness. This is the perquisite not only for personal happiness but also for the ending of violent conflict endemic on our planet. Eckhart has also written three more books: 1) A New Earth 2) Stillness Speaks, and 3) Practising the Power of Now. The former has been explosively popularised by Winnifred Oprah’s webcast downloads. He is also a very much sought after as a public speaker and he teaches and travels extensively throughout the world.
Power of Now
He has summarised his core teaching succinctly as:
Being and Enlightenment:
There is an eternal, ever-present One Life beyond the myriad forms of life that are subject to birth and death. Many people use the word God to describe it; He often calls it Being. The word Being explains nothing, but nor does God. Being, however, has the advantage that it is an open concept. It does not reduce the infinite invisible to a finite entity. It is impossible to form a mental image of it. Nobody can claim exclusive possession of Being. It is your very presence, and it is immediately accessible to you as the feeling of your own presence. So it is only a small step from the word Being to the experience of Being.
Being is not only beyond but also deep within every form as its innermost invisible and indestructible essence. This means that it is accessible to you now as your own deepest self, your true nature. But do not seek to grasp it with your mind. Do not try to understand it.
You can know it only when the mind is still. When you are present, when your attention is fully and intensely in the Now, Being can be felt, but it can never be understood mentally.
To regain awareness of Being and to abide in that state of “feeling-realization” is enlightenment.
The word enlightenment conjures up the idea of some superhuman 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. It is finding your true nature beyond name and form.
The inability to feel this connectedness gives rise to the illusion of separation, from yourself and from the world around you. You then perceive yourself, consciously or unconsciously, as an isolated fragment. Fear arises, and conflicts within and without become the norm.
The greatest obstacle to experiencing the reality of your connectedness is identification with your mind, which causes thought to become compulsive. Not to be able to stop thinking is a dreadful affliction, but we don’t realize this because almost everybody is suffering from it, so it is considered normal. This incessant mental noise prevents you from finding that realm of inner stillness that is inseparable from Being. It also creates a false mind-made self that casts a shadow of fear and suffering.
Identification with your mind creates an opaque screen of concepts, labels, images, words, judgements, and definitions that block all true relationship. It comes between you and your fellow man and woman, between you and nature, between you and God. It is this screen of thought that creates the illusion of separateness, the illusion that there is you and a totally separate “other”. You then forget the essential fact that, underneath the level of physical appearances and separate forms, you are one with all that is.
The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive. To put it more accurately, it is not so much that you use your mind wrongly---you usually don’t use it at all. It uses you. This is the disease. You believe that you are your mind. This is the delusion. The instrument has taken you over.
It is almost as if you were possessed without knowing it, and so you take the possessing entity to be yourself.
The Beginning of Freedom is the realization that you are not the possessing entity---the thinker. Knowing this enables you to observe the entity. The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated.
You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, that thought is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence. You also realize that all the things that truly matter---- beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace---- arise from beyond the mind.
You begin to awaken.
Freeing Yourself From Your Mind
The good news is that you can free yourself from your mind. This is the only true liberation. You can take the first step right now.
Start Listening to the voice in your head as often as you can. Pay attention to any repetitive thought patterns, those old audiotapes that have been playing in your head perhaps for many years.
This is what I mean by “watching the thinker,” which is another way of saying: Listen to the voice in your head, be there as the witnessing presence.
When you listen to that voice, listen to it impartially. That is to say, do not judge. Do not condemn what you hear, for doing so would mean that the same voice has come in again through the back door. You will soon realize: there is the voice, and here I am listening to it, watching it. This I am realization, this sense of your own presence, is not a thought. It arises from beyond the mind.
So when you listen to a thought, you are aware not only of the thought but also of yourself as the witness of the thought. A new dimension of consciousness has come in.
As you listen to the thought, you feel a conscious presence----your deeper self---behind or underneath the thought, as it were. The thought then loses its power over you and quickly subsides, because you are no longer energizing the mind through identification with it. This is the beginning of the end of involuntary and compulsive thinking.
When a thought subsides, you experience a discontinuity in the mental stream---- a gap of “no-mind.” At first, the gaps will be short, a few seconds perhaps, but gradually they will become longer. When these gaps occur, you feel a certain stillness and peace inside you. This is the beginning of your natural state of felt one-ness with Being, which is usually obscured by the mind.
With practice, the sense of stillness and peace will deepen. In fact, there is no end to its depth. You will also feel a subtle emanation of joy arising from deep within: the joy of Being.
In this state of inner connectedness, you are much more alert, more awake than in the mind-identified state. You are fully present. It also raises the vibrational frequency of the energy field that gives life to the physical body.
