Ray Hemachandra: How practical is the practice of alignment with the present moment? For example, is making money at odds with an enlightened mode of being?
Eckhart Tolle: If the main purpose of what you do is making money, then of course, yes. You are using what you do as a means to an end, which is not the awake way of living.
The end could be money, power, or some kind of mental image of what life should be — like, for example, the revolutionary and the terrorist have some image of what they want to achieve.
The present moment becomes a means toward an end. When you see the present moment itself and whatever you do in the present moment as means toward an end, that is unenlightened thinking and action. It creates further suffering no matter what the end is.
The energy that flows into what you do is not aligned with life, because you are not aligned with life. You are coming from egoic consciousness.
Money is a good example. An enlightened person or business is not concerned primarily with making money, because when you are concerned with making money you want the future more than the present.
Whenever you want the future more than you want the present, true intelligence cannot flow into what you do, because it can do so only when you are totally aligned with the present moment. So, instead, what you do is ego, or it comes from ego.
Of course, when you take action, there always is a purpose, which is in the future. Whatever you do in your daily life — driving from here to there, trying to reach someone on the phone, doing this or that — you always are going toward somewhere. That’s inevitable.
But the question is: Is that purpose in the future more important to you than what you are doing in the present? If it is, then it is a form of ego. The ego always looks toward the next moment for some kind of fulfillment.
The realignment means the primary purpose of your life is whatever action you are doing in this moment. The primary purpose of life is to be fully in whatever you are doing.
If you are trying to get from here to there, and you already are late, you know that you are late, and yet you are aligned with the present moment while you are stuck in a traffic jam. You are totally accepting of the moment.
Or let’s say you have to catch a plane, and you are packing your suitcase and moving fast. Most people would call that stress. Most people live stressed like that all the time. Next time you have some kind of deadline, and you have to take physical action — getting ready, meeting the deadline — investigate and see: Is it possible to be so present in what you are doing that the future moment is not primary, but the quality of how you do what you do in the present moment is primary?
That means doing it consciously. That means enjoying the doing itself.
Yes, you have to get to the airport. But you enjoy the high flow of energy at this moment, while you are picking things up, putting them in your suitcase, and looking at what you need. Even running to catch a train or a taxi, you can enjoy the high energy of the moment.
People are amazed to realize they can enjoy the moment rather than be stressed by it when hurrying to an appointment. You can enjoy the energy movement of the moment when you do not have a mental projection of a future moment you need to get to. You still know that you need to get there, but it is the secondary consideration.
If you enjoy it, you cannot be stressed! You still can move fast. Stress means there is something wrong, and you are not aligned with life.
Of course, most of the people in this world are stressed, and most of those who are not stressed are totally bored! So, you have two extremes: Some people are stuck in tedious things, like their jobs, and they are bored. Other people experience one stressful thing after another.
Probably, if you are successful in this world you are stressed, and if you are a failure, you are bored! (Eckhart laughs.) But they both are ways of not being aligned.
I invite you to read and enjoy other interview excerpts with leading spiritual teachers posted on the blog. Please share them on social media, as well! Here are links to just a few of them:
- Dr. Wayne W. Dyer on the law of attraction, cultural memes, and your purpose
- Life Loves You: interview excerpts with Louise Hay
- Interview with Doreen Virtue: excerpts from two of my interviews with the angel reader and teacher
- Byron Katie on living in joy and love
- Sister Chan Khong on interbeing, service, and our little wars
- Marianne Williamson on the political obligations of spiritual people and on midlife
- Eckhart Tolle on stress, the present moment, consciousness, and your awakening
- Rabbi David Zeller on the meaning and melding of transpersonal psychology and Jewish spirituality