Question: Isn't that what we are doing here?
Eckhart Tolle: Not at all. I am giving you pointers to show you how you can bring the dimension of the unmanifested into your life. We are not trying to understand it. There is nothing to understand. Space has no existence. To exist literally means to stand out. You cannot understand space because it doesn't stand out. Although in itself, it has no existence, it enable everything else to exist. Silence has no existence either nor does the unmanifested. So what happens if you withdraw attention from the objects in space and become aware of space itself? What is the essence of this room? The furniture, and pictures, and so on are in the room but they are not the room. The floors, wall, and ceiling define the boundary of the room, but they are not the room either. So what is the essence of the room? Space, of course. Empty space. There would be no room without it. Since space is nothing, we can say that what is not there is more important than what is there. So become aware of the space that is all around you. Don't think about it. Feel it as it were. Pay attention to nothing. As you do that, a shift of consciousness takes place inside you. Here's why. The inner equivalent to objects in space such as furniture, walls and so on are your mind objects, thoughts, emotions and objects of the senses and the inner equivalent of space is the consciousness that enables your mind objects to be just as space allows all things to be. Though if you withdraw attention from things, objects in space, you automatically withdraw attention from your mind objects as well. In other words, you cannot think and be aware of space or of silence for that matter. By becoming aware of the empty space around you, you simultaneously become aware of the space of no mind, of pure consciousness, the unmanifested. This is how the contemplation of space can become a portal for you. Space and silence are two aspects of the same thing. The same no thing. They are an externalization of inner space and inner silence which is stillness, the infinitely creative womb of all existence. Most humans are completely unconscious of this dimension. There is no inner space, no stillness. They are out of balance. In other words, they know the world, or think they do, but they don't know God. They identify exclusively with their own physical and psychological form, unconscious of essence. And because every form is highly unstable, they live in fear. This fear causes a deep misperception of themselves and of other humans, a distortion in their vision of the world. If some cosmic convulsion brought about the end of our world, the unmanifested would remain totally unaffected by this. A Course in Miracles expresses this poignantly. Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God. If you remain n conscious connection with the unmanifested, you value, love and deeply respect the manifested and every life form in it as an expression of the one life beyond form. You also know that every form is destined to dissolve again and that ultimately nothing out here matters all that much. You have overcome the world in the words of Jesus. Or as the buddha put it, you have crossed over to the other shore.
Now consider this: If there were nothing but silence, it wouldn't exist for you. You wouldn't know what it is. Only when sound appears does silence come into being. Similarly, if there were only space, without any objects in space, it wouldn't exist for you. Imagine yourself as a point of consciousness floating in the vastness of space, no stars, no galaxies, just emptiness. Suddenly, space would not be vast anymore. It would not be there at all. There would be no speed. No movement from here to there. At least two points of reference are needed for distance and space to come into being. Space comes into being the moment the one becomes the two. Reference are needed for distance and space to come into being. Space comes into being the moment the one becomes two. And as two becomes the 10,000 things as Lao Tse calls the manifested world, space becomes more and more vast. So world and space arise simultaneously. Nothing could be without space. Yet space is nothing. Before the universe came into being, before the big bang, if you like, there wasn't a vast empty space waiting to be filled. There was no space as there was no thing. There was only the unmanifested, the one. When the one became the 10,000 things, suddenly space seemed to be there and enabled the many to be. Where did it come from. Was it created by God to accommodate the universe? Of course not, space is no thing. So it was never created. Go out on a clear night and look up at the sky. The thousands of stars yu can see with the naked eye are no more than an infinitesimal fraction of what is there. One thousand million galaxies can already be detected with the most powerful telescopes. Each galaxy an island universe containing thousands of millions of stars. Yet what is even more awe inspiring is the infinity of space itself, the depth and stillness that allows all of that magnificence to be. Nothing could be more awe inspiring and majestic than the inconceivable vastness and stillness of space. And yet what is it? Emptiness. Vast emptiness. Is the unmanifested itself externalized. It is the body of God and the greatest miracle is this. That stillness and vastness that enables the universe to be is not just out there in space, it is also in you. When you are utterly and totally present, you encounter it as the still inner space of no mind. Within you, it is vast in depth not in extension. Spacial extension is ultimately a meaningless perception of infinite depth, an attribute of the one transcendental reality.
Question: According to Einstein, space and time are not separate. I don't really understand it. But I think he is saying that time is the fourth dimension of space. He calls it the space time continuum.
