An exclusive interview with Eckhart Tolle
Eckhart Tolle (born in germany, 1948 as ulrich tolle) is a contemporary spiritual teacher at the age of 29, he experienced a spiritual transformation that marked the beginning of an intense inward journey and the beginning of his function as a counselor and spiritual teacher. He now lives in vancouver british columbia canada the name change from ulrich to eckhart seems to be a reference to german mystic meister eckhart. Eckhart tolle’s non-fiction bestseller, the power of now, emphasizes the importance of being aware of the present moment as a way of not being lost in thought. In tolle’s view, the present is the gateway to a heightened sense of peace and aliveness.
Eckhart Tolle is widely recognized as one of the most inspiring spiritual teachers of our time. Maggie Mavi from Soul Curry met him in London, where he was giving intensive talks after the silence of more than three years.
- SOUL CURRY: ECKHART, PLEASE EXPLAIN THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS PROLONGED SILENCE?
- Eckhart Tolle: For more than three years, I had stopped one particular cycle-the teaching cycle. One of the reasons is because I realized that it’s time to write again. So I wrote another book, ‘A New Earth’, and there was no teaching during this period. By the time I reached the end of the book, I still felt that the new teaching cycle has not yet begun. So I was happy remaining silent. I wouldn’t call it a decision because when you say decision, it implies mind is just working out, what is to be done and what not. It was more like a realization, feeling the energy and seeing what is right, and this is the way I always live. It’s not so much of a mental decision-making but the totality of the present moment, and then you live without thinking, tuning into the total energy field. You can practice this with any situation. Where the mind becomes still, you are very alert, you tune into the energy field, you feel the energy and the answer comes not as a decision but as a realization. Then there is no question about it. It is just so clear.
- SC: HOW WOULD YOU INTRODUCE SELF AWAKENING TO A COMMON MAN ENGROSSED IN THE VICIOUS CIRCLE OF HIS LIFE?
- ET: The first step is to become aware that mind is continuously active. It is always thinking. So I would ask the person whether he realizes that there is a voice in his head which never stops talking; the first step is this realization. Now, it may sound very obvious that my mind never stops thinking but many people are so identified with the voice in their head that they are not even aware of the fact that they have voice in the head because they are the voice. They are so completely possessed by the mind. The key is to direct the person’s attention to their own mind and say, ‘do you realize that there is a voice in your head- that talks, talks and talks.’ The moment they realize it, that’s the first step towards awakening because awakening is to dis-identify from the mind and the dream of unconscious thinking.
So, once the person has realized that there is a constant noise in my head-mental noise-that is the first glimpse of awakening. This is the place from where you can be aware of the mind, and not be part of the mind. Now this sounds very simple but many people are not even ready for this simple step.
- SC: WHEN ONE IS ON THE PATH OF SPIRITUAL AWAKENING, DOES ONE SEEK GUIDANCE OR IS ONE GUIDED?
- ET: The phrase, ‘when student is ready, the teacher appears’ is indeed true. When there is this inner readiness, very soon something comes to you from the outside, not always immediately in the form of a human being but may be in the form of a book or you would hear something that takes you deeper and from there you go on. In some cases you actually need a spiritual teacher, while for some a spiritually vitally alive book can also take place of a teacher. I have had many letters from the people all over the world whose life has become transformed simply through reading ‘Power of Now’. And this could happen only because there was an inner readiness. This readiness opens the doors of great evolution and this is how the teacher emerges. Teacher is not the person. It’s something that is deeper than the person and it comes when the person becomes transparent to it; when there is less of density. Most human beings have a high density because that’s the density of the workings of the mind and emotional density. When that goes through a shift, you become more present. Present moment is the key. Then a greater consciousness emerges from within – the only real teacher. That consciousness is not yours or mine. It’s consciousness. Truth is always a recognition. It is not something that you learn anew because truth is essentially within you.
- SC: HOW TO BECOME AWARE OF THE PRESENT MOMENT?
- ET: In the beginning, practice being present, being aware, being conscious in the little things that you do in day to day life, that are not challenging. See if you can do them consciously, which means not to make them into means to an end, but simply be fully present. As simple as washing your hands, or when you make a cup of tea, be fully present with every action, rather than looking to the end result that you want to achieve. Usually, the whole process of making a cup of tea is unconscious and finally when you are drinking the cup of tea, you are already looking forward to the next thing. You are never present in the present moment. So when you do things in daily life like putting on your clothes in the morning, be conscious of every touch so that there is a presence as you do that.
Occasionally, when you look out of the window, focus of something very natural, for example the sky; if you don’t have anything natural, then may be a potted plant, or an animal or anything that you can consciously focus on. It will be of great help, as it will take you out of the mind. Human made things can also make you aware- for example, a car. But it’s easier to connect with the tree and be free of the mind, than to connect with the car, but after awhile you can also do it with the car.
So when you are not being challenged, sit alone in your room for meditating and simply being, and take in the totality of the room. When you get into your car, instead of immediately starting your car, just for 30 seconds, feel the inner body, the energy field. Stop and just be!
One never finds those gaps as there are no gaps in one’s life. One needs to continuously find those gaps in the stream of thought. The mind always pulls you from one thought to another and then to another. We just keep thinking, thinking and thinking. One needs to be free of it. It is important to find the gaps in your daily activities and to be free of the compulsive thinking.
