Nov 102009

eckhart_tolleIf I had to recommend only one book on spirituality, it would be Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.  As I mentioned on my page on Eckhart – I first encountered him on CD’s.  But after hearing him, I quickly picked up his first book. I have since bought many copies and given them to whoever I think can benefit from him.

His message is simple, and has a lot in common with other spiritual teachings throughout the ages. But the beauty of Eckhart’s presentation is that he has distilled it down to the bare essentials.  But like the Tao Te Ching and similar spiritual classics, every word resonates with profound meaning.

The focus of the teaching, as the title suggests, is the present moment – that magical space in which all reality arises. Our mind and our ego attempt all sorts of tricks to keep us away from focusing on the present moment. We may be obsessed with our past, and play over past events (good or bad) again and again in our minds.  We may focus on the future and the plans we have for ourselves. We may construct alternate present moments where things are “better”. But all of these keep us away from the one reality – the present moment of time.

The reason the mind and ego are so determined to keep us away from the present moment is that in this moment, if we fully immerse ourselves in it, we realize the fundamental unity of all being. This is a realization that greatly weakens our individual egos. The stories and identities we construct for ourselves become unimportant in the light of the present moment. And so we flee from it. We tell ourselves we are looking for happiness – but in fact we flee from the only place where REAL happiness is to be found – the reality of the now.

In a simple question-and-answer format, Eckhart Tolle investigates our reluctance to embrace the reality of the NOW, and gives us exercises for learning to be at home in the present moment. Along the way, he discusses the mind, the ego, our life stories, our relationships and many other aspects of being and happiness.

One unique principle in Tolle’s teachings which I have not seen elsewhere is the concept of the “pain body”. He introduces this concept in this book. A “pain body” is a collection of negative emotional energy which feeds from our own unhappiness and pain. This energy can completely hijack our conscious mind, acting almost like an alien invader, in the attempt to produce the negative energy that it craves. Once Eckhart explains this concept to you, you immediately begin to see it at work in the lives of those around you, and (if you are conscious enough) in yourself.

Buy this book for yourself or for someone you know who is seeking. It is the PERFECT introduction to spiritual living.

Oct 252009

eckhart_tolleI remember first encountering Eckhart Tolle. I was on a long commute to work and I slipped one of his audio CD’s into my car player. I had picked him up at random because his CD’s happened to be next to Wayne Dyer’s and it looked interesting. I turned on the player and waited.  And waited. I began to be tense and worried. Was the CD defective? Then, finally, Eckhart’s calm, peaceful voice started talking.

It took a while to get used to his speaking style. Eckhart is NEVER in a hurry. But soon I found myself looking forward to it. His very voice, above and beyond what he was teaching, seemed to bring light and peace into me. Echkart’s career as a spiritual teacher began after a shattering mystical experience in his life. He spent a year on a park bench assimilating the state of bliss and happiness he has stumbled into. And after years in “obscurity”, he burst onto the spiritual scene almost overnight. His recent series of webcasts with Oprah Winfrey put him decidedly into the limelight.

Eckhart Tolle has, in my experience, the clearest, most approachable teaching on spirituality of anyone alive (and quite a few who are dead, for that matter). Stripping away the jargon and elaborate processes that burden some systems, he gives it to you simply, directly, and with beautiful, minimalistic elegance. If you are just beginning to become interested in spiritual things, or you are desperately looking for happiness and finding yourself empty, Eckhart Tolle is a wonderful place to start.

Eckhart’s first book was The Power of Now, and it introduced many of the themes found in all his work.


The need to live profoundly in the present moment is a primary theme in Tolle’s work. Eckhart urges us not to focus  on the past or the future, except as needed to function in the everyday world. Both of these are attempts by the ego to escape the power of the present moment. The secret to happiness is to abandon resistance to the present moment. This does not mean passivity, but an acceptance of reality as our starting place.

A mind may be a terrible thing to waste, but according to Eckhart, the mind is also a terrible slave master. Most of us live our lives trapped in a stream of repetitive thinking. Our constructed world of thought draws us away from the reality of existence in the present moment, and leads to our unhappiness.

A unique concept that I’ve only run across in Eckhart’s teachings is the concept of the “pain body”. This is apparently a collection of emotional energy that many of us accumulate that virtually “feeds” on emotional energy. The pain body can act almost as a separate entity, taking over the mind of its host, controlling their thinking so as to produce more emotional energy to feed on in the form of pain, anger or similar negative emotions.

Recent Controversy

I have noticed that since Eckhart’s series of webcasts with Oprah, there has begun to be some significant opposition to his teaching. By the way, the webcasts with Oprah are still available for free to download or listen to live here on Oprah’s book club site. For many people, this will be a good introduction, since Oprah keeps the pace moving a bit more briskly. Personally I prefer the calm serenity of Eckhart speaking alone.  In any case, since these webcasts, the opposition to Eckhart has increased.  This is often in the form of Christians who insist that Eckhart is a false teacher because he doesn’t specifically endorse a particular set of Christian dogmas or acknowledge Jesus as the only path to salvation.

The fact is that if you are familiar with the teachings of the great Christian mystics, you will realize that their teachings overlap Eckhart Tolle’s at many points. Still, if you are a very dogmatic Christian, you will probably find his inclusiveness a bit uncomfortable. I would urge you, nevertheless, to give him a try.

Listen to a bit of Eckhart in the video below:

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