Are Not Your Mind
by Eckhart Tolle
The Greatest Obstacle to Enlightenment
Enlightenment - what is that?
A beggar had been sitting by the side
of a road for over thirty years. One day a stranger
walked by. "Spare some change?" mumbled the
beggar, mechanically holding out his old baseball cap.
"I have nothing to give you," said the
stranger. Then he asked: "What's that you are
sitting on?" "Nothing," replied the
beggar. "Just an old box. I have been sitting on it
for as long as I can remember." "Ever looked
inside?" asked the stranger. "No," said
the beggar. "What's the point? There's nothing in
there." "Have a look inside," insisted
the stranger. The beggar managed to pry open the lid.
With astonishment, disbelief, and elation, he saw that
the box was filled with gold.
I am that stranger who has nothing to
give you and who is telling you to look inside. Not
inside any box, as in the parable, but somewhere even
closer: inside yourself.
"But I am not a beggar," I
can hear you say.
Those who have not found their true
wealth, which is the radiant joy of Being and the deep,
unshakable peace that comes with it, are beggars, even
if they have great material wealth. They are looking
outside for scraps of pleasure or fulfillment, for
validation, security, or love, while they have a
treasure within that not only includes all those things
but is infinitely greater than anything the world can
The word enlightenment conjures up
the idea of some super-human accomplishment, and the ego
likes to keep it that way, but it is simply your natural
state of felt oneness with Being. It is a state of
connectedness with something immeasurable and
indestructible, something that, almost paradoxically, is
essentially you and yet is much greater than you. It is
finding your true nature beyond name and form. The
inability to feel this connectedness gives rise to the
illusion of separation, from yourself and from the world
around you. You then perceive yourself, consciously or
unconsciously, as an isolated fragment. Fear arises, and
conflict within and without becomes the norm.
I love the Buddha's simple definition
of enlightenment as "the end of suffering."
There is nothing superhuman in that, is there? Of
course, as a definition, it is incomplete. It only tells
you what enlightenment is not: no suffering. But what's
left when there is no more suffering? The Buddha is
silent on that, and his silence implies that you'll have
to find out for yourself. He uses a negative definition
so that the mind cannot make it into something to
believe in or into a superhuman accomplishment, a goal
that is impossible for you to attain. Despite this
precaution, the majority of Buddhists still believe that
enlightenment is for the Buddha, not for them, at least
not in this lifetime.
You used the word Being. Can you
explain what you mean by that?
Being is the eternal, ever-present
One Life beyond the myriad forms of life that are
subject to birth and death. However, Being is not only
beyond but also deep within every form as its innermost
invisible and indestructible essence. This means that it
is accessible to you now as your own deepest self, your
true nature. But don't seek to grasp it with your mind.
Don't try to understand it. You can know it only when
the mind is still. When you are present, when your
attention is fully and intensely in the Now, Being can
be felt, but it can never be understood mentally. To
regain awareness of Being and to abide in that state of
"feeling-realization" is enlightenment.
When you say Being, are you talking
about God? If you are, then why don't you say it?
The word God has become empty of
meaning through thousands of years of misuse. I use it
sometimes, but I do so sparingly. By misuse, I mean that
people who have never even glimpsed the realm of the
sacred, the infinite vastness behind that word, use it
with great conviction, as if they knew what they are
talking about. Or they argue against it, as if they knew
what it is that they are denying. This misuse gives rise
to absurd beliefs, assertions, and egoic delusions, such
as "My or our God is the only true God, and your
God is false," or Nietzsche's famous statement
"God is dead."
The word God has become a closed
concept. The moment the word is uttered, a mental image
is created, no longer, perhaps, of an old man with a
white beard, but still a mental representation of
someone or something outside you, and, yes, almost
inevitably a male someone or something.
Neither God nor Being nor any other
word can define or explain the ineffable reality behind
the word, so the only important question is whether the
word is a help or a hindrance in enabling you to
experience That toward which it points. Does it point
beyond itself to that transcendental reality, or does it
lend itself too easily to becoming no more than an idea
in your head that you believe in, a mental idol?
The word Being explains nothing, but
nor does God. Being, however, has the advantage that it
is an open concept. It does not reduce the infinite
invisible to a finite entity. It is impossible to form a
mental image of it. Nobody can claim exclusive
possession of Being. It is your very essence, and it is
immediately accessible to you as the feeling of your own
presence, the realization I am that is prior to I am
this or I am that. So it is only a small step from the
word Being to the experience of Being.
What is the greatest obstacle to
experiencing this reality?
Identification with your mind, which
causes thought to become compulsive. Not to be able to
stop thinking is a dreadful affliction, but we don't
realize this because almost everybody is suffering from
it, so it is considered normal. This incessant mental
noise prevents you from finding that realm of inner
stillness that is inseparable from Being. It also
creates a false mind-made self that casts a shadow of
fear and suffering. We will look at all that in more
The philosopher Descartes believed
that he had found the most fundamental truth when he
made his famous statement: "I think, therefore I
am." He had, in fact, given expression to the most
basic error: to equate thinking with Being and identity
with thinking. The compulsive thinker, which means
almost everyone, lives in a state of apparent
separateness, in an insanely complex world of continuous
problems and conflict, a world that reflects the
ever-increasing fragmentation of the mind. Enlightenment
is a state of wholeness, of being "at one" and
therefore at peace. At one with life in its manifested
aspect, the world, as well as with your deepest self and
life unmanifested - at one with Being. Enlightenment is
not only the end of suffering and of continuous conflict
within and without, but also the end of the dreadful
enslavement to incessant thinking. What an incredible
liberation this is!
Identification with your mind creates
an opaque screen of concepts, labels, images, words,
judgments, and definitions that blocks all true
relationship. It comes between you and yourself, between
you and your fellow man and woman, between you and
nature, between you and God. It is this screen of
thought that creates the illusion of separateness, the
illusion that there is you and a totally separate
"other." You then forget the essential fact
that, underneath the level of physical appearances and
separate forms, you are one with all that is. By
"forget," I mean that you can no longer feel
this oneness as self-evident reality. You may believe it
to be true, but you no longer know it to be true. A
belief may be comforting. Only through your own
experience, however, does it become liberating.
Thinking has become a disease.
Disease happens when things get out of balance. For
example, there is nothing wrong with cells dividing and
multiplying in the body, but when this process continues
in disregard of the total organism, cells proliferate
and we have disease.
Note: The mind is a superb instrument
if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very
destructive. To put it more accurately, it is not so
much that you use your mind wrongly - you usually don't
use it at all. It uses you. This is the disease. You
believe that you are your mind. This is the delusion.
The instrument has taken you over.
I don't quite agree. It is true that
I do a lot of aimless thinking, like most people, but I
can still choose to use my mind to get and accomplish
things, and I do that all the time.
Just because you can solve a
crossword puzzle or build an atom bomb doesn't mean that
you use your mind. Just as dogs love to chew bones, the
mind loves to get its teeth into problems. That's why it
does crossword puzzles and builds atom bombs. You have
no interest in either. Let me ask you this: can you be
free of your mind whenever you want to? Have you found
the "off" button?
You mean stop thinking altogether?
No, I can't, except maybe for a moment or two.
Then the mind is using you. You are
unconsciously identified with it, so you don't even know
that you are its slave. It's almost as if you were
possessed without knowing it, and so you take the
possessing entity to be yourself. The beginning of
freedom is the realization that you are not the
possessing entity - the thinker. Knowing this enables
you to observe the entity. 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, freeing yourself from your
What exactly do you mean by
"watching the thinker"?
When someone goes to the doctor and
says, "I hear a voice in my head," he or she
will most likely be sent to a psychiatrist. The fact is
that, in a very similar way, virtually everyone hears a
voice, or several voices, in their head all the time:
the involuntary thought processes that you don't realize
you have the power to stop. Continuous monologues or
You have probably come across
"mad" people in the street incessantly talking
or muttering to themselves. Well, that's not much
different from what you and all other "normal"
people do, except that you don't do it out loud. The
voice comments, speculates, judges, compares, complains,
likes, dislikes, and so on. The voice isn't necessarily
relevant to the situation you find yourself in at the
time; it may be reviving the recent or distant past or
rehearsing or imagining possible future situations. Here
it often imagines things going wrong and negative
outcomes; this is called worry. Sometimes this
soundtrack is accompanied by visual images or
"mental movies." Even if the voice is relevant
to the situation at hand, it will interpret it in terms
of the past. This is because the voice belongs to your
conditioned mind, which is the result of all your past
history as well as of the collective cultural mind-set
you inherited. So you see and judge the present through
the eyes of the past and get a totally distorted view of
it. It is not uncommon for the voice to be a person's
own worst enemy. Many people live with a tormentor in
their head that continuously attacks and punishes them
and drains them of vital energy. It is the cause of
untold misery and unhappiness, as well as of disease.
The good news is that you can free
yourself from your mind. This is the only true
liberation. You can take the first step right now. Start
listening to the voice in your head as often as you can.
Pay particular attention to any repetitive thought
patterns, those old gramophone records that have been
playing in your head perhaps for many years. This is
what I mean by "watching the thinker," which
is another way of saying: listen to the voice in your
head, be there as the witnessing presence.
When you listen to that voice, listen
to it impartially. That is to say, do not judge. Do not
judge or condemn what you hear, for doing so would mean
that the same voice has come in again through the back
door. You'll soon realize: there is the voice, and here
I am listening to it, watching it. This I am
realization, this sense of your own presence, is not a
thought. It arises from beyond the mind.
So when you listen to a thought, you
are aware not only of the thought but also of yourself
as the witness of the thought. A new dimension of
consciousness has come in. As you listen to the thought,
you feel a conscious presence - your deeper self -
behind or underneath the thought, as it were. The
thought then loses its power over you and quickly
subsides, because you are no longer energizing the mind
through identification with it. This is the beginning of
the end of involuntary and compulsive thinking.When a
thought subsides, you experience a discontinuity in the
mental stream - a gap of "no-mind." At first,
the gaps will be short, a few seconds perhaps, but
gradually they will become longer. When these gaps
occur, you feel a certain stillness and peace inside
you. This is the beginning of your natural state of felt
oneness with Being, which is usually obscured by the
mind. With practice, the sense of stillness and peace
will deepen. In fact, there is no end to its depth. You
will also feel a subtle emanation of joy arising from
deep within: the joy of Being.
It is not a trancelike state. Not at
all. There is no loss of consciousness here. The
opposite is the case. If the price of peace were a
lowering of your consciousness, and the price of
stillness a lack of vitality and alertness, then they
would not be worth having. In this state of inner
connectedness, you are much more alert, more awake than
in the mind-identified state. You are fully present. It
also raises the vibrational frequency of the energy
field that gives life to the physical body.
As you go more deeply into this realm
of no-mind, as it is sometimes called in the East, you
realize the state of pure consciousness. In that state,
you feel your own presence with such intensity and such
joy that all thinking, all emotions, your physical body,
as well as the whole external world become relatively
insignificant in comparison to it. And yet this is not a
selfish but a selfless state. It takes you beyond what
you previously thought of as "your self." That
presence is essentially you and at the same time
inconceivably greater than you. What I am trying to
convey here may sound paradoxical or even contradictory,
but there is no other way that I can express it.
Instead of "watching the
thinker," you can also create a gap in the mind
stream simply by directing the focus of your attention
into the Now. Just become intensely conscious of the
present moment. This is a deeply satisfying thing to do.
In this way, you draw consciousness away from mind
activity and create a gap of no-mind in which you are
highly alert and aware but not thinking. This is the
essence of meditation. In your everyday life, you can
practice this by taking any routine activity that
normally is only a means to an end and giving it your
fullest attention, so that it becomes an end in itself.
For example, every time you walk up and down the stairs
in your house or place of work, pay close attention to
every step, every movement, even your breathing. Be
totally present. Or when you wash your hands, pay
attention to all the sense perceptions associated with
the activity: the sound and feel of the water, the
movement of your hands, the scent of the soap, and so
on. Or when you get into your car, after you close the
door, pause for a few seconds and observe the flow of
your breath. Become aware of a silent but powerful sense
of presence. There is one certain criterion by which you
can measure your success in this practice: the degree of
peace that you feel within.
So the single most vital step on your
journey toward enlightenment is this: learn to
disidentify from your mind. Every time you create a gap
in the stream of mind, the light of your consciousness
grows stronger. One day you may catch yourself smiling
at the voice in your head, as you would smile at the
antics of a child. This means that you no longer take
the content of your mind all that seriously, as your
sense of self does not depend on it.
Enlightenment: Rising above
Isn't thinking essential in order to
survive in this world?
Your mind is an instrument, a tool.
It is there to be used for a specific task, and when the
task is completed, you lay it down. As it is, I would
say about 80 to 90 percent of most people's thinking is
not only repetitive and useless, but because of its
dysfunctional and often negative nature, much of it is
also harmful. Observe your mind and you will find this
to be true. It causes a serious leakage of vital energy.
This kind of compulsive thinking is
actually an addiction. What characterizes an addiction?
Quite simply this: you no longer feel that you have the
choice to stop. It seems stronger than you. It also
gives you a false sense of pleasure, pleasure that
invariably turns into pain.
Why should we be addicted to
Because you are identified with it,
which means that you derive your sense of self from the
content and activity of your mind.
Because you believe that you would
cease to be if you stopped thinking. As you grow up, you
form a mental image of who you are, based on your
personal and cultural conditioning. We may call this
phantom self the ego. It consists of mind activity and
can only be kept going through constant thinking. The
term ego means different things to different people, but
when I use it here it means a false self, created by
unconscious identification with the mind.
To the ego, the present moment hardly
exists. Only past and future are considered important.
This total reversal of the truth accounts for the fact
that in the ego mode the mind is so dysfunctional. It is
always concerned with keeping the past alive, because
without it - who are you? It constantly projects itself
into the future to ensure its continued survival and to
seek some kind of release or fulfillment there. It says:
"One day, when this, that, or the other happens, I
am going to be okay, happy, at peace." Even when
the ego seems to be concerned with the present, it is
not the present that it sees: It misperceives it
completely because it looks at it through the eyes of
the past. Or it reduces the present to a means to an
end, an end that always lies in the mind-projected
future. Observe your mind and you'll see that this is
how it works.
The present moment holds the key to
liberation. But you cannot find the present moment as
long as you are your mind.
I don't want to lose my ability to
analyze and discriminate. I wouldn't mind learning to
think more clearly, in a more focused way, but I don't
want to lose my mind. The gift of thought is the most
precious thing we have. Without it, we would just be
another species of animal.
The predominance of mind is no more
than a stage in the evolution of consciousness. We need
to go on to the next stage now as a matter of urgency;
otherwise, we will be destroyed by the mind, which has
grown into a monster. I will talk about this in more
detail later. Thinking and consciousness are not
synonymous. Thinking is only a small aspect of
consciousness. Thought cannot exist without
consciousness, but consciousness does not need thought.
Enlightenment means rising above
thought, not falling back to a level below thought, the
level of an animal or a plant. In the enlightened state,
you still use your thinking mind when needed, but in a
much more focused and effective way than before. You use
it mostly for practical purposes, but you are free of
the involuntary internal dialogue, and there is inner
stillness. When you do use your mind, and particularly
when a creative solution is needed, you oscillate every
few minutes or so between thought and stillness, between
mind and no-mind. No-mind is consciousness without
thought. Only in that way is it possible to think
creatively, because only in that way does thought have
any real power. Thought alone, when it is no longer
connected with the much vaster realm of consciousness,
quickly becomes barren, insane, destructive.
The mind is essentially a survival
machine. Attack and defense against other minds,
gathering, storing, and analyzing information - this is
what it is good at, but it is not at all creative. All
true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a
place of no-mind, from inner stillness. The mind then
gives form to the creative impulse or insight. Even the
great scientists have reported that their creative
breakthroughs came at a time of mental quietude. The
surprising result of a nation-wide inquiry among
America's most eminent mathematicians, including
Einstein, to find out their working methods, was that
thinking "plays only a subordinate part in the
brief, decisive phase of the creative act itself."1
So I would say that the simple reason why the majority
of scientists are not creative is not because they don't
know how to think but because they don't know how to
It wasn't through the mind, through
thinking, that the miracle that is life on earth or your
body were created and are being sustained. There is
clearly an intelligence at work that is far greater than
the mind. How can a single human cell measuring 1/1,000
of an inch across contain instructions within its DNA
that would fill 1,000 books of 600 pages each? The more
we learn about the workings of the body, the more we
realize just how vast is the intelligence at work within
it and how little we know. When the mind reconnects with
that, it becomes a most wonderful tool. It then serves
something greater than itself.
Emotion: The Body's Reaction to
What about emotions? I get caught up
in my emotions more than I do in my mind.
Mind, in the way I use the word, is
not just thought. It includes your emotions as well as
all unconscious mental-emotional reactive patterns.
Emotion arises at the place where mind and body meet. It
is the body's reaction to your mind - or you might say,
a reflection of your mind in the body. For example, an
attack thought or a hostile thought will create a
build-up of energy in the body that we call anger. The
body is getting ready to fight. The thought that you are
being threatened, physically or psychologically, causes
the body to contract, and this is the physical side of
what we call fear. Research has shown that strong
emotions even cause changes in the biochemistry of the
body. These biochemical changes represent the physical
or material aspect of the emotion. Of course, you are
not usually conscious of all your thought patterns, and
it is often only through watching your emotions that you
can bring them into awareness.
The more you are identified with your
thinking, your likes and dislikes, judgments and
interpretations, which is to say the less present you
are as the watching consciousness, the stronger the
emotional energy charge will be, whether you are aware
of it or not. If you cannot feel your emotions, if you
are cut off from them, you will eventually experience
them on a purely physical level, as a physical problem
or symptom. A great deal has been written about this in
recent years, so we don't need to go into it here. A
strong unconscious emotional pattern may even manifest
as an external event that appears to just happen to you.
For example, I have observed that people who carry a lot
of anger inside without being aware of it and without
expressing it are more likely to be attacked, verbally
or even physically, by other angry people, and often for
no apparent reason. They have a strong emanation of
anger that certain people pick up subliminally and that
triggers their own latent anger.
If you have difficulty feeling your
emotions, start by focusing attention on the inner
energy field of your body. Feel the body from within.
This will also put you in touch with your emotions. We
will explore this in more detail later.
You say that an emotion is the mind's
reflection in the body. But sometimes there is a
conflict between the two: the mind says "no"
while the emotion says "yes," or the other way
If you really want to know your mind,
the body will always give you a truthful reflection, so
look at the emotion or rather feel it in your body. If
there is an apparent conflict between them, the thought
will be the lie, the emotion will be the truth. Not the
ultimate truth of who you are, but the relative truth of
your state of mind at that time.
