When Ekharte Tolle was in his twenties, he lived in a state of almost continuous anxiety interspersed with periods of suicidal depression. One night, not long after his twenty-ninth birthday, his life changed forever. He questioned the voice in his head, and suddenly, there was no more fear. Only deep peace and bliss. This summary aims to teach you to reach the same enlightenment.
You Are Not Your Mind
Many people look outside for scraps of pleasure or fulfilment, for validation, security, or love. Instead, they must realize that they have a treasure within that not only includes all of those things but is infinitely greater than anything the world can offer.
Everyone has a voice inside your head, but the good news is that you can free yourself from your mind. Start by listening to the voice as often as possible. When you listen to a thought, you are aware not only of the thought but also of yourself as the witness of the thought. The most vital step on your journey toward enlightenment is to learn to disidentify from your mind.
In the enlightened state, you still use your thinking mind, but mostly for practical purposes. You are free of involuntary internal dialogue and there is inner stillness. You can watch emotions the same way that you watch thoughts. Focus your attention within and feel the energy of the emotion. 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. You can cease to create pain in the present and dissolve past pain.
Consciousness: The Way Out of Pain
The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life. If you realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have, you will see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you. Pain can only feed on pain. It cannot feed on joy. If you stay present and conscious and accept that pain is there, eventually the pain-body will lose its energy and it will disappear.
Identification and observation are the most important principles of being present. The mind has a deep-seated sense of lack or incompleteness, of not being whole. Sometimes it is conscious; other times, unconscious. As long as this mind is running your life, you cannot truly be at ease. Recognise that the work you do, your social status, physical appearance, belief systems and other collective identifications are not you.
Moving Deeply into the Now
The problem of the mind cannot be solved on the level of the mind. The ego’s needs are endless. It feels vulnerable and threatened so it lives in a state of fear and want. Once you recognize the root of unconsciousness as identification with the mind, you step out of it. You become present.
If you end the delusion of time, you will stop time – unless you choose to use it. Time is an illusion, and Now is the most precious thing there is. Nothing exists outside of the Now. What you think of as the past is a former Now and the future is an imagined Now, a projection of the mind. Past and future have no reality of their own – their reality is “borrowed” from the Now.
Break the old pattern of present-moment denial and present-moment resistance. Make it your practice to withdraw attention from past and future whenever they are not needed. Enter the Now directly as much as possible in everyday life. Be present as the watcher of our mind. Notice how often your attention is in the past or future.
All negativity is caused by a denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances are caused by too much past and not enough presence. Presence is the key to freedom.
Use your senses fully. Be where you are. Look around. Be aware of the silent presence of each thing. Listen to the sounds. Touch something and feel and acknowledge its Being. Move deeply into the Now. And you have succeeded.
Mind Strategies for Avoiding the Now
If you cannot be present in normal circumstances, such as when you are sitting alone in a room, then you won’t be able to stay conscious when something “goes wrong.” Therefore, it is essential to bring more consciousness into your life in ordinary situations so you grow in presence power.
Make it a habit to monitor your mental-emotional state through self-observation. “Am I at ease at this moment?” is a good question to ask yourself. Look inside yourself. Direct your attention to the body. With practice, your power of self-observation will become sharpened.
If you resist what is, you are making the present moment into an enemy. You are creating unhappiness and it is polluting your inner being and the collective human psyche of which you are inseparable from. Drop the negativity that your mind has created that serves no purpose except to strengthen a false sense of self.
Wherever you are, be there totally. Ordinary unconsciousness is always linked in some way with denial of the Now. Are you resisting that you’re here and now? If you find your here and now make you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally. Take responsibility for your life. There is nothing wrong with striving to improve your life situation. You can improve your situation, but you cannot improve your life. Life is your deepest inner Being.
The State of Presence
Understanding presence is being present. As long as you are in a state of intense presence, you are free of thought. To remain present in everyday life, it helps to be deeply rooted within yourself; otherwise, the mind will drag you along like a wild river. Body awareness will keep you present.
