Eckhart Tolle: Enlightenment Can Be Achieved

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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As you practice being present, you will become present throughout a greater part of the day. Eventually, you may near enlightenment, which is being perpetually present. When you are enlightened you can rise above thought, using your mind in a focused and effective way, without being controlled by it or addicted to it.

Learn Eckhart Tolle’s enlightenment advice here, from The Power of Now.

According to Eckhart Tolle, enlightenment is not something you strive to achieve: You do not reach enlightenment by gaining anything, only by stripping away the ego’s unnecessary thoughts and negative energy. Enlightenment comes only through being in the Now and keeping the ego at bay. 

Presence and enlightenment bring inner peace — which is unaffected by external factors — even when it cannot bring happiness. You can be unhappy but still at peace.

  • For example, when a loved one dies, you will feel sadness and grief, not happiness. But at the same time, if you can accept what is and not resist the reality of the person’s death, you can maintain inner peace. 

If you don’t come to presence and enlightenment by choice, you may find it through suffering, when you have nowhere else to turn but inward. Enlightenment through suffering is also called the way of the cross, and can come in cases of chronic illness or extreme circumstances like imprisonment.

This may not heal you or make you happy through the pain, but it can bring you inner peace. (Shortform note: A scientific study found that among patients with chronic illness, strong negative emotions led to denial, avoidance, depression, and anxiety. Patients who held those negative attitudes had worse chances of recovery.)

When you are present, you are like a deep lake. The surface of the water is stirred somewhat by external conditions — rain, wind, or calm. Below the surface, the water always remains calm and still, carrying on regardless of the passing weather. Whatever life situation you may experience, no matter the ups and downs of life’s cycles, your peace remains undisturbed under the surface. 

If you know or can find someone who is very present or even enlightened, they can help you in your journey. No one can do it for you, but it can be helpful to have people to fuel your fire and help you stay present.

Eckhart Tolle: Enlightenment Can Be Achieved

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Here's what you'll find in our full The Power of Now summary :

  • Why you feel pain from the past, and how to get rid of it
  • How to be more present and stop worrying about the future
  • The 8 key ways to achieve mindfulness

Allen Cheng

Allen Cheng is the founder of Shortform. He has a passion for non-fiction books (having read 200+ and counting) and is on a mission to make the world's best ideas more accessible to everyone. He reads broadly, covering a wide range of subjects including finance, management, health, and society. Allen graduated from Harvard University summa cum laude and attended medical training at the MD/PhD program at Harvard and MIT. Before Shortform, he co-founded PrepScholar, an online education company.

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