Stillness Speaks: Eckhart Tolle’s Little Known Little Gem
If you’ve kept your eye on the spirituality shelf at your local bookseller, you’ve probably already heard of The Power of Now and A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. The Power of Now rocked bestseller lists across the globe, and after A New Earth was picked by Oprah as a selection for her famous book club, sales soared beyond the spirituality niche and settled into the hearts of the mainstream.
Both of these books are great. If you haven’t read them, I highly recommend you do so. In particular, A New Earth presents a simple, detailed, yet profound, system for spiritual awakening. A part of the appeal of Master Eckhart’s teachings is that they are easy to understand and apply. He doesn’t allow much space for flowery passages, nor the sorts of heavy theory that engage egos. In all of his teachings, he consistently points to the simple truth that the joy of Self-realization can be found in the present moment by anyone, immediately, no matter who you are or what your current circumstances happen to be. Thus his teachings are clear, clean, precise, and immediately accessible.
The only other book this great teacher has penned is one that, incredibly, relatively few people know about. Stillness Speaks is a tiny book. It is 7.5 inches tall by 5.5 inches wide, and weighs in at a mere 127, thinly populated, pages. The text consists of short thoughts meant to direct the reader’s attention to that which is true, and already present, within them. Master Eckhart compares them to the “sutras,” or short sayings, of ancient India. In the book’s introduction, which at four pages is by far the longest unbroken section of the book, Eckhart states:
“A true spiritual teacher does not have anything to teach in the conventional sense of the word, does not have anything to give or add to you, such as new information, beliefs, or rules of conduct. The only function of such a teacher is to help you remove that which separates you from the truth of who you already are and what you already know in the depth of your being.”
The entire book holds true to this statement, both in spirit and in form. Most of the sutras are indeed very short, many consisting of only one or two sentences; and few of the thoughts exceed a single page. Yet it is not their length, like the size of the book, that counts. These thoughts hold a might transformative potential.
I originally read this book years ago, and while I thought it was spot-on in terms of the truth of its teachings, at that time I didn’t grasp the true purpose of the book, which is not to instruct nor echo spiritual truths, but to bring the reader into direct contact with his or her Self, presence, being—call it what you will. In my second, more recent, reading, I slowed down, taking in the short segments a little at a time immediately before my morning meditations. As short as the book is, this time through I spent months working through its delicately prepared material, and I’m still not done with it! I intend to reread it in the same fashion.
Stillness Speaks is meant to be savored, not ravished, and for readers looking for true transformation, it is a must read. The only provision I would make is that, if you are new to Master Eckhart’s writings, you may wish to begin with one of his other books, which will provide you with a more detailed overview of his teachings. But, when you are ready, this slim volume packs a concentrated punch. Consider just a few of the thoughts from the book:
“Stillness is your essential nature. What is stillness? The inner space or awareness in which the words on this page are being perceived and become thoughts. Without that awareness there would be no perception, no thoughts, no world.
You are that awareness, disguised as a person.”
“Whenever you accept this moment as it is—no matter what form it takes—you are still, you are at peace.”
“The human mind is not only looking for food for thought; it is looking for food for its identity, its sense of self. This is how the ego comes into existence and continuously re-creates itself.”
“Reincarnation doesn’t help you if in your next incarnation you still don’t know who you are.”
“The habitual and reactive ‘no’ strengthens the ego. ‘Yes’ weakens it. Your form identity, the ego, cannot survive surrender.”
These thoughts may feel rather random as they appear here out of context, but in the book they are held together by themes that form the book’s chapters, which include Silence and Stillness; Beyond the Thinking Mind; The Egoic Self; The Now; Who You Truly Are; Acceptance & Surrender; Nature; Relationships; Death & the Eternal; and Suffering & the End of Suffering.
Like everything about the book—from the title, to the cover design, to the content—the chapters point to direct, seemingly simple, topics. Yet the true power of the teachings does not derive from the profundity of the thoughts, but from the ease with which readers may understand and, most importantly, apply them in real life. Stillness Speaks is a rare teaching, a true spiritual treasure of the contemporary age. Highly recommended.
Title: Stillness Speaks
Author: Eckhart Tolle
Publisher: New World Library (August, 2003)
List Price $17