Everything that exists has Being, has God-essence, has some degree of consciousness. Everything is alive. Through you, consciousness is awakening. When this happens, it becomes what we may call pure or enlightened consciousness or presence.
It can help to find a master. If you are drawn to an enlightened teacher, it is because there is already enough presence in your to recognise presence in another. Use the master’s presence to reflect your own identity back to you and to become more intensely present yourself.
The Inner Body
The body is a point of access into the realm of Being. Your body is an outer shell, a limited and distorted perception of a deeper reality. In your natural state of connectedness with Being, this deeper reality can be felt as the invisible inner body within you. It is only the beginning of an inward journey that will take you into a realm of stillness and peace.
When your mind takes up all of your attention, you are not in your body. The mind absorbs all your consciousness and transforms it. To become conscious of Being, you need to reclaim consciousness from the mind. You can do this by focusing your attention away from thinking and directing it into the body. Feel it from within. Feel the life in your hands, arms, legs and feet. Do not think about it. Feel it. Underneath your physical body lies the invisible inner body, the doorway into Being. Through the inner body, you are forever one with God.
Portals into the Unmanifested
The Unmanifested is a realm of deep stillness and peace, but also of joy and intense aliveness. The Unmanifested is the source of chi, the inner energy field of your body. You journey into the Unmanifested every night when you enter the phase of deep, dreamless sleep. You merge with the Source and draw from it the energy that sustains you when you return to the world of separate forms.
Use your inner body as a portal to enter the Unmanifested and you will be liberated. Other portals are connecting to the Now, creating a gap in the incessant stream of thought, and surrendering.
The last portal is conscious death. Many people speak of this as radiant light. If your presence is strong enough, you can use this as a portal into the Unmanifested.
Salvation doesn’t come through love in a relationship. People think, “When I obtain this or am free of that – then I will be okay.” There is nothing you can do or attain that will get you closer to salvation than you are at this moment. True salvation is here and now.
All relationships are flawed. When we fall “in love,” we become addicted to our partner. We feel that we must be with them in order to be whole. Addictions come from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain. Thus, after the euphoria has passed, relationships will bring out the pain and unhappiness that is already inside you.
Knowing this, you can use your relationship as your spiritual practice. What was unconscious is being brought up into the light. If you accept that the relationship is here to make you conscious instead of happy, then you can use the relationship to align yourself with the higher consciousness that wants to be born into this world. If you enter the Now, you can have enlightened relationships. For love to flourish, you must disidentify from the pain-body and bring presence forward.
Beyond Happiness and Unhappiness There is Peace
The difference between happiness and inner peace is that happiness depends on conditions being perceived as positive and inner peace does not. Seen from a higher perspective, conditions are neither positive nor negative. They are as they are. When you completely accept what is, there is no “good” or “bad” in your life anymore. Most “bad” things are due to unconsciousness. They are self-created. When you live in acceptance of what is, that is the end of all drama in your life.
The Buddha taught that your unhappiness is inseparable from your happiness. Only the illusion of time separates them. Nothing can give you joy. Joy arises from within as the joy of Being. Things and conditions can only give you pleasure – and this pleasure is fleeting. You must detach yourself from the outer world.
The Meaning of Surrender
To some people, surrender may have negative connotations, implying defeat, giving up or failing. True surrender, however, is entirely different. It does not mean to passively put up with whatever situation you find yourself it. Surrendering is yielding instead of opposingthe flow of life. To surrender is to accept the present moment unconditionally and without reservation.
Let go of resistance and accept everything. Acceptance of what is immediately frees you from mind identification and reconnects you with Being. Start by acknowledging that there is resistance. Observe how your mind creates it and look at the thought process involved. By witnessing the resistance, you will see that it serves no purpose. By focusing your attention on the Now, the unconscious resistance is made conscious, and that is the end of it.
If you cannot surrender, take action immediately. Speak up or do something to change the situation. Take responsibility for your life. If you cannot take action, then you have two choices left: resistance or surrender. Surrender doesn’t transform what is. It transforms you, which then transforms your whole world.
When you surrender to what is and become fully present, the past ceases to have any power. Presence is the key. The Now is the key.