Shorter and simpler than his other books, Stillness Speaks is the essence of Eckhart Tolle. If you’re interested in his teaching, but don’t feel up to some of his more far-out ideas, this would be a good place to start Waking up to who you really are:
“When you recognize that there is a voice in your head that pretends to be you and never stops speaking, you are awakening out of your unconscious identification with the stream of thinking. When you notice that voice.
You realize that who you are is not the voice of the thinker but the one who is aware of it. Knowing yourself as the awareness behind the voice is freedom.” If you feel like things are out of your control, Eckhart Tolle hands the reins of power back to you:
“Your thoughts make you unhappy. Your interpretations, the stories you tell yourself make you unhappy. “The thoughts I am thinking right now are making me unhappy.” This realization breaks your unconscious identification with those thoughts.”
This book is filled with mind-blowing moments. “Death is not the opposite of life. Life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal.” I’ve always loved his thoughts about the relationship between nature and man:
“Nature can bring you to stillness. That is its gift to you. When you perceive and join with nature in the field of stillness, that field becomes permeated with your awareness. That is your gift to nature.
Stillness Speaks PDF
In the introduction to his succinct yet powerful book Stillness Speaks, Eckhart Tolle advises the reader that the essence of its message is expounded in the first chapter, and maybe all that some require to assimilate. However, it is the foregoing dictum from the fourth chapter which, in my opinion, has the power to singlehandedly transform the life of the reader ravenous enough to forsake everything in order to pursue it.
The decision to explicate this potentially transformative book grew from a personal resolve to carve a path to enlightenment for the empirical mind. Unlike Tolle and other enlightened figures, my awakening occurred in the trail of a methodical albeit manic inquisition into the scientific soul of mankind.
While I do not doubt that Tolle and other neo-Buddhist teachers have inspired many people through their books and seminars, there is much in many modern teachings that leave the rationally inclined high and dry. With so many books that promise spiritual transformation, I believe it is difficult for many modern readers to follow a single philosophy on faith.
That is not to say that Stillness Speaks or others like it have no logic to their guiding light, but it is often found, and Tolle’s books are no exception, that the light is somewhat dimmed by unfounded yet emphatic platitudes which shut the skeptic’s door to the life-changing truths glinting in the midst.
I do not wish to dwell upon the unsubstantiated tenets of Tolle’s books; rather I am anxious to emphasize and vindicate those gems laden with the profound yet simple secret to inner peace. I will merely state that the over-averred and under-demonstrated concepts are the ones that stroke our egos and assuage our fears, by telling us.
For example, that the world is on the verge of a new spiritual era, or that death is an illusion (though I confidently assure you that it is misconceived and fallaciously feared). It isn’t that these ideas aren’t pleasant to believe, but they are irrelevant to finding true inner peace, and because of their groundlessness and their enticement to the susceptible mind, they may even serve as an obstinate diversion on the path to spiritual freedom.
Although I experienced an awakening akin to Tolle’s, nothing in my philosophy or aspired teachings is grounded in faith. There is a rational, atheistic path to enlightenment, and I will attempt to delineate it through a sequence of passages from his book: “Stillness is the only thing in this world that has no form. But then, it is not really a thing, and it is not of this world.”
Tolle uses words like “stillness” and “Being” which are abstruse and awkward for the rational mind to translate. Scientifically speaking, what Tolle and every other spiritual teacher is referring to as the essence beyond our thoughts, bodies, and experiences is simply consciousness. Consciousness is the only thing in this world without form. And it is not really a thing. But, contrary to Tolle’s adage, it is of this world.
Every phenomenon in this world can be scientifically reduced to physical processes. The words which I type at this moment arise from a convoluted and determined chain of physical atoms acting by physical laws. From the conceptualization in my brain, down to the movement of my fingers on the keyboard, to the circuits and signals which convey letters to the screen:
Everything is physics. But what about the consciousness which enables me to witness this process unfold? There is no doubt in the minds of neuroscientists that consciousness arises from tangible, albeit undeciphered, neuronal processes, analogous to those which beget our thoughts, emotions, and behavior.
But unlike these other phenomena, consciousness is a subjective realm, which no amount of physical reductionism can desecrate. No matter how much we explain consciousness in material terms, we will continue to be subjective witnesses of a physically unfolding universe. Thus, though of the physical world, consciousness rises above it, to become a sacred kingdom of its own.
“The Now is as it is because it cannot be otherwise. What Buddhists have always known, physicists now confirm: there are no isolated things or events. Underneath the surface appearance, all things are interconnected, are part of the totality of the cosmos that has brought about the form that this moment takes.”
We live in a deterministic universe. Though initially a difficult pill to swallow, it is a principle intrinsic to the Buddhist doctrine, however implicit, and an essential concession on the path to true enlightenment. To accept that this moment, in all its forms, is the destiny of physical Existence and that our bodies and minds are merely constituents of that destiny, is the secret to enlightenment.
“As you go about your life can you be aware of yourself as the awareness in which the entire content of your life unfolds?” If your thoughts, feelings, actions, and circumstances in every moment are inevitable manifestations of the eternally unfolding physical Universe, then what is left for you to identify with? What is left for you to be?
“Nothing that comes or goes is you…You are the knowing, not the condition that is known.” You are Consciousness. You are the eyes behind Existence. Though a product of physics, and a component of the Universe, Consciousness prevails as a distinctive and mystical domain. It is as if the Universe evolved an entity with the intention of becoming a witness to its own evolution!
Of course, there is no way to substantiate this, and consciousness is almost certainly a product of natural selection in the evolution of life. Nevertheless, it is a miracle, and identifying ourselves with it opens up our minds like a spring blossom, and beauty, peace, and compassion shine steadily into our lives.
“If you can recognize…the thoughts that go through your mind as simply thoughts if you can witness your own mental-emotional reactive patterns as they happen…” then you are on the miraculous path to spiritual freedom. When you learn to embrace a deterministic universe, and concede that your body and mind are physical entities entirely beyond your will to control.
You understand that you are not your thoughts, feelings, appearances, or actions–you are, by default, the awareness which dwells ever beneath them. It is out of this transformative confession that you learn to “accept whatever arises in the Now–within and without” (emphasis added).
“By knowing yourself as the awareness in which phenomenal existence happens, you become free of dependency on phenomena and free of self-seeking in situations, places, and conditions. In other words: what happens or doesn’t happen is not that important anymore. Things lose their heaviness, their seriousness. A playfulness comes into your life. You recognize this world as a cosmic dance, the dance of form–no more and no less.”
Acknowledging yourself as nothing more than a witness to the world unfolding within and without your body and mind, implants a small but unimaginably potent seed of acceptance into your brain. From this pivotal moment forward, nothing unfortunate will occur in your life that you will not soon recover from, and every negative event that has happened in your past will begin to heal.
No matter how chaotic or restless your world becomes, you will always possess an air of serene and stoic resignation. You learn to surrender to what is in every moment, not only on the outside but to what you feel and think within. Slowly but surely your resistance will wither, and a sense of harmony and compassion will envelop your being.
“When you say `yes to the `isness’ of life, when you accept this moment as it is, you can feel a sense of spaciousness within you that is deeply peaceful. On the surface, you may still be happy when it’s sunny and not so happy when it’s rainy; you may be happy at winning a million dollars and unhappy at losing all your possessions. Neither happiness nor unhappiness, however, go all that deep anymore.
They are ripples on the surface of your Being. The background peace within you remains undisturbed regardless of the nature of the outside condition. The `yes’ to what is reveals a dimension of depth within you that is dependent neither on external conditions nor on the internal conditions of constantly fluctuating thoughts and emotions.”
Dependent on nothing to sustain a deep sense of self or a profound connection with the world, you will be composed in the face of any trial or tragedy. Even when you do lose your head–for enlightenment is not synonymous with dispassion–you will never lose your sense of self, and you will always be at home in your heart. As Tolle so eloquently and sagely extends it.
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