"Words are only
pointers," he says.
"What is being
communicated lies beyond words, but we can use them to go at
least in the direction of what is meant and that is helpful."
SOM: In your vision
of a new earth, the purpose of life involves what you call
awakened doing. What do you mean by this?
Tolle: Most people treat the present moment as if it were an
obstacle that they need to overcome. Since the present moment is
Life itself, it is an insane way to live.
In awakened doing there is complete internal alignment with the
present moment and whatever you are doing right now.
is then not primarily a means to an end, but an opening for
consciousness to come into this world. Aligning yourself with
the Now is aligning yourself with universal purpose, the purpose
of the whole.
What is the purpose of the whole? The birth and
flowering of consciousness. The whole then guides you in
whatever you think or do.
As I explain in A New Earth, awakened doing has three
modalities, depending on circumstances and the nature of the
there is neither acceptance, enjoyment, or enthusiasm in what
you do, you are out of alignment with universal purpose.
creating unhappiness, that is to say suffering in one form or
another. One way of defining the ego is simply this:
dysfunctional relationship with the present moment.
What I refer
to as the "new earth" - the outer forms created by awakened
doing - arises as more people realize that their purpose is to
allow consciousness to emerge through whatever they do.
SOM: Do you believe
that humanity is ready for this transformation?
Tolle: Yes. I see
signs that it is already happening. For the first time there is
a large scale awakening on our planet.
Why now? Because if
there is no change in human consciousness now, we will destroy
ourselves and perhaps the planet.
The insanity of the
collective egoic mind, amplified by science and technology, is
rapidly taking our species to the brink of disaster. Evolve or
die: that is our only choice now.
the Eastern world, my estimate is that at this time about ten
percent of people in North America are already awakening.
That makes thirty
million Americans alone, and in addition to those people in
other North American countries, about ten percent of the
population of Western European countries are also awakening.
This is probably
a critical mass to bring about a new earth. So the
transformation of consciousness is truly happening even though
they won't be reporting it on tonight's news.
Is it happening
fast enough? I am hopeful about
humanity's future, much more so now than when I wrote The Power
of Now. In fact that is why I wrote that book. I really wasn't
sure that humanity was going to survive.
Now I feel differently.
I see many reasons to be hopeful.
SOM: You say in your
new book that for humanity to make this transformation, there
needs to be a shift from object consciousness to space
consciousness. Can you explain more about that?
Tolle: Yes. I am
saying that I see the emergence of space consciousness as the
next stage in the evolution of humanity.
consciousness I mean that in addition to our being fully
conscious of things - that is to say of sense perceptions,
thoughts, emotions, and whatever happens in our lives - there is
at the same time an undercurrent of awareness or Presence
operating in us.
that we are not only conscious of things, such as the objects
and the people around us, but we are also conscious at the same
time of being conscious.
Conscious of the
timeless I AM without which there would be no world. We can
sense an inner alert stillness in the background while things
happen in the foreground. That is the unconditioned. That is
If there is only
object consciousness in our lives, we remain trapped in the
conditioned, trapped in form, which creates an appearance of
We are always trying
to change the form or are resisting it in some way. We are
looking to the world of form for salvation.
But when we are aware
of space consciousness, aware of being aware, we are freed from
identification with form, which
is ego, and there arises within
us a sense of oneness with the whole and with our Source.
SOM: So attachment
and struggle are released.
Tolle: That's right,
because in space consciousness there is no future and no past...
There is only the
present, and it is always free.
This is what the Buddhists call
"emptiness" and Jesus calls "the fullness of life." It is the
same thing, or rather no-thing.
Because it is an
opening into the vertical dimension, which has no limit, the
present is never confining or fraught with problems. Problems
need time, that is to say past and future, to survive.
On the other hand, if
we let our focus drift back to the past or forward to the
future, we are functioning in the horizontal dimension, and this
results in an expanded differentiation of forms deriving from
Entering the vertical
dimension requires a high degree of Presence. The Now needs to
be the main focus of our attention.