Conflict between surface thoughts and
unconscious mental processes is certainly common. You
may not yet be able to bring your unconscious mind
activity into awareness as thoughts, but it will always
be reflected in the body as an emotion, and of this you
can become aware. To watch an emotion in this way is
basically the same as listening to or watching a
thought, which I described earlier. The only difference
is that, while a thought is in your head, an emotion has
a strong physical component and so is primarily felt in
the body. You can then allow the emotion to be there
without being controlled by it. You no longer are the
emotion; you are the watcher, the observing presence. If
you practice this, all that is unconscious in you will
be brought into the light of consciousness.
So observing our emotions is as
important as observing our thoughts?
Yes. Make it a habit to ask yourself:
What's going on inside me at this moment? That question
will point you in the right direction. But don't
analyze, just watch. Focus your attention within. Feel
the energy of the emotion. If there is no emotion
present, take your attention more deeply into the inner
energy field of your body. It is the doorway into Being.
An emotion usually represents an
amplified and energized thought pattern, and because of
its often overpowering energetic charge, it is not easy
initially to stay present enough to be able to watch it.
It wants to take you over, and it usually succeeds -
unless there is enough presence in you. If you are
pulled into unconscious identification with the emotion
through lack of presence, which is normal, the emotion
temporarily becomes "you." Often a vicious
circle builds up between your thinking and the emotion:
they feed each other. The thought pattern creates a
magnified reflection of itself in the form of an
emotion, and the vibrational frequency of the emotion
keeps feeding the original thought pattern. By dwelling
mentally on the situation, event, or person that is the
perceived cause of the emotion, the thought feeds energy
to the emotion, which in turn energizes the thought
pattern, and so on. Basically, all emotions are
modifications of one primordial, undifferentiated
emotion that has its origin in the loss of awareness of
who you are beyond name and form. Because of its
undifferentiated nature, it is hard to find a name that
precisely describes this emotion. "Fear" comes
close, but apart from a continuous sense of threat, it
also includes a deep sense of abandonment and
incompleteness. It may be best to use a term that is as
undifferentiated as that basic emotion and simply call
it "pain." One of the main tasks of the mind
is to fight or remove that emotional pain, which is one
of the reasons for its incessant activity, but all it
can ever achieve is to cover it up temporarily. In fact,
the harder the mind struggles to get rid of the pain,
the greater the pain. The mind can never find the
solution, nor can it afford to allow you to find the
solution, because it is itself an intrinsic part of the
"problem." Imagine a chief of police trying to
find an arsonist when the arsonist is the chief of
police. You will not be free of that pain until you
cease to derive your sense of self from identification
with the mind, which is to say from ego. The mind is
then toppled from its place of power and Being reveals
itself as your true nature. Yes, I know what you are
going to ask.
I was going to ask: What about
positive emotions such as love and joy?
They are inseparable from your
natural state of inner connectedness with Being.
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.
Usually, such moments are
short-lived, as the mind quickly resumes its
noise-making activity that we call thinking. Love, joy,
and peace cannot flourish until you have freed yourself
from mind dominance. But they are not what I would call
emotions. They lie beyond the emotions, on a much deeper
level. So you need to become fully conscious of your
emotions and be able to feel them before you can feel
that which lies beyond them. Emotion literally means
"disturbance." The word comes from the Latin
emovere, meaning "to disturb."
Love, joy, and peace are deep states
of Being or rather three aspects of the state of inner
connectedness with Being. As such, they have no
opposite. This is because they arise from beyond the
mind. Emotions, on the other hand, being part of the
dualistic mind, are subject to the law of opposites.
This simply means that you cannot have good without bad.
