Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Geneen Roth and Eckhart Tolle on spirituality, crisis and life

I just watched this video of a conversation between Geneen Roth and Eckhart Tolle that Claudia posted in her most recent blog post. A couple of things really struck me about this brief video:

(1) Roth remarked at the beginning that she had for many years made a subtle separation between spirituality and making money in her life ("spirituality is fine, and then... there's money"). She had for many years believed that it is not possible for her to become fully awakened, to become "fully alive to the aliveness" in this lifetime.

This is really interesting. I think many of us (well, maybe I can't speak for others... but this is at least true for myself) have this tendency (at least I do) to erect a separation between whatever it is that we do in our spiritual practices and the "rest of our lives." We do whatever it is that we do in our spiritual practices (yoga, meditation, whatever), and then we go out there and revert to being the assholes that we usually are. After all, we might say to ourselves, "The world is very harsh, you know. All this yoga/meditation/whatever is fine, but how can I get ahead if I am not assertive/asshole-like?"

Actually, if you think about it, this is precisely why difficulties in life and practice are so important: They serve as valuable teachers that really force us to make our practices "real", to bring our practices closer to the grimy reality of life as it is. For Roth, it was Bernie Madoff that came into her life as such a teacher. For the rest of us, it may be a crisis at work, some difficulties in our relationships with people close to us, or even an injury that happened within or outside the yoga practice. Anyway, all of these things, as sucky as they may seem in the beginning, are valuable for us, because they force us to pause and ask ourselves: Who am I? Am I just my life savings/my job/my favorite asana that has now been taken away by injury?

(2) Watching the video, I am also deeply struck by Eckhart Tolle's humble yet dignified bearing and his posture of sincerely listening to everything Roth has to say. Frankly, I don't know much about Tolle; for many years, listening to so many people rave about Tolle and The Power of Now, I really couldn't understand what the big deal was with this guy. Honestly, before I watched the video, I half-expected to see this self-important new-age guru spouting all kinds of feel-good platitudes.

But seeing Tolle's earnest attitude of sincere listening really bowed me over. I personally believe that you can learn a lot about the kind of person somebody is simply by observing how he listens to others. As Confucius would say, "The gentleman is exalted and yet not proud. The petty person is proud and yet not exalted." Along the same lines, the thirteenth-century Japanese priest Nichiren also says, "The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behavior as a human being." Watching Tolle in this video, I really feel that Confucius' and Nichiren's words describe him perfectly.


  1. I find I have that too, the separation between spirit and making a living, as if they were different.... Further I also identify with her second point, that I might not be able to be enlightened (at oeacecwith what is) in this life...

    As per Tolle, he is quite fascinating, he is a ramana maharshi of our times, he has reached or has unveiled the truth for himself after extreme suffering when he was in the midst of his academic career... The first chapter of power of now is quite something....

    1. Thanks for sharing, Claudia. I guess I'll have to get around to reading The Power of Now soon... :-)

  2. Nobel, thanks for posting. The Power of Now transformed by yoga practice. You MUST read. It's an easy read, and captivating. I related to every single thing he wrote. When I finished reading it I just cried; years of self hatred, doubt and anxiety; his words just made vanish, everything became clear. He's a very special man. Go Tolle!

    1. Thanks Micqui. Will read The Power of Now soon. ;-)