Must we fully engage the thinking mind in order to perceive words on a page?
Eckhart Tolle challenges us to "watch the thinker" even as we read.
Life is full of contradictions. I prefer to refer to them as "divine dichotomies." A divine dichotomy is when two apparently contradictory truths exist simultaneously in the same space. For instance, the idea that stillness speaks.
Everyone who has done any kind of contemplative work in her or his life is aware of this dichotomy. From stillness can come the loudest voice, the grandest message, the greatest wisdom.
Now comes a book that is not a book, to express and demonstrate this dichotomy fully and wonderfully. Its title is (aha!) Stillness Speaks, and its author, Eckhart Tolle, is the person who gave us The Power of Now. I call this "a book that is not a book" because this is not a tome that takes us from one place and drops us off in another. It is not a story with a beginning and an end, nor is it a treatise with an outline and a pathway of logic that takes us from here to there.
Stillness Speaks (New World Library, $17.) is nothing more — and nothing less — than a series of thoughts. These are ideas that have occurred to Tolle. I suspect these ideas have occurred to many people. For most of us, however, these wonderful wisdoms passed through our minds and kept on going. Tolle remained still enough to notice them. He recorded them in his moments of clarity. And he has placed them in print.
But a word here, please. Do not expect this book to track with any kind of logic. Its purpose, as I alluded to before, is not to take you to any place, to convince you of any idea, or to show you anything in particular. Its purpose is simply to allow you to be with the wisdom and the insight, and then to allow you to see for yourself where — if anywhere — that takes you.
"In other words, if you are looking for food for thought, you won't find it, and you will miss the very essence of the teaching, the essence of this book, which is not in the words but within yourself," Tolle writes in his introduction. "The words are no more than signposts. That to which they point is not to be found within the realm of thought, but a dimension within yourself that is deeper and infinitely vaster than thought."
And so, Stillness Speaks is a gentle journey, one that could take you to a spectacular and very special place of new awareness and deeper understanding. Yet one that leads nowhere in particular.
Tolle is very much aware that it is in the nowhere that the everywhere exists, that it is in the nothing that everything is found. This is not an easy concept for most people to grasp. It becomes easier through visiting these entries, placed under headings such as "Beyond the Thinking Mind," "Who You Truly Are," "Acceptance and Surrender," "Relationships," "Suffering and the End of Suffering."
The trick with Tolle's work is to not think about it. Most people, the author says, are lost in thought. The idea is to be out of your mind and into your experience of exactly what is happening, right here, right now.
This is what we are invited to do with the material in Stillness Speaks. If we think about it, if we begin to analyze it, if we start to argue with it or try to "figure it out," we'll become lost in thought. No one gets anywhere trying to figure out a sunrise. A sunrise is something you just be with. And you get from it whatever you get from it. If you try to analyze a sunrise, the experience the sunrise has for you will go away.
Stillness Speaks feels to me like a sunrise of the soul. Thinking about it, analyzing it, will make it go away. Even writing this review of it has been difficult for me, because the more I say about it, the less I say about it. So I'm going to stop trying to talk about what's in it, and talk just a bit more about what experience it produced in me.
Excitement, again, about Life.
Sureness, and a sense of having something confirmed that I felt I knew, deep within me.
And, not the least of my feelings, gratitude. Tolle has given me a peek into his mind, and thus into my own. His words reminded me about the sacred place that exists between us, where we mix our being and share our common essence and produce our collective experience. His "book that isn't" allowed me to venture forth more solidly, more confidently, and more joyously to play my individuated role in our co-created reality. Stillness Speaks has enriched my life.