Mindset Masters: Eckhart Tolle
I’m delighted to introduce the next instalment of my blog series Mindset Masters. This month, I’ve been delving into the work of one of my favourite authors, Eckhart Tolle, who many of you may know already.
Tolle is a German-born resident of Canada and a celebrated spiritual teacher. In 2008, The New York Times described him as “the most popular spiritual author in the United States”. In his book, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Tolle demonstrates how to live a healthier, happier, mindful life by living in the present moment.
In this month’s podcast, I cover the entire book in more detail, and consider how Tolle’s ideas can help us to lead a life of passion and purpose at retirement age. And in this blog, I’ve taken one of the ideas: that of ‘surrender’, as I felt it fitted best into these current, uncertain times.
Acceptance of the ‘Now’
To some people, surrender may have negative connotations, implying defeat, or giving up. True surrender is something entirely different. It does not mean to passively put up with whatever situation you find yourself in and to do nothing about it. Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life. The only place where you can experience the flow of life is the ‘Now’, Tolle teaches us, so to surrender is to accept the present moment unconditionally and without reservation.
What’s interesting is that in his book, Tolle explains that surrender is perfectly compatible with taking action, initiating change, or achieving goals. But in the surrendered state a totally different energy, a different quality, flows into your doing. Surrender reconnects you with the source-energy of Being, and if your doing is infused with Being, it becomes a joyful celebration of life energy that takes you more deeply into the ‘Now’.
In a state of surrender, you see very clearly what needs to be done, and you take action, doing one thing at a time and focusing on one thing at a time. Make sure you don’t start to run mental movies, project yourself into the future, and so lose the Now.
Surrender in personal relationships
Tolle explores surrender in personal relationships, by saying that only an unconscious person will try to use or manipulate others, but that it is equally true that only an unconscious person can be used and manipulated. If you resist or fight unconscious behaviour in others, you become unconscious yourself. Surrender does not mean that you allow yourself to be used. Let your response be a non-reactive “no,” free of all negativity.
If you cannot surrender, take action immediately: speak up or do something to bring about a change in the situation…or remove yourself from it. If you cannot take action, for example if you are in prison, then you have two choices left: resistance or surrender, suffering or inner peace.
Let me illustrate how surrender can work in relationships, which is particularly useful in retirement, as many of our close relationships change during this time. When you become involved in an argument or some conflict situation, perhaps with a partner or someone close to you, start by observing how defensive you become as your position is attacked, or feel the force of your own aggression as you attack the other person’s position. Observe the attachments to your views and opinions. Feel the mental-emotional energy behind your need to be right and make the other person wrong. That’s the energy of the egoic mind.
The ego is cunning, so you have to be alert, very present, and totally honest with yourself to see whether you have truly relinquished your identification with a mental position and so freed yourself from your mind. If you suddenly feel light, clear, and at peace, that is an unmistakable sign that you have truly surrendered. When identification with mental positions is out of the way, true communication begins.
It is misleading to say that somebody chose a dysfunctional relationship. Choice implies consciousness – a high degree of it. Without it, you have no choice. Choice begins the moment you disidentify from the mind and its conditioned patterns, the moment you become present. Until you reach that point, you are unconscious, spiritually speaking.
The power to choose
At retirement, and in these uncertain times, it serves us well to remember that surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of “yielding to” rather than “opposing” the flow of life. The only place where you can experience the flow of life is the Now, so to surrender is to accept the present moment unconditionally and without reservation.