An evening with Eckhart Tolle
Sunday, March 19, 2023
What is left of you without thought?

What even is a thought? An idea or opinion produced by thinking? Hmmm... pretty vague really. Where do thoughts live? Where are they stored? Scientists have yet to fully explain the realm of thought; and while they have attempted (neuron’s firing together through electrical impulses and neurotransmitters) it really doesn’t explain the depth of thought. I spent an evening with the incredible Eckhart Tolle, author & spiritual teacher, last week in Auckland. He posed this question and discussed with simple, relatable analogies that had the audience listening intently to every word.  He gave an example of a very old thought he has of his grandma. He can picture her clearly in his mind. A thought that is 50 + years old. Could a scientist say where that thought lives? Where it comes from? Not really. Yet, he can remember her skin, her hair, her voice, and picture it so clearly in his mind. I bet you have some pretty old thoughts too that are still so vivid in your mind when they come into your consciousness. How do we explain this phenomenon?

It's topics like this that I love to ponder. They create wonder- like staring at a sky full of stars, watching the sunrise, witnessing my daughter laugh so much tears roll down her cheeks. Even for only a few seconds; a break from my incessant stream of thoughts, from the small view in which I see the world. A reminder that we are a miracle. And my perceived problems are so small, and most of the time, irrelevant in the vastness & experience of living.

He referenced the ancient teachings from the Buddha, Jesus and the Bhagavad Gita, and that they are all pointing us in the same direction. Leaving signposts back to our true nature, our true selves. There’s a part of us that is connected.  And we can tap into at any time.  He spoke a lot about our script, the stories we repeat to ourselves on a daily basis - our thoughts. Because, he says, it’s our thoughts, not our circumstances that cause our suffering. Unsuspecting humour was weaved into his story telling. Noting that perhaps you as an attendee, was dragged along to the talk that evening, and as you sat, listening to him, perhaps you had some thoughts appear in your consciousness "Who is this guy? I can't wait to get out of here. I can't stand this talk. He's talking nonsense. How can I leave without being noticed? " It wasn't him creating the suffering. In his words, he's just a 70 year old little man on stage, talking. It was the thoughts. It's our minds judging the circumstances and resisting what is. Our suffering is sustained when we're in conflict with the present moment. Can we soften into the idea of who are we without our thoughts; without our stories?

I know, I know, how can we function without thought? He’s certainly not suggesting this. Of course thoughts are useful, a privilege and are vital to function as a human being in society, however so many of us are being used by our thoughts. Can we practise “Using thought…. And not be used by thought”. To live a full life and to reduce our suffering we need to learn to dis-identify with our thoughts.

That’s the thing though. I think most of us are aware of our 'busy' minds. Our lack of presence. Our deep need to slow down. We know something needs to change. But how? And sometimes these teachings sound so profound, and perhaps even farfetched. I heard many “hmmmm, yesss, uh-huh’s” from the audience last night. Yet, noticed the annoyance from fans when they didn’t get the seat they expected & when there was a wait in the car park when we left. How quickly we can fall back into old habits, believe our expectations and ultimately not appreciate the present moment at all.

I know first hand how incredibly difficult it is to change habits and rally against deep ingrained behaviour. Our minds, our beautiful miraculous minds like to think they’re the captain of our ship. But they’re not, in fact our minds are barely the deckhand. Our breath & our bodies are anchors for us to come back to the present moment. Eckart refers to the aliveness in our bodies as an anchor to the present moment. I often use this “aliveness” when guiding people in meditation. And we can do this throughout the day. Can you feel the aliveness in your body right now, as you’re reading this. Sensation. Energy. *Stop* and notice your breath.

We can attend talks of well known teachers, intellectualise the concepts, read and take courses. However where the rubber meets the road is in the embodiment of stillness, in the consistent practice of meditation where we strengthen our ability to be present. It’s a practice. And with consistent practice, it’s not that we get better at meditating, we get better at living fully & with presence. Like anything, we get better at what we practise.

We also live with technology that is designed to get us addicted to our devices, constantly checking our phones like our lives depended on it as we move about our days (& nights). We’re in an epidemic of distractions. He highlighted this as one of our challenges.  Our attention and ability to focus is being stolen by the external world. Yet, it’s our internal world that defines the quality of our time here.

Since I started a consistent meditation practice my internal world has transformed, my relationship with my thoughts changed, my relationship with stress shifted and I began to feel a sense of peace I rarely experienced prior. It's a technique that you can weave into your day; even on those 'busy' days.  If you would like to learn with me to help make the present moment your friend, plus join a community of like minded people, get in touch: and I’ll send info on how to work with me.