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Eckhart Tolle at the Festival Hall, London September 7th, 2015

Eckhardt tolle SMInside a packed Festival Hall, we are waiting for Eckhart Tolle to talk about consciousness. Meanwhile, I wonder what is happening when people gather not to escape into some great live music or theatre, but to learn how to create a better life. It is clear that some of us are here as spiritual seekers, some of us were dragged along by a friend, some will get his message, and some will leave before the talk ends. 

Eckhardt Tolle’s books The Power of Now and A New Earth are publishing phenomenons, selling millions of copies worldwide. His inclusive message that, “We are all part of consciousness," obviously has an appeal. His own philosophical crisis was brought on by 17th century French philosopher Rene Descartes, who said, “I think, therefore I am,” which was a signal for Tolle to broaden his search to embrace Eastern ideas, after which he expanded Descartes concept with the addendum, “I think, therefore I am consciousness.”

 

With this foundational understanding firmly under our belts, Tolle encourages us to uncouple from our own “thought identities” or our incessant thoughts about what we do in the world, and to relate instead with our essential being, our essence, our consciousness. Any thoughts taking us away from that principle is a denial of the present moment, thus rendering us unconscious.

Finders not seekers

Tolle acknowledges the spiritual and freedom seeking freedom movement of the 1960’s. However, his cause is about finding out if it is possible to stop thinking for a while. This he calls the spaciousness of the mind. He cautions that too much searching serves as an obstacle to spiritual realisation because you are stuck in the seeking and are not satisfied.

 

Another of his guiding principles is, “Thoughts don’t have you, you have thoughts.” Put another way, the suspension of thought is the salvation that Jesus spoke of, the arrival of a certain state of consciousness where you realise the unreality of your “form identity” and recognise the reality of no-self or Buddha-hood. It was easy for us in the Festival Hall practicing right here and now that all you have to do is suspend thought for just a moment to connect with your deeper self. 

Tolle shared other practical tips on how you practice becoming conscious. He said when you see something, look at it as consciousness - not as an identity, not with who you are, or what you do - look with presence, without reduction, without commentary. Be alert, unthinking, experiencing. A baby or a dog has no opinion about you when you look at them, and can help deepen your connection with love. Being around animals can free us from habitual thinking, you become more aware of yourself in the presence of nature or a beloved one and the experience deepens.  

It is incredible to think that in the space that it takes to blink we may have 3,000 thoughts. But it is in the space between thoughts that we feel fully alive. In much the same way that people who have become addicted to dangerous activities in order to get away from thinking. Tolle is not anti-thought, he merely posits that in its highest form, thinking is a tool to manifest and create rather than imprison and berate.

Science and consciousness

It is funny that mainstream science and education does not readily mention consciousness. It is arguably an important component for human evolution that is largely ignored and misunderstood.

A really important human evolution is happening now, and personally, I call it a WEvolution. We humans are realising that we are responsible for the evolution of humanity by changing our consciousness by changing the way we think. The evolution of human consciousness is not a finished product. We are evolving and more humans are ready to do this. Because mainstream schools and universities are not teaching spiritual awakening, we must rely on ourselves, each other and the power of prayer and meditation.

But what do you do with uncomfortable thoughts of regret? Tolle says regrets are part of form identity, the burden of the past and the illusion of self. Once you step out of the “problem of me,” it solves itself. Rumination on things past that we can do nothing about serves only to stop us from being awakened.

Tolle concludes that the aim is continuous alignment of your essence with the universe.  Ask yourself how can I be aware of the present moment - where is it? This moment is already as it is. Live, honour, acknowledge and appreciate the present moment. The greatest mystery of consciousness is that the universe is conscious through you, me, a flower, and through the essence of everything and everyone.