As you go more deeply into this realm of no-mind, as it is sometimes called in the East, you realize the state of pure consciousness. In that state, you feel your own presence with such intensity and such joy that all thinking, all emotions, your physical body, as well as the whole external world become relatively insignificant in comparison to it. And yet this is not a selfish but selfless state. It takes you beyond what you previously thought of as “your self.” That presence is essentially you and at the same time inconceivably greater than you.
Instead of “Watching the Thinker,” you can also create a gap in the mind stream simply by directing the focus of your attention into the Now. Just become intensely conscious of the present moment.
This is a deeply satisfying thing to do. In this way, you draw consciousness away from the mind activity and create a gap of no-mind in which you are highly alert and aware but not thinking. This is the essence of meditation.
In your everyday life, you can practice this by taking any routine activity that normally is only a means to an end and giving it your fullest attention, so that it becomes an end in itself. For example, every time you walk up and down the stairs in your house or place of work, pay close attention to every step, every movement, even your breathing. Be totally present.
Or when you wash your hands, pay attention to all the sense perceptions associated with the activity: the sound and feel of the water, the movement of your hands, the scent of the soap, and so on.
Or when you get into your car, after you close the door, pause for a few seconds and observe the flow of your breath. Become aware of a silent but powerful sense of presence.
There is one certain criterion by which you can measure your success in this practice: the degree of peace that you feel within.
The single most vital step on your journey toward enlightenment is this: Learn to dis-identify from your mind. Every time you create a gap in the in the stream of mind, the light of your consciousness grows stronger.
One day you may catch yourself smiling at the voice in your head, as you would smile at the antics of a child. This means that you no longer take the content of your mind all that seriously, as your sense of self does not depend on it.
Enlightenment: Rising Above Thought
As you grow up, you form a mental image of who you are, based on your personal and cultural conditioning. We may call this phantom self the ego. It consists of mind activity and can only be kept going through constant thinking. The term ego means different things to different people, but when Tolle uses it here it means a false self, created by unconscious identification with the mind.
To the ego, the present moment hardly exists. Only past and future are considered important. This total reversal of the truth accounts for the fact that in the ego mode the mind is so dysfunctional. It is always concerned with keeping the past alive, because without it -----who are you? It constantly projects itself into the future to ensure its continued survival and to seek some kind of release or fulfilment there. It says: “One day when this, that, or other happens, I am going to be okay, happy, at peace.”
Even when the ego seems to be concerned with the present, it is not the present that it sees: It misperceives it completely because it looks at it through the eyes of the past. Or it reduces the present to a means to an end, an end that always lies in the mind-projected future. Observe your mind and you’ll see that this is how it works.
The present moment holds the key to liberation. But you cannot find the present moment as long as you are your mind.
Enlightenment means rising above thought. In the enlightenment state, you still use your thinking mind when needed, but in a much more focused and effective way than before. You use it mostly for practical purposes, but you are free of the involuntary internal dialogue, and there is inner stillness.
When you do use your mind, and particularly when a creative solution is needed, you oscillate every few minutes or so between thought and stillness, between mind and no-mind. No-mind is consciousness without thought. Only in that way is it possible to think creatively, because only in that way does thought have any real power. Thought alone, when it is no longer connected with the much vaster realm of consciousness quickly becomes barren, insane, and destructive.
The Body’s Reaction to your Mind
Mind is not just thought. It includes one’s emotions as all unconscious mental-emotional reactive patterns. Emotion arises at the place where mind and body meet. It is the body’s reaction to your mind---- or you say a reflection of your mind in the body.
The more you are identified with your thinking, your likes and dislikes, judgements and interpretations, which is to say the less present you are as the watching consciousness, the stronger the emotional energy charge will be, whether you are aware of it or not. If you cannot feel your emotions, if you are cut off from them, you will eventually experience them on a purely physical level, as a physical problem or symptom.
If you have difficulty feeling your emotions, start by focusing attention on the inner energy field of your body. Feel the body from within. This will also put you in touch with your emotions.
If you really want to know your mind, the body will always give you a truthful reflection, so look at the emotion, or rather feel it in your body. If there is an apparent conflict between them, the thought will be the lie, the emotion will be the truth. Not the ultimate truth of who you are, but the relative truth of your state of mind at that time.
You may not yet be able to bring your unconscious mind activity into awareness as thoughts, but it will always be reflected in the body as an emotion, and of this you can become aware.
To watch an emotion in this way is basically the same as listening to or watching a thought, which I described earlier. The only difference is that, while a thought is in your head, an emotion has a strong physical component and so is primarily felt in the body. You can then allow the emotion to be there without being controlled by it. You no longer are the emotion; you are the watcher, the observing presence.
