About spiritual awakening – interview with Eckhart Tolle (2)
Fragments from an interview with Eckhart Tolle, by Paula Coppel – Unity Magazine
Read here the first part of this interview.
Many people say they are unhappy, yet they are unwilling to change. Why do people stay wedded to their misery?
Eckhart Tolle: Because the unhappy self, or the unhappy me, has become part of their sense of self or identity. It continuously tells them who they are or how miserable they are. They don’t want to let go because there is a fear that they will lose their sense of self.
They need to be shown that their mind movements are not who they are. For some people, it’s the beginning of an awakening when they hear or read, “You have a voice in your head that never stops talking. Have you noticed that?” And suddenly they become aware that the thoughts go through their heads, whereas before they were so identified with them that they were those thoughts.
So one way to help ourselves and others is to note that these are just thoughts and to practice observing rather than attaching to them?
Eckhart Tolle: Yes, anybody who is reading this and finding it meaningful, it means they have already awakened. Anybody who is reading this interview and it’s meaningless, it means the awakening hasn’t happened yet. To recognize the basic truths being expressed by these words, that little opening must be there already inside you because it’s only there that you can recognize it. Thought alone cannot recognize spiritual truths no matter how highly developed thought is. It’s impossible. This is why very often you find educated people in the media who look at spiritual books but they are so identified with their thought process, they don’t get it. They write reviews or articles and they miss the whole point. They can’t see the essence. It’s not their fault; it’s not them personally. It’s the human condition and its mind-identified state. And intelligence in itself doesn’t help. You can have two or three Ph.D.s; it doesn’t get you any closer to spiritual realization. In fact, you might be more distant.
One way of pointing to this realization is, when you think you have big problems, ask yourself, “What problem do I have at this moment?” Usually, you will find that you don’t have a problem at this moment because you’re sitting here and you’re breathing, you’re looking out the window, and it’s fine. There is enough air. You even had enough food today; and if you didn’t have enough food, even that wouldn’t be a problem, but maybe a challenge. So challenges exist, but problems are mind-made. Challenges are something that can only be tackled in the present moment and require action.
So if you have no money, you can apply your mind and say, “What action can I take?” And then become still. Don’t apply your mind without the stillness because, if you start applying your mind without the stillness, you might very soon lose yourself in the mind and that turns into worry. Worry means the mind is controlling you. Worry is always pointless. A solution never comes out of worry.
Although we tell ourselves that it does, that worrying is a productive thing to do.
Eckhart Tolle: Yes, the mind will tell you that you need to think about this because otherwise it will all collapse. But the uncontrolled mind activity is actually what’s stopping you from finding your solution. It’s only when you step out of it and become still and realize that at this moment there isn’t actually a problem, that you find a solution. It might be that because you’ve visited the realm of stillness suddenly the realization of what it is you can do or have to do comes to you when you’re not looking for it.
Is that similar to when people say, “I get my best ideas in the shower”.
Eckhart Tolle: Of course many people are in their thinking mind even in the shower, but some people are able to enjoy the shower and then have a moment of space and stillness so they get an idea there, an original thought. So you have to be able to step into the dimension of no thought for thought to become empowered and that means being fully present.
When you’re in touch with Presence, you feel at home wherever you are. And if you’re not in touch with that, no matter where you go, you always feel there’s something not quite right. Even so-called ideal situations have their limitations. You might say, “I want to be like Oprah.” Once you are like Oprah, you’ll find you can’t go out on your own anymore, or you can’t go shopping, or you can’t go for a walk in the street because you’d get mobbed. So there is a limitation suddenly in life, and the mind says, “Oh, I wish this hadn’t happened.”
What does a relationship look like between two awakened people?
Eckhart Tolle: There is a lack of expectation that the other person should fulfill you or make you happy. Without that demand, there is an openness where you can simply enjoy the other and accept the limitations. Every human being in the human form has limitations. You can marry the Buddha, and after a few months you will find on the human form the Buddha, too, has his limitations. There may be things that the mind reacts to and irritates you about the Buddha. “Why is he sitting over there in meditation?”
