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#2971 - Monday, October 29, 2007 - Editor: Gloria Lee  

Just Now
An interview with Eckhart Tolle

Joseph Roberts

originally posted  by Mark Scorelle to Wisdom-l  

Join Eckhart Tolle for The Power of Now and Awakening to Your Life's Purpose, an evening to celebrate Common Ground's 25th Anniversary. November 30, Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre, 999 Canada Place. Tickets available starting September 10 through Tickets Tonight,, Touristinfo Centre, Plaza Level, 200 Burrard Street or call 604-684-2787.

Joseph Roberts: Can you speak about the challenges of finding balance in our increasingly complex lives?
Eckhart Tolle: As I call it, inner and outer purpose has merged. There are many people very much into spiritual growth who are still working in the business world and trying to come to some arrangement in the ego-dominated world, while at the same time keeping alive the awakening process. That's very, very hard to balance – being involved in the ego world and keeping alive the inner process of awakening.
To some extent, ego is still a challenge for everybody. Of course we all have egos. But, at least, the overall structure of what, say, people like you do, is not to do with making money but to explore different aspects of the awakening consciousness.
JR: I haven't looked at it quite that way. I just kind of do what I do.
ET: As I said in The Power of Now, the word "work" is going to disappear. Of course, then the words "holiday" and "vacation" will disappear, or "leisure" – all this dividing your life into segments between what you enjoy and don't enjoy will disappear.
JR: I remember reading your chapter on the pain body, which really jumped out at me as such a fresh concept, in such an alive way, that I was taken somewhere. Thank you for opening that portal.
ET: Yes, that has been helpful to many people, the awareness of the pain body.
JR: How do you speak about that concept now? Has your perception changed at all?
ET: It's basically the same, but over the years through giving talks and teaching I've gained different perspectives on it. Some of that is in the new book, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose, where I also expand on the concept. It's a continuous learning process, fascinating. One is always surprised at how many disguises the pain body and the ego have. You never stop learning about it. Although the main thing is to be aware of its existence within oneself. If you're not aware of that, you cannot be the witness when it arises, which means it takes you over. So the main thing about the whole pain body phenomenon is the state of awareness that is there when it comes so you can remain as a conscious observer.
The pain body is then no longer a huge problem because it no longer possesses you. It only possesses you when you're not aware of it and when it doesn't possess you any more, it cannot feed any more on the drama of life circumstances or relationships. It's unlikely that one is immediately free of it, but the main thing is that you don't get taken over by it, that you don't lose yourself in it completely. Then its energy gradually diminishes. That can take some years.