If you practice this, all that is unconscious in you will be brought into the light of consciousness.
Make It A Habit To Ask Yourself: What is going on inside me at this moment? That question will point you in the right direction. But do not analyse, just watch. Focus your attention within. Feel the energy of the emotion.
If there is no emotion present, take your attention more deeply into inner energy field of your body. It is the doorway into Being.
The Origin of Fear
The psychological condition of fear comes in many forms: unease, worry, anxiety dread tension etc. It is about something that might happen in the future but not now. You are here now but the mind is in the future. This creates an anxiety gap, which will be your constant companion. You can cope with the present moment, but you cannot cope with the future.
As long as you are identified with the mind, the ego runs your life, The ego is very vulnerable and insecure and is always under threat, even if outwardly it is very confident. The body’s reaction to the mind is Danger: I am under threat! The continuous message is Fear. Fear can be caused by: loss, by failure, by being hurt and finally death. To the ego, death is always around the corner and it affects every aspect of one’s life.
For example, one has to be right in every argument. This defence is due to fear of death. Many relationships have broken down due to this. Once you have dis-identified from your mind, there is no more the unconscious need to be right, as it makes no difference to your sense of self now. Your sense of self is now in a deeper and truer place within yourself, not from the mind.
You are no more defending an illusory identity, an image in your mind. In the light of your consciousness, the unconscious pattern will quickly dissolve. Power over others is weakness disguised as strength. True power is within and it is available now.
The mind always seeks to deny the Now. The more you are identified with your mind, the more you suffer. The more you can accept the Now, the more you are free of pain, of suffering-- and free of the egoic mind. The best solution is not to create more time. How to stop creating time?
Realize that the Present Moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life. Whereas before you dwelt in time and pay brief visits to the Now, have your dwelling place in the Now and pay brief visits to past and future when required to deal with the practical aspects of your life situation.
Always say “yes” to the present moment.
End the Delusion of Time
Time and mind are inseparable. Remove time from the mind and it stops-----unless you choose to use it.
To be identified with your mind is to be trapped in time: the compulsion to live almost exclusively through memory and anticipation. This creates an endless pre-occupation with past and future and an unwillingness to honour and acknowledge the present moment and allow it to be. The compulsion arises because the past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation, of fulfilment in whatever form. Both are illusions.
The more you are focused on time---past and future--- the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.
Why is it the most precious thing? Firstly, because it is the only thing. It’s all there is. The eternal present is the space within which your whole life unfolds, the one factor that remains constant. Life is now. There was never a time when your life was not now, nor will there ever be.
Secondly, the Now is the only point that can take you beyond the limited confines of the mind. It is your only point of access into the timeless and formless realm of Being.
Have you ever experienced, done, thought or felt anything outside the Now? Do you think you ever will? Is it possible for anything to happen or be outside the Now? The answer is obvious, is it not?
Nothing ever happened in the past; it happened in the Now. Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now.
The moment you understand the above, there will be a shift in consciousness from mind to Being, from time to presence. Suddenly, everything feels alive, radiates energy, emanates Being.
Entering the Now
Make it a habit of withdrawing attention from past and future whenever they are not needed. Get out of time as much as possible. Through self-observation, more presence comes into your life automatically. The moment you realize you are not present, you are present. Whenever you are able to observe your mind, you are no longer trapped in it. A witnessing presence is also present. This is not mind-made. Watch your mind, your thoughts and emotions as well as your reactions in various situations. Be interested in your reactions as in the situation or the person that causes you to react.
When your attention is in the past or future, do not judge or analyse them. Watch the thought, feel the emotion, observe the reaction. Do not make a personal problem out of them. You will then feel something more powerful than any of those things that you observe: the still, observing presence itself behind the content of your mind, the silent watcher.
Intense presence is needed when certain situations trigger a strong emotional charge, such as when your self-image is threatened, a challenge comes into your life that triggers fear, things go wrong. In those instances, the tendency is for you to become “unconscious.” The emotion takes you over----- you ‘become’ it. You act it out. You justify, make wrong attack, defend….except that it is not you, it is the reactive pattern, the mind in its habitual survival mode.
Identification with the mind gives it more energy; observation of the mind, withdraws energy from it. Identification with the mind creates more time; observation of the mind opens up the dimension of the timeless. Once you can feel what it means to be present, it becomes much easier to simply choose to step out of the time dimension whenever time is not needed for practical purposes and move more deeply in the Now.
This does not impair your ability to use time------ past or future-----when you need to refer to it for practical matters. Nor does it impair your ability to use your mind. In fact it enhances it. When you do use your mind, it will be sharper, more focused.