Once you accept the limitations of the other, it’s a dance between two forms and a realization that the essence of relationship is the space in the relationship. So, the question that needs to be asked always is, “Is there space in this relationship?” Space really means the level of awareness or presence, not thinking. So, can you look at your partner and not think? Two conscious beings realize that the essence of the relationship is the space in it. Even when there is an egoic overlay, it is not too dense or heavy for you to sense the essence underneath it. You don’t need to react to the egoic overlay. When you don’t react to it you don’t strengthen it.
You often talk about the consciousness of animals in your writings. Do you consider animals to have a higher level of awareness than human beings?
Eckhart Tolle: Not higher but, I sometimes say animals are closer to God than humans. They are closer to the source. The humans are more lost in the mind forms. Being is more obscured to the human because of the overlay of ego and mental formation. I call animals “guardians of beings,” especially animals that live with humans. Because, for many humans, it’s through their contact with animals they get in touch with that level of being.
We are destined not to go back to the level of animals that we’ve come from but to return to being by going beyond thinking. The animals are at a level prior to thinking. They haven’t lost themselves in thought. We rise above thinking and then we meet them again, where we’re both in no-thought. There’s a deep connection.
The consciousness of the animal also begins to change when it interacts with a human who’s gone beyond thinking. It’s not only the animals assisting us; we are also assisting the animals. The animals certainly like to be close to humans, especially as humans go through the shift in consciousness.
How does being more conscious help us deal with tragic occurrences in people’s lives and in the world? Is there an element of faith that even from personal tragedy, some good will come?
Eckhart Tolle: Yes, when forms begin to crumble – whether the physical form, some external form, your life situation, relationships, whatever – there is always an opportunity for great deepening. By deepening I mean the arising of who you are beyond form. Sometimes people need to experience great loss to really be driven deeper.
When great loss happens—deaths close to you or your own approaching death – this is an opportunity for stepping completely out of identification with form and realizing the essence of who you are, or that the essence of anyone who is suffering or dying is beyond death.
It doesn’t mean you’re not compassionate. Compassion has two aspects to it. When you see around you the human form suffering or dissolving, you have empathy on the human level. You share the suffering because it has to do with the fleetingness of form. But if that is the only level that operates in you, you haven’t gone beyond suffering.
But on the being level, you realize that who you are in essence is beyond form, and who this other person is, in essence, is beyond form. The realization is not an intellectual one; it’s a sensing or feeling. Then, you look upon the other human being and the suffering and you may cry, but underneath it there is a peace and a power.
That peace and power is also the aspect that sometimes brings healing. It may heal the form, or it may heal the other person in the sense of the other person getting in touch with their deeper level. That is the most important healing—realizing who you are. The healing on the outer level is fine, but it’s not the essence of healing.
What you’re saying is similar to how we pray in our Silent Unity prayer ministry. When people call, we remind them of the truth of who they really are. We point them back to that untouched essence of God consciousness within them. You said during the Webcast with Oprah: “The world is not here to make you happy. It is here to make you conscious.” Is this misunderstanding the root of human misery?
Eckhart Tolle: If people believe the world is here to satisfy them, whenever they begin to encounter their limitations, they become unhappy again. They don’t realize that the world—and by that I mean anything in the world of form, physical form, some mental forms, or emotional forms—cannot give you lasting fulfillment or satisfaction or tell you who you are. They don’t realize what they are looking for is on the formless level, and they’re seeking it on the level of form and that leads to the frustration of human existence.
So the important thing to realize is the world is not here to make me happy. When you don’t demand that the situation, or place, or person should make you happy, then actually the situation, place, or person is quite satisfying.
Your teachings are contributing to a global shift in consciousness. How do you perceive what is occurring?
Eckhart Tolle: A huge number of people are going through the process of awakening, some in the early stages, some in later stages, and it’s wonderful to see. It takes a while before it filters through to the economic, political and social structures. The tendency is for people who run those structures to be still completely identified with the ego. So maybe it will take awhile before it reaches the politicians, although who knows? Occasionally, already relatively conscious politicians appear and there are even just sane, normal people compared to the unconsciousness of politicians who have come before.
Does the fact that this awakening is occurring convey a sense of hope for the world?
Eckhart Tolle: Yes. The question is, does the old consciousness need to carry on until it actually brings about its own downfall through chaos and collapse? Or is the new consciousness arising that can gradually replace the old consciousness without excessive destructiveness?
I don’t know the answer to that. We’ll have to wait and see. All we can do is take responsibility for our own lives.
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