Of course, we need
concept of time in order to function, for example, to
schedule this interview. But the point is not to be limited to
that dimension alone.
The arising of space
consciousness - a shift to vertical rather than horizontal
awareness - is the next stage in the evolution of humanity, and
it's happening more and more as our awareness remains in the now
SOM: Can you suggest
some ways to stay focused in the now?
Tolle: One thing we
can do is to notice the little things all around us, paying
attention to details such as the birds in the trees and the
flowers in the garden or the park - just notice the beauty
everywhere, even the smallest things.
To notice seemingly
insignificant things requires alertness. That alertness is the
key. It is the unconditioned. It is consciousness itself.
Another helpful practice is to watch the breath, and breathe
If we are paying
attention to our breath, we cannot be thinking of anything else
at the same time.
Our attention is in
the now moment and not on our worries about yesterday or our
plans for what we will do next week. We are just breathing, not
thinking. Because the practice of breath meditation takes us out
of the activity of thought, it is an effective way to awaken.
fact, breath, because it has no form as such, has traditionally
been equated with spirit, the formless One Life.
In the German
language, the word atmen, meaning "breathing," is derived from
atman, which in Sanskrit, the language of ancient India , refers
to the innermost essence or universal self.
SOM: Why is it a
desirable practice to free the mind from thinking?
Tolle: Thinking, or
more precisely identification with thinking, gives rise to and
maintains the ego, which, in our Western society in particular,
is out of control. It believes it is real and tries hard to
maintain its supremacy.
Negative states of
mind, such as anger, resentment, fear, envy, and jealousy, are
products of the ego. When the ego is in control, these states of
mind appear to us to be justified and also to be caused by some
person is blamed for these feelings. Their true cause, however,
is not to be found in the content of your life, but in the very
structure of the egoic mind.
It needs enemies
because it defines its identity through separation, and so it
emphasizes the other-ness of others.
For this reason,
letting the ego be in control leads ultimately to violence,
fighting, and war. This is madness, but the ego doesn't see it
A Beautiful Mind does a good job of depicting how the
mind can delude us if we are not aware that it is controlling
us. It's the true story of a man who is a genius but he's also
insane. The audience doesn't know that he's insane until he
himself realizes it as the story unfolds.
The film makes the
point that when you become aware that you are 'insane', you are no
longer insane. So when you become aware of your mind, you are
not identified with your mind anymore. A new dimension of
consciousness has come in.
The madness is caused
by thinking without awareness, and thinking without awareness is
how the ego keeps us in its grip.
SOM: Are you
suggesting that we just change the content of our thoughts away
from negativity or rather that we cease the activity of
thinking is certainly preferable to negative thinking.
But to be in the
consciousness of the now moment and to practice awareness of the
divine Presence is what Jesus means in his sermon on the
when he says,
"Take no thought
for your life."
From this state of
Being comes great creativity.
thinking" can really be understood as telling us to cease the
constant busy activity of the mind, which is repetitive, futile,
and often negative.
Instead of constantly
thinking, we become still and quiet, and we become conscious of
being conscious. This is the realization of I AM, the
realization of Being, our essence identity.
When we are rooted in
that, thinking becomes the servant of awareness, rather than a
self- (ego) serving activity. It becomes creative, empowered.
SOM: You talk in your
book about the pain-body, both personal and collective. What do
you mean by the pain-body?
Tolle: The pain-body
is my term for the accumulation of old emotional pain that
almost all people carry in their energy field.
I see it as a
semi-autonomous psychic entity. It consists of negative emotions
that were not faced, accepted, and then let go in the moment
they arose. These negative emotions leave a residue of emotional
pain, which is stored in the cells of the body.
There is also a
collective human pain-body containing the pain suffered by
countless human beings throughout history. The pain-body has a
dormant stage and an active stage.
becomes activated, and when it does, it seeks more suffering to
If you are not absolutely present, it takes over your
mind and feeds on negative thinking as well as negative
experiences such as drama in relationships. This is how it has
been perpetuating itself throughout human history.
Another way of
describing the pain-body is this:
the addiction to unhappiness.