One way of being free- is simply to realize that you are thinking. How can you realize that you are thinking? Now this is not part of thinking. The moment you realize that certain thoughts are going through your head, there is already some freedom there. For most people, stopping their mind doesn’t work because when they try to stop thinking, they usually find they can’t do it but one way of reducing mind activity and finding stillness is actually by not resisting the present moment as it is. Then automatically thinking slows down-the mind activities slow down. All these things are connected. When you say yes to the present moment, the compulsive thinking begins to slow down and you tune into the present moment.
The gaps don’t need to be long; just a few seconds are sometimes enough. More important than the length is the frequency and the mind often might tell you, ‘I don’t have time for gaps’ but it’s a lie. Everybody, even the busiest person has time to occasionally stop for 10 to 20 seconds. There is nobody who is that busy that they can’t occasionally stop for even 20 seconds.
Question is, are there those gaps in your life. There is an utmost need to find the gaps: No mind, just stillness. Finding the gaps is more important than meditating. Meditation is a great tool, but if your meditation is one part of your life and then for the rest of your life, you are as unconscious as everybody else then it’s no avail.
- SC: IS BEING IN THE MOMENT A GRADUAL PROCESS OR HAPPENS LIKE AN INSTANT CHANGE?
- ET: Instant deep change is relatively rare but it does happen to some people. It usually happens through some disaster in a person’s life. Perhaps, somebody suddenly loses his/her family or all their possessions. For most people, it is a more gradual change where the thinking mind no longer possesses them. It is the dis-identification from the conditioned mind and a gradual arising of the unconditioned dimension of consciousness., which is a great liberation. Then the person i.e. the conditioned entity weakens and becomes less dense, and the unconditioned being, which is the consciousness, gradually begins to shine through the person. This gradual arising brings the change. Gradually an intense change begins to happen. One feels the need to withdraw completely, as there is a deep pull. Doing simple things like watching TV programs, chatting – all become more of an effort. Suddenly things that were very important, now become less important or in some cases meaningless. The stillness, the space, begins to attract the person. It’s important for the person to go back into the world but without being part of it. One needs to be in it, but not a part of it. It is a different level of consciousness, as one finds the inner stillness. You are still there with everyone but just do not need to participate anymore as a change has begun to happen. The new consciousness is arising.
- SC: HOW IS IT THAT ACTIVITIES LIKE CHATTING, WATCHING TV BECOME LESS IMPORTANT?>
- ET: Yes! Many people find that a lot of human activity that they might have enjoyed, they don’t enjoy it any more. They much prefer to be alone, or to be in nature, or to be alone in their room, or they might feel the impulse to withdraw completely. When the change takes place, the intensity is so deep that it just pulls you away from everything. You begin looking for that space, that stillness, which you were not aware of before and you may need to occasionally withdraw.But ultimately it’s not necessary because you always carry that within you and you can go back into daily activities without loosing it. That’s where you become an important agent of change in the world. Because the world needs you, it needs the new energy coming. So it’s not asking you to permanently withdraw from the world but to go back into the world, without becoming a part of it. There is an expression which is sometimes used in Christianity-`Be in the world but not part of it`. Don’t be part of it but you need to be in it. This means that you embody a different frequency, a different level of consciousness. When you are going through the process of finding that inner stillness, that space in you, doing simple things like watching television or sitting and chatting, having a regular conversation with friends becomes more of an effort, because you don’t feel the need to be talking or listening. Suddenly you find that you might want to just sit, but not listen and not be part of that conversation because it doesn’t mean anything much to you anymore.
All the things that otherwise people enjoy, like gossiping, criticizing, which are favorite activities of many people. It all becomes quite meaningless and you don’t want to be part of it anymore. You might still be with your old friends but not participating in the conversation. Now it could happen that your old friends don’t want to be with you anymore because you are not interesting enough. So, some people find that eventually a change happens. Some old friends also get drawn into the new consciousness while others drop away, but they will evolve in their own time.
- SC: IN ‘POWER OF NOW’ YOU HAVE OFTEN MENTIONED ‘SURRENDER TO THE SITUATION COMPLETELY’. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
- ET: It simply means to say ‘YES’ to this moment. That is the state of surrender-a total yes to what is. And the complete yes to what is, is the transcendence of the world. The usual state of consciousness is to resist, to run away from it, to deny it, to not look at it. And surrendering to the situtation means to welcome this moment, embrace this moment. This is all that’s needed. No inner resistance to what is! No inner resistance to the present moment, i.e. to surrender by letting go of resistance, and you only let go of resistancewhen you realize the futility of resistance. You realize how much damage it does, first to your body because it is a negative state and a prolonged negative state creates disease in the body. It does damage to the human relations. It spreads like disease. It inflicts others. Every negativity infects others and it re-enforces their negativity. So you see it’s futile, it doesn’t help. It spreads
like pollution. You could call it psychic pollution which is far worse than physical pollution and I believe things are connected. You experience so much pollution in physical realm because there is tremendous amount of pollution in your psychic realm. Where the outer always reflects the inner. So it’s up to you to bring about the change rather than demanding that situations should change or other people should change and behave differently. We often demand that the other people should behave differently an then we will be ok. You drop the demand that others should behave differently. It starts with you. If you start behaving differently, after awhile, you will notice changes in the other people’s behavior but you didn’t demand it. It just happens.
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