12/12/2012 11:41 am ET

Bad Memories? Eckhart Tolle's Advice on How to Deal

Recently on "Super Soul Sunday," Oprah talked with Eckhart Tolle, author of A New Earth and Oneness With All Life. During the course of the conversation, he offered surprising insight into what stress is -- and how to find a powerful sense of space. Read on!

OPRAH WINFREY: I describe the weekly webcast that Eckhart Tolle and I did together back in 2008 -- teaching one of my favorite books of all time, A New Earth, chapter by chapter -- as my first Lifeclass. Millions of people got to know Eckhart during those ten weeks, but not everyone knows his remarkable spiritual journey. At 29, this German-born author had become a research scholar in comparative literature at the University of Cambridge in England. But his academic success wasn't enough to halt bouts of anxiety and depression so severe that at one time he considered ending his life. In his darkest hour, Eckhart says, he experienced an awakening that transformed his life. He chose to walk away from his promising career to explore his newly discovered inner peace. Eckhart's profound yet simple spiritual teachings are the basis for his bestselling books, The Power of Now and A New Earth. Too much time had passed since Eckhart and I sat down together, so recently I invited him back to Chicago to catch up.

OPRAH: One of the things that you say is: "Stress is wanting something to be the way that it isn't." You also say that "what you resist, persists." So how do you know whether you're supposed to accept something or try to bring about change?

ECKHART TOLLE: You may need to focus some attention on the situation to realize what kind of steps you can take to change the situation. In the meantime, the basis for effective action is to come into an inner alignment with the "is-ness" of this moment -- understanding "This is how it is." I gave the example in The Power Of Now of "I'm stuck in the mud."

OPRAH: "I'm so pissed off. I'm stuck in the mud. Damn this mud! How did I get in this mud?" All of that?

ECKHART: Yes. Or you become a victim in your own mind: "Why is this happening to me -- always to me?"

OPRAH: Yes -- "What is the mud in your life?" You're using that as a metaphor.

ECKHART: Yes. Look at the situation without labeling it: "This is where I am right now." And you accept that this is how it is, the is-ness of life at this moment.

OPRAH: So if you're angry about being stuck in the mud and you're trying to resolve being stuck in the mud from that point of anger, you will always remain stuck in the mud.


OPRAH: You say in your book, "See if you can catch" -- that is to say, notice -- "the voice in the head. Whenever you notice that voice you will also realize that you are not the voice, but the one who is aware of it." You are that awareness disguised as a person.

ECKHART: Yes. The moment you become aware that you have certain kinds of thoughts in your head, there's already that awareness arising. Many people in this world are still so identified with every thought that arises in their head. There is not the slightest space of awareness there.

OPRAH: That's right.

ECKHART: I sometimes ask people, "Can you be aware of your own presence? Not the thoughts that you're having, not the emotions that you're having, but the very presence of your very being?" You become aware of your own presence by sensing the entire energy field in your body that is alive. And that is the totality of your presence.

OPRAH: Because you know that no matter what's going on, all the trials and difficulties and challenges -- whatever all of us have from time to time in our life if you live past five years old -- that there is a space that you can go to.


OPRAH: That really is the ultimate connection to all there is, or God.

ECKHART: That's where you and God merge, so then you recognize your oneness with the source of life.

OPRAH: What I find is, if you can go to that space, that's where your strength -- your true strength -- lies.


OPRAH: That's where your true creativity, your power, your ability to be authentically yourself [lie]. So how does one clear one's mind of bad memories?

ECKHART: Well, not as such. But you can recognize that bad memories are thoughts that are rising in your mind. And when you recognize that, you don't need to identify with the thoughts any longer -- or memories, for example, of something bad that happened to you. It's not happening here and now.

OPRAH: Yes. It's already happened.

ECKHART: Memories are thoughts that arise. They're not realities. Only when you believe that they are real, then they have the power over you. But when you realize it's just another thought arising about the past, then you can have a spacious relationship with that thought. The thought no longer has you in its grip.

OPRAH: I hope that people really get that. It would be a gift for somebody who is tortured by the past... One of the things that you write in the very beginning of the book [Oneness With All Life] is that "if you come across passages in this book that you feel are powerful, I want you to realize that what you're feeling is your own spiritual power. That is to say, who you are in your essence. Only spirit can recognize spirit." That's what an aha moment is, isn't it?

ECKHART: Yes… recognition. The real truths of life are never entirely new to you or to anybody because there is a level deep down within you where you already know all the things, all those spiritual truths that you read or hear, and then recognize them. I say "recognize" because you're not... it's not new.

OPRAH: It's a resonation. It's a resonating with what is somehow buried or suppressed. That's what an aha is.

ECKHART: That's right.

"Super Soul Sunday" airs Sundays at 11 a.m. ET on OWN.

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