Eckhart Tolle: Yes, what you perceive externally as space and time are ultimately illusory. But they contain a core of truth. They are the two essential attributes of God infinity and eternity perceived as if they had an external existence outside you. Within you both space and time have an equivalent that reveals their true nature as well as their own. Whereas space is the stillness is the infinite realm of no mind, the inner equivalent of timeis presence.
Awareness of the eternal now. Remember there is no distinction between them. When space and time are realized within as the unmanifested, no mind and presence, external space and time continue to exist for you, but they become much less important. The world too continues to exist for you, but it will not bind you anymore. Hence, the ultimate purpose lies not within the world, but in transcendance of the world. Just as you would not be conscious of space, if there were no objects in space, the world is needed for the unmanifested to be realized. You may have heard the buddhists saying if there were no illusion, there would be no enlightenment. It is through the world and ultimately through you that the unmanifested knows itself. You are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold. That is how important you are. Apart from dreamless sleep which I mentioned already, there's one other involuntary portal. It opens up briefly at the time of physical death. Even if you've missed all the other opportunities for spiritual realization during your lifetime, one last portal will open up for you immediately after the body has died. There are countless accounts of people who had a visual impression of this portal as radiant light and then returned
from what is commonly known as a near death experience. Many of them also spoke of a sense of blissful serenity and deep peace. In the tibetan book of the dead, it is described as the luminous splendor of the colorless light of emptiness which it says is your own true self. This portal only opens up very briefly and unless you have already encountered the dimension of the unmanifested in your lifetime, you will likely miss it. Most people carry too much residual resistance. Too much fear, too much attachment to sensory experience, too much identification with the manifested world so they see the portal, turn away in fear and then lose consciousness. Most of what happens after that is involuntary and automatic. Eventually, there will be another round of birth and death. Their presence wasn't strong enough yet for conscious immortality.
Question: So going through this portal doesn't mean annihilation?
Eckhart Tolle: As with all other portals, your radiant true nature remains, but not the personality. In any case, whatever is real or of true value in your personality is your true nature shining through. This is not lost. Nothing of value, nothing that is real is ever lost. Approaching death and death itself, the dissolution of the physical form, is always a great opportunity for spiritual realization. This opportunity is tragically missed most of the time since we live in a culture that is almost totally ignorant of death as it is almost totally ignorant of anything that truly matters. Every portal is a portal of death, the death of the false self. When you go through it, you cease to derive your identity from your psychological mind made form. You then realize that death is an illusion just as your identification with form was an illusion. The end of illusion. That's all that death is. It is painful only as long as you cling to illusion.
Chapter 8 - Enlightened Relationships
Question: I always thought true enlightenment is not possible except through love in a relationship between a man and a woman. Isn't that what makes us whole again? How can one's life be fulfilled until that happens?
Eckhart Tolle: Is that true in your experience? Has this happened to you?
Question: I know that it will happen.
Eckhart Tolle: In other words, you are waiting for an event in time to save you. Is this not the core error that we've been talking about? Evasion is not elsewhere in place or time, it is here and now.
Question: What does that statement mean salvation is here and now. I don't understand it. I don't even know what salvation means.
Eckhart Tolle: Most people pursue physical pleasures of various forms of gratification because they believe that those things will make them happy or free them from a sense of fear or lack. Happiness may be perceived as a heightened sense of aliveness attained through physical pleasure or a more secure and a more complete sense of self attained through some form of psychological gratification. This is the search for salvation from a state of unsatisfactoriness or insufficiency. Invariably any satisfaction they obtain is short lived so the condition of satisfaction or fulfillment is usually projected once again onto an imaginary point away from the here and now. When I obtain this, or I'm free of that, then I will be okay. This is the unconscious mindset that creates the illusion of salvation in the future. True salvation is fulfillment, peace, life in all its fullness. It is to be who you are. To feel within you the good that has no opposite. The joy of being that depends on nothing outside itself. It is felt not as a passing experience, but as an abiding presence. In theistic language, it is to know God not as something outside you but as your own innermost essence. True salvation is to know yourself as an inseparable part of the timeless and formless one life from all that exists derives its being. True salvation is a state of freedom from fear, from suffering, from a perceived state of lack and insufficiency and therefore from all wanting, needing, grasping and clinging. It is freedom from compulsive thinking, from negativity and above all from past and future as a psychological need. Your mind is telling you that you cannot get there from here. Something needs to happen or you need to become this or that before you can be free and fulfilled. It is saying in fact that you need to find, sort out, do achieve, acquire, become or understand something before you can be free or complete. You see time as a means to salvation whereas in truth it is the greatest obstacle to salvation. You think you can't get there from where and who you are at this moment because you are not yet complete or good enough. But the truth is here and now is the only point from where you can get there. You get there by realizing that you are there already. You find God the moment you realize that you need to seek God. So there's no only way to salvation, any condition can be used but no particular condition is needed. However, there is only one point of access. The Now. There can be no salvation away from this moment. You're lonely and without a partner? Enter the Now from there. You're in a relationship? Enter the Now from there. There's nothing that you can ever do or attain that will get you closer to salvation than it is at this moment. This may be hard to grasp for mind accustomed to thinking that everything worthwile is in the future. Nor can anything that you ever did or was done to you in the past prevent you from saying yes to what is and taking your attention deeper into the now. You cannot do this in the future. You do it now or not at all.
Unless and until you access the consciousness frequency of presence, all relationships and particularly intimate relationships are deeply flawed and ultimately dysfunctional. They may seem perfect for a while such as when you're in love but invariably that apparent perfection gets disrupted as arguments conflicts, dissatisfaction and emotional or even physical violence occur with increasing frequency. It seems that most love relationships become love-hate relationships before long. Love can then turn into savage attack, feelings of hostility or complete withdrawal of affection at a flick of a switch. This is considered normal. The relationship then oscillates for a while, a few months or a few years between the polarity of love and hate. It gives you as much pleasure as it gives you pain. It is not uncommon for couples to become addicted to both cycles. Their drama makes them feel alive. When a balance between the positive and negative polarity is lost and negative destructive cycles occur with increasing frequency and intensity which tends to happen sooner or later. Then it will not be long before the relationship finally collapses. It may appear that if you could only eliminate the negative or destructive cycles, then all would be well and the relationship would flower beautifully. But alas this is not possible. The polarities are mutually interdependent. You cannot have one without the other. The positive already contains within itself the as yet unmanifested negative. Both are in fact different aspects of the same dysfunction. I'm speaking here of what is commonly called romantic relationships, not of true love which has no opposite because it arises from beyond the mind. Love as a continuous state is as yet very rare. As rare as conscious human beings. Brief and illusive glimpses of love, however, are possible whenever there is a gap in the stream of mind. The negative side of a relationship is of course more easily recognized as dysfunctional than the positive one. And it is also easier to recognize the source of negativity in your partner than to see it in yourself. It can manifest in many forms. Posessivenes, jealousy, control, withdrawal, and unspoken resentment, the need to be right, insensitivity and self-absorption, emotional demands and manipulation, the urge to argue, criticize, judge, blame or attack, anger, unconscious revenge for pain inflicted by a parent, rage, and physical violence. On the positive side, you are in love with your partner. This is at first a deeply satisfying state. You feel intensely alive. Your existence has suddenly become meaningful because someone needs you, wants you, and makes you feel special. And you do the same for him or her. When you are together, you feel hopeful. The feeling can become so intense, that the rest of the world fades into insignificance. However, you may also have noticed that ther eis a neediness and a clinging quality to that intensity. You become addicted to the other person. He or she acts on you like a drug. You are on a high when the drug is available but even when the possibility or the thought that he or she might no longer be there for you, can lead to jealousy, possessiveness, attempts at manipultion through emotional blackmail, blaming and accusing, fear of loss. If the other person does leave you, this can give rise to the most intense hostility or most profound grief and despair. In an instant, loving tenderness can turn into a savage attack or dreadful grief. Where is the love now? Can love change into its opposite in an instant? Was it love in the first place or just an addictive grasping and clinging?
Question: Why should we become addicted to another person?
