Eckhart Tolle and the Kingdom of Heaven Within
A spectral projection from a stained glass window near the interior entrance to the Sisters’ Chapel, the oldest part of St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Gary Bridgman / Flickr)
To listen to Eckhart Tolle is to be reminded that anything is possible — for anyone.
I’m not talking about living a life of leisure filled with expensive cars, beach homes, and extravagant vacations, but an experience brimming with the kind of spiritual insights that not only make this life worth living but decidedly more fulfilling. The problem is, whenever you say “spiritual insight” there’s often the assumption that you’re talking about something too ethereal to be practical or too elusive to be achieved in this lifetime.
This is exactly the point that one of the world’s most well-known spiritual teachers and authors rebuffed during a talk he gave this past February at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education:
"Some people awaken spiritually without ever coming into contact with any meditation technique or any spiritual teaching," he said. "They may waken simply because they can’t stand the suffering anymore."
And, then, I later read ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle, and it tells you to find a shaft of sunlight and sit in it every day. So my boyfriend was, like, following Eckhart Tolle’s weird sunlight advice and finding it. And then he ended up using ‘The Power of Now’ to break up with me. So, like, it had turned against me.
We’ve received countless stories about the positive impact of Eckhart Tolle’s teachings on people’s lives. I had to smile when I heard this humorous story from a person who was on the receiving end of his guiding principles. If you work on SOF long enough, you hear the most surprising references to all types of material and people on the program!
Trent Gilliss, online editor
Eckhart Tolle and Moving to a New House
Krista Tippett, Host
This week we’ve been wrapping up production on next week’s show with Eckhart Tolle. One mark of a promising interview, for me, is when it continues to resonate in my head and my life in the following days. And the conversation I had with Tolle worked its way powerfully into my experience of moving these past few weeks — specifically one thing he said almost as an aside.
He was elaborating on his theory of the importance of the present moment — of being fully aware, alert, attentive to it, engaged in it. He noted that stress is a symptom of not wanting to be in the moment we’re in. On the heels of hearing him say that I realized that I was treating most of the events on my moving “checklist” as tasks to be endured. I was looking at an entire week of my life — the packing, the organizing, the moving out, the moving in — as a period I just had to soldier through to get to the other side. And I became aware that approaching it that way — in effect steeling myself not to be present — did raise a wall of stress in me, a palpable physical and emotional sensation.
But here was the surprise: I could immediately disarm that by leaning into the moment. I still had to pack that box, and it was not the most exciting task of my life, and it was tiring at times, but it was not stressful. As I kept pulling myself back to this discipline time and again across the week, I even experienced little unexpected epiphanies and joys I would utterly have missed in my practiced “just get it done” mode.
To be honest, I went into my interview with Eckhart Tolle somewhat skeptical. I’m always wary of hype, or what looks like hype, especially when it comes to religious/spiritual figures. Often that’s valid. But I’ve also learned that sometimes the people who are getting all the attention are getting it for a good reason. More from me and others on the show we’re calling "The Power of Eckhart Tolle’s Now" in the days to come…
Quoting Eckhart Tolle
Kate Moos, Managing Producer
This morning we’ll do the “final” listen to our program with Eckhart Tolle, which goes out to stations around the country and live on our web site next week on August 14th. It’s not final really, but it’s the last listen to the program in draft form, and it’s where a lot of fine tuning and fussy tweaking occurs.
At this stage in the process, we’ve been neck deep in the work for a little while, and we begin to use a sort of lingua franca based on the material — words and phrases from the guest or their writing populate our speech, to serious and comic effect.
With the Niebuhr show, one of our favorites was, “I am my own most vexing problem,” intoned with overdone gravitas. It’s a twist on Niebuhr’s famous dictum: “Man is his own most vexing problem.”
This week, we are making casual diagnoses of our pain bodies, and sharing earnest stories about how focusing on the now in normally stressful situations really works!
There are some great moments in this program with Eckhart Tolle, and this sample of the interview will give you a feel for it.
What are the catch phrases or terms you find yourself quoting most from Tolle’s work? Has his work or his books had an impact on your stress level?
Being Here Now, Again
Kate Moos, Managing Producer
The picture above, taken with my iPhone, is the view from my desk on a rainy day. The flowers in the vase are fake, the vase itself a left-over from Mitch Hanley’s wedding, the artifacts hard to make out on the shelf include an amethyst and a piece of old tile from a town on the Croatian coast called Opatija; one of the pictures too backlit to make out is a photo of Albert Einstein with Rabindranath Tagore.
I took this photo of the view I see before me even as I type (though it is brilliantly sunny today) to remind me of something. The something is, to wake up to what is before me; to not become inured by habit into thinking any moment of my day need necessarily resemble the previous moment; to remind me to throw off the routinization to which I am so prone, and in which I take equal amounts of dread and comfort.
Being alive to the present moment, which Ram Dass gave us decades ago as the injunction to Be Here Now isn’t a new idea, but it’s back in a big way and it has a massive new audience because of the work of Eckhart Tolle, whom Krista interviewed recently, in a warm and wide-ranging 90-minute conversation we are about to produce into an episode of Speaking of Faith that will be distributed on August 14th.
It’s a change up for us to interview someone so much in the limelight of popular culture as Tolle, thanks to the exposure of his new book A New Earth in Oprah’s Book Club and in several web seminars with Oprah. Normally, to be honest, we seek out people who are somewhat under the radar, whom we feel a duty to bring to public attention, given the significance of their story, their thought, their work. People like V.V. Raman and Ingrid Jordt, who may never become household names but have incredible intellectual and spiritual wealth to share. We also do interview big names: Jimmy Carter, Elie Wiesel, Rick Warren, Barbara Kingsolver all come to mind.
In this case, as Krista and other staff members sank into his work, we felt it was an opportunity to explore the mind of a genuine spiritual teacher and philosopher who is having an unprecedented experience of celebrity, to hear the story of his own spiritual development, and the effect of his unexpected fame. We found this understated man to be fun and warm, and we’re excited to offer up our very particular conversation with him. I’m reminded in the conversation with Tolle of our recent conversation with Kevin Griffin, who says in that program on spirituality and addiction that after all there is nothing difficult about being mindful except remembering to be mindful. That’s the hard part. And, to complete the circle, I love this nugget from Ram Dass which is cited by Tolle: “If you think you’re so enlightened, go spend a week with your parents.”
Stay tuned for our delightful program with this thinker, philosopher, and teacher.