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The basic message of Eckhart Tolle's book is that our mode of consciousness can be transformed. The key to becoming free of the egoic mind, with all its consequences, is to become deeply conscious of this present moment, or, as Tolle often calls it, "the Now." The consequences of being in the Now may also be traced out from his book. Connectedness – In place of separation is a two-fold connectedness. To be present is to become reconnected both with Being itself, and with all other beings. Presence is a "state of felt oneness with Being … connectedness with something immeasurable and indestructible … that is essentially you and yet is much greater than you." That in turn enables us to enter into deeper relationships with others. "Coming from Being, you will perceive another person's body and mind as just a screen … behind which you can feel their true reality, as you feel yours … Compassion is the awareness of a deep bond between yourself and all creatures." Acceptance – Rather than resisting life as it actually is in the present moment, one accepts it for what it is, without labelling or judgment. "Allowing it to be as it is … takes you beyond the mind with its resistance patterns …" Tolle speaks not only of acceptance of what is, but also of surrender to it. This "is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life … to surrender is to accept the present moment unconditionally and without reservation." This may easily be misunderstood, and Tolle goes on to explain that he is not suggesting anyone should accept for evermore some unpleasant situation in life. That is mere resignation. Surrender is a purely inner phenomenon, changing our attitude so we accept how things are at this moment. Then we can act positively to change the ongoing situation, and such positive
action is likely to be far more effective than if it arose out of the anger, frustration or despair of resistance. The Joy of Being – Instead of pain there is peace, stillness and joy. Instead of loss of Being there is reconnectedness with Being. Instead of external substitutes for joy there is an inner joy which is independent of external conditions. "As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease." "You abide in Being — unchanging, timeless, deathless — and you are no longer dependent for fulfilment or happiness on the outer world."
Ways of Transformation
Natural means of transformation
Occasionally, says Tolle, the transformation of human consciousness happens spontaneously, in a dramatic and oncefor-all way, as a result of total surrender in the face of intense suffering. He claims his own transformation happened in just that way, in the middle of one night. Yet he acknowledges that "most people … have to work at it." In general, "anything that renders the mind powerless" will serve to bring about this transformation, at least temporarily. Sometimes great beauty, extreme exertion, or great danger, will render the mind speechless and allow inner stillness to be known. It happens naturally in a life-or-death emergency situation, when there is no time for the mind to worry over a problem. Something else takes over at such times, "an intense conscious presence," and whatever response is necessary comes naturally from that. It may also happen when in the presence of death, or while witnessing childbirth, during a serious illness, or during physical intimacy.
Ways of encouraging transformation
There are many ways of cultivating consciousness of the present moment. Tolle makes the following suggestions in his book: Watching the thinker – Simply listen to the voice in the head (the thoughts of the thinking mind), without judging or condemning what you hear, until you are aware both of the voice, and of your own presence listening to it. More generally, observe not only your thoughts but also your emotions and the
way you react in various situations, again without judging or analyzing or making a problem out of it. "Just watch the thought, feel the emotion, observe the reaction" until you become aware of your own still, observing presence, "the silent watcher." Watching the 'pain-body' – The same approach may also be used to break the power of the 'pain-body'. As long as we refuse to face up to the emotional pain living on in us, it survives, claims Tolle, but as soon as we face it, observe it and feel its energy within, its power is broken. We cannot fight it directly, but watching it is enough. "Watching it implies accepting it as part of what is at that moment." We can become present simply by becoming the witness or the watcher of the 'pain-body'. Focusing attention on the present – Becoming intensely conscious of the present moment, without thinking about it or labeling its contents, creates a gap in the mind's thoughtstream and also awareness of one's own presence. Any routine activity, such as walking up stairs, or washing one's hands, can become a vehicle for present-moment awareness. "Pay close attention to every step, every movement, even your breathing." Alert waiting – Tolle suggests an experiment. Close your eyes, say 'I wonder what my next thought will be,' then become very alert and wait for it; be like a cat watching a mouse-hole. As long as you stay alert enough, no thought will come, but as soon as the level of alertness falls, thoughts will rush in again. Awareness of nature – Truly to look at nature, truly to listen to natural sounds, requires complete stillness and intense presence. Only then do we become really aware of the beauty, power, majesty and wonder of the natural world. Look and see; listen and hear. In fact, this is a two-way process, because there is some nameless inner essence in nature which resonates with our inner essence, and which helps us become truly present. Feeling the 'inner body' – An important concept for Tolle, to which he devotes chapter 6, is what he calls 'the inner body,' which he describes as "the animating presence within you" or "the invisible energy field that gives life to what you perceive as the physical body." What he seems to mean by this is the ability to feel the aliveness of the body and each part of it. "Feel (your body) from within. Is it alive? Is there life in your hands, arms, legs, and feet? … Keep focusing on the feeling … Do not start to think about it. Feel it … Perhaps there is just a slight tingling in your hands or feet … the more attention you give it, the clearer and stronger it will become"
The cultivation of this subtle feeling is an important transformative practice for Tolle. Left to itself, the mind will absorb all our consciousness, and we cannot stop thinking. But by becoming conscious of the aliveness of our bodies we reclaim consciousness from the mind. The key to a lasting transformation of consciousness, he says, is to maintain some awareness of the body at all times To help to develop that, he suggests using any quiet moments, for example while waiting for something, to rekindle this awareness of the body. Anything we feel brings us into the present moment for there is no feeling in either past or future. He also suggests making this awareness of the body into a meditation, and "flooding" each part of the body with consciousness, especially last thing at night and first thing in the morning. Breathing – Conscious breathing is a valuable form of meditation in itself, since it makes us conscious of the present moment. More than that, it can also help to put us in touch with the body, which Tolle says can be especially helpful on occasions when we find it hard to feel the aliveness within. Acceptance and Surrender – These and related concepts are not only characteristics of a life lived in the power of 'the Now,' they are also important ways of transformation. "Acceptance," says Tolle, "immediately frees you from mind dominance and thus reconnects you with Being." Forgiveness for Tolle includes both what is past and what is present, "recognizing the insubstantiality of the past" as well as "allowing the present moment to be as it is." "Through forgiveness" he says, "the miracle of transformation happens." Surrender, the "inner acceptance of what is without any reservations … transforms you." In this context Tolle recognizes the traditional Christian spiritual experience of 'the Way of the Cross' as another means of enlightenment.
Experiencing the Unmanifested
Chapter 7 of the Power of Now, is called "Portals into the Unmanifested." In part this recaps briefly some of the ways of becoming conscious and present that Tolle has already described, but it puts them into a larger, more theological, context. They are seen as ways of access to the formless realm, the Unmanifested, "the Being within all beings." These include awareness of the 'inner body, being present in the Now (which Tolle says is the main portal and an essential aspect of every other portal), the cessation of thinking, and surrender. Tolle then mentions two other 'portals':
Silence – Tolle claims the presence of the Unmanifested can be felt in every sound, because all sounds arise out of and return to silence. Silence enables each sound to be itself, and so is an unmanifested part of every sound. "The Unmanifested is present in this world as silence." By paying more attention to the silence than to the sounds, the mind becomes still, and one enters the realm of the Unmanifested. Space – Similarly, he says, "nothing can exist without no-thing, without the empty space that enables it to be." Every physical thing needs space within which to exist, and both comes from and returns to nothing. Further, on the atomic and sub-atomic scales, it consists of far more empty space than anything else. In this way the Unmanifested pervades all things, but empty space is as easy to overlook as silence. Space and time, Tolle says, "are the two essential attributes of God, infinity and eternity, perceived as if they had an external existence outside you." Within, "space is the still, infinitely deep realm of no-mind" while "the inner equivalent of time is presence, awareness of the eternal Now." (extract from Eckhart Tolle’s best seller “The Power of Now “ compiled and contributed by Sanjeev Dheer
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