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January 29, 2012

Reports on Eckhart Tolle by Scott Meredith

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Eckhart Tolle

Eckhart Tolle Session Mar 29, 2003
I turned up an hour early for Eckhart Tolle’s scheduled appearance at a New Age church facility in Los Angeles (Culver City). My ticket was general seating, so I figured I’d arrive waaaay early, an hour early in fact, to secure a near-front location. I consider location an important tactical element for these events, based on my theory that these enlightened types may be shedding some kind of emanative energy which could lead to a pleasant and possibly permanent contact high, thus sparing me a lot of blood, sweat, and sneers in my own chase after the big E.

One block from the event, I get my first clue – Tolle is a Big League Player! Uniformed traffic directors all over, gesturing a long line of cars into a distant side lot, the traffic already beginning to snarl. I park and scoot into the venue, dodging the milling throngs, get my ticket marked by one of the phalanx of ticket takers, stroll blissfully into the (cavernous, church-ified warehouse of a) meeting hall – only to find ALL the “good” seats including the entire center section and most of the remote wing sections on either side pasted with “RESERVED” signs and prohibitive tape and ropes. So I creatively, grabbed a chair from the far back and slid it up as an innocent appendage to the end of an existing center-section row.

Lucky I’d got there early though, as when it came up to within 15 minutes of show time, the question wasn’t getting a GOOD seat, it was getting ANY seat. Tons of people still showing up at the door, tickets in hand, being told “We have no more seats…” This seemed to raise some irritation and ire among the ingressing masses. Some individuals more vociferous than others, as always. But I could detect the strain of New Ager’s trying to keep their spiritual cool under the hammer of mundane resource-scarcity pressure.

Eventually that problem was solved by opening up two large virgin sections of choir seating on stage behind Tolle’s (prospective) chair.

The audience seemed more gender-balanced than either Katie’s (f/m 80/20) or Gangaji’s (f/m 70/30), at about f/m 60/40. Women always seem to predominate at these things ?

On the stage/platform itself, there was little stagecraft, just the obligatory paired vases of Satsang-Love-In flowers, a simple (audience-identical) four legged chair, a standing mic at chair level, and a smallish table to the chair’s right, with water glass.

The event began a bit late, what with all the filing in and seat hunting. Finally the doors were shut, it got quiet… I was absorbed in some day-dreaming, NOT in the present moment – and when I looked back up on stage – there he was, already standing there, bathed in spotlight, adjusting the standing mic. A smallish and physically unprepossessing guy, I’m sure most of you know. Humble and gentle in appearance and mannerisms. He sat and composed himself, and didn’t begin to talk for another 5 minutes or so.

The entire audience of TWELVE HUNDRED PEOPLE (at $75 a shot!) fell reverentially quiet.

After a relatively short opening-silence stint, Eckhart began to speak quietly, in a near-monotone. His voice is gentle, lulling, not unpleasant – approximating 2001′s HAL 9000 computer voice, but layered with a touch of soft German accent and the occasional flash of a humorous twinkle.

Kind of an elfin type (though decidedly not a Legolas in the looks department… but hey I’m not exactly Paul Newman myself)

He began with a somewhat interesting riff about “how you might be feeling right now”, referring to the just-past ticket snafu’s. He said that those frustrations (“What do you mean there are no more seats ?! I’ve got a ticket!!) were a good practice opportunity for awareness, for saying “yes” to the “form of the present moment”. Observe any frustration in yourself, feel how the righteous anger strengthens the small mind, confirming the ego’s “rightness” – feel the strengthening yet hardening, almost contraction, of your energy field, the effect on your body, etc.

Of course, absolutely none of the above applied to me at all, as I’d gotten an OK seat long before game time … Hahaha!

Just kidding, of course he meant it to apply to all of us, and to any other frustration. I only mention it because he returned to this narrative about the ticket frustrations several times throughout the evening.

Lately I’ve begun to realize that a Satsang, or quasi-Satsang, or pseudo-Satsang or whatever these are, needs to be “evaluated” (if at all) on a couple different levels. The “small (egoic) mind” always needs to judge right ? That’s what I’ll be doing here.

From the “small mind’s” point of view, the intellect that is, most or all of what Eckhart said would be considered platitudes, New Age truisms, or just common sense. He talked for example about themes such as “people who can’t give up the role of being a mother or father – even when the child is already 30″ (shocking!) or “when you do anything even something trivial, like buying a newspaper, treat it as a chance to engage another equal being with your full attention” or “children get taught labels too early, before they have a chance to fully observe and appreciate a ‘tree’ they learn to label, categorize, and forget trees’. Now all the above themes (developed at some length) are certainly true and valuable insights… but – honestly – fairly tame stuff.

Of course, my saying it is ‘tame’ or ‘common sense’ – all that is just mind-chatter, the shallow and supercilious “intellect” (such as mine is LOL!) compulsively slapping down, judging, comparing, carping, etc.

Yep, I know it.

Tolle himself gets major self-awareness points for stating at the outset that “your mind will feel bored and restless in this session… and it won’t excite your emotions either” I mean, what can one say to that ?

Yes, overall it WAS fairly boring, at the level of mind or intellect. You might as well have stayed home and read – I don’t know – possibly “Conversations with God” or something ? Or Jonathan Livingston Seagull ? Or hey just stay home and read Tolle’s own book (which delivers all his concepts in a far superior fashion than his talk last night, but I don’t hold that against him, as I believe he correctly assumed that he was addressing an audience of those in-the- know, and already-on-board.)

So another level of analysis, for me at least, is energetic. I do sometimes get a major, directly palpable energy hit from certain teachers. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel much of that from Eckhart either. Maybe I was seated too far away ? Rather than feeling hyper-alert, I began to feel drowsy and dozy before half way through. Bit of an ordeal actually, three hours of that, with Eckhart just a small distant figure on the stage.

The (dare I say it?) boredom was compounded by the fact that of the 3 guru’s surveyed, Eckhart had the least audience participation, that is to say, zero. None whatsoever! Swept onto the stage, sat, talked for just shy of 3 hours, “Thank you thank you”, down off the stage, quickly through the center aisle to the main door, flanked by nervous-looking attendants on all side, into a waiting semi-limo type car – whoosh he’s OUTTA there… But again highly understandable, as frankly what would the audience do if he hung around ? Just blather and bother him with all their dumbass personal baggage and “problems”. So I do genuinely sympathize with him on this point… However, it WOULD have been nice if a few vetted “philosophical” type questions from the audience had been permitted… would have helped keep me awake at least.

It got more interesting in certain stretches. Being in LA, I guess he thought he should address some local concerns, so he talked a little about how in his 20′s he’d always wanted to be “recognized” and “appreciated” by the world. But the world never did. Then he said the irony of it is that now “The world thinks I’m great” (appreciative laughter from audience) but that this outcome, now, really doesn’t matter at all. He said (tad wistfully?) that being a nobody, unknown to the world, is actually a wonderful thing. He related that bit of personal stuff to an archetypal LA story, going on at some length about how you might today be working as a waiter or waitress and then be suddenly discovered by a major director, end up “moving to Beverly Hills” – then realizing you are still the same person… not satisfied, because “the world of form is not stable”… it can’t last, etc. It began to get slightly trite again (<== small, egoic mind Judgement Alert!!) I did encounter one major insight, a really interesting point he made that indeed seemed to blow my mind somewhat and really woke me up at least. I'm probably not doing this justice, but anyway essentially he made the point that when we look out into space (normal, you know, stars and stuff) there are two kinds of things going on there. There's all the stars, planets, comets and what not, which are the forms or objects, and then there is ... well, there's space. That from out of which all the stuff arises. And he compared that situation to our internal experience of thoughts, constantly streaming, but there's always a huge background field always present, out of which they arise. And then he linked that back to present moment appreciation, the Now, saying that if you resent and resist "the form that the present moment takes" you will never be able to see past that form, into the ever-present Space from which the present moment eternally arises ... Wow ! Now THAT was cool stuff! I'm probably not catching it right in my description above, please refer to Eckhart's existing or planned published materials for the real deal (don't recall reading this in his existing books, or hearing it on the CD's), but I've summarized it here in the context of saying that that portion really DID seem to open up my brain and perceptions, like a drug. The effect lasted from that segment of his talk until next morning, but is now wearing away. Oh well, it was fun. And I think it is an interesting idea/practice to work with in the future ... maybe he will go into that further in his next book.

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Reports on Eckhart Tolle by Scott Meredith, 9.4 out of 10 based on 7 ratings