So in the unenlightened, mind-identified condition, what
is sometimes wrongly called joy is the usually
short-lived pleasure side of the continuously
alternating pain/pleasure cycle. Pleasure is always
derived from something outside you, whereas joy arises
from within. The very thing that gives you pleasure
today will give you pain tomorrow, or it will leave you,
so its absence will give you pain. And what is often
referred to as love may be pleasurable and exciting for
a while, but it is an addictive clinging, an extremely
needy condition that can turn into its opposite at the
flick of a switch. Many "love" relationships,
after the initial euphoria has passed, actually
oscillate between "love" and hate, attraction
Real love doesn't make you suffer.
How could it? It doesn't suddenly turn into hate, nor
does real joy turn into pain. As I said, even before you
are enlightened - before you have freed yourself from
your mind - you may get glimpses of true joy, true love,
or of a deep inner peace, still but vibrantly alive.
These are aspects of your true nature, which is usually
obscured by the mind. Even within a "normal"
addictive relationship, there can be moments when the
presence of something more genuine, something
incorruptible, can be felt. But they will only be
glimpses, soon to be covered up again through mind
interference. It may then seem that you had something
very precious and lost it, or your mind may convince you
that it was all an illusion anyway. The truth is that it
wasn't an illusion, and you cannot lose it. It is part
of your natural state, which can be obscured but can
never be destroyed by the mind. Even when the sky is
heavily overcast, the sun hasn't disappeared. It's still
there on the other side of the clouds.
The Buddha says that pain or
suffering arises through desire or craving and that to
be free of pain we need to cut the bonds of desire.
All cravings are the mind seeking
salvation or fulfillment in external things and in the
future as a substitute for the joy of Being. As long as
I am my mind, I am those cravings, those needs, wants,
attachments, and aversions, and apart from them there is
no "I" except as a mere possibility, an
unfulfilled potential, a seed that has not yet sprouted.
In that state, even my desire to become free or
enlightened is just another craving for fulfillment or
completion in the future. So don't seek to become free
of desire or "achieve" enlightenment. Become
present. Be there as the observer of the mind. Instead
of quoting the Buddha, be the Buddha, be "the
awakened one," which is what the word buddha means.
Humans have been in the grip of pain
for eons, ever since they fell from the state of grace,
entered the realm of time and mind, and lost awareness
of Being. At that point, they started to perceive
themselves as meaningless fragments in an alien
universe, unconnected to the Source and to each other.
Pain is inevitable as long as you are
identified with your mind, which is to say as long as
you are unconscious, spiritually speaking. I am talking
here primarily of emotional pain, which is also the main
cause of physical pain and physical disease. Resentment,
hatred, self-pity, guilt, anger, depression, jealousy,
and so on, even the slightest irritation, are all forms
of pain. And every pleasure or emotional high contains
within itself the seed of pain: its inseparable
opposite, which will manifest in time.
Anybody who has ever taken drugs to
get "high" will know that the high eventually
turns into a low, that the pleasure turns into some form
of pain. Many people also know from their own experience
how easily and quickly an intimate relationship can turn
from a source of pleasure to a source of pain. Seen from
a higher perspective, both the negative and the positive
polarities are faces of the same coin, are both part of
the underlying pain that is inseparable from the
mind-identified egoic state of consciousness.
There are two levels to your pain:
the pain that you create now, and the pain from the past
that still lives on in your mind and body. Ceasing to
create pain in the present and dissolving past pain -
this is what I want to talk about now.
Excerpted from The Power of
Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by
Eckhart Tolle © 1999.
Reprinted with permission of New World Library, Novato,
Eckhart Tolle was born in Germany where he
spent the first 13 years of his life. After graduating
from the University of London, he was a research
scholar and supervisor at Cambridge University. At the
age of 29 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, which marked the beginning of an intense
Eckhart is not aligned with any
particular religion or tradition. In his teaching, he
conveys a simple yet profound message with the timeless
and uncomplicated clarity of the ancient spiritual
masters: there is a way out of suffering and into peace.
Eckhart is currently traveling
extensively, taking his teaching and his presence
throughout the world. He has lived in Vancouver, Canada,