Eckhart Tolle: The reason why the romantic love relationship is such an
intense and universally sought after experience is that it seems liberation from a deep seated state of fear and need, a lack or incompleteness. That is part of the human condition in its unredeemed and unenlightened state. There is a physical as well as psychological dimension to this state. On the physical level, you are obviously not whole nor will you ever be. You are either a man or a woman which is to say one half of the whole. On this level, the longing for wholeness, the return to oneness manifests as male female attraction. Man's need for woman. Woman's need for man. It is almost an irresistible urge for union with the opposite energy polarity. The root of this physical urge is a spiritual one. The longing for an end to duality, the return to the state of wholeness. Sexual union is the closest you can get to tthis state on the physical level. This is why it is the most deeply satisfying experience the physical realm can offer. But sexual union is no more than a fleeting glimpse of wholeness. An instant of bliss as long as it is unconsciously sought as a means of salvation, you are seeking the end of duality on the level of form where it cannot be found. You are given a tantalizing glimpse of heaven but you are not allowed to dwell there and find yourself again in a separate body. On a psychological level, the sense of lack and incompleteness is, if anything, even greater than on the physical level. As long as you are identified with your mind, you have an externally derived sense of self. That is to say you get your sense of who you are from things that have ultimately nothing to do with who you are. Your social role, possessions, external appearance, successes and failures, belief systems and so on. This false mind made self, the ego, feels vulnerable, insecure, and is always seeking new things to identify with to give it a feeling that it exists. But nothing is ever enough to give it lasting fulfillment. Its fear remains. Its sense of lack and neediness remains. But then that special relationships comes along. It seems to be the answer to all the ego's problems and to meet all its needs. At least, this is how it appears at first. All the other things that you derived your sense of self from before now become relatively insignificant. You now have a single focal point that replaces them all, gives meaning to your life and through which you define your identity, the person you are in love with. You are no longer a disconnected fragment in an uncaring universe or so it seems. Your world now has a center, the loved one. The fact that the center is outside you and therefore you still have an externally derived sense of self does not seem to matter at first. What matters is that the underlying feelings of incompleteness, of fear, lack and unfulfillment so characteristic of the egoic state are no longer there, or are they? Have they dissolved or do they continue to exist underneath the happy surface reality. If in your relationships, you experience love and the oppositie of love, attack, emotional violence, and so on. Then it is likely you you are confusing ego attachment and addictive clinging with love. You cannot love your partner one moment and attack him or her the next. True love has no opposite. If your love has an opposite, than it is not love, but a strong ego need for a more complete and deeper sense of self, a need the other person temporarily meets. It is the ego's substitute for salvation. And for a short time, it almost does feel like salvation. But there comes a point when your partner behaves in ways that fail to meet your needs or rather those of your ego. The feelings of fear, pain and lack that are an intrinsic part of egoic consciousness but had been covered up by the love relationship now resurface just as with every other addiction, you are on a high when the drug is available but invariably there comes a time when the drug no longer works for you. When those painful feelings reappear, you feel them even more strongly than before and what is more, you now perceive your partner as the cause of those feelings. This means that you project them outward and attack the other with all the savage violence that is part of your pain. This attack may awaken the partner's own pain and he or she may counter your attack. At this point, the ego is still unconsciously hoping that its attack or its attempts at manipulation will be sufficient punishment to induce your partner to change their behavior so that it can use them again as a cover up for your pain. Every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain. Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain. Whatever the substance yo are addicted to, alcohol, food, legal or illegal drugs, or a person, you are using something or somebody to cover up your pain. That is why after t he initial euphoria has passed, there is so much unhappiness, so much pain in intimate relationships. They do not cause pain and unhappiness. They bring out the pain and unhappiness that is already in you. Every addiction does that. Every addiction reaches a point where it does not work for you anymore and then you feel the pain more intensely than ever. This is one reason why most people are always trying to escape from the present moment and are seeking some kind of salvation in the future. The first thing that they might encounter if they focus their attention on the now is their own pain and this is what they fear. If they only knew how easy it is to access in the now, the power of presence that dissolves the past and its pain, the reality that dissolves the illusion. If they only knew how close they are to their own reality, how close to God, avoidance of relationships in an attempt to avoid pain is not the answer either. The pain is there anyway. Three failed relationships in as many years are more likely to force you into awakening than three years on a desert island or shut away in your room. But if you could bring intense presence into your aloneness that would work for you too.
Question: Can we change an addictive relationship into a true one?
