Eckhart Troll: A ramble

Disclaimer: this post may or may not make sense. Have spent the majority of the day outside, on what appears to be the surface of the sun. I think my brain is sun burnt. This is highly likely to be an unreadable ramble, but plough on I shall! Enjoy?

Right. So. Most of my nearest and dearest are aware that I absorb any and all kinds of media with even a mild whiff of psychology, philosophy or whispers self help, so it should come as no surprise that I’ve been bingeing on a 10 episode podcast series featuring the teachings of Eckhart Tolle this past week.

For anyone unfamiliar with this super chill German fella, he’s kind of a big deal when it comes to spirituality and mindfulness. He waxes lyrical about the benefits of living fully in the “now” and not taking your own pesky thoughts too seriously. So far, so good. I can see why people love listening to him. However, I kept finding myself getting annoyed and/or stressed at intervals whilst listening or trying to practice some of what I’d learned.

This morning, while I was holding my eyelids open and praying for coffee to appear on my bedside table, I had a bit of a moment where I realised what’s been bugging me. I’d been trying too hard to take all of it in at once, because I’d assumed that because I liked some of his ideas that all of them must be applicable to me.

Here are some of his ideas that I liked/that resonated with me:

– There’s rarely a problem in the present. However stressed, bored, lonely etc you feel right now, is there a problem right this very second? Possible, but unlikely. Unless there’s a bear in your kitchen. Is there a bear in your kitchen?!
– It’s pointless trying to reason with people or yourself when emotions are high. Better to do your best to be aware of how you’re feeling in the moment and reconsider whether action is necessary later.
– Energy can’t be created or destroyed, so in a way, we’re all part of one connected, ever present life force (yes, I know, shut up).
– When thoughts are overwhelming, you can centre yourself by concentrating on how your body feels (internally – I’m not suggesting touching yourself up on your commute). Thoughts are often only that – thoughts. You don’t have to act on or believe them all. Stop touching yourself.
– Wanting the present moment to be different is pointless and just causes more internal tension. All we ever have is now – it is what it is, so accept.

However, there are a few things I feel Tolle alludes to that don’t sit right with me:

– If you don’t buy into everything he teaches, you simply aren’t “awake” enough – don’t worry, you’re just unevolved. Come back later and try again! Ugh.
– Thoughts = bad. The more enlightened you are, the less you need to think. I’d love to find out how someone can come up with a whole spiritual theory and write multiple bestselling books without borrowing from at least some of their thoughts. Cut the poor thoughts some slack!
– If something or someone offends you or does you a disservice and it hurts, it’s just your “pain body” speaking. It has nothing to do with the other person being a bumclanger and everything to do with your sensitive ego.

I think (dammit!) I have an idea of how Eckhart Tolle would respond to my latter list – It’s just my ego talking. It wants to cling to existence and so it’s fighting to defend itself. Or he’d perhaps tell me I’d misunderstood. And maybe imaginary Eckhart is right!

While I was having this hypothetical argument with no one this morning, I twigged that the way I was thinking is one of the most interesting quirks of being human. What other creature on this planet can take a concept and both accept and reject it simultaneously without having a full melt down, or even feeling like they have to pick one side over another? For example, I really love the idea that we’re all one energy expressing itself in myriad forms. I also think that this is woo-woo bullshit. But I still sort-of believe it anyway, and that’s fine!

Humans are idea machines. We’re so lucky to live in a world blanketed by a colourful patchwork of beliefs and theories. We’re free to knit our own personal blankets of beliefs from this poorly stitched together metaphor, and we can change our minds at any time – whatever we need to cling to to get by. That’s pretty great, isn’t it?

I see no problem in reading every available “how to live your life – we swear THIS way is right right way!” book and watching ALL the Ted Talks, but I feel we (or at least I) need to remember that we can pick and choose the messages that serve us (with the caveat that we’re not harming others with said messages), rather than by living life by one doctrine, just because we like a few ideas within it.

…or do live by one doctrine if that’s what brings you peace and contentment?

See, two more opposing beliefs in my one, melted head! What you gonna do about it? =)

Did any of that make sense? Let me know and/or send help in the comments. Once you’ve wrestled the grizzly from your kitchen, that is.

3 thoughts on “Eckhart Troll: A ramble

  1. Hey I love your blog!

    I’m currently dipping in and out of an audiobook of his.

    I agree a bit with your 3rd point against his method. Coincidentally I’m also listening to an audiobook, “Rage becomes her” by Soraya Chemaly, which reframes a lot of what I’ve learnt about anger, and seeing it as a productive and reasonable response to living in this demon patriarchy rather than an overemotional, unintelligent reaction. I think he’s too quick to dismiss what this ‘pain body’ is reacting to. Because he’s a man…

    On your second point on the ‘thoughtless state’ he talks about, I’m starting to see it slightly differently. If you’ve read “Thinking fast and slow” by Daniel Kahneman, there’s this idea that we have 2 cognitive states; call them system 1 and system 2. System 1 is our autopilot. We don’t think deeply in system 1, we just get on with it e.g. I find I’m in this state when cycling to work or doing the ironing. System 2 is deep thought. Its not at all automatic e.g. multiply 6249 by 7210 – now you’re in system 2. System 2 is fab for doing hard mental work but if we were there all day we wouldn’t leave the house (imagine if you brain was like “what exact torque must I apply to this key to unlock this door” etc. It’s a slow process).

    I don’t think Eckhart says don’t think in the sense of don’t enter into either of these mental states (or specifically don’t get into system 2). I think he’s saying don’t let your inner mind chatter go off on one while you are in these states. As it happens its nearly impossible to get into or maintain a system 2 state of mind while your inner dialogue is talking/overthinking so much. It’s kind of paradoxical to say but ‘not thinking’ (by Eckharts definition of thinking) is essential for deep thought and deep work. I think he just means unconscious mind narration that is in the past/future when he says don’t think.

    Hope this is somewhat coherent. Lol


    1. Sorry, I meant to reply to this days ago – terrible memory! Thank you for the kind words about the blog =)

      Funnily enough I have read Thinking Fast and Slow and totally forgot about it in relation to this. You make really good points there, and it’s probably worth me revisiting that book – been a while since I read it.

      Re: the pain body – you couldn’t be more spot on! Don’t know if you watch Fleabag, but this reminds me of a scene where one of the characters talks about how men will never understand pain the way women do – we were born with it built in!


  2. Possible silly question – what is the name of the podcast you were listening to? I have a sudden urge to devour it and discuss it with my panda and koala roommates. (The koala identifies as a bear and I support them in that expression.) Thanks!


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