Oprah and Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth Online Class
[See link at bottom to article about his teaching programs.]
Excerpt from transcript
OPRAH WINFREY (HOST): Debby’s from the Netherlands and lives in the city of Haarlem. She’s Skyping us from her family room there. I understand you have a question about a quote on page 187 about small things disturbing you. I love this quote. Go ahead, Deb.
DEBBY: My question is high sensitivity. I always considered myself a sensitive person, and that means I’m easily overwhelmed by day-to-day life things that might be considered small.
I’ve been practicing staying in the moment with changing moments, but I think I need some more advice.
Is high sensitivity an ego-based state?
Is high sensitivity just a narrow egoic state? And do you have some tools that might help me to stop feeling so overwhelmed by all these small things?
OPRAH WINFREY: That does sound like a label you’ve given yourself.
DEBBY: Yeah, yeah. I know (inaudible).
OPRAH WINFREY: “I’m a highly sensitive individual.” Yes.
ECKHART TOLLE: Yes, yes, that is true. So that’s… that, also, we need to address. Can you give perhaps two or three examples of what kind of things you are very sensitive to?
DEBBY: Well, a lot of things, but usually when I go into a shop, and there’s loud music there, I just want to run away. I have a hard time dealing with noise and chaos.
ECKHART TOLLE: Yes, or being in a big city, traffic.
DEBBY: Yeah. Yeah.
ECKHART TOLLE: Yes. Well, I suggest that you experiment a little bit when these situations arise and you feel the same thing happening again.
Three levels of a high sensitivity situation and reaction
And if you bring very alert attention to the situation, you realize that, really, there are three levels to this situation.
Level one is whatever it is that disturbs you, the external noise, the chaos, the traffic, whatever it may be, so there’s the thing that disturbs you – level one.
Level two, there is your reaction to that thing that disturbs you, which could be an almost physical reaction.
There’s perhaps a contraction in your body. It could be also an emotional reaction of frustration, irritation, anger, I assume, something like that, right?
And also, in addition, the reaction could be certain thoughts in your head about the situation that says, “I can’t stand being here any longer, it’s dreadful, dreadful.”
This is level two.
Now, be aware that these two are, first of all, separate. There is the triggering event or situation, and then there is your physical, emotional, mental reaction to that.
And, now what is level three? That is usually overlooked, but level three is where, ultimately, freedom lies.
Level three is your awareness of both these levels. You are aware that there is the situation, the event, “There is my reaction – physically, emotional, mental. And there is myself being the aware space for those two.”
And if you can bring your attention more to that deepest level, then you realize changes will happen on the other two levels. If you recognize yourself, not as the reacting entity that happens in you, but that’s not who you are…
But you recognize yourself as the awareness that is aware of this thing that’s happening out there, of the thing that’s reacting inside.
Awareness of our inner reactions as highly sensitive people
OPRAH WINFREY: So it’s just actually like, Debby, you’re observing your own behavior. You’re observing your ego’s behavior.
ECKHART TOLLE: With no attachment; just as pure observation, pure awareness.
OPRAH WINFREY: Like, “Oh, isn’t that interesting? I’m getting so upset over this guy pulling in front of me.”
ECKHART TOLLE: Yes. Just being there as the awareness. And that’s already the beginning of freedom. And then, increasingly, you realize that you are that; you are not the entity that is reacting.
And then, as Oprah said, then you can let go of thinking for yourself, of having this concept of yourself as a highly sensitive person that perhaps you might… it’s not natural, nothing personal in this – you may have become attached to because you’ve lived with this concept of who you are for many years.
So that’s where freedom lies.
OPRAH WINFREY: But in addition to Debby’s question, let’s say, and for her, you know, she labels herself or defines herself as a highly sensitive person, but let’s say a person gets upset about someone putting a dent in his or her car, or you spill coffee on your blouse right before an important meeting, or your child gets sick or you get sick, are you saying that if we get upset about these things, these kind of things, that we don’t know who we truly are?
ECKHART TOLLE: If the dimension of presence or awareness is missing, then you are lost in the reaction.
OPRAH WINFREY: You think you are the reaction.
ECKHART TOLLE: Yes. Then you become the reaction, and when you become the reaction, you don’t know who you are. It’s a misperception of who you are.
OPRAH WINFREY: You got that, right, Debby?
