A quite unusual meeting occurred when Visjon magazine organized a retreat with Eckhart Tolle and Kim Eng in Vestfold in September 2015. The samoyed Eckhart met the human being Eckhart.
By Shabana Rehman, Photo: Martin Gaarder/ OCC
New retreat with Eckhart Tolle coming up this September! More info here
My dog, Eckhart, is named after Eckhart Tolle. Eckhart, the dog, has taught me a lot about animals, and Eckhart, the human being, has given me valuable insight in the art of being a human being. They have both opened the way to a more joyful and present life for me.
“Listen to the silence”, Eckhart says, sitting in a chair, alone on the stage in front of hundreds of people. “The silence is your threshold to becoming conscious of consciousness”. We are at Oslofjord Convention Centre in Stokke in Vestfold, with Eckhart Tolle and his life partner, Kim Eng. They have invited us to a retreat to immerse into the simple, but still most forgotten practice of being, the art of living in the now.
Free of religion
Eckhart Tolle is one of the most interesting intellectuals of our time. His penetrating and simple teachings show that also the modern westerner can reach hir illuminated nature. Tolle is totally free of superstition and beliefs – in a religious sense. When embarking into his wisdom, our view of how culture builds identity, appearance, political and religious systems, shifts. This can feel threatening, because the ego risks dying. At the same time, an enlightened, freed human being emerges. And because we have changed from within. a new world is made possible. Beautiful words, and important thoughts, which attract millions of people who want to hear more from Tolle.
No Norwegian press
For five days, 650 people from more than 50 different countries were gathered outside of little Stokke, a mere one hour drive from Oslo. A happening that went below the radar of the Norwegian press. And even if they had come – what would they have reported from the large auditorium?
To sit in silence, to avoid thinking, to be one hundred percent present in the moment won’t make any headlines. Neither would a small, German man, sitting in a chair, preferably quietly listening to – exactly that – the silence.
Still, he mesmerizes millions of people, from every social class and from all around the world. The author of The power of now and A new earth is being furtively read by Norwegian journalists and recommended through word of mouth. But at the retreat no one cares whether the press is present or not. Everyone here is filled with something else. Something vital.
Living at the Oslofjord Convention Centre, built like a small, cosy village with small, cosy cottages, ironically enough feels like being an extra in the movie The Truman Show. A comedy starring Jim Carrey, a sharp satire on how media and the entertainment industry control our lives from cradle to the grave. The leading character, oblivious to the fact that his whole life is owned by a TV company, where all is relations really are hired actors, believes all this to be real.
His thoughts, life, choices, his whole identity, are manipulated and controlled before the eyes of TV viewers who have a 24/7 access with candid cameras everywhere. When Truman one day discovers this, his true fight for his self begins.
There is a connection between Eckhart Tolle’s teachings and the satire in The Truman Show – but while we don’t have time to elaborate on that now – let us just mention that Jim Carrey is a huge Tolle fan.
Eckhart Tolle’s message must not be confused with mindfulness, a word he declines to use, even though his message might bring mindfulness to mind. For Tolle this is about no mind. He wants to lead us towards pure consciousness, without thoughts, behind the mind.
My first thought during Eckhart Tolle’s opening speech is that there is a sacral sensation in the room. Not sacred, nor the feeling one gets when entering a place of worship, but an experience of peace. No one hushing each other, men and women in all ages, speaking different languages, believing in different gods, or no gods, wearing what suits them, gathered only to listen to a man who masters to convey how to be an enlightened soul in a freeing, simple and direct way.
Not only does Tolle guide us to a place where the silence becomes beautiful beyond words. He also points out how silence is the entrance of becoming aware of awareness, and a means of connecting to the now, free of the illusion of past and future.
During these five days we got a lot of exercise on this awareness. It gave an instant energetic lift. I didn’t need coffee, to put it that way.
Simple and clean meals, consumed together, retreats to our cabins, gatherings in the large auditorium – where we dived deeper and deeper into spiritual awakening. All the time in contact with the essential, without superficial disturbances. The atmosphere allowed for acceptance, a sense of humour and self irony. No phones present, no Twitter, no Facebook updates. We were too busy recognizing ourselves as living beings.
Eckhart’s teachings have been widely spread in every media channel. The one who seeks, will find hir way, either through his books, through his web site, Tolle TV or numerous YouTube clips.
Eckhart, being awakened and in touch with his own Buddha nature, makes him quite an oracle. Like most spiritual teachers through history. It is especially freeing and funny when modern people ask questions concerning the frustrations, fears and worries of day to day life.
We laugh because we see ourselves in the mirror Eckhart holds up, and we laugh hard. This is not the “mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all” story, where the ego gets to ask the questions. It is more like “mirror, mirror on the wall, who is asking who the fairest of them all is? And the one asking for the one asking, who is she?” Nothing to do but smile.
