Eckhart Tolle Article From Ode Magazine (by Tijn Touber)

He arrived at a place where most people rarely go: the here and now. And Eckhart Tolle definitely plans to stay there. Because in the here and now there are no problems; they belong to the future or the past. Tijn Touber spoke with the man who is living proof of his words. “Every action that originates from the here and now, will be exactly right.”

The man in bed is panicked by fear. For the umpteenth time he has awoken in the middle of the night with the same recurring thought: “I can’t live with myself any longer.” For years he’s been flung back and forth between unbearable stress and suicidal thoughts. He’s not yet thirty, but to him the world is a cold, dangerous place that he wants to escape. What he’d really like to do is dissolve, disappear forever. On this particular night the pain is worse than usual. The words pound in his head: “I can’t live with myself any longer, I can’t live with myself any more”. Then something strange happens. Suddenly another thought emerges: if I can’t live with myself any longer, there must be two of ‘me’. The ‘me’ and the ‘self’ I can no longer tolerate. “Maybe”, he thinks, “only one of them is real.”
This thought makes such a deep impression that for a few moments he can’t think anymore at all. For the first time in his life, his mind goes completely still. But just as he is about to breathe a sigh of relief, the silence changes into a whirlpool that threatens to suck him in. The fear he feels now is even greater than what he experienced a few minutes before. He is afraid to lose himself and, as his body begins shaking uncontrollably, he desperately latches on to who he thinks he is: Eckhart Tolle, scientist at Cambridge University, German, man, human being, … But it’s too late. The whirlpool is pulling him into unfathomable depths and the only thing he can do is let himself fall.

Eckhart Tolle no longer remembers what happened after that, but when he came back to consciousness, he was a changed man. The world around him appeared to have changed. The sunlight shining through the curtains was so beautiful that he cried. The rest of the day he walked around the city in a state of absolute amazement – deeply impressed by the beauty of life. As if he was born again.
“It was only later that I understood what had happened,” Tolle remembers. “The intense pressure of the pain of that night had become so great that my consciousness was forced to separate itself from identifying with the unhappy and fearful self. This separation must have been so complete, that the false, suffering self fell apart all at once.”
In one night, Tolle left behind all identification with his role and identity. His past appeared to have been erased and the future rendered unimportant. The only thing that mattered was the present, where everything was all right. He had landed in a place where most of us rarely go: the here and now. In this new state of consciousness, Tolle spent two years mostly sitting on London’s park benches. He gradually left more and more things behind: house, job, relationships, status, possessions. He realized he didn’t need anything to be happy. He no longer needed to go anywhere or do anything. He had achieved his goal and was exactly where he needed to be, every moment of the day. The energy he radiated drew interest from many people. They sometimes approached him in the park to ask: “I want what you have. Can you give that to me or show me how I can achieve it?” To which he responded, again and again: “You’ve already got it. You just don’t feel it because your mind is making too much noise.”
In 1998, he turned these question and answer sessions resulted into a slim book The Power of Now (New World Library). At first it was completely ignored, until actress Meg Ryan read it and was so deeply moved she tipped off Oprah Winfrey, who designated it “one of my favourite books”. From one day to the next – this was December 2002 – the book shot up to first place on The New York Times’ best seller list. Now the book is available in 30 languages and has sold copies worldwide.

