“Imagine the Earth devoid of human life, inhabited only by plants and animals. Would it still have a past and a future? Could we still speak of time in any meaningful way? The question 'What time is it?' or 'What's the date today?' - if anybody were there to ask it - would be quite meaningless. The oak tree or the eagle would be bemused by such a question. 'What time?' they would ask. 'Well, of course, it's now. The time is now. What else is there?'”
“Use your senses fully. Be where you are. Look around. Just look, don't interpret. See the light, shapes, colors, textures. Be aware of the silent presence of each thing. Be aware of the space that allows everything to be. Listen to the sounds; don't judge them. Listen to the silence underneath the sounds. Touch something - anything - and feel and acknowledge its Being. Observe the rhythm of your breathing; feel the air flowing in and out, feel the life energy inside your body. Allow everything to be, within and without. Allow the "isness" of all things. Move deeply into the Now.”
“The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, that thought is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence. You also realize that all the things that truly matter - beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace - arise from beyond the mind. You begin to awaken.”
“Once you have identified with some form of negativity, you do not want to let it go, and on a deeply unconscious level, you do not want positive change. It would threaten your identity as a depressed, angry or hard-done by person. You will then ignore, deny or sabotage the positive in your life. This is a common phenomenon.
It is also insane.”
—Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
“The mind, conditioned as it is by the past, always seeks to re-create what it knows and is familiar with. Even if it is painful, at least it is familiar. The mind always adheres to the known. The unknown is dangerous because it has no control over it. That's why the mind dislikes and ignores the present moment.”
Most people spend their entire life imprisoned within the confines of their own thoughts. They never go beyond a narrow, mind-made, personalized sense of self that is conditioned by the past.
In you, as in each human being, there is a dimension of consciousness far deeper than thought. It is the very essence of who you are. We may call it presence, awareness, the unconditioned consciousness. In the ancient teachings, it is the Christ within, or your Buddha nature.
Finding that dimension frees you and the world from the suffering you inflict on yourself and others when the mind-made “little me” is all you know and runs your life. Love, joy, creative expansion, and lasting inner peace cannot come into your life except through that unconditioned dimension of consciousness.
If you can recognize, even occasionally, the thoughts that go through your mind as simply thoughts, if you can witness your own mental-emotional reactive patterns as they happen, then that dimension is already emerging in you as the awareness in which thoughts and emotions happen — the timeless inner space in which the content of your life unfolds.
The stream of thinking has enormous momentum that can easily drag you along with it. Every thought pretends that it matters so much.
It wants to draw your attention in completely.
Here is a new spiritual practice for you: don’t take your thoughts too seriously.
How easy it is for people to become trapped in their conceptual prisons.
The human mind, in its desire to know, understand, and control, mistakes its opinions and viewpoints for the truth. It says: this is how it is. You have to be larger than thought to realize that however you interpret “your life” or someone else’s life or behavior, however you judge any situation, it is no more than a viewpoint, one of many possible perspectives. It is no more than a bundle of thoughts. But reality is one unified whole, in which all things are interwoven, where nothing exists in and by itself.
Thinking fragments reality — it cuts it up into conceptual bits and pieces.
The thinking mind is a useful and powerful tool, but it is also very limiting when it takes over your life completely, when you don’t realize that it is only a small aspect of the consciousness that you are.
Wisdom is not a product of thought. The deep knowing that is wisdom arises through the simple act of giving someone or something your full attention. Attention is primordial intelligence, consciousness itself. It dissolves the barriers created by conceptual thought, and with this comes the recognition that nothing exists in and by itself. It joins the perceiver and the perceived in a unifying field of awareness. It is the healer of separation.
Whenever you are immersed in compulsive thinking, you are avoiding what is. You don’t want to be where you are. Here, Now.
Dogmas — religious, political, scientific — arise out of the erroneous belief that thought can encapsulate reality or the truth.
Dogmas are collective conceptual prisons. And the strange thing is that people love their prison cells because they give them a sense of security and a false sense of “I know.”