JR: Is there an emergence or is it more that the distractions evaporate? How would you describe it? In your new book, I feel like you're the modern equivalent of the explorers that came to the new world, but an explorer and documenter of consciousness, discovering a new world.
ET: Yes, discovering is the right word. It's not that you need to make a great effort to attain it or bring it about or acquire it. It's discovering it's already there in you – conscious awareness that's obscured, or partially obscured, in many people. It's a discovery of something already there.
It's like waking up after a dream, because identification with the thinking mind and its stories and the old emotional conditioning is like being immersed in a kind of dream world, which very often turns into a nightmare – acting out old conditioned patterns again and again. The whole structure of the egoic mind is an old dysfunction.
There's some evidence that the ego started about 6,000 years ago, but nobody can say for sure. Before that, humans were in a state of innocence. When we go beyond the dysfunction of the ego, we regain our original innocence, but on a much deeper level. This is why Jesus said unless we become as little children we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.
So, returning to the original innocence, and at the same time going much deeper into that with full awareness – that's the process. We're coming out of thousands of years of dreadful suffering, almost the whole of recorded history of humanity. If you really look at it in an unbiased way, as if you'd never seen it before, one cannot but admit that, to a large extent, 80 to 90 percent of it is a history of pathological insanity, the suffering that humans have created for themselves and, of course, inflicting it upon others.
JR: And exporting it through colonization to the new world.
ET: Yes, so the important part of the awakening process is the realization of the insanity in human history, collectively, to this day playing itself out in world events. Also, to be aware of the insanity within oneself – old, dysfunctional patterns that come again and again that create suffering. So when you see that you're insane, then you're not completely insane. Sanity comes the moment you realize the fact of insanity. To see insanity is not a negative thing.
JR: At least you're out of denial.
ET: Yes, that's why in the film A Beautiful Mind, for example, which is about a mathematical genius who did have a mental dysfunction, his mind was developed in certain areas but he was also insane. The viewer of the film doesn't know that until a certain point when the character realizes that many of his experiences are delusions. At that moment, his healing begins. He's not cured yet, but his healing begins because he's recognized his own insanity. That recognition can only come out of sanity, which is the awareness of unconditioned consciousness.
JR: I remember you saying before you published your last book that the next one would be about why there isn't peace on this planet. Was finding a solution one of the major intentions of A New Earth?
ET: Yes, to see the nature of the major dysfunction. That's why I talk quite a bit about the ego in this book. We need to recognize the nature of the dysfunction. Sometimes, even very great Eastern teachers sometimes neglect that part because they're not really touched by the magnitude of, especially, the Western ego. So it's very important for us to see the dysfunction so that we can recognize it when it arises.
Part of the new book is about recognizing the ego, which I regard as a semi-autonomous energy. It's an energy field. Every thought you think is an energy field. It has a form and then it dissolves and then there is another form. The ego itself is an energy field and it has a collective and individual aspect. Every individual ego is part of the collective. They're connected. Every individual is a manifestation of the collective. To recognize that is essential because the ego, being a very clever entity, has many ways of reappearing. Even if you've seen it in one disguise, it can suddenly reappear in a new one.
You might suddenly realize your whole sense of self, identity, is being derived from your possessions and social position. You see that your whole sense of identity is bound up with that and you recognize one aspect of ego. Well, usually it only comes to people when they suffer, when the identification with something no longer works. So, if someone loses their possessions, they suffer enormously because they are losing part of their identity. Sometimes, they suddenly wake up to that false sense of self and decide they don't want any of those possessions anymore, or that job, or whatever, and they'll go to a monastery or somewhere where they can renounce.
Fine, they do that and then we see how clever the ego is. The ego has disappeared in that disguise. So let's say the person has become a Buddhist monk, but, without realizing it, they're now identified with a mental image of themselves as someone who's risen above their old identity, now defining themselves as a spiritually evolved being. He has exchanged one identity for another with a mental image of who he is now. The ego always works by comparing itself in a subtle way to others. Before, you had to be superior because of one thing; then you become superior because of something else. Suddenly a new set of identifications and it's so subtle; sometimes these spiritual egos can be much more subtle than the gross material-based egos. It's still there.
It's recognizing the ego in its many disguises. I've met Buddhist monks who had enormous egos without knowing it. I remember being in a monastery afraid to approach them because they seemed so aloof. Yet I've met other Buddhist monks who were like little children and it was a joy to talk to them because they'd laugh and not take themselves seriously at all. They didn't take the whole Buddhist thing seriously either, yet they practised it knowing it was only a form and they weren't identified with it.
Of course, I'm not saying everybody who becomes a monk has ego, but the potential for ego is there in any situation. A cyclist might have a bigger ego than the man in the SUV, especially if he hates the man in the SUV for polluting the planet and thinks he's superior. If the ego cannot be superior in any field, it will happily identify with the image of the victim, which can give you a very strong ego too. An equally strong ego is someone who thinks of themselves as inferior or badly treated by life, because, again, you have a mental image and a story that you identify with.
It always comes down to identification with forms, one thought form or another. So you miss the one thing that really matters in life, which is that there is a dimension in you beyond form. Another way of putting it is the content in your life. Everything is content: your job, your nationality, your religion, your politics, your likes and dislikes. Your whole story – the story of "Me" – is content. All the thoughts in my head are content, because it is form. Some forms stay for years, others a few seconds. Content draws you in. For some people, it may be mostly material things; the whole attention might be focused on things.
There's a dimension in us that has nothing to do with content. Self-realization is that I am not that. I'm not my story, not my grievances and hang-ups, not the story of me that I'm telling other people at parties or repeating in my head again and again. That is only form. It's temporary.
When you see what you're not, it's already liberating. Something inside you breathes a sigh of relief. Then, of course, the mind begins to ask, "What are you if you are not that?" It wants an answer. In other words, it wants some new form. It wants a new thought. There must be a thought that I am. But it doesn't work like that. That's why the great book the Tao Te Ching starts with the line that the Tao that can be spoken of is not the true Tao because Tao – in the ancient Chinese way of putting it – is the formless dimension. You could say pure consciousness, but with any term we use we have to be careful it's not mistaken for "It." Otherwise, the mind comes in and says, "Oh, consciousness, yes. I believe that I'm consciousness." It's not another belief. It's finding that spaciousness inside yourself that's there when you let go of identification of form.
The dimension of pure consciousness is what I sometimes call "space consciousness," as opposed to "object consciousness," which consumes most people's attention 100 percent. One damn thing after another is what human history is. But that's also the human mind for many people; one problem after another, one thing after another to occupy the attention. Always something. Almost as if the world were conspiring to keep me away from what truly matters - finding myself beyond form, beyond content.
The Power of Now got written to say the quickest way to enter space consciousness is the present moment and living in alignment with the present moment rather than against it, and that's the end of the ego. The ego cannot tolerate the present moment. It cannot survive when you're conscious of, and accepting, being one with the present moment. If you're in a state of oneness with what is, rather than running away from it or trying to deny it or fighting it, that's already the end of the ego. Suddenly, inner spaciousness opens up in which no thought is required at this moment to judge, rather than accept, this moment.
The whole compulsion to think continuously has to do with denial of the present moment and this addiction to mostly useless, repetitive and distracting thinking that humans are suffering from. It is really intimately connected with the continuous denial of the present moment. You're always thinking about something else. Even if you're thinking about the present moment, you'd be interpreting it in terms of the past, which is still a denial of the present.