Eckhart Tolle: Yes. Being present and intensifying your presence by taking your attention ever more deeply into the now. Whether you are living alone or living with a partner, this remains the key. For love to flourish, the light of your presence needs to be strong enough so that you no longer get taken over by the thinker or the pain body and mistake them for who you are. You know yourself as the being underneath the thinker, the stillness underneath the mental noise, the love and joy underneath the pain is freedom, salvation, enlightenment. To disidentify from the pain body is to bring presence into the pain and thus transmute it. To disidentify from thinking is to be the silent watcher of your thoughts and behaviour, especially the repetitive patterns of your mind and the roles played by the ego. If you stop investing it with selfness, the mind loses its compulsive quality which basically is the compulsion to judge and so to resist what is which creates conflict, drama and new pain. In fact, the moment that judgment stops through acceptance of what is, you are free of the mind. You have made room for love, for joy, for peace. First, you stop judging yourself, then you stop judging your partner. The greatest catalyst for change in a relationship is complete acceptance of your partner as he or she is without needing to judge or change them in any way. That immediately takes you beyond ego. All mind games and all addictive clinging are then over. There are no victims and no perpetrators anymore. No accuser and accused. This is also the end of all co-dependency, of being drawn into somebody else's unconscious pattern and thereby enabling it to continue. You will then either separate in love or move ever more deeply into the now together into being. Can it be that simple? Yes. It is that simple. Love is a state of being. Your love is not outside. It is deep within you. You can never lose it and it cannot leave you. It is not dependent on some other body, some external form. In the stillness of your presence, you can feel your own formless and timeless reality as the unmanifested life that animates your physical form. You can then feel the same life deep within every other human and every other creature. You look beyond the veil of form and separation. This is the realization of oneness. This is love.
What is God? The eternal one life underneath all the forms of life. What is love? To feel the presence of that one life deep within yourself and within all creatures. To be it. Therefore, all love is the love of God.
Love is not selective just as the light of the sun is not selective. It does not make one person special. It does not make exclusive. Exclusivity is not the love of God but the love of ego. However, the intensity with which true love is felt can vary. There may be one person who reflects your love back to you more clearly and more intensely than others and if that person feels the same towards you it can be said that you are in a love relationship with him or her. The bond that connects you with that person is the same bond that connects you with the person sitting next to you on a bus or with a bird, a tree, a flower. Only the degree of intensity with which it is felt differs. Even in an otherwise addictive relationship, there may be moments when something more real shines through, something beyond your mutual addictive needs. These are moments when both your and your partner's mind briefly subside and the pain body is temporarily in a dormant state. This may sometimes happen during physical intimacy or when you are both witnessing the miracle of child birth or in the presence of death or when one of you are seriously ill. Anything that renders the mind powerless. When this happens, your being which is usually buried underneath the mind becomes revealed and it is this that makes true communication possible. True communication is communion, the realization of oneness which is Love. Usually, this is quickly lost again unless you are able to stay present enough to keep out the mind and its old patterns. As soon as the mind and mind identification return, you are no longer yourself but a mental image of yourself and you start playing games and roles again to get your ego needs met. You are human mind again pretending to be a human being interacting with another mind playing a drama called love. Although brief glimpses are possible, love cannot flourish unless you are permanently free of mind identification and your presence is intense enough to have dissolved the pain body. Or you can at least remain present as the watcher. The pain body cannot then take you over and then become destructive of love. As the egoic mode of consciousness and all the social and political structure that it created enter the final stage of collapse, the relationships between men and women reflect the deep state of crisis in which humanity now finds itself. As humans have become increasingly identified with their mind, most relationships are not rooted in being and so turn into a source of pain and become donimated by problems and conflict. Millions are now living alone or as single parents unable to establish intimate relationship or unwilling to repeat the insane drama of past relationships. Others go from one relationship to another, from one pleasure and pain cycle to another in search of the elusive goal of fulfillment through union with the opposite energy polarity. Still others compromise and continue to be together in a dysfunctional relationship in which negativity prevails for the sake of the children or security, through force or habit, fear of being alone, or some other mutually beneficial arrangement or even through the unconscious addiction to the excitement of emotional drama and pain. However, every crisis represents not only danger but also of opportunity. If relationships energize and magnify egoic mind patterns, and activate the pain body as they do at this time, why not accept this fact rather than try to escape from it. Why not cooperate with it instead of avoiding relationships or continuing to pursue the phantom of an ideal partner as an answer to your problems or means of feeling fulfilled. The opportunity that is concealed within every crisis does not manifest until all the facts of any given situation are acknowledged and fully accepted. As long as you deny them, as long as you try to escape from them or wish that things were different, the window of opportunity does not open up and you remain trapped within that situation which will remain the same or deteriorate further. With the acknowledgement and acceptance of the facts also comes a degree of freedom from them. For example, when you know there's disharmony and you hold that knowing, through that knowing, a new factor has come in and the disharmony cannot remain unchanged. When you know you are not at peace, your knowing fulfills a still space that surrounds your non-peace in a loving and tender embrace and then transmutes your non-peace into peace. As far as inner transformation is concerned, there is nothing you can do about it. You cannot transform yourself and you certainly cannot transform your partner or anyone else. All you can do is create a space for transformation to happen for grace and love to enter.