Nothing has inflicted more suffering on humanity than its dogmas.
It is true that every dogma crumbles sooner or later, because reality will eventually disclose its falseness; however, unless the basic delusion of it is seen for what it is, it will be replaced by others.
What is this basic delusion? Identification with thought.
Spiritual awakening is awakening from the dream of thought.
The realm of consciousness is much vaster than thought can grasp.When you no longer believe everything you think, you step out of thought and see clearly that the thinker is not who you are.
The mind exists in a state of “not enough” and so is always greedy for more. When you are identified with mind, you get bored and restless very easily. Boredom means the mind is hungry for more stimulus, more food for thought, and its hunger is not being satisfied.
When you feel bored, you can satisfy the mind’s hunger by picking up a magazine, making a phone call, switching on the TV, surfing the web, going shopping, or — and this is not uncommon — transferring the mental sense of lack and its need for more to the body and satisfy it briefly by ingesting more food.
Or you can stay bored and restless and observe what it feels like to be bored and restless. As you bring awareness to the feeling, there is suddenly some space and stillness around it, as it were. A little at first, but as the sense of inner space grows, the feeling of boredom will begin to diminish in intensity and significance. So even boredom can teach you who you are and who you are not.
You discover that a “bored person” is not who you are. Boredom is simply a conditioned energy movement within you. Neither are you an angry, sad, or fearful person. Boredom, anger, sadness, or fear are not “yours,” not personal. They are conditions of the human mind. They come and go.
Nothing that comes and goes is you.
“I am bored.” Who knows this?
“I am angry, sad, afraid.” Who knows this?
You are the knowing, not the condition that is known.
Prejudice of any kind implies that you are identified with the thinking mind. It means you don’t see the other human being anymore, but only your own concept of that human being. To reduce the aliveness of another human being to a concept is already a form of violence.
Thinking that is not rooted in awareness becomes self-serving and dysfunctional. Cleverness devoid of wisdom is extremely dangerous and destructive. That is the current state of most of humanity. The amplification of thought as science and technology, although intrinsically neither good nor bad, has also become destructive because so often the thinking out of which it comes has no roots in awareness.
The next step in human evolution is to transcend thought. This is now our urgent task. It doesn’t mean not to think anymore, but simply not to be completely identified with thought, possessed by thought.
Feel the energy of your inner body. Immediately mental noise slows down or ceases. Feel it in your hands, your feet, your abdomen, your chest. Feel the life that you are, the life that animates the body.
The body then becomes a doorway, so to speak, into a deeper sense of aliveness underneath the fluctuating emotions and underneath your thinking.
There is an aliveness in you that you can feel with your entire Being, not just in the head. Every cell is alive in that presence in which you don’t need to think. Yet, in that state, if thought is required for some practical purpose, it is there. The mind can still operate, and it operates beautifully when the greater intelligence that you are uses it and expresses itself through it.
You may have overlooked that brief periods in which you are “conscious without thought” are already occurring naturally and spontaneously in your life. You may be engaged in some manual activity, or walking across the room, or waiting at the airline counter, and be so completely present that the usual mental static of thought subsides and is replaced by an aware presence. Or you may find yourself looking at the sky or listening to someone without any inner mental commentary. Your perceptions become crystal clear, unclouded by thought.
To the mind, all this is not significant, because it has “more important” things to think about. It is also not memorable, and that’s why you may have overlooked that it is already happening.
The truth is that it is the most significant thing that can happen to you. It is the beginning of a shift from thinking to aware presence.
Become at ease with the state of “not knowing.” This takes you beyond mind because the mind is always trying to conclude and interpret. It is afraid of not knowing. So, when you can be at ease with not knowing, you have already gone beyond the mind. A deeper knowing that is non-conceptual then arises out of that state.
