Eckhart Tolle on Presence


One night in 1977, at the age of 29, after having suffered from long periods of suicidal depression, Tolle says he experienced an “inner transformation.”[7] That night he awakened from his sleep, suffering from feelings of depression that were “almost unbearable,” but then experienced a life-changing epiphany.[9]Recounting the experience, Tolle says,

I couldn’t live with myself any longer. And in this a question arose without an answer: who is the ‘I’ that cannot live with the self? What is the self? I felt drawn into a void! I didn’t know at the time that what really happened was the mind-made self, with its heaviness, its problems, that lives between the unsatisfying past and the fearful future, collapsed. It dissolved. The next morning I woke up and everything was so peaceful. The peace was there because there was no self. Just a sense of presence or “beingness,” just observing and watching.[11]

Tolle recalls going out for a walk in London the next morning, and finding that “everything was miraculous, deeply peaceful. Even the traffic.”[9] The feeling continued, and he began to feel a strong underlying sense of peace in any situation.[5] Tolle stopped studying for his doctorate, and for a period of about two years after this he spent much of his time sitting, “in a state of deep bliss,” on park benches in Russell Square, Central London, “watching the world go by.” He stayed with friends, in a Buddhist monastery, or otherwiseslept rough on Hampstead Heath. His family thought him “irresponsible, even insane.”[11] Tolle changed his first name from Ulrich to Eckhart, by some reports in homage to the German philosopher and mystic,Meister Eckhart,[6][8][12] by other reports he was drawn to that name coincidentally.[13]

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