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Nonduality Highlights: Issue #4235, Saturday, April 30, 2011
Guardians of Being: An interview with spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle.
By Connie Wilson
Modern Dog Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Connie Wilson recently sat down with Eckhart Tolle, number one New York Times bestselling author of The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. Widely recognized as one of the most influential spiritual books of our time, The Power of Now has been translated into over 30 languages and has helped countless people around the globe awaken to the spiritual dimension in their lives, find inner peace, increased joy, and more harmonious relationships.
It was seven years ago that I first encountered the teachings of Eckhart Tolle. I was at a crossroads in my life, unemployed and searching for the next path I should take. I decided to enroll in an entrepreneurial course and it was there, sitting in that classroom, that I first heard a passage from The Power of Now. I'll never forget the words, as I knew without a doubt that something very significant had happened to me. I went out and bought The Power of Now, followed by several of Tolle's other books. I keep them close at hand and frequently refer to them. I never put one down without having gained deeper insight into myself, my relationships, and the world around me.
When I recently learned that, like me, Tolle has a dog that figures prominently in his life, I felt compelled to contact him to see if he would grant me an interview for Modern Dog. It's through this dog connection that I got the opportunity to meet this remarkable human being and his Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Maya, in their peaceful home on the edge of Pacific Spirit Park in Vancouver, British Columbia. I hope you find as much inspiration in his thoughts and teachings as I have.
CW: Just looking at Maya right now...she's sitting and playing with her toy. I guess that's a perfect example of being "in the Now"-in the present moment. Can you give us any other examples that are dog-related?
ET: To simply watch a dog without any kind of mental commentary, just tune in...there's a link. Something else that's very important for many people is they realize, consciously or unconsciously, that their dog is not judging them. For some people, it's the only relationship that they have where there's no fear and where they realize they are being accepted and not judged. For many people it's the only relationship they have with another being. That's a pity, because really they should have deep relationships with humans also, but that's difficult because every human being has a mind and every human being judges and so people become afraid, they withdraw, they put up barriers. I believe that dogs are keeping millions of people sane who would otherwise become deeply neurotic in our alienated world. So, the dog keeps you in touch with being-beyond mind-Being, the innermost core. You can look into the eyes of the dog and see that innermost core. There are teachings that say every being is a spark of the divine of God. You can see it sometimes more clearly [in dogs] than in a human being because the human being has the veil of mind, negative emotions, and ego, and plays a role. I believe that dogs fill a vital function in the collective consciousness of humanity. I would call them "the Guardians of Being." They show us what we have lost and, once we realize that, they can help us in our shift into a deeper state of consciousness. Of course, we don't want to be confined to only deep relationships with dogs, but they can teach us how to relate deeply to another being and then we can learn to relate deeply to humans also. That has to be the next step.
CW: I think that's very well said. In your book, you say we operate in a "fear-based society" and I think that has a lot to do with whether or not you want to show somebody how you honestly feel about them-you really love them but maybe they're not going to give you that love back, so you're afraid to demonstrate love and you close yourself off.
ET: Yes, it's wonderful to see, when I walk with Maya, people come and immediately their hearts open...they may not even look at me, they look at Maya; they pat her. They wouldn't dare do that to me though it would be quite nice. (laughs)
CW: You've had Maya for three years. How has she affected your life and your teachings?
ET: Before Maya came, I didn't go out in the forest here, which is right next to the building. Now I go for a walk in the forest every day, and I know it's good for my body, it's good for the soul.
CW: That's quite a gift in itself. Is Maya your first dog ever?
CW: To what do you attribute the increasing popularity of dogs?
ET: It's the alienation of modern society and the human need to relate deeply to another being, which they are unable to do with humans. I hope this is changing, but in the meantime, dogs offer the opportunity to relate to and to have an open heart towards another being. To be able to show love to another being which is always [reciprocated]. That's why I think dogs have a function that is absolutely vital, to keep humanity sane in this transitional period between two states of consciousness. "For some people, it's the only relationship where there's no fear and where they realize they are being accepted and not judged."
CW: You could speak firsthand of the thousands and thousands of people in whose lives you've made a difference. It must feel absolutely incredible.
ET: Yes, it's wonderful.
CW: Did you have an idea that you would have this opportunity to do this and become so well recognized as a result?
ET: No. When I was writing The Power of Now, I realized that [the book was] important [but] I thought it would reach only relatively few people. It would transform people, but I didn't realize that so many people would be open to it. I thought only people that were deeply spiritual might recognize the truths. It helped those people but, for many people, The Power of Now was the first spiritual book they had read and it was deeply meaningful and transformed them. That was a surprise and it surprised us how quickly it grew because it was published on a very small scale at first in 1998; 3,000 copies were printed and that first year it just sold through word of mouth. Then it grew and grew and magazines wrote about it and ultimately it reached Oprah.
CW: You start The Power of Now with a caption, "You are here to enable the divine purpose of the Universe to unfold. That is how important you are." Do you think that dogs are here for that purpose as well or are they here to act as muses to help assist us on that journey?
ET: Right now, part of the dog's divine purpose is to assist humans. That's why they have chosen to be with humans. They have been with humans for thousands of years and now there is a link between dogs and humans, much closer than it has ever been. So part of their divine purpose is to help us. But it always goes both ways. Because by living with humans, dogs also grow in consciousness... it is reciprocal. They are helping us; we are also helping the collective, one could say, the "dog consciousness." The two species are part of the evolution of consciousness itself. They are different expressions of the evolution of consciousness, which is the purpose of the universe.
CW: As you've become more recognized and, well, famous, there are lots of demands on your time. Do you find it's hard to adhere to your principles, such as Being in the Now?
ET: If I were not careful and alert it would be quite easy for things to take over my life and I would get lost in innumerable things I have to do-respond to people, answer thousands of emails. But I don't. There are many things that I don't do. I even have to say no to many interview requests. Occasionally, I have an inner voice saying "yes." When your request came, for some reason it came from within and I said "yes." I always trust this inner response. I don't have an outer thing that says "Oh, I must do this or I should do that." There are many things that I simply don't do. And a few things, when the answer comes from within, when the positive response comes, then I do it.
Lessons to be Learned From Your Dog
Eckhart Tolle on Being in the Now
There are various portals that you can use to enter the Now. One portal is to become aware of the energy field of your body as you sit there. To feel that you are actually alive in your hands and your arms and your legs, throughout your body. There is an aliveness that most people cannot feel because they are only in their heads, thinking. All their attention is absorbed by thinking and they are not present where they are. So you can use this portal, the aliveness of your inner body. You can use sense perceptions... watch nature-trees or animals or your dog. Just be alert as you watch a dog, playing, resting; play with a dog... you can learn being present from an animal. Your dog can teach you to be present because the dog is ready to enjoy, celebrate life any moment... the Now. The dog is in the Now so it can teach you or remind you. When you become burdened with problems, look at your dog and see how the dog is always ready to celebrate life.
Another opening is to ask yourself whether you are friendly with the present moment or whether you are making the present moment into an obstacle or enemy. If you are against it or want to run away from it, you create stress, you create anxiety, you create past guilt or resentment... all these things that people carry around, they are in the past, and then you have the burden of the future which you can't control, so to come to the present moment is actually a transformation of consciousness. That's why The Power of Now has had such an impact because it has told people that they didn't realize they could be present and they could simplify and deepen their lives tremendously and make it more joyful.
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