The question is can you be in a state of openness towards what is right now, without imposing a mental interpretation on it, without denying or running away from it or making the present moment into a means to an end. The ego mind says, "I need to get to the next moment. This was just a stepping stone, but once I get there I'll be okay" because the mind is future oriented.
The simple thing is becoming one with the present moment by no longer resisting it and by being open to what is. Any moment starts with this moment. There is no other. Not imposing an interpretation on what is, letting it be. Approaching it in a state of alert, open attention. Whatever it is that the present moment contains, you approach it in that state of alert openness.
Then the greater intelligence comes into your life immediately because you're no longer operating from the conditioned mind. When you open yourself up to the present moment, you also open yourself up to the unconditioned, the far deeper consciousness, the true intelligence. When that comes into your life, it deals with anything that needs to be done in this present moment. The response comes from that deeper level of intelligence, whatever you're doing.
That is where you bring in true intelligence. Krishnamurti called it the awakening of intelligence, which was also the title of one of his books. True intelligence has nothing to do with acquired knowledge or the ability to solve little puzzles, like IQ tests. That's a tiny ability, a small aspect of intelligence. I'm sorry if I'm offending anybody whose identity is from Mensa, but true intelligence is not that. It's not accumulating masses of facts and then calling yourself knowledgeable and deriving your identity from that because you're superior in your knowledge.
True intelligence is not to be cunning and clever in your business dealings. Ultimately, that's self-defeating because you're not taking into account the whole. You're taking into account only self-interest. True intelligence is not to protect your country at the expense of other countries, because you're taking a fragment out of the whole and neglecting the rest. It might be clever, but it's not intelligence and cleverness always lets you down. It's not an enlightened way to deal with things.
So George W. Bush is clever but stupid at the same time. Another term I have for that is "stupid intelligence." Now with him, you can actually see it's stupid, but for all those people making mistakes – let's say in the current American administration, and I'm only mentioning that because when people are in such positions of power their mistakes have huge repercussions, whereas a person with an ordinary job has relatively small repercussions with similar mistakes – you don't see this magnified version of what the ego is capable of, whereas if you take Hitler or Stalin, you see what the madness of the ego is capable of.
All these people have been to universities. They have degrees. They have high degrees from good universities. So, yes, they've developed mind – some more than others – but you can see how limited that is, completely lacking in wisdom. It is cleverness completely devoid of any wisdom, so cleverness is also of the ego. "What is my advantage?" is always the question. That is so limited, it always leads to suffering. First you create suffering for others and then it comes to you, always. That's the pattern.
Wisdom can only arise from the unconditioned dimension of consciousness and you don't have to make an enormous effort to bring that about. At some point in the future, in some remote state, as some Buddhists believe, "I need another 10 incarnations and then I'll be enlightened." Some teachers might even tell you, "You'll be enlightened in only a few more incarnations, just wait."
There's no time to wait. There's no need to wait. Time cannot get you to the timeless state of consciousness, so if you're looking to the future that sometime you'll be in that state, no you won't. You can simply be in that state now simply by no longer living in antagonism with the present moment.
The only difference between you and the enlightened master is that the master lives in a state of oneness with the present moment, in complete inner "Yes." Nothing else. He might be much less knowledgeable than you; he probably is. Buddha and Jesus had much less information than a person has today because humans didn't know that much at the time, but it didn't matter. Information is not what it's about.
The realization is that the transformation of consciousness does not require time. Many people get angry when I say that because they've invested so much of themselves in a self-image as a spiritual seeker who is going to get there one day. They're so invested as seekers that, of course, they can't be finders. They're seekers and they're interested in the future more than the present, and that's the old pattern appearing in the new disguise – the old, egoic pattern.
The new dimension of consciousness, new in the sense that it's relatively new on this planet, is already there. It simply requires you to be open towards the present moment. That is the new heaven: that the new state of consciousness is there. I explain in A New Earth a few things about object consciousness and space consciousness and how to enter. But, basically, it's so simple even a child could understand it.



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