Eckhart Tolle Article From Life Positive Magazine
(by Maria Wirth)
Being a seasoned spiritual master,
Eckhart Tolle began the Rishikesh retreat by narrating an anecdote from
the life of the Dalai Lama when he fled from Tibet and came to India. In
the first audience that the Dalai Lama gave to westerners in India, a
curious gentleman among the audience sought help to overcome his lack of
"From what do you suffer?" the Dalai Lama had asked. The gentleman tried
to explain, but the Dalai Lama couldn't understand and was more
bewildered. Finally he went around to each person in the gathering and
asked whether they had heard of what this feeling was. To the Dalai
Lama's surprise, almost everyone nodded in affirmation. To drive home
the point, Tolle then remarked with a smile: "Even the ugliest cat has
no problems with self-esteem. Why then we human beings? And especially
we the so-called modern human beings who live almost entirely in our
The reason for this sorry state of affairs is that we live almost
entirely in our mind. We don't identify with our being, which would be
natural, but with thinking and feeling. We create, as it were, right
from childhood, a mental image of us-of what we think, feel and do-and
then believe that we are this image.
The result is the generation of a false self that doesn't have much
worth. It makes us forget our true being and forces us to think
incessantly, because this phantom self or ego, as Tolle calls it,
thrives on thoughts. It is a product of thoughts. And it loves
conflicts, drama and enemies, even when it claims it wants peace.
Conflicts and enemies strengthen the ego with its sense of separateness
and the ego loves to grow stronger. Further, the ego lives almost
entirely in the past or in the future, because it defines itself from
the past and hopes for fulfillment in the future. It considers the
present moment as an unwanted hindrance on its way to the future. Tolle
exhorts people to live in the present moment. He himself came to this
realization the hard way.
Now in his fifties, Tolle was born in Germany. He graduated from the
University of London and worked at Cambridge University. When he was 29,
a profound spiritual transformation took place. For 20 years after that,
he lived a quiet life devoted to understanding, deepening and
integrating this transformation. Occasionally he would guide individuals
Tolle, too, had been identified with a phantom self once which made him
suffer a lot. He was depressive and occasionally even showed suicidal
tendencies. One night, when he was 29, one thought kept repeating itself
in his mind: "I can't live with myself any longer." Suddenly he realised
what a peculiar thought it was. "I with myself? Am I one or two?"
He was stunned by this strange realization, and his mind stopped though
he was fully conscious. He felt drawn into what seemed like a vortex of
energy and then into a void. He let himself fall into that void without
resistance. When he woke up the next morning, his world had changed.
Everything was fresh and pristine, as if it had just come into
existence. He felt connected with something immeasurable, and deep peace
and bliss. He went around the city in utter amazement at the miracle of
life on earth. The connection with the depressive and anxious Tolle was
cut off. He was now only one.
The course of his worldly life changed when his book The Power of Now
was published in 1997 in Vancouver, where he had, due to an inspiration,
moved one year earlier. Since then Tolle is in great demand as a
spiritual teacher and travels all over the world. In February this year,
he came for the first time to India and gave programmes in a few cities.
In Rishikesh he led a week-long retreat for people from all over the
world in which the author participated.
Tolle said that most people live with a mind-created self, with
which-would it be another person?-they wouldn't live for a single day.
They even address it as 'you'. For example: "What a fool you have been!"
Some try to improve themselves and pin up on their board's affirmations
like "I am okay". It won't help much, believes Tolle. Yet there is a
solution. Stay present in the now, advises Tolle.
The now, the present moment, holds the key to liberation. The now is the
most precious thing there is, because in the now the whole life unfolds.
Life is now. When you are fully present in the now, all problems are
gone, as well as the phantom self, which needs past and future for its
survival. Only now you can feel who you truly are: something
Tolle prefers to call it Being, because it is difficult to form a mental
image of it. And he asks us not to form a mental image, because Being
can't be understood by the mind. Yet it can be felt as one's own
presence. And enlightenment is, says Tolle, to regain awareness of Being
and to abide in this state. It is our natural state in which there is
joy of Being and deep peace, but also great vitality and alertness.
