One of my biggest discoveries of this year – of any year, in fact – is Eckhart Tolle.
Here, I’d like to explain how his videos and books have shown me a path to peace. And how they could do the same for you – even in these worrying times.
A close encounter with ET
Last year, I was talking to some guests in écovallée about life, the universe and everything. It’s been my favourite topic of conversation for decades – and one of the reasons I’m often the last to leave a party.
One of the guests, who was recovering from a serious illness, asked me if I’d ever read any Eckhart Tolle. “No,” I said. (In my defence, I’d been living in a yurt in the woods since 2007, creating a planet-friendly campsite, and scrambling around doing various jobs to feed the family.)
He showed me a copy of Tolle’s book, A New Earth, and told me that Eckhart is one of the most important spiritual teachers on the planet. I read the cover, which talks about “personal spirituality”, “self-improvement”, “new levels of consciousness” and “inner peace”. All great stuff.
But as far as I was concerned, I’d read enough mind-expanding, New Age-y books for one lifetime. What more could I learn from another? So I put it down and returned to the subject at hand: nature, beauty, living fully as a human being, on the most beautiful planet we know – and everything else besides.
Time passed. And with it, the relationship in was in – and the reason I’d been doing what I’d been doing for so many years.
The right moment
When I should have been at my lowest point, one thought kept occurring to me, like a mantra: Look at what is right in front of you. Have no expectations.
I found the thought so useful, I shared it with other people.
Surprising side note: Almost everyone I spoke to at this time revealed they were in some kind of crisis – I had no idea! Apart from the sense that there’s something huge and important missing in life, I had assumed they were all fine.
One friend, who was not in crisis, said it reminded him of Eckhart Tolle – and I remembered the name. (It’s not an easy name to forget.) He had read Tolle’s first book, The Power of Now, and said it was excellent. He didn’t have it anymore, but said I should read it, and gave me a copy of Autobiography of a Yogi instead (see below). He also recommended listening to podcasts and watching videos of Eckhart Tolle on YouTube.
Which was the next step I took on my path to peace.
Eckhart Tolle videos – something for nothing
There are so many Eckhart Tolle videos on YouTube, it’s hard to know where to start. I watched one or two short ones, like this, before quickly moving onto the longest videos I could find…
By now, I have watched days of Eckhart Tolle videos – and will happily watch many more. I find them calming, funny, enlightening and full of wisdom.
HOWEVER, videos of Eckhart Tolle are not for everyone. This summer, some friends told me they watched one and had a strong negative reaction. There are several possible reasons for this – and they’re all fine. If you have a strong negative reaction, you could pause the video, step back from your reaction and see if you can identify where it comes from.
You might want to come back to the video later. Or never. It’s all fine.
As with my close encounter last year, this may not be the right moment for you. You might be better off with one of the books – and what books!
My first copies of “The Power of Now”
On a visit to the UK earlier this year, partly as payment for the hours of free videos I had already seen, I bought a copy of Eckhart Tolle’s first book, The Power of Now. After reading a few chapters, I bought three more copies and gave them to some of the most significant people in my life.
Because it’s one of the most important, helpful, thought-provoking (and thought-preventing) books I have ever read – and I wanted other people to see what he had to say.
The aim of the book, as with the YouTube videos, is to help us live in the present moment – the Now – instead of dreaming our way through life, distracted by thoughts of the past (which no longer exists) or worries about the future (which will never happen the way we imagine it).
Eckhart Tolle shows us that beyond our thoughts, we can find peace. And we can find it now – the only time there ever is! He provides easy exercises to try whenever you have a moment. And, for me, he makes sense of several metaphysical questions I have always struggled to understand (despite countless conversations).
I cannot recommend the book highly enough. Can you tell?
“A New Earth” reappears
Where The Power of Now points to different ways onto the path of peace, A New Earth points further along it. Not only is this book as helpful, funny and wise as Tolle’s first, it is also profoundly optimistic.
With all the uncertainty in the world at the moment, it is a great comfort to have on the desk next to me now. And when I finish reading it, Tolle’s second book Stillness Speaks will be appearing on my bookshelf.
My path to Eckhart Tolle is paved with books on life, the universe and everything, including those listed below. One or two titles might trigger an emotional response in you, but try to look beyond the cover – and judge the content instead.
This is the book my friend lent me when he didn’t have The Power of Now to hand. Little did I know, it’s considered one of the most important spiritual books ever written.
