Eckhart Tolle Article From Shared Vision Magazine
(by Jennifer Wohl)
We had agreed to meet at two o'clock
for our interview. Yet when I arrived at Eckhart Tolle's apartment, he
wasn't there. Ordinarily, I'd have been irritated with Tolle, the
50-year old author of The Power of Now, for missing our appointment.
But I'd just read his book, which says: Peace is as simple as
surrendering to the Now, to what is. Thirty minutes later, when he still
wasn't there, I reminded myself of the book's counsel: Resistance to
what is creates disharmony, unhappiness, and even illness. "Okay, he's
not here," I said to myself. "That's just what is." I went home.
It turned out that we'd miscommunicated about the day of the interview.
We met the next day at his apartment near UBC, which overlooks the
mountains, the Endowment Lands, and the Straight of Georgia. Even if I
had been annoyed about the mix-up, it would have been difficult to
remain so in Tolle's company. His calm presence is both disarming and
contagious. I felt there was nothing else in the world this peaceful and
unassuming man had to do other than sit and be with me.
The German-born Vancouver resident says he hasn't always been so
peaceful. Until his late twenties, depression, acute anxiety, and
thoughts of suicide characterized his adulthood. Then one night he said,
"I can't live with myself any longer." Uttering this sentence a few
times gave him pause. He thought: "Who is the self that I cannot live
with, and who am I?" And with this, Tolle says he broke his attachment
to his negative thinking and his identification with his thoughts. "My
sense of 'I' was no longer trapped in the unhappy me," says Tolle. "The
'I' stood back and looked at the whole structure of unhappiness and the
heaviness of that. The withdrawal from identification with that was so
complete that the unhappy self crumbled, as if I had pulled a plug out
of an inflatable toy."
Tolle was living in London, England at the time, about to enter a PhD
program at Cambridge University to study Latin American Literature. He
realized the academic world wasn't where he belonged, but it was a few
more years before he left that life behind. When he finally did, he
spent the next several years drifting, sitting on park benches, and just
"being." By all external standards he should have been miserable--he had
no job, no relationships, and no home-but Tolle describes this period as
one of complete bliss and joy. He says he found the present moment so
deeply satisfying that he lost interest in the future. His friends and
relatives told him he was crazy to throw away a promising academic
career. But he followed his own guidance and stayed with the present
He began reading spiritual texts such as the Bhagavad Gita, Tao Te Ching,
New Testament, and writings by Krishnamurti, and Ramana Maharshi. He
visited Buddhist monasteries and spoke with the monks. The common
teaching in all of his explorations--that a transformation of human
consciousness is possible here and now--resonated with him because of
his own transformative experience. People began approaching him for
spiritual guidance and for the following years he taught his spiritual
discoveries to individuals and groups across Europe and North America.
He says people can choose to step into the state of consciousness that
happened to him spontaneously. "People don't need to go through what I
went through," he says. "They don't need to sit on park benches for a
few years... Buddha, Jesus, and other ancient teachers all said a
different state of consciousness is available to you right now."
In the early 90s, Tolle came to Vancouver, where he began writing. He'd
kept notes during his 12 years of teaching, which he eventually
incorporated into the book. But he also began writing new
material--writing that he describes as effortless and accompanied by a
strong and empowered energy. The result is The Power of Now, which
conveys the simple idea that we are not our mind. The pain we create is
a form of non-acceptance, an unconscious resistance to what is. The
message isn't new, but the book has been quietly gaining commercial
success since its publication in 1998 by Namaste Publishing Inc. In
1999, Namaste sold the American publishing rights to New World Library,
a US publisher. The book is currently in its fifth printing with them
and there are now more than 100,000 copies in print.
Tolle attributes the book's wide acceptance to its neutral language and
to people's readiness to hear the message. "It's not a Buddhist book or
a Christian book, but it conveys the essence of spirituality, not only
conceptually, but also energetically," says Tolle. The book has
consistently been on Vancouver's Banyen Books' bestseller list since its
arrival two and a half years ago. It has also been on the bestseller
lists of the Bodhi Tree Bookstore in Los Angeles and the Northern
California Independent Booksellers. It has appeared on Oprah Winfrey's
"O-list" in her magazine. The book is currently being translated into
German, Swedish, Italian, French, Dutch, Danish, and Norwegian.
Power of Now is Tolle's first book, and the first publishing venture of
Connie Kellough, Namaste Publisher's mastermind and creator. "We didn't
know if eight, 80, or 80 million people would read the book," Kellough
says. "But we knew we had to put it out into the world and it has defied
all odds--we had no agent and no experience, and we didn't advertise.
"The book is a form, the words are signposts," says Kellough, "but the
outpouring of love that has been so evoked by the book - that's real.
Eckhart's stillness and joy of being, which permeate everything he does,
Moni Vangolen, a book buyer for Banyen Books and a student of Tolle's,
echoes this sentiment. "Eckhart embodies an energy of stillness and love
that he shares freely with all who come into contact with him." Vangolen
credits Tolle and his teaching for profoundly affecting her life. "My
ability to be with what is is significantly different than what it was,"
she says. On one occasion, she came out of a meditation class based on
his teaching and found that her car had been towed. "Something inside
wanted to say 'ahhhh,' but it didn't have a life," she says. "I just
started to laugh, and then took the next step and found a phone. I took
a cab to get my car, and was delighted to find that the cab driver was
Russian, as is my own family. We had a great conversation. Everything
else just unfolded."
Tolle reflects for a long time when I ask him if he's going to write
another book. Maybe. He says it's not so much that he wants to write
another book, but that he's remaining open to the possibility. Whatever
happens, you can bet that Tolle will say yes. As he says in his book,
"Always say 'yes' to the present moment. What could be more futile, more
insane, than to create inner resistance to something that already is?
What could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and
always now? Surrender to what is. Say 'yes' to life--and see how life
suddenly starts working for you rather than against you."
Shared Vision Magazine