So whenever your relationship is not working, whenever it brings out the madness in you or in your partner, be glad, what was unconscious is being brought out in the light. It is an opportunity for salvation. Every moment hold the knowing of that moment particularly of your inner state. If there is anger, know there is anger. If there is jealousy, defensiveness, the urge to argue, the need to be right, an inner child demanding love and attention or emotional pain of any kind. Whatever it is, know the reality of that moment and hold the knowing. The relationship then becomes your suddener...your spiritual ritual practice. If you observe unconscious behavior in your partner, hold it in the loving embrace of your knowing so that you won't react. Unconsciousness and knowing cannot coexist for long even if the knowing is only in the other person and no in the one who is acting out the unconsciousness. The energy form that lies behind hostility and attack finds the presence of love absolutely intolerable. If you react at all to your partner's unconsciousness, you become unconscious yourself. But if you then remember to know your reaction, nothing is lost. Humanity is under great pressure to evolve because it is our only chance of survival as a race. This will affect every aspect of your life and close relationships in particular. Never before has relationships been as problematic and conlfict ridden as they are now. As you may have noticed, they are not here to make you happy or fulfilled. If you continue to pursue the goal of salvation through a relationship, you will be disillusioned again and again. But if you accept that the relationship is here to make you conscious instead of happy, then the relationship will offer you salvation and you will be aligning yourself with the higher consciousness that wants to be born into this world. For those who hold onto the old patterns, there will be increasing pain, violence, confusion and madness.
Question: I suppose that it takes two to make a relationship into a spiritual practice as you suggest. For example, my partner is still acting out his old pattern of jealousy and control.
Eckhart Tolle: I have pointed this out many times, but he is unable to see it. How many people does it take to make your life into a spiritual practice. Never mind that people will not cooperate. Sanity, consciousness can only come into this world through you. You do not need to wait for the world to become sane or for somebody else to become conscious before you can be enlightened. You may wait forever. Do not accuse each other of being unconscious. The moment you start to argue, you have identified with a mental position and now defending not only that position but also your sense of self. The ego is in charge. You have become unconscious. At times, it may be appropriate to point out certain aspects of your partner's behavior. If you are very alert, very present, you can do so without ego involvement, without blaming, accusing or making the other wrong. When your partner behaves unconsciously, relinquish all judgment. Judgment is either to confuse someone's unconscious behavior with who they are or to project your own unconsciousness onto another person and mistake that for who they are. To relinquish judgment does not mean that you do recognize dysfunction and unconsciousness when you see it. It means being the knowing rather than being the reaction and the judge. You will then be either totally free of reaction or you may react and still be the knowing, the space in which the reaction is watched and allowed to be. Instead of fighting the darkness, you bring in the light. Instead of reacting to delusion, you see the delusion, yet at the same time look through it. Being the knowing creates a clear space of loving presence that allows all things and all people to be as they are. No greater catalyst for transformation exists. If you practice this, your partner cannot stay with you and remain unconscious. If you both agree that the relationship will be your spiritual practice, so much the better. You can then express your thoughts and feelings to each other as soon as they occur or as soon as a reaction comes up so that you do not create a time gap in which an unexpressed or unacknowledged emotion or grievance can fester and grow. Learn to give expression to what you feel without blaming. Learn to listen to your partner in an open, non-defensive way. Give your partner space for expressing himself or herself. Be present. Accusing, defending, attacking. All those patterns that are designed to strengthen the ego or to get its needs met will then become redundant. Giving space to others and to yourself is vital. Love cannot flourish without it. When you have removed the two factors that are destructive of relationships, when the pain body has been transmuted, and you are no longer identified with mind and mental positions and if your partner has done the same, you will experience the bliss of the flowering of relationship. Instead of mirroring to each other your pain and you unconsciousness, instead of satisfying your mutual addictive ego needs, you will reflect back to each other the love that you feel deep within, the love that comes from the realization of your oneness with all that is. This is the love that has no opposite. If your partner is