The enlightened person’s main focus of attention is always the Now, but he is still peripherally aware of time. In other words, they continue to use clock time but is free of psychological time.
Letting go of Psychological Time
Learn to use ‘clock time’ as the practical aspect of life, but when it is over, return back to the present moment straight away. In this way, there is no accumulation of ‘psychological time,’ which is identification with the past and continuous projection into the future. If you set yourself a goal and work toward it, you are using clock time. But if you are excessively focused on the goal, perhaps you are seeking happiness, fulfilment, or a more complete sense of self in it, the Now is no longer honoured. It becomes a mere stepping-stone to the future and clock time has turned into psychological time. Your life is no longer an adventure, just an obsessive need to arrive, to attain to “make it.” There is no beauty or miracle of life as when you are present in the Now.
Are you always trying to get somewhere? Is most of your doing just a means to an end? Is fulfilment just around the corner? Are you always focused on becoming, achieving, and attaining, or chasing some new thrill or pleasure? If you acquire more things will you be more fulfilled? Are you waiting for a man or woman to give meaning to your life? If that is the case your life loses its vibrancy, its freshness, its sense of wonder. All these repeated performances give you an identity, but it covers up the reality of Now. The mind then creates an obsession with the future as an escape mechanism. Your perception of the future is an intrinsic part of your state of consciousness now. If your mind carries a heavy burden of the past, you will experience more of the same. This is due to lack of presence. The quality of your consciousness at this moment is what shapes the future---which can only be experienced as the Now. It is your degree of presence that determines the future. Presence is the only place where true change can occur and where the past can be dissolved is in the Now.
Time is the cause of one’s suffering and one’s problems, although from the conventional point of view it is caused by specific situations. It is the denial of the Now by the dysfunctional mind that the situations are seen as problems. So the problem comes from the time-bound mind itself. There is no salvation in time. You cannot be free in the future.
Presence is the key to freedom, so you can only be free now.
Finding Life Underneath your Life Situation
Your life is actually your life situation. It is psychological time: past and future. Certain things in the past went wrong and you are still resisting it. Hope keeps you going, but hope keeps you focussing on the future. And this keeps you denying the Now, which is unhappiness.
Forget about your life situation for a while and pay attention to your life.
Your life situation exists in time. Your life is now.
Your life situation is mind-stuff. Your life is real.
Find the “narrow gate that leads to life.” It is called the Now. Narrow your life down to this moment. Your situation may be full of problems---most life situations are---- but find out if you have any problem at this moment. Not tomorrow or in ten minutes, but now. Do you have a problem now?
When you are full of problems, there is no room for anything new to enter, no room for a solution. So whenever you can, make some room, create some space, so that you find the life underneath your life situation.
Use your senses fully. Be where you are. Look around. Just look Do not interpret. See the light, shapes, colours, textures. Be aware of the silent presence of each thing. Be aware of the space that allows everything to be.
Listen to sounds; do not judge them. Listen to the silence underneath the sounds.
Touch something and feel and acknowledge its Being.
Observe the rhythm of your breathing: feel the air flowing in and out, feel the life energy inside your body. Allow everything to be, within and without. Allow the “isness” of all things. Move deeply into the Now.
You are awakening out of the dream of time into the presence.
All Problems are illusions of the Mind
If your attention is focused on the Now, you have no problems. The mind unconsciously loves problems because it gives you an identity of sorts. You have a problem because you are dwelling on a life situation without wanting to take action now and you are unconsciously making it part of your sense of self. In this way you lose the sense of life, of Being. You carry in your mind the burden of a thousand things that you may have to do in the future instead of focusing on the one thing you
can do now.
When you create problems you create pain
Therefore do not create any problem and hence no pain will arrive. Although this choice is simple, it is truly radical. You must be totally fed up with suffering and you have had enough. You also need to access the power of Now. As you are free of pain, the others are also free of pain. Ultimately you also do not contaminate the Earth, your inner space and the collective human psyche.
The Joy of Being
Ask yourself: Is there joy, ease, and lightness in what I am doing? If there is not, then time is covering up the present moment, and life is perceived as a burden or a struggle.
If there is no joy, ease or lightness to what you are doing, you do not have the change what you are doing. Just change the how. “How” is always more important than the “What.” Pay more attention to the doing than the result that you want to achieve through it. Give your fullest attention to whatever the moment presents. This implies that you also completely accept what is, as you cannot resist at the same time.
As soon as you honour the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out of present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love.
So before you are firmly established in the state of presence, before you are fully conscious, you shift back and forth for a while between consciousness and unconsciousness, between the state of presence and the state of mind identification. You lose the Now, and you return to it, again and again. Eventually presence becomes your predominant state.