SOM: Can you
suggest a way to eliminate the pain-body?
Tolle: Yes. We
release it by cutting the link between the pain-body and our
thought processes, so that we no longer feed the pain-body with
thought has a similar frequency to the pain-body and so feeds
it. It cannot feed on positive thoughts. When the pain-body no
longer runs the internal dialogue of our compulsive thinking, we
become aware of it directly.
We feel the emotion
in our body, and so we bring awareness to it, the light of
consciousness. The old emotion is then transmuted into
consciousness in the same way that a fire transmutes everything
from the emotion and just being in the now moment is the way to
stop the cycle of constantly recreating painful experiences.
SOM: Fear seems to
lie behind most negative emotions. How can it be released? You
speak about a process of disidentification. How does it work?
Tolle: Fear arises
through identification with form, whether it be a material
possession, a physical body, a social role, a self-image, a
thought, or an emotion.
It arises through
unawareness of the formless inner dimension of consciousness or
spirit, which is the essence of who you are. You are trapped in
object consciousness, unaware of the dimension of inner space
which alone is true freedom.
Every fearful thought is about future, is about something that
could or may happen. Most people are familiar with the "mental
movies" that cause stress and anxiety and keep you awake at
night, while your body lies in a warm and comfortable bed.
The moment you
recognize a fearful thought for what it is, that is to say
futile and self-destructive mind activity, you begin to
disidentify from it. Awareness or Presence then takes over from
I am not saying that you don't think anymore, just
that you no longer confuse it with who you are. Thinking becomes
rooted in awareness rather than being autonomous and
self-serving, which is the ego.
Every pain-body contains a great deal of fear, since fear is the
primordial negative emotion. How do we deal with that? Here
again, you recognize it for what it is: the pain-body, an
accumulation of old emotion.
Once you recognize
it, it cannot take over your mind, feed on your negative
thoughts, and control your internal dialogue as well as what you
say and do.
Once the pain-body
has come up, don't fight or resist it. It is part of the "isness"
of the present moment with which you always need to be in inner
alignment. So you allow it to be there.
If you don't feed it
anymore, it loses its energy charge and the negative emotion
SOM: You speak in
your book of the ego's incessant wanting and its insatiable need
for more. Wouldn't certain things we want be considered
worthwhile, though, such as wanting to become a better person?
Tolle: The desire to
become a better person is usually to do with wanting to improve
how I feel about myself, how I see myself, or how I am seen by
others. It is to do with mental image-making, that is to say,
That includes, of
course, wanting to become enlightened or more spiritual.
Awakening or spiritual realization is the discovery that you
don't need to add anything to yourself in order to be yourself
You don't need to try
to become good, but allow the goodness that is within you,
inherent in Being and inseparable from who you are, to emerge.
SOM: You say that as
people awaken to their true self and their life purpose, a new
earth is created. What is this new earth like?
Tolle: I don't want
to speculate about the characteristics of the new earth, but
whatever it is, it will be an outer manifestation of the new
heaven, the inner realm of consciousness.
It will arise out of
the awakened consciousness that is unconditioned and free from
the illusions of ego.
Hints of what the new
earth will be like are found in the bible, where it says, for
"the wolf shall
dwell with the lamb..."
One way of
understanding this is that what we perceive as external reality
is one with and a reflection of collective human consciousness,
so a change in consciousness will change not only the world we
create, but our entire way of perceiving reality.
As human beings awaken from the dream of identification with
form, consciousness can begin to create form without losing
itself in it. The true essence of who each of us is, is being
The coming of a new
heaven and a new earth, predicted both in the old and the new
testaments, is an apt metaphor for this shift in consciousness.
This shift, however, is not a future state to be achieved or
even believed in.
A new heaven and a
new earth are arising within each of us at this moment.
So awakening to your
life's purpose is not to try to look to the future and expect
fulfillment there, but to stay in the moment, allowing the ego to
dissolve. Your life's inner purpose is primary, and your inner
purpose is to awaken, to be conscious.
In whatever you do,
your state of consciousness is the primary factor.