DEBBY: Yeah, yeah, I got it. Yeah. It helped me a lot.
OPRAH WINFREY: I got it too. I got it too. And just detaching yourself, that doesn’t change the situation.
ECKHART TOLLE: It doesn’t immediately change the situation. But you do find that as you practice this, changes suddenly appear.
Changes sometimes first appear in the force that is behind your reaction that lessens. You still react, but less; not as strongly.
And, miraculously, you sometimes even find that if you totally… because, really, the awareness level is also part of the acceptance.
You completely accept that, “At this moment, this is what I feel, and this is what the external situation is,” with complete acceptance. Even changes often happen miraculously in the external situation.
OPRAH WINFREY: Yeah. I think acceptance of the situation, which you talk about in “Power of Now,” and also repeatedly in A New Earth, acceptance, nonresistance to the moment is one of the most important things we can learn.
ECKHART TOLLE: Yes.
OPRAH WINFREY: And that is whether or not you’re facing a crisis whether you’re facing someone you’ve lost; a loved one, or whether you’re, you know, in traffic and are a highly sensitive person, nonaccepting what is in that moment is the most important.
ECKHART TOLLE: Yes. And you can practice with little things because little things happen throughout the day that people feel irritated about, angry about, protesting against, and so on.
All with little things. You will have many opportunities to practice, so it’s a wonderful spiritual practice.
So you use what before you wanted to get rid of, you use it as part of your spiritual practice, and, as a byproduct, you also eventually get rid of it.
OPRAH WINFREY: Thanks, Debby, thanks so much.
DEBBY: Okay, thank you.
~ ~ ~ ~
Reactivity and being highly sensitive
OPRAH WINFREY: I Skyped Tenisha at the Bodhi Tree earlier today on The Oprah Show, and she’s back tonight with a question. Hi, Tenisha.
TENISHA: Hi Oprah.. Yes, my question has to do with reactivity. On page 208, Tolle says the more reactive… okay, “What is reactivity? Becoming addicted to reaction. The more reactive you, the more entangled you become with form. The more identified with form, the stronger the ego.”
My question has to do with… I’ve always related being reactive to being sensitive. And being sensitive allows me to be very passionate about things, allows me to connect with other people and be emotionally available to my friends and family.
So my question is, how can I retain sensitivity and be passionate about things and keep that, but not allow my ego to get stronger?
ECKHART TOLLE: Yes, thank you. Well, reaction may appear to be a sign of sensitivity, but actually reaction is not sensitive.
Reaction is a conditioned way of responding to a situation, and all reaction really comes from the past because it’s part of the way in which you’ve been conditioned.
And because it comes from the past, it is never totally adequate to the present moment.
So sensitivity is actually lost when you’re reactive, and true sensitivity comes when you are absolutely present in a situation and see, “This is how it is,” and you totally face the situation as it is.
And when that comes, enormous sensitivity, and with that comes also intuition.
It’s only when you internally don’t resist a situation, then the intuitive faculties arise within you.
As long as you internally resist a situation – and reactivity’s always some form of resistance – as long as you internally resist, then the intuitive faculties cannot really come in because you’re acting out old conditioning.
Intuition comes out of presence; out of the present moment. So bringing presence to a situation, then that means you become absolutely sensitive.
And that’s also a deeper aliveness and a deeper power than what looks like power and aliveness when you observe somebody reacting.
Sometimes it might look very passionate, but really they are acting out their past conditioning; the ego is acting out.
That’s not true passion, it’s the ego wanting this or that from the situation; wanting to manipulate the situation, wanting to get something out of the situation, whatever, but not being truly present.
So it’s only through presence that the true sensitivity is there.
This article is from a transcript of Oprah and Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth Online Class – Chapter 7.
(Originally broadcast in 2008 or 2009.)
The class is a discussion of his book A New Earth.
Eckhart Tolle “was educated at the Universities of London and Cambridge, and at the age of 29 experienced what he considered a spiritual transformation that marked the beginning of his life as a counselor and spiritual teacher.”
Article: Eckhart Tolle Teaching on The Power of Presence
Videos, links to his teaching programs, and quotes, including these:
“I would do anything to be anywhere in the vicinity of Eckhart Tolle.” — Jim Carrey
“I keep Eckhart’s book at my bedside. I think it’s essential spiritual teaching.” – Oprah
Books by Eckhart Tolle include: