Eckhart Tolle and the Power of Now;
"Pain cannot Feed on Joy"
Eckhart Tolle falls into a personal development category of its own, I believe. Many of the other inspirational and motivational teachers I have come across are energetic, uplifting and their CD:s are a great companion in the car to keep your attention on worthwhile topics as you drive. Eckhart Tolle on the other hand, is so different that I would never listen to him while driving. His voice and messages are so soothing that I would probably doze off... For personal development lessons in the car, I´d prefer Tony Robbins, and arrive at my destination pumped up with energy.
The fact that Eckhart Tolle´s teachings are soothing do not make them any less inspiring. On the contrary, in Eckhart Tolle´s books and CD:s the concept of pain-body so accurately describes our personal and collective sufferings, that if everybody knew about it, it could literally make a positive shift in the world. So what is the concept of pain-body? In his book "The Power of Now", Eckhart Tolle describes it as "past emotional pain alive in your life today". It is a living entity or energy field and like a parasite, it stays alive through feeding on your energy. Without your energy and attention, it would starve.
The headline refers to this exact phenomenon: Pain cannot feed on joy. We will get back to this shortly. To clarify the whole phenomenon of pain-body, I have included a quote from one of Eckhart Tolle´s great books, "The Power of Now". (Yes, it is the book that got Oprah Winfrey interested in Eckhart Tolle´s teachings.)
"The pain-body wants to survive, just like every other entity in existence, and it can only survive if it gets you to unconsciously identify with it. It can then rise up, take you over, "become you," and live through you. It needs to get its "food" through you. It will feed on any experience that resonates with its own kind of energy, anything that creates further pain in whatever form: anger, destructiveness, hatred, grief, emotional drama, violence, and even illness. So the pain-body, when it has taken you over, will create a situation in your life that reflects back its own energy frequency for it to feed on. Pain can only feed on pain. Pain cannot feed on joy. It finds it quite indigestible." (Eckhart Tolle)
The quote is so telling of Eckhart Tolle. He is dead serious and seems too deep to grasp, but then he suddenly makes a funny conclusion like the one above, or bursts out into giggles at something he finds very amusing. Typically, the things he finds ridiculous and laughable, are often the things we consider norms or truths. Eckhart Tolle questions those and makes us realize that we are not our past pains and we do not need to feed our own or other people´s pains either.
As Eckhart Tolle says, if you just become aware of that parasitic energy field called pain-body, you can take steps to lessen your own and the collective suffering. If you remain unaware, you will deny its existence and actually create more pain and suffering. That is, according to Eckhart Tolle, how the pain-body exists and grows. In Tolle´s own words:
"Once the pain-body has taken you over, you want more pain. You become a victim or a perpetrator. You want to inflict pain, or you want to suffer pain, or both. There isn't really much difference between the two. You are not conscious of this, of course, and will vehemently claim that you do not want pain. But look closely and you will find that your thinking and behavior are designed to keep the pain going, for yourself and others. If you were truly conscious of it, the pattern would dissolve, for to want more pain is insanity, and nobody is consciously insane." (Eckhart Tolle)
According to himself, Tolle used to be depressed most of his life, even suicidal. He was a scholar of Literary Science in Cambridge, but always felt miserable. One day Eckhart´s inner voice told him "I cannot live with myself anymore." And as he was used to analysing thoughts, concepts and ideas as a scholar, it struck him as funny that "I" could not live with "myself"! He came to the conclusion that they must be separate entities. And only one of them can be my true self. And that, Tolle says, was the turning point.
Eckhart Tolle was so astonished by this thought that the habitual ongoing stream of thoughts stopped. And from then on, a sense of stillness, happiness and bliss spread within. And from it, he experienced an intensive presence, a new awakening.
As his thought process decreased and the inner chatter got less noisy, there was room for a deep sense of inner peace within. The conclusion therefore is to stop identifying with our intellect to reach another consciousness. If we understand that the thought process is the foundation of the ego, we have come a long way. Most of us are not conscious of the ongoing negative and unhappy inner dialogue. The core of the ego is the self identifying with the negative thoughts, memories and worries. In Eckhart Tolle´s own words here is what we need to do in order to stop this negative process:
"Let me summarize the process. Focus attention on the feeling inside you. Know that it is the pain-body. Accept that it is there. Don't think about it - don't let the feeling turn into thinking. Don't judge or analyze. Don't make an identity for yourself out of it. Stay present, and continue to be the observer of what is happening inside you. Become aware not only of the emotional pain but also of "the one who observes," the silent watcher. This is the power of the Now, the power of your own conscious presence. Then see what happens." (Eckhart Tolle)
From this we will attain the power of now. There is nothing strange or complicated about it. We make it complicated through our detachment from "now", according to Eckhart Tolle. When you simplify and see this clearly, it makes perfect sense. Because life is never in the past or in some later time. There is only here and now; the power of Now. And to summarize and inspire you to a happier, more joyful and fulfilling life; Pain cannot feed on joy.
"Most people treat the present moment as if it were an obstacle that they need to overcome. Since the present moment is Life itself, it is an insane way to live." (Eckhart Tolle)
Finally, what does Eckhart Tolle suggest in situations that really are unbearable? Is there a contradiction between always being in the present, the now, and experiencing intolerable situations? Not really, because according to Eckhart Tolle, we have three possibilities to choose from: remove yourself from the situation, change the situation or accept it fully. We are responsible for our own lives, so there is no need for guilt, negativity, mental pollution or excuses. If you are in an unbearable situation, you have to choose one of the three alternatives, either accept it, change it or leave it. There will be consequenses and you have to accept them too, without excuses. If you fear a change, feel it and accept it.
There is no such thing as failure anyway. There are only lessons that make us grow. And the power of Now is your best companion.
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