What I've Learned from 4 Years of Eckhart Tolle
Eckhart Tolle or ET is a unique individual, author and orator. After a suicidal night where he thought “I cannot live with myself any longer” and recognized the oddity of thought, as if there were two people “I” and “myself”. That recognition brought a radical inner transformation and years of intense bliss. He later learned more about what happened to him and became a “spiritual teacher”.
His books The Power of Now and A New Earth have been #1 on the New York Times best seller list. He has been on Oprah and Larry King and travels the world giving talks and helping people realize they can live without their own suffering. He has even done a talk at google.
The proceeds from the Eckhart Tolle Foundation go towards awakening consciousness and creating a new earth.
I’m going to attempt paraphrasing the major takeaways I’ve received after following, reading and watching Eckhart Tolle over the last 4 years. But seriously read the books, I will only slightly do them justice.
Eckhart defines the ego as such: “Identification of the self in form, as a thought form or a physical form”.
It is most important to recognize the ego in yourself and requires a high degree of awareness of your thoughts and how they separate you or others from the oneness of all things in the universe.
It can be depicted as a mind-made entity, a “little me” that lives inside us, that forms a fictional self. Most people identify with it and are completely wrapped up in satisfying its needs as if without it, they would cease to exist.
According to Eckhart, and it is really hard to disagree with him, the ego is a fundamental dysfunction of humans and we all suffer from it in one form or another without being aware of it.
Most people are unaware of or deny a stream of thinking in their heads. Thinking is a body function you have little control over. You can only be aware of it.
It is important to identify the collective human ego as well, the ego is more destructive and stronger as a group.
Schisms and roles like gender, race, profession, location, politics, etc, are all things that the ego will use. A favorite role of the ego is victim and will be quite cunning in its attempts to strengthen its position.
Not only is most of humanity still in the service of the ego, it is considered completely normal despite its pathological tendencies.
A few enlightened individuals have appeared about 2500 years ago (Buddha, Jesus, Lao). The basic dysfunction has not really needed to evolve until the time we are presently in.
Given the amount of collective dysfunction in recent human history with world wars, population, technological and environmental doomsday scenarios…. Humans face a stark choice. Evolve beyond the ego or die.
If you’ve ever felt like you were acting out uncontrollably, as if something just didn’t feel right. Eckhart has given it a name - the Pain Body - so its easier to identify.
The pain body is “accumulated old emotional pain” that resides in the body. It resonates with negative thinking like a psychic parasite. Dense pain bodies can cause physical health problems. Like the ego, it operates at an individual and collective level.
The pain body has two states: active and dormant. When active, you are not present, you are unconscious. You are completely and totally identified with the pain. In some senses, the definition of evil.
Recommendations for dealing with the pain body is to practice becoming more aware of the present moment and feel your inner body.
It helps in relationships to say “oh that triggered my pain body” or to another as “your pain body is active”. You can teach children about it by asking questions like “do you remember when you acted out like that? How did it feel? Do you remember why? Could you name it?”
The present moment
Eckhart suggests salvation is always in the present moment. He reminds you that both the past, and present, don’t exist. Where is the past? Where is the future and does it ever appear as expected?
Your entire life only ever consists of the present moment.
In fact, if you break down most of your problems, they only exist in the past or the future. Recognition of that fact can completely dissolve the ego.
Yes, the past and future can be useful as a practical tool, for learning or scheduling. Forming attachments to them, however, will ultimately only lead to more suffering.
Who am I?
If your essence is not in the world of form - thoughts or physical - who are you?
Eckhart says the answer is awareness. Unclouded awareness and consciousness are one in the same.
Try this: watch your mind like a cat waiting on a mouse hole in the wall… When the next thought pops out catch it. How long did you have to wait?
A good meditation is to try and get the wait as long as possible.
As someone who has had a somewhat difficult past with a lot of suffering and shame…. Eckhart’s teachings were like turning on a light bulb in a basement.
His teachings have radically transformed how “I” think about existence and my role in it.
I’ve traveled to some of his retreats, explored books he’s read and found inspiring, watched countless videos and it all points to the same truth.
I’m hoping now that I’m able to deal my own inner state better, I can make the best of the rest.