Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle
One Line Summary
The best of Eckhart Tolle summarized in one book
For those of you who know my story, I’m a huge fan of Eckhart Tolle.
I picked up The Power of Now for the first time when I was 23 off of a friend’s recommendation. In it there was a lot of concepts I didn’t understand, and my “science is the key” belief system at the time didn’t allow for spiritual truths.
But, I was absolutely blown away with the wisdom packed into that tiny book.
Somehow I knew Tolle was making sense. Not because I’m so smart or special, but because truth always resonates a chord within people. It draws us to it, like a magnet.
I’ve read The Power of Now many times, to the point where I can quote certain passages. But instead of re-reading it again, I decided to pick up Stillness Speaks.
Stillness Speaks is the second book by Eckhart Tolle. It’s the middle child, published in between The Power of Now and A New Earth.
Tolle’s books have one purpose only: to wake you up to who you are. Stillness Speaks pickups up that job right where its predecessor finished.
Why it’s Awesome
Who are you?
This is one of the great spiritual questions that has been passed down for generations. And there’s a good reason for that, which is most people don’t know the answer.
Of course, most people would also deny this. They’d say “Oh I’m John, I have brown hair, this is my story. That’s who I am”. But that’s not what the question is really asking.
Tolle teaches that people are personally identified with the voice in their head they call thinking. This seems absurd, since if you stopped thinking you wouldn’t be dead.
Or would you?
Here’s a thought experiment. What would happen if you never had another thought?
Who would you be? Notice that all the things you think about yourself (John, brown hair, story) are in fact thoughts. Including that you’re a human being on planet earth.
So although it doesn’t make sense to say you’d be dead if you’d stop thinking, in a way it would feel like death. Because it would be the end of your story. No thoughts = no memories = no future = you don’t exist as you think of yourself now.
But here’s an even deeper mindfuck. If you don’t truly die when you stop thinking, then what the hell are you? What is left when there are no more thoughts?
It would have to mean you are somehow separate from your story. That although you have a story, you aren’t your story.
Could that be possible?
Eckhart Tolle provides the answer.
Tolle would describe who we truly are as Stillness. Or Being. Or Presence. It doesn’t really matter what you call it, because if you understand what I’ve been saying in this review, then you realize that names are superficial.
The point is that there is an indescribable awareness still there when thoughts are gone. Indescribable because we only can describe something using thoughts. But here we are talking about the one “thing” that is anti-thought.
When we know this spiritual component to be who we truly are, then there is peace, joy and happiness in your life. As long as you are solely identified with thinking, you have misery.
Anyone who practices meditation or yoga knows this to be true. By connecting with that stillness outside thought, it’s like life is beautiful again.
By the way, none of this is to say thinking is “bad” or serves no purpose. Thinking is an extremely valuable practical tool for living your life. And that is why things like learning and strategy are important.
But do you use your mind or does your mind use you?
Are you a victim of your thoughts, or are you a deliberate creator?
This is why Eckhart Tolle recommends “not taking your thoughts so seriously” as a real spiritual practice. Not taking LIFE so seriously is a spiritual practice.
Really this is the whole gist of the book. We’ve done most of the conceptual heavy lifting.
Now can you make it real for yourself?
Why Does It Suck
As much as I love everything by Tolle, if you are only going to read one book by him, I’d pick The Power of Now or A New Earth. Both those books go in much greater detail than this short book. Read this one purely as a supplement or just a powerful reminder / re-commitment to yourself.
The Wrap Up
A beautiful book. Tolle has a way of putting some of these complicated spiritual ideas in such a simple format that almost anyone can understand. His writing truly cuts through the clutter, as should any good spiritual teacher.