Meeting Tolle at his hotel overlooking an Amsterdam canal, I notice his friendly light blue eyes, little beard, reddish hair and somewhat slumping shoulders. He exudes the sense of peace you might expect from someone dedicated to living in the present. “The power of now begins with attention,” he tells me. “ By completely embracing that which presents itself. Ask yourself: ‘what is the problem now?’ And now means now, not: ‘I don’t know how I’ll be able to pay the rent at the end of the month’. What is the problem now? Sometimes you need to ask the question three or four times in order to see that there is no problem now.
“Every action that originates from the here and now will be right,” he continues. “You don’t think about that decision – it’s the right decision in the moment. Every so often you see athletes do it. If they’ve mastered their game, they are capable of complete presence and effectiveness in the moment. That is the basis of their success and it is a joy to watch.
“Most people are separated from that life flow. They fight against themselves and are no longer open to life, to the fact that now is doing it’s utter best to work for them. Stop fighting, give in to the now and see how things manifest all by themselves without effort. If I mentally project myself into the coming two weeks, I immediately feel stressed – all the lectures I have to give and what will people think of them? But past and future don’t really exist. Have you ever experienced the past? No, because everything you experience is always the present.”
Tolle, who is 56, speaks slowly and softly, with a trace of a German accent that makes his English sound singsong. His hands remain calmly on his lap. No macho talk and firm reprimands. He doesn’t even try to convince you. He is simply sharing his experience.
“Nearly everyone derives his identity from mental concepts of who he or she thinks they are. Nearly everyone identifies with his or her thoughts. If you ask people who they are, you get their life story. But that’s not who they are. The story only describes a number of events in their lives. You can’t get to know yourself by thinking about it. You can only get to know yourself by silencing your mind and listening – by truly being present for what is presenting itself in the moment.
“You cannot solve your problems on the thinking level, because that’s where they were created. Solutions come when you rise above your thoughts. I call that ‘beyond thought’, which is different than ignorance. Nor does it mean that you never think again, but it means that you are no longer a prisoner of your own mind.”
According to Eckhart Tolle, giving in to the now is the only path that leads to actual free will. “Most people live in the delusion that they make decisions out of free will. In reality their actions are completely determined by their past. How you think, what you want and what you consider important are all determined by your upbringing, your culture, your religion – in short, by your concepts. As long as you still think you are your mind, you have no free will. Spiritually you are unconscious. You may think you know what you want, but you don’t. It is only the conditioning of your mind that says: “This is what you need to have”. That’s not a choice, it’s mechanical. Some people escape from this. Then it is suddenly as if there is more consciousness, which means that for the first time they truly experience free will. Only then can you take responsibility.”
It sounds very easy, so why do most people continuing to suffer? I ask Tolle if suffering is necessary as a path to insight, as happened to him? “You need to suffer until you see that you don’t need to suffer. That appears to be a paradox. Suffering was necessary for most people who have gone through a deep inner transformation. There are exceptions. But nowadays not everyone has to go through the ‘dark night of the soul’. Many have already suffered enough. Humanity has already suffered so much that you could almost say that all the necessary human suffering is behind us. It’s already taken place. It is therefore now possible for many individuals to make the transition. When you understand that you’re suffering as a result of collective conditioning, then you’ve already got one foot out the door.
“The moment you realise you’re crazy,” Tolle adds. “is the moment you start to heal.”
He regularly falls silent, as if he is listening something outside himself. By making contact with what he calls “the field of presence”, Tolle – who admits himself that he has no charisma – makes a tremendous impression. The lecture he gives to 800 people a few days after our discussion is a good example of this. Tolle did nothing more than sit in a chair and listen and then talk about what occurs to him. He said he hardly prepares for lectures so as to be open to what presents itself. But the power of these ideas could clearly be read on the faces of those who attended his Amsterdam lecture.

This metamorphosis of a “fearful, depressive and oversensitive young man” to a celebrated spiritual teacher will prove a major test for Tolle’s ego. “It is a challenge to be seen by others as ‘special’, while I know that the truth is quiet the opposite,” he says. “The lessons come from a state of presence. And that state can only be, because the person has become so unimportant. It is precisely the absence of the person that makes that happen. If I forget that, I fall back into the egotistical illusion. This has happened to various teachers, after years of being bombarded with projections of ‘being special’. They started believing it themselves. The essence is that I continually remain aware that I am actually doing nothing. I realise I am no one.” He falls silent. And then, with a burst of laughter: “That’s not exactly something to be proud of, is it?”
Tolle’s very power lies in that modesty. His message is the same as that of the enlightened masters throughout the ages. But for many, Tolle’s own experience brings that message closer. An Indian guru is far removed from most of us today, but practically everyone can identify with Eckhart Tolle, an ordinary man who struggled survive in the midst of modern society. And his message is very powerful: enlightenment can be achieved now. We don’t need to travel a long road of meditation, discipline and abstinence to get there. Enlightenment is not a lengthy path; it primarily involves a decision to be present in the here and now.
With an apologetic tone, Tolle tells me, “For some people striving towards enlightenment is the last thing they need to let go of. You see, even if you faithfully meditate every day to achieve enlightenment, you’re still in the same mind frame as someone who really wants a new BMW. It’s the same conditioning: ‘In the future…’. But there is no future. Surrender means the realisation that there is no state to be achieved. You give up your pursuit of a particular state and absorb yourself in what there already is. And that’s more than enough. You are already completely yourself. There is nothing in the future that can make you more yourself.”

Source: Ode Magazine

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