Bring in more consciousness into one’s ordinary life when things are smooth. This growth in presence power also generates an energy field in you and around you that is of a high vibrational frequency. No unconsciousness, no negativity, no discord or violence can enter that field and survive.
When you learn to be the witness of your thoughts and emotions, which is an essential part of being, present, you may be surprised when you first become aware of the background “static” of ordinary unconsciousness and realize how rarely you are truly at ease within yourself.
On the thinking mental level, you will find a great deal of resistance in the form of judgement, discontent, and mental projection away from the Now. On the emotional level, there will be an undercurrent of unease, tension, boredom, or nervousness. Both are aspects of the mind in its habitual resistance mode.
Observe the many ways in which Unease, discontent, and tension arise within you through unnecessary judgement, resistance to what is, and denial of the Now. Anything unconscious dissolves when you shine the light of consciousness on it.
Once you know how to dissolve ordinary unconsciousness, the light of your presence will shine brightly, and it will be much easier to deal with deep unconsciousness whenever you feel its gravitational pull. However, ordinary unconsciousness may not be easy to detect initially because it is so normal.
Make it a habit to monitor your mental and emotional state through self-observation. “Am I at ease at his moment?” “ What is going on inside me at this moment?” are the types of questions to ask. Be interested in what goes inside you as what happens outside. If the inside is right, the outside will fall into place. Primary reality is within, secondary reality is without.
What kind of thoughts is your mind producing? What do you feel? Direct your attention into the body. Is there any tension?
Once you detect that there is a low level of unease, the background static, see in what way you are avoiding, resisting, or denying life---- by denying the Now.
With practice, your power of self-observation, of monitoring your inner state will become sharpened.
Wherever you are, be there totally
Are you stressed? Stress is being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there.’ Or being in the present but wanting to be in the future. It is a split that tears you inside. Does the past take up a great deal of your attention? Do you frequently talk and think about it, either positively or negatively? Are your thought processes creating guilt, pride, resentment, anger, regret, or self-pity? Then you are not only reinforcing a false sense of self but also helping to accelerate your body’s ageing process by creating an accumulation of past in your psyche.
Die to the past every moment. You do not need it. Only refer to it when it is absolutely relevant to the present. Feel the power of the moment and the fullness of Being. Feel your presence. Are you worried? Do you have many “what if” thoughts? You are identified with your mind, which is projecting itself into an imaginary future situation and creating fear. There is no way that you can cope with such a situation, because it does not exist. It is a mental phantom. Acknowledge the moment.
Become aware of your breathing. Feel the air going in and out of your body. All you ever have to deal with, cope with is this moment. What problem do you have right now, not next year or tomorrow or in five minutes’ time? You can always cope with the Now, but you can never cope with the future. Waiting for the future is a state of mind. You want the future and not the present. You are creating inner conflict between your Now and the future. You are losing the present all the time. If you are dissatisfied with what you have got, you will continue to experience inner condition of lack and you feel unfulfilled. Even if you have exciting experiences, they will come and go and always leave you with an empty feeling. You still need further physical or psychological gratification. You will not abide in Being and so feel the fullness of life now. That alone is true prosperity.
Beware: The false and unhappy self, based on mind identification, lives on time. It knows that the present moment is its own death and so feels very threatened by it. It will try to keep you trapped in time. The state of presence could be compared to waiting. Presence is a different kind of waiting. It requires your total alertness. Something could happen any moment, and if you are not absolutely awake you may still miss it. In that state, all your attention is in the Now. There is no tension in it, no fear, just presence. You are present with your whole Being, with every cell of your body.
In that state, the “you” that has a past and a future, the personality is hardly there any more. Yet nothing of value is lost. You are still essentially yourself. In fact, you are more fully yourself than you ever were before, or rather it is only now that you are truly yourself.
The past cannot survive in your presence. Only the present can free you of the past. More time cannot free you of time. Access the power of Now. That is the key. The power of Now is none other than the power of your presence, your consciousness liberated from thought forms. So deal with the past on the level of the present. The more attention you give to the past, the more you energise it, and the more likely you are to make a “self” out of it.
Attention is essential. But not to the past as past. Give attention to the present, give attention to your behaviour, or to your reactions, moods, thoughts, emotions, fears, and desires as they occur in the present. If you can be present enough to watch all those things, not critically or analytically but non-judgmentally, you are dealing with the past and dissolving it through the power of your presence.
You cannot find yourself by going into the past. You find yourself by coming into the present.