It documents the life of the man who brought yoga to the West, from his otherworldly childhood in India to the meeting with his guru and schooling in the mysteries of Kriya yoga.
It’s a fantastically exciting book that opened my mind to possibilities I dismissed long ago. Since reading it, I often see this book in recommended reading lists. I see the photograph, too, in videos and films, and on the walls of music rooms and yoga studios.
The Magus of Strovolos, by Kyriacos C. Markides
I had forgotten about this book until just now, but something about the magnificent-sounding name of Paramahansa Yogananda reminded me.
This is another book I have recommended many times, especially to people interested in healing or being healed. I found it reassuring to know that there are people like Stylianos Atteshlis (the healer the book is about) walking this earth, although he died – this time – in 1995.
Which brings me nicely on to one of my favourite subjects…
If you have ever wondered about reincarnation, Journey of Souls is a must-read. Written by a hypnotherapist who unexpectedly found himself talking to a patient about a previous life, it tells the story about what happens between the moment of death and the next birth.
Because the writer is a doctor, and was sceptical at first, the journey is revealed in a series of case studies. I have bought this book many times for friends, family and work colleagues. It provides clear evidence, to me, that reincarnation is the process we are involved in. Which I find liberating, as it gives me the freedom to make mistakes.
I discovered this book while looking for a TV show I remembered watching years ago. In the show, a young Indian boy could clearly remember his wife and children from a recent past life. Eventually, a member of his new family tracked them down.
Carol’s follow-up book, Return from Heaven, talks about cases where children have reincarnated into the same family. Which is one of the reasons I smile when people claim, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.”
Probably the most challenging title on this list, but the content of this book is exceptional. I’ve lost track of the number of times I have bought it and given it away. Or lent it and never seen it again. Some books are like that.
The first time I tried to read Book One, I only managed a few pages. Then I had a very strong reaction to something it says and slammed it shut (it was a hardback). A couple of weeks later, I tried again and absolutely loved it. I’m not alone in this – the book was on the New York Times Best Sellers List for 137 weeks after it was published back in 1995. (Two years before The Power of Now.)
Book Two is also wonderful.
I could add The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran. And Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse. And something by Paulo Coelho or Richard Bach (Illusions is particularly good). But instead, I will come full circle with a book by self-proclaimed “radical atheist”, Douglas Adams.
At the tender age of 19, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy (of five books) inspired me to write, then crushed that ambition. It inspired me because of its unparalleled comedic genius. And crushed me because, after I finished Life, the universe and everything, I couldn’t see what else there was to write about. I mean… He had written… Everything!
Fortunately, Douglas wrote several more books, including the brilliant Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. A “thumping good detective-ghost-horror-who dunnit-time travel-romantic-musical-comedy-epic” (in the author’s own words), that explores “the fundamental interconnectedness of all things”.
He would have had a very strong negative reaction to some – or all – of these books. And that’s fine. From an intellectual point of view, it’s entirely understandable. But the intellect – even for a genius – is limited. The constant “mental noise”, as Eckhart Tolle puts it – the endless stream of thoughts that pass through our heads and distract us from the world that’s staring us in the face – is why we cannot find peace.
When we go beyond the noise, there is it. Like the blue sky behind the clouds, it’s always there, waiting to be found.
Help me to help others
All the book-cover links on this page direct you to amazon.co.uk. If you actually buy any of them, I will receive a commission through the Affiliates program. After paying tax on this, I will share the commission with organisations that help people in crisis.
I hope you feel this is fair, and will give details of the organisations that benefit as it happens.
Or buy me some coffee
If you found this post useful but do not live in the UK, do not use Amazon, or would rather buy me a coffee, you can click on the button below. I won’t actually buy a whole coffee, but will pay the tax on what you give and share the money with (non-religious and non-political) organisations that help people in crisis.
One day, if we meet, I’ll make you a coffee to say thanks.
ALEX’S NOTE: Although, with a final push from Eckhart Tolle, I am finally on my path to peace, I am not very far along it. In fact, calling it a “path” is not accurate, but it’s an image I think we can all understand. Is this the “journey of a thousand miles” that “starts from beneath your feet” mentioned in Chapter 64 of the Tao Te Ching? Possibly. Should we be put off by the length of this journey? Absolutely not. In the words of another comedy genius, Steven Wright, “Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.”