- Stay fully present in the now—your whole life unfolds here. In
the now there is joy of Being and deep peace.
- Be present as the watcher of the mind.
- Just observe and feel—do not judge anything.
- Do not wish the present moment to be different from what it is.
- Make it a habit to feel your body from inside as often as
possible. The body is always in the present.
- Don’t believe this, try it!
Tolle mentions the ancient Indian analogy of the wave and the ocean.
"Right now, we probably experience ourselves as a wave and because of so
many other waves around us, we don't see the ocean at all. We struggle
to survive and we are afraid, because the danger that the wave
disappears is real. Every moment trillions of waves appear and
disappear. They are forms on the surface of the ocean and basically
nothing else but the one ocean. As soon as a wave dives deeply into
itself, it realises that it is indestructible, one with the immeasurable
Even when the wave felt alone and weak, when it was afraid of dying and
didn't see the ocean, it was one with it. So the connection can be made
directly, not sometime in the future, because the wave is the ocean. We
are Being-now. Tolle doesn't say anything new. Why then so many people
all over the world throng to his talks-so many that almost always the
venue cannot hold them? His retreats are fully booked in no time in
spite of the relatively high cost.
And his book The Power of Now is on the bestseller list even in India,
which teems with spiritual masters. I believe there are several reasons
for that. One, rarely has a teacher so clearly and forcefully put across
the immense power and importance of the now, of the present moment and
how enormously liberating it is to be fully present in the now.
Two, Tolle is one of the few teachers who speak from presence. This can
be felt in the room. Even his book has power-the power of presence, as
many readers confirm. Three, Tolle balances skillfully on the fine line,
which separates two camps in spirituality. One is of spiritual teachers
who believe in predetermination or fixed destiny. Their followers lean
back and try to enjoy life as far as possible.
The second camp is of teachers who point out all the obstacles on the
path to the goal which have to be overcome. Their followers try hard and
finally feel frustrated, as they obviously haven't tried hard enough.
Tolle says that it is a 'helpful perspective' to think that one can
choose presence. That's enough. It is enough to be present as the
watcher of the mind and not to be lost in thoughts, feelings and
In this way a higher level of consciousness becomes activated and the
mind loses its power. The identification with the mind is broken. Yet
one thing is important: just observe and feel-do not judge or analyze
what you observe and feel.
Tolle proceeds gently. The ego, he says, is the unobserved mind. It runs
our life completely as long as we are not present as the witnessing
consciousness. Then, we are basically 'not there' and react
unconsciously according to the strategies of the ego. Its most important
strategy is to avoid the present and to look for fulfillment in the
"Please, Now, don't hole me up. I am on my way to the future," the ego
says to the present moment. Fulfillment in the future is of course never
possible, because the future is, as is the ego, a thought product and
not real. The future comes as now. Only the now is real. And the
continuous fixation on the future, which is typical for most people, is
the perfect recipe for permanent dissatisfaction in one's life.
An enlightened person has the main focus of his attention always in the
present moment. He is only peripherally aware of past and future-only in
as much as it is necessary to function in daily life. Allow the present
moment to be and do not wish it to be different, pleads Tolle.
Say yes to it, because it is already, and then do whatever you feel
appropriate to do without any negativity. That will transform your whole
life miraculously. Then, life will work for you rather than against you.
But don't believe this, says Tolle. Try it out!
As long as we learn to be present in the now, tips are helpful. Tolle
has an extremely valuable tip: make it a habit to feel your body from
inside as often as possible. The body is always in the present. Only
thinking moves to the future or past.
Check often how you feel inside-just feel, do not judge or analyse what
you feel. Awareness of the inner body centres one in the present and
gives a taste of how liberating it is to be fully present in the now.
And he who has got that taste of liberation can easily choose presence.
The enormous power of the now flows then into one's life and nothing is
left to wish for.
Life Positive Magazine