Artistic creation, sports, dance, teaching, counseling — mastery in any field of endeavor implies that the thinking mind is either no longer in-volved at all or at least is taking second place. A power and intelligence greater than you and yet one with you in essence takes over. There is no decision-making process anymore; spontaneous right action happens, and “you” are not doing it.
Mastery of life is the opposite of control. You become aligned with the greater consciousness. It acts, speaks, does the works.
A moment of danger can bring about a temporary cessation of the stream of thinking and thus give you a taste of what it means to be present, alert, aware.
The Truth is far more all-encompassing than the mind could ever comprehend. No thought can encapsulate the Truth. At best, it can point to it. For example, it can say: “All things are intrinsically one.” That is a pointer, not an explanation. Understanding these words means feeling deep within you the truth to which they point.
This article was excerpted from Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle. Eckhart Tolle was born in Germany, where he spent the first thirteen years of his life. After graduating from the University of London, he was a research scholar and supervisor at Cambridge University. When he was twenty-nine, a profound spiritual transformation virtually dissolved his old identity and radically changed the course of his life. The next few years were devoted to understanding, integrating and deepening that transformation and marked the beginning of an intense inward journey. Eckhart Tolle is not aligned with any particular religion or spiritual tradition. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. To find out more, visit: http://eckharttolle.com
“I speak of a profound transformation of human consciousness, not as a distant future possibility, but available now - no matter who or where you are. You are shown how to free yourself from enslavement to the mind, enter into this enlightened state of consciousness, and sustain it in everyday life. ”
“Accept - then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.”
“The mind exists in a state of "not enough" and so is always greedy for more. When you are identified with mind, you get bored and restless very easily. Boredom means the mind is hungry for more stimulus, more food for thought, and its hunger is not being satisfied. If you can stay bored and restless and observe what it feels like to be bored and restless, you bring awareness to the feeling and there is suddenly some space and stillness around it. A little at first, but as the sense of inner space grows, the feeling of boredom will begin to diminish in intensity and significance. So even boredom can teach you who you are and who you are not. You discover that a "bored person" is not who you are. Boredom is simply a conditioned energy movement within you. Neither are you an angry, sad, or fearful person. Boredom, anger, sadness, or fear are not "yours", not personal. They are conditions of the human mind. They come and go. Nothing that comes and goes is you. "I am bored." Who knows this? "I am angry, sad, afraid." Who knows this? You are the knowing, not the condition that is known. ”
“Nothing ever happened in the past; it happened in the Now. Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now.
What you think of as the past is a memory trace, stored in the mind, of a former Now. When you remember the past, you reactivate a memory trace - and you do so Now. The future is an imagined Now, a projection of the mind. When the future comes, it comes as the Now. When you think about the future, you do it Now. Past and future obviously have no reality of their own. Just as the moon has no light of its own, but can only reflect the light of the sun, so are past and future only pale reflections of the light, power, and reality of the eternal present. ”
—Eckhart Tolle - The Power of NOW: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
“Are you stressed? Are you so busy getting to the future that the present is reduced to a means of getting there? Stress is caused by being "here" but wanting to be "there," or being in the present but wanting to be in the future. It's a split that tears you apart inside. To create and live with such an inner split is insane. The fact that everyone else is doing it doesn't make it any less insane. If you have to, you can move fast, work fast, or even run, without projecting yourself into the future and without resisting the present. As you move, work, run - do it totally. Enjoy the flow of energy, the high energy of that moment. Now you are no longer stressed, no longer splitting yourself in two. Just moving, running, working - and enjoying it. Or you can drop the whole thing and sit on a park bench. But when you do, watch your mind. It may say: "You should be working. You are wasting time." Observe the mind. Smile at it.”
“Glimpses of love and joy or brief moments of deep peace are possible whenever a gap occurs in the stream of thought. For most people, such gaps happen rarely and only accidentally, in moments when the mind is rendered "speechless," sometimes triggered by great beauty, extreme physical exertion, or even great danger. Suddenly, there is inner stillness. And within that stillness there is a subtle but intense joy, there is love, there is peace.”