still identified with the mind and the pain body, while you are already free, this will present a major challenge, not to you, but to your partner. It is not easy to live with an enlightened person or rather it is so easy that the ego finds it extremely threatening. Remember, that the ego needs problems, conflict, and enemies to strengthen the sense of separateness on which its identity depends. The unenlightened partner's mind will be deeply frustrated because its fixed positions are not resisted which means they will become shaky and weak. And there is even the danger that they may collapse altogether resulting in loss of self. The pain body is demanding feedback and not getting it. The need for argument, drama and conflict is not being met. But beware, some people who are unresponsive, withdrawn, insensitive or cut off from their feelings may think and try to convince others that they are enlightened or at least that there is nothing wrong with them and everything wrong with their partner. Men tend to do that more than women. They may see their female partners as irrational or emotional. But if you can feel your emotions, you're not far from the radiant inner body just underneath. If you are mainly in your head, the distance is much greater and you need to bring consciousness into the emotional body before you can reach the inner body. If there isn't an emanation of love and joy, complete presence and openness towards all beings, then it is not enlightenment. Another indicator is how a person behaves in difficult or challenging situations or when things go wrong. If your enlightenment is egoic self delusion, then life will soon give you a challenge that will bring out your unconsciousness in whatever form, fear, anger, defensiveness, judgment, depression, and so on. If you are in a relationship, many of your challenges will come through your partner. For example, a woman may be challenged by an unresponsive male partner who lives entirely in his head. She will be challenged by his inability to hear her, to give her attention, and space to be, which is due to his lack of presence. The absence of love in a relationship which is usually more keenly felt by a woman than a man will trigger the woman's pain body and through it she will attack her partner, criticize, make wrong and so on. This in turn now becomes his challenge. To defend himself against her pain body's attack which he sees as totally unwarranted, he will become even more deeply entrenched in his mental positions as he justifies, defends himself, or counter-attacks. Eventually, this may activate his own pain body and both partners have thus been taken over. A level of deep unconsciousness has been reached of emotional violence, savage attack and counter attack. It will not subside until they replenish themselves and then enter the dormant stage until the next time. This is only one of an endless number of scenarios. Many volumes have been written and many more could be written about the ways in which the way unconsciousness is brought out in male-female relationships. But as I said earlier, once you understand the root of the dysfunctio, you do not need to explore its countless manifestations. Let's briefly look again at the scenario I've just described. Every challenge that it contains is actually a disguised opportunity for salvation. At every stage of the unfolding dysfunctional process, freedom from unconsciousness is possible. For example, the woman's hostility could become a signal for the man to come out of his mind identified state, awaken into the now, become present, instead of becoming even more identified with his mind, even more unconscious. Instead of being the pain body, the woman could be the knowing that watches the emotional pain in herself thus accessing the power of the now and initiating the transmutation of the pain. This would remove the compulsive and automatic outward projection of it. She could then express her feelings to her partner. There's no guarantee that of course he wil listen. But it gives him a good chance to become to present and certainly breaks the insane cycle of the involuntary acting out of old mind patterns. If the woman misses that opportunity, the man could watch his own mental reaction to her pain, his own defensiveness rather than being the reaction. He could then watch his own pain body being triggered and thus bring consciousness into his emotions. In this way, a clear and still space of pure awareness would come into being, the knowing, the silent witness, the watcher. This awareness does not deny the pain and yet is beyond it. It allows the pain to be and yet transmutes it at the same time. It accepts everything and transforms everything. A door would have opened up for her through which she could easily join him in that space. If you are consistently or at least predominantly present in your relationship, this will be the greatest challenge for your partner. They will not be able to tolerate your presence for very long and stay unconscious. If they are ready, they will walk through the door that you open for them and join you in that state. If they are not, you will separate like oil and water. The light is too painful for someone who wants to remain in darkness.
Question: Are the obstacles to enlightenment the same for a man as for a woman.