Open to silence
Eckhart and his beloved Kim were exquisite as living oracles. “Please ask me questions”, Eckhart said. “It is because you ask, that I know what I know”, he says, the man who is freed from the control of the ego.
The gathering of so many people, with no demands on beliefs, clothes, gender, sex – well, no rules at all – the only demand was that one was open to listen to the silence – this created an atmosphere with acceptance for the modern, universal human being. I love meetings like these. Where prejudices are put aside, and the everyone is first and foremost a human being.
But what does it really mean, to listen to the silence? For the restless, multitasking human being of our time? Listen to the silence? What on earth is it possible to hear in the silence?
Seeing a small, German man at 67, with a childlike woo in his carefree, always almost smiling face, sitting with his eyes closed, listening to the silence is a very special experience. As if we are the pounding heart of the universe, and time and space disappears. Being in presence. Help! How about the career, future plans, how about the evaluation, the rapports, the news?
Vulnerable, pretty naked questions were being asked, by one person after the other. I have never experienced anything like this. The closest I have been is when participating in small, intimate women circles.
Do you dye your hair? What do the animals mean to us? How do you teach teenagers to believe in themselves? I am afraid of being awakened. Why does evil exist? My daughter is possessed with plastic surgery, how do I teach her to accept herself?
We go from glossy magazine questions to serious philosophical considerations while a camera is filming the whole thing. Ready to share the insights and the answers, created in the moment, with even more people.
It is not easy to tear oneself out of the tyranny of thought. We laugh of the mirror placed in the sea of silence. And yes, it is the belly shaking Buddha laughter that hits us.
For who are we, who quarrel on Facebook, post pictures of our dinners and battle with our neighbour about owning the most beautiful things? And furthermore, who are we to be so consumed with form, with appearance, that will fade and wither? Memento mori, remember that you shall die, well, yes, we are reminded that every day, but what is the nature of the eternal in us, that Eckhart points to? He is not advocating an ideology or a religion. On the contrary, he shows us what humanity has misunderstood in the message of the religions. What is the essence of our existence? The essence of all enlightened souls’ message? By not confining himself to seek the answers within a certain faith, Eckhart Tolle’s talks are free of human made boarders. Eckhart is quite an extraordinary man, while at the same time completely ordinary. Acceptance, surrendering, and the recognition of our eternal nature, which reminds us of our kinship with every living thing. This living planet with this one consciousness that manifests into billions of forms. Eckhart can talk about this for hours, and then suddenly return back into the silence again.
I have studied Eckhart’s teachings since 2000, and through these years sporadically found a way of dealing with stress and overwhelming thought flow. A couple of years ago I was near a burnout, and I rediscovered Tolle. In deep meditation I decided to follow what might rise from my own inner oracle. I heard the word “dog”. And me, being scared of dogs! That said, so done. A samoyed came into my life, and he was named after Eckhart.
The Eckhart doggie changed my life. My eating routines, my day to day work, my way of meeting the world and my social involvement. I became a vegan, started working for NOAH – the Norwegian Organisation for Animals Rights, and my nonviolence involvement now includes nature and animal rights.
So – when I suddenly got the chance to ask Eckhart Tolle himself a direct question in the large hall, that little man on the chair, I asked: “Would you, Eckhart, like to meet my Eckhart?”
Dogs are not allowed into the Oslofjord Convention Centre, so Eckhart asked, slightly anarchistic: “Do you think you can smuggle him in?” I answered: “I might be able to smuggle you out.” He smiled, and I had no idea that he actually was going to decide to leave the hotel to meet the dog Eckhart! The spiritual teacher asked me if I had a term of endearment for Eckhart. “Eckhi”, I answered, upon which he smiled and said: “Mine is E.T.”
I knew Eckhart Tolle loved dogs, and he answered very beautifully to why our contact with dogs is different than with humans. Animals are naturally living in the now.
Eckhart Tolle kept his word. They met on the last day of the retreat. The dog Eckhart ran straight into Tolle’s arms. I cannot describe the feeling. It made me very happy. Happy, because sometimes things happen in life, slightly magical things. Things you never could have imagined. And things you didn’t know you were hoping for. Thanks to the human and the human’s best friend, the path to enlightenment is filled with humour. A place where I feel at home. And a place where miracles do in fact happen.
And in that moment, where the most spiritual meeting in my life is taking place, the dog Eckhart of course gets acute diarrheal. But as the graceful being that he is, he moves away from the crowd, relieves himself, and comes jumping and happy back to the humans and his friends to be with us again. No shame, no embarrassment. Naturally connected to his own surroundings, he shares his being and brings joy to everyone around him.
Days like this, in connection with a human community, makes you grateful. The enlightened meeting the earthbound. For several days after the retreat the world felt new. The sky above my head and the ground beneath my feet. I have smiled since then, and given Eckhart a few extra good hugs.
New retreat with Eckhart Tolle coming up this September! More info here