From the waiting room
Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now) was in Holland

The book ‘The Power of Now’ which appeared in 1998 has since been translated into 32 languages and in the Dutch language territory it is in its 6th printing. Nowadays you often see it on the desks of managers, trainers and coaches.
The attraction of Tolle’s message reaches beyond the content of the book. Almost six hundred people from overall in Holland came to the Flint in Amersfoort on Saturday, April 24, 2004. The Dutch publisher Ankh-Hermes invited Eckhart Tolle, a resident of Canada for the lecture series ‘ authors meet readers’.

On the stage: a plain little platform under-titled with the name of the publisher comically prominent.
A simple average table a chair, two bouquets of flowers and a microphone flank a gigantic video screen that magnifies Tolle’s modest style and humor. An everyday looking kind of man takes his place before a respectful and eager audience awaiting spiritual fireworks.

Tolle opens with the, for him characteristic way of putting himself in perspective: This lecture is going to last three hours... That seems to be rather long if the Now is the only subject. If you are not already restless, you will now already become restless...
The way to come into the Now, according to him, is to bring your attention to your senses, and to become aware of the formless unassailable background: the vital presence. The door to the Now is always open and forms the entrance to this presence.

But alas, some bears lie in wait before this door, for example:
The thinking that takes on an ego identity (personal and collective) and is always busy with the insatiable ‘I want...’
In addition, the always-grumbling complaint-ego that only wants attention and demands the right to existence for the ego. Incidentally complaining always implies superiority: my I is more significant than yours, and can even stretch so far that even it complains to god about everything that he does wrong.
The next handicaps are then all the other unconscious people (fellow humans) in this life. Here Tolle quotes Sartre: Hell is the other. The message is: don’t let yourself get wrapped up in reactions to the unconscious, because that finally turns out to be an ‘ego-boost’.
Finally we have the personal and collective pain-body (‘the pain-body’ is the word that he most frequently says during this lecture). Tolle compares the pain-body with the slimy Gollum character from the film ‘ Lord of the Rings’. Pain is also a devious way for the ego to beg for attention.

These handicaps can rise up out of instinctive self-preservation of the ego exactly during the process of becoming conscious. Pain can then become a part of the transmutation; as for example in the case of J. Krishnamurti (quoted by Tolle) who suffered much pain from headache but did not go to the doctor because according to him it was ‘transmutation in action’.

The tone of Tolle’s voice suddenly changes when he talks about the pain that he experienced himself and which finally as a figurative teacher showed him ‘the way out’. He also concluded then that life offers you exactly what you need. And, at the very moment that you realize: I no longer need this pain; you come in line with the Now and find your liberation.

During the pause a light lobby-mood prevails; after all, we are in a theater. Mutual acquaintances and discoveries are exchanged. When the bell rings signaling the end of the pause the hall fills quickly and becomes smoothly still as soon as Tolle appears once more on the podium.
We get an opportunity to ask questions, with the indication that the questions should be sincere and relevant.
There follow questions, among others about love, forgiveness and responsibility. Again and again he describes the working and functioning of the pain-body and indicates how the vicious circle ‘causing pain’ and ‘ hurting someone’ can be broken. The first step is in any case; seeing that it works like that. That is, according to Tolle, the point of departure for mastering our unconsciousness.

Finally Tolle gives, a final message to the public as a sort of inside-joke. Now you might think, oh no... now for the rest of my life I have to be conscious and now. What a job!!! But he adds roguishly: That’s not so tough because you only have to do it NOW! During a standing ovation Tolle disappears chuckling behind the wings.

What then is the (attractive) power of Tolle’s message?

According to me it lies in his emphasis on the current moment: you do not find liberation yesterday, or tomorrow, but Now! Just as Jan van Delden indicates that figuratively speaking there are always four doors open: the Now, the Silence, the Knowing and the Attention. So, there is a path and an open door for everyone.

The distributed folder says emphatically that it concerns, a ‘teaching’, although he denies that himself during the lecture (when he is asked if accepts disciples) because one can only speak of a ‘teaching’ when there are pupils. Above all, the ‘teaching’ according to him, would not fit in certain movements or life philosophies, while this nevertheless seems to draw from the non-dualistic body of thought (Advaita Vedanta) or ‘ the way of the impersonal’. Tolle does not present himself at all as a guru and he wants no disciples. Unpretentious, thoughtfully and with a wink, he describes from his own experience how the greatest barrier, ‘the ego-mechanism’ can be taken, and he knows how to get the laughers going.

Tony Parsons calls Tolle’s teaching dualistic, because it directs itself to an apparent person who can choose to do something or not, in order to become liberated. With every handle that you reach out to a seeker, somewhere you recognize the existence of this same seeker. While the core message of non-duality is exactly the non-existence of the seeker (which Tolle touches on very incidentally). The ‘ pure-message’ however is so direct and radical that the human mind does not wish to hear it and would probably never attract a large audience.

Tolle’s message does do that.

the NOW

Looking back on this day, I realize how the thinking allows us to believe all too eagerly: ‘I will only become happy if...’ If the condition is fulfilled then the thinking pulls another 'only if' out of the hat. That's how it continues to seek, time is created, and waiting for happiness and liberation arise. Life then seems to be only a yearning in a waiting room. I remember as if it were right now the moment in the Amstel Church, when Alexander Smit beautifully and concisely settled with this waiting room. With an appropriate feeling for theater Alexander made the following announcement: ‘Good people, I have a dramatic message for you...
' w e   c a n   n e v e r   b e c o m e   h a p p y' ­ a meaningful silence ­. With a lot of inner-laughter he made his point: ‘… we can only bé happy!’

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[Kees Schreuders]