Eckhart Tolle: Yes, but the emphasis is different. Generally speaking, it is easier for a woman to feel and be in her body so she is naturally closer to being and potentially closer to enlightenment than a man. This is why many ancient cultures instinctively chose female figures or analogies to represent or describe the formless and transcendental reality. It was often seen as a womb that gives birth to everything in creation and sustains and nourishes it during its life as form. In the Tao te Ching, one of the most ancient and profound books ever written, the Tao which could be translated as being is described as infinite, eternally present, the mother of the universe. Naturally, women are closer to it than men since they virtually embody the unmanifested. What is more all creatures and all things must eventually return to the source. All things vanish into the Dao. It alone endures. Since the source is seen as female, this is represented as the light and dark sides of the archetype of feminine in psychology and mythology. The Goddess or divine mother has two aspects. She gives life and she takes life. When the mind took over and humans lost touch with the reality of their divine essence, they started to think of God as a male figure. Society became male dominated and the female was made subordinate to the male. I'm not suggesting a return to earlier female representations of the divine. Some poeple now use the term Goddess instead of God. They are reddressing the balance between male and female that was lost a long time ago and that is good. But it is still a representation and a concept. Perhaps temporarily useful just as a map or signpost is temporarily useful. But more hindrance than help when you are ready to realize the reality behind all concepts and images. What does remain true however is that the energy frequency of the mind appears to be essentially male. The mind resists, fights for control, uses, manipulates, attacks, tries to grasp and possess and so on. This is why the traditional God is a patriarchal controlling authority figure. An often angry man who you should live in fear of as the Old Testament suggests. This thought is a projection of the human mind. To go beyond the mind and reconnect with a deeper reality of being very different qualities are needed. Surrender, non-judgment and openness that allows life to be instead of resisting it. The capacity to hold all things in the loving embrace of your knowing. All these qualities are much more closely related to the female principle whereas mind energy is hard and rigid, being energy is soft and yielding and yet infinitely more powerful than the mind. The mind runs our civilization whereas being is in charge of all life on our planet and beyond. Being is the very intelligence whose visible manifestation is the physical universe. All the women are potentially closer to it. Men can also access it within themselves. At this time, the vast majority of men as well as women are still in the grip of the mind, identified with the thinker and the pain body. This of course is what prevents enlightenment and the flowering of love. As a general rule, the major obstacle for men tends to be the thinking mind and the major obstacle for women, the pain body. Although in certain individual cases, the opposite may be true. And in others the two factors may be equal.
Question: Why is the pain body more of an obstacle for women?
Eckhart Tolle: The pain body usually has a collective as well as a personal aspect. The personal aspect is the accumulated residue of emotional pain suffered in one's own past. The collective one is the pain accumulated in the collective human psyche over thousands of years through disease, torture, war, murder, cruelty, madness and so on. Everyone's personal pain body also partakes of this collective pain body. There are different strands in the collective pain body. For example, certain races or countries in which extremes forms of pride and violence occur have heavier collective pain bodies than others. Anyone with a strong pain body and not enough consciousness to disidentify with it will not only continuously or periodically be forced to relive their emotional pain but also may easily become either the perpetrator or the victim of violence depending on whether their pain body is predominantly active or passive. On the other hand, they may also be potentially closer to enlightenment. This potential is not necessarily realized of course but if you are trapped in a nightmare, you will probably be more strongly motivated to awaken than someone who is just caught up in the ups and downs of an ordinary dream. Apart from her personal pain body, every woman has her share in what could be described as the collective female pain body unless she's fully conscious. This consists of accumulated pain suffered by women partly through male subjugation of the female through slavery, exploitation, rape, child birth, child loss, and so on over thousands of years. The emotional or physical pain that for many women precedes and coincides with their menstrual flow is the pain body in its collective aspect that've awakened from its dormancy at that time although it can be triggered at other times too. It restricts the free flow of life energy through the body of which menstruation is a physical expression. Let's dwell on this for a moment and see how it can become an opportunity for enlightenment. Often, a woman is taken over by a pain body at that time. It has an extremely powerful energetic charge that can easily pull you into unconscious identification with it. You are then actively possessed by an inner energy field that occupies your inner space and pretends to be you but of course is not you at all. It speaks through you, acts through you, thinks through you. It will create negative situations in your life so that it can feed on the energy. It wants more pain in whatever form. I have described this process already. It can be vicious and destructive. It is pure pain, past pain and it is not you. The number of women who are now approaching the fully conscious state already exceeds that of men and will be growing even faster in the years to come. Men may catch up with them towards the end, but for some considerable time, there will be a gap between the consciousness of men and that of women. Women are regaining the function that is their birthright and therefore comes to them more naturally than it does to men. To be a bridge between the manifested world and the unmanifested, between physicality and spirit. Your main task as a woman now is to transmute the pain body so that it no longer comes between you and your true self, the essence of who you are. Of course, you also have to deal with the other obstacle to enlightenment which is the thinking mind, but the intense presence you generate when dealing with the pain body will also free you from identification with the mind. The first thing to remember is this: as long as you make an identity for yourself out of the pain, you cannot become free of it. As long as part of your sense of self is invested in your emotional pain, you will unconsciously resist or sabotage every attempt that you make to heal that pain. Why? Quite simply, because you want to keep yourself intact and the pain has become an essential part of you. This is an unconscious process and the only way to overcome it is to make it conscious.