by Eckhart Tolle
What Are They
Carl Jung tells in
one of his books of a conversation he had with a Native American
chief who pointed out to him that in his perception most white
people have tense faces, staring eyes, and a cruel demeanor. He
said: "They are always seeking something. What are they
seeking? The whites always want something. They are always uneasy
and restless. We don't know what they want. We think they are
The undercurrent of
constant unease started long before the rise of Western industrial
civilization, of course, but in Western civilization, which now
covers almost the entire globe, including most of the East, it
manifests in an unprecedentedly acute form. It was already there at
the time of Jesus, and it was there 6oo years before that at the
time of Buddha, and long before that. Why are you always anxious?
Jesus asked his disciples. "Can anxious thought add a single
day to your life?" And the Buddha taught that the root of
suffering is to be found in our constant wanting and craving.
Resistance to the
Now as a collective dysfunction is intrinsically connected to loss
of awareness of Being and forms the basis of our dehumanized
industrial civilization. Freud, by the way, also recognized the
existence of this undercurrent of unease and wrote about it in his
book Civilization and Its Discontents, but he did not
recognize the true root of the unease and failed to realize that
freedom from it is possible. This collective dysfunction has created
a very unhappy and extraordinarily violent civilization that has
become a threat not only to itself but also to all life on the
So how can we be
free of this affliction?
Make it conscious.
Observe the many ways in which unease, discontent, and tension arise
within you through unnecessary judgment, resistance to what is, and
denial of the Now. Anything unconscious dissolves when you shine the
light of consciousness on it. Once you know how to dissolve ordinary
unconsciousness, the light of your presence will shine brightly, and
it will be much easier to deal with deep unconsciousness whenever
you feel its gravitational pull. However, ordinary unconsciousness
may not be easy to detect initially because it is so normal.
Make it a habit to
monitor your mental-emotional state through self-observation.
"Am I at ease at this moment?" is a good question to ask
yourself frequently. Or you can ask: "What's going on inside me
at this moment?" Be at least as interested in what goes on
inside you as what happens outside. If you get the inside right, the
outside will fall into place. Primary
reality is within, secondary reality without. But don't answer these
attention inward. Have a look inside yourself. What kind of thoughts
is your mind producing? What do you feel? Direct your attention into
the body. Is there any tension? Once you detect that there is a low
level of unease, the background static, see in what way you are
avoiding, resisting, or denying life -- by denying the Now. There
are many ways in which people unconsciously resist the present
moment. I will give you a few examples. With practice, your power of
self-observation, of monitoring your inner state, will become
Do you resent doing
what you are doing? It may be your job, or you may have agreed to do
something and are doing it, but part of you resents and resists it.
Are you carrying unspoken resentment toward a person close to you?
Do you realize that the energy you thus emanate is so harmful in its
effects that you are in fact contaminating yourself as well as those
around you? Have a good look inside. Is there even the slightest
trace of resentment, unwillingness? If there is, observe it on both
the mental and the emotional levels. What thoughts is your mind
creating around this situation? Then look at the emotion, which is
the body's reaction to those thoughts. Feel the emotion. Does it
feel pleasant or unpleasant? Is it an energy that you would actually
choose to have inside you? Do you have a choice?
Maybe you are being
taken advantage of, maybe the activity you are engaged in is
tedious, maybe someone close to you is dishonest, irritating, or
unconscious, but all this is irrelevant. Whether your thoughts and
emotions about this situation are justified or not makes no
difference. The fact is that you are resisting what is. You are
making the present moment into an enemy. You are creating
unhappiness, conflict between the inner and the outer. Your
unhappiness is polluting not only your own inner being and those
around you but also the collective human psyche of which you are an
inseparable part. The pollution of the planet is only an outward
reflection of an inner psychic pollution: millions of unconscious
individuals not taking responsibility for their inner space.
Either stop doing
what you are doing, speak to the person concerned and express fully
what you feel, or drop the negativity that your mind has created
around the situation and that serves no purpose whatsoever except to
strengthen a false sense of self. Recognizing its futility is
important. Negativity is never the optimum way of dealing with any
situation. In fact, in most cases it keeps you stuck in it, blocking
real change. Anything that is done with negative energy will become
contaminated by it and in time give rise to more pain, more
unhappiness. Furthermore, any negative inner state is contagious:
Unhappiness spreads more easily than a physical disease. Through the
law of resonance, it triggers and feeds latent negativity in others,
unless they are immune -- that is, highly conscious.
Are you polluting
the world or cleaning up the mess? You are responsible for your
inner space; nobody else is, just as you are responsible for the
planet. As within, so without: If humans clear inner pollution, then
they will also cease to create outer pollution.
article was excerpted from:
Power of NOW:
A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
More books by this author.
Tolle was born in Germany. When he was twenty nine, a profound spiritual
transformation virtually dissolved his old identity and radically
changed the course of his life. For the past ten years he has been a
counselor and spiritual teacher, working with individuals and small
groups in Europe and North America. He has lived in Vancouver, British
Columbia, since 1996. Through this book, his teachings become available
to a wider audience for the first time. This article was excerpted from
his book, The Power of Now, ©1999, reprinted with permission of
New World Library, Novato, CA 94949, www.nwlib.com
Their toll-free ordering number is 800-972-6657, ext. 52.
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