Beauty arises in the stillness of your Presence
In order to become aware of such things, the mind has to be still. Your total presence is required. Beyond the external forms, there is something more. Something that cannot be named, something ineffable, some deep, inner, holy essence. Whenever and wherever there is beauty, this inner essence shines through somehow. It only reveals itself to you when you are present. This nameless essence and your presence are one and the same thing.
Realizing Pure Consciousness
Whenever you watch the mind, you withdraw consciousness from mind forms. And this transforms you to be a watcher or the witness. Consequently, the witness----pure consciousness beyond----- becomes stronger and the mental formations become weaker. This is of cosmic significance. Through you, consciousness is awakening out of its dream of identification with form and withdrawing from form.
To stay present in everyday life: it helps to be deeply within yourself, otherwise the mind will drag you along like a wild river. It means to inhabit your body fully. To always have some of your attention in the inner field of your body. To feel the body from within. Body awareness keeps you present. It anchors you in the Now.
The body that you can see and touch cannot take you into Being. That visible and tangible body is only an outer shell, which is a distorted perception of a deeper reality. In your natural state of connectedness with Being, this deeper reality can be felt every moment as the invisible inner body, the animating presence within you. So to “inhabit the body” is to feel the body from within, to feel the life inside the body from within, to feel the life inside the body and thereby come to know that you are beyond the outer form.
You are cut off from Being as long as your mind takes up all your attention. When this happens----and it happens continuously for most people---- you are not in your body. The mind absorbs all your consciousness and transforms it into mind stuff. You cannot stop thinking.
To become conscious of Being, you need to reclaim consciousness from the mind. This is one of the most essential tasks on your spiritual journey. It will free vast amounts of consciousness that was previously trapped in useless and compulsive thinking. A very effective way of doing this is simply to take the focus of your attention away from thinking and direct it into the body, where Being can be felt in the first instance as the invisible energy field that gives life to what you perceive as the physical body.
Connecting with the Inner Body
Direct your attention into the body. Feel it from within. Is it Alive? Is there life in your hands, arms, legs and feet, your abdomen or your chest? Can you feel the subtle energy field that pervades the entire body and gives vibrant life to every organ and every cell? Can you feel it simultaneously in all parts of the body as a single field of energy? Keep focusing on the feeling of your inner body for a few moments. Do not start to think about it. Feel it.
The more attention you give it, the clearer and stronger this feeling will become. It will be as if every cell is becoming more alive, and if you have a strong vital sense, you may get an image of your body becoming luminous. Pay more attention to the feeling than the image. An image, no matter how beautiful or powerful, is already defined in form, so there is less scope for penetrating more deeply.
Meditation for going deeply into the body
Fifteen minutes for this will do. Sit on a chair and keep the spine straight. Or else choose your own favourite position. Relax. Close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths. Feel the breath going into the abdomen.
Then become aware of the entire inner energy field of the body. Do not think about it. Feel it. By doing this you reclaim consciousness from your mind.
When you feel the inner body clearly as a single field of energy, let go of any visual image and focus exclusively on the feeling. Drop any mental image of the physical body. All that is left then is an all-encompassing sense of presence or “beingness,” and the inner body is felt to be without a boundary.
Then take your attention even more deeply into that feeling. Become one with it. Merge with the energy field, so that there is no longer a perceived duality of the observer and the observed, of you and the body. The distinction between inner and outer also dissolves now, so there is no inner body any more. By going deeply into the body, you have transcended the body.
Stay in this realm of pure Being for as long as it feels comfortable; then become aware again of the physical body, your breathing and physical senses, and open your eyes. Look at your surroundings for a few minutes in a meditative way. Do not label them, and continue to feel the inner body as you do so.
Having access to that formless realm is really liberating. It frees you from bondage to form and identification with form. This is the Unmanifested, the invisible Source of all things, the Being within all beings. It is a realm of deep stillness and peace, but also of joy and intense aliveness. Whenever you are present, you become “transparent” to some extent to the light, the pure consciousness that emanates from the Source. You also realize that light is not separate from who you are but constitutes your very essence.
When your consciousness is directed outward, mind and world arise. When it is directed inward, it realizes its own Source and returns home into the Unmanifested.
Then when your consciousness comes back to the manifested world, you re-assume the form identity that you temporarily relinquished. You have a name, a past, a life situation, and a future. But in one essential respect, you are not the same person you were before: you would have glimpsed a reality within yourself that is not “of this world,” although it is not separate from it, just as it is not separate from you.
As you go about your life, do not give 100 percent of your attention to the external world and your mind. Keep some within. Feel the inner body when engaged in everyday activities, especially when engaged in relationships or when you are relating with nature. Feel the stillness deep inside it. Keep the portal open.
It is quite possible to be conscious of the Unmanifested throughout your life. You feel it as a deep sense of peace in the background, a stillness that never leaves you, no matter what happens out there. You become a bridge between the Unmanifested and the manifested, between God and the world.
This is the state of connectedness with the Source we call enlightenment.
Have Deep Roots Within
The key is to be in a state of permanent connectedness with your inner body-----to feel it at all times. This will rapidly deepen and transform your life. The more consciousness you direct into the body, the higher its vibrational frequency becomes, much like a light that grows brighter as you turn up the dimmer switch and so increase the flow of electricity. At this higher energy level, negativity cannot affect you any more, and you tend to attract new circumstances that reflect higher frequency.
If you keep your attention in the body as much as possible, you will be anchored in the Now. You would not lose yourself in the external world, and you would not lose yourself in your mind. Thoughts and emotions, fears and desires may still be there to some extent, but they would not take you over.
Please examine where your attention is at this moment. You are reading these words in a book or paper. That is the focus of your attention. You are also peripherally aware of your surroundings, other people, and so on. Furthermore, there may be some mind activity around what you are hearing or reading, some mental commentary.
Yet there is no need for any of this to absorb all your attention. See if you can be in touch with your inner body at the same time. Keep some of your attention within. Do not let it all flow out. Feel your whole body from within, as a single field of energy. It is as you were listening or reading with your whole body. Let this be your practice in the days and weeks to come.
Do not give all your attention away to the mind and the external world. By all means focus on what you are doing, but feel the inner body at the same time whenever possible. Stay rooted within. Then observe how this changes your state of consciousness and the quality of what you are doing.
Let the Breath take you into the Body
If at any time you are finding it hard to get in touch with the inner body, it is usually easier to focus on your breathing first. Conscious breathing will gradually put you in touch with the body. Follow the breath with your attention as it moves in and out of your body. Breathe into the body, and feel your abdomen expanding and contracting slightly with each inhalation and exhalation. Gradually focus more on the feeling. Do not attach to any visual image. You are now in your body. You have accessed the power of Now.
Tolle’s bestseller, The Power of Now emphasizes the importance of being aware of the present moment as a way of not being caught up in thoughts of the past and future. His latest book, A New Earth, further explores the structure of the human ego that is thought to be the source of inner and outer conflict. Only in examining one’s ego may people begin to see beyond it and obtain a sense of spiritual enlightening or a new outlook on reality. In Tolle’s view, the present is the gateway to a heightened sense of peace. He states that “being the now” brings about an awareness that is beyond the mind, an awareness, which helps in transcending the ego. The ego means here the false identification with forms and labels: body, mind, thoughts, memories, and social roles, life-story, opinions, emotions, material possessions, name, nationality, religion, likes and dislikes, desires, fears etc. If one is present, one recognizes oneself as the space of consciousness in which the thought or impulse arises. One does not lose the self in thought, nor does one become the impulse. Being present is being the space, rather than what happens. He says that the mind is to be used as a tool, but not let the mind use the person.
In Tolle’s view, the “pain-body” is the emotional component of ego; it is created by the accumulation of suppressed emotions, the suffering of non-acceptance of what is. The size of the “pain-body” differs from person to person; it originates in the person’s past conditioning, usually early childhood.
Tolle says that our true “identity” is the underlying sense of I am, which is consciousness itself. Awareness of Being is self-realization and true happiness. He states that we people are very important, because we are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold.
In Tolle’s view, all wanting implies that the future is more desirable than the present. As long as you want something, you are seeking to reach some point in the future that promises fulfilment. Thereby you are making the present moment, as well as other persons, into a means to an end. You do not need the future, or future lives, to find yourself, and you need to add nothing to you to find yourself.
Tolle believes that the New Testament contains deep spiritual truth, as well as distortions, which are due to a misunderstanding of Jesus’ teaching. He teaches that when you are present, you access your inner knowing and you will sense what is true and what was added on or distorted.
In Tolle’s view, love comes into existence when you know who you are in your essence and then recognize the “other” as yourself. It is the end of the delusion of separation, which is created by excessive reliance on thinking.
In Tolle’s view, this shift in consciousness for most people is not a single event, but a process, a gradual dis-identification from thoughts and emotions through the arising of awareness.
Tolle is aligned with the New Age type of teaching. He acknowledged a strong connection to J Krishnamurti and Ramana Maharshi and stated that his teaching is a coming together of the teachings of both those teachers, and it is a continuation of that. In addition, he states that by listening and speaking with the spiritual teacher Barry Long, he understood things more deeply.
At about the age of fifteen he received five books that were written by a German mystic, Joseph Anton Schneiderfranken, also known as Bo Yin Ra. Tolle responded very deeply to those books. After awakening, he found deep understanding with the New Testament, the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching and teachings of the Buddha. In The Power of Now, he mentioned the writings of Meister Eckhart, Advaita Vendanta, A Course of Miracles, the Bible, mystical Islam, Sufism and Rumi’s poetry, and Zen Buddhism’s Lin-chi (Rinzai school).
Our true selves are the formless Consciousness, which is Being, which is God. We are all one, and thus we are all God.
There is not much new about the Power of Now---it is almost entirely Buddhism mixed with mysticism and a few references to Jesus Christ, a sort of New Age re-working of Zen. Its central message is that the root of our emotional problems is our habit of identifying too much with our minds. The past and the future are creations of thought and only the present moment is real and only the present moment matters.
William Bloom is a former professor at the London School of Economics, and one of UK’s most experienced teachers and authors in the field of holistic development. He believes that Tolle’s work provides a valuable perspective on Western Culture.
“Tolle is offering a very contemporary synthesis of Eastern spiritual teaching, which is normally so clothed in arcane language that it is incomprehensible,” says Bloom. Some people might find him confusing but when he asserts that Descartes’ major insight (I think therefore I am”)-- one of the foundations of Western thinking- is ostensibly wrong, it is a conceptual challenge to how we think about ourselves. And that has always been the major assertion of Eastern religion: that thinking is not the core of who you are. The core of who you really are is that part of you that can watch yourself thinking---that is very Buddhist, very Eastern, very attuned to the whole field of transpersonal psychology.
“ Secondly, he asks people to exist as best they can in any given moment and to connect with the sensation of the physical body—so instead of just staying in your head thinking, to be aware of what is happening in your feet, your hands, you whole body.
“ The thing that is really good about him,” Bloom concludes, “in the midst of all the psycho-babble to do with happiness being based on getting what you want, Tolle sounds a clear note that happiness comes from a state of consciousness and a connection with being present to the wonder of life. Which is just what is needed”
Tolle’s fans regard him as a sort of other-worldly sage; he is often described as “mystical” and “elfin-like”; his blondish hair is always parted on the far left of his head and he sports a beard, but no moustache. He tends to wear corduroy trousers, waistcoats and shirts buttoned to the top, without a tie.
Despite this Tolle does have fans in academic and Christian circles. Andrew Ryder, a theologian at All Hallows College, Dublin, wrote in praise of Tolle in The Way, the modern Christian spirituality magazine: “Tolle’s writing is based on his own experience and personal reflection. This makes his approach to the challenge of living in the present moment both practical and fresh. While he may not use the language of traditional Christian spirituality, Tolle is very much concerned that, as we make our way through the ordinary events of the day, we keep in touch with the deepest source of our being.” Tolle said : “Too many people defensively hold on to and preserve guilty and hostile feelings from past events and allow these memories to make them anxious and unhappy.
Judith Kendra, publishing director of Rider books says: “Id say he’s got tremendous skill in clarifying perceptions and thoughts from our internal world. It’s very hard to put those perceptions into words, and he makes it all seem so simple. The ideas he is talking about have been in existence for thousands of years in both Eastern texts and with the great Western mystics, but he is able to make them understandable.
People can be very derogatory about this sort of thing, but it is only because it’s hard to understand, and it seems irrelevant to our everyday speedy world. Most of us are looking for a way to slow down, and it’s only in the slowing down that the present moment takes on a very clear meaning which so many of us miss. What Tolle is trying to say is: “chill out”---but you cannot sell five million copies of that.”
In my opinion, almost all Tolle’s teaching is from Buddhism. His meditation of watching the breath is Samatha (Concentration) meditation. His teaching of being in the Now is nothing more than Buddha’s teaching of Vipassana, be mindful of every action one is performing. In Buddhist meditation, one should go into the interval between two thoughts, and if one goes deep into this interval, one will reach the realm of emptiness or Void. Tolle’s teaching is to go deep into Being, which is presence, part of God. Going deep into Being is the same as diving deep into the interval between two thoughts. In Vipassana, one can then go deep enough and long enough so as to be with Universal Consciousness. In other words, Tolle's teaching is identical to that of Buddhism. However, Tolle is able to expound his teaching with simple convoluted English. This seems to attract the crowds, as his wordings are taken as enlightened jargon.
1. Eckhart Tolle. The Power of Now. A Hodder Book. 1999.
2. Eckhart Tolle. Practising The Power of Now. Hodder Mobius. 2001.
3. Eckhart Tolle. Stillness Speaks. Hodder and Stoughton. 2003.
4. Eckhart Tolle. A New Earth. Penguin Books. 2005.