The Now Teacher: Eckhart Tolle Story

Eckhart Tolle (Photo: Surian Soosay)

On the cusp of the new millennium, Eckhart Tolle ushered in a new era of spirituality in America with his bestselling book, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment.

For Tolle himself, spiritual enlightenment didn’t come as easily as picking up a book. He struggled for many years – lost, unhappy, in search of meaning – before he arrived at his vision of being, of living in the present.


Tolle’s story reminds us that even spiritual gurus find their way by getting lost, and that to move forward, we may need to forget where we’ve been and where we’re going, releasing our self-centered thoughts into the moment, to discover our guiding purpose.

The Hero’s Journey to Success - Desperately Seeking Answers

Ulrich Leonard Tolle was born February 16, 1948 in Lünen, Germany, a small Northern town visibly and physiologically scarred by WWII. Growing up in a very somber environment, Tolle retreated into books as an escape from his unhappy school and family life. From an early age, he anxiously sought answers that would provide some secure meaning in his life.

But this quest for knowledge only deepened Tolle’s depression as he pursued a more traditional education. At age 19, he moved to London as a language teacher, and then enrolled at the University of London to study philosophy, psychology, and literature.

After graduating, he received a scholarship to do research at Cambridge University, but he dropped out. His own mind was out of his control. From this point on, Tolle would frequently spiral down into long stretches of suicidal thoughts.

Then, one night, when Tolle was 29-years-old and suffering an unbearable bout of depression, he woke with a question that would change his life – and the countless lives he would touch – forever: “Who is this self that I cannot live with?”

Tolle realized that the self is something that we make in our minds, along with all the problems that we cannot resolve. In that moment, Tolle let go, and he found the peace of simply being in the world, not inside the mind; he found the peace of presence.

By cultivating this presence, turning his mind away from obsessive thoughts of the self -- expectations and dissapointments, desires and losses -- toward the purpose of being in the now, the purpose that connects us spiritually to all existence.

As Tolle began to embody that purpose, he experienced the greatest joy and fulfillment, when for so long, he had endured the deepest anxiety and emptiness.

The Hero’s Success – Spreading the Message

After that first sleepless night, Tolle devoted the next few years of his life to this “inner transformation.”

Through this solitary journey, he prepared to share the gift of purposeful presence with the world. He turned a deeply personal epiphany into a widely practicable philosophy that would help millions overcome the difficulties of a world overrun by ego-based values and behaviors.

However, Tolle’s message of unity and peace was not received in the same spirit. When his first published book, The Power of Now, soared up the bestsellers’ list and earned Oprah’s recommendation, he was denounced by authorities in the Christian community for going against the teachings of the Church. Other critics discounted his work as just another new-age self-help book dabbling in religion and psychology.

Rather than question his purpose in the face of criticism, Tolle focused on finding and reaching the audience for his message, promoting his book in bookstores, working as a spiritual teacher, and eventually writing a second book, The New Earth: Awakening to your Life’s Purpose, to broaden the potential of his ideas for creating a better world.

He continually adapts the form of his teachings to make them as widely accessible as possible: webinars (in partnership with Oprah), video products, speeches, workshops, retreats, conferences, any means of teaching that puts spiritual gain over profit.

For all this commercial success, Tolle remains true to the roots of his vision by creating a community of people with a shared purpose, rather than a corporation with a central organization.

Teaching Beyond the Books

Eckhart Tolle’s life has changed the course of so many journeys. His influence comes from his deep understanding of the pains that make us all human. He reaches people because he makes his knowledge and experience accessible, transforming spirituality into something that his readers and students can practice independently in their own lives.

We often get so hung up on memories of the past and fantasies of the future, but these are only images. We only have power now.


Eckhart Tolle Best Quotes

"Most humans are never fully present in the now, because unconsciously they believe that the next moment must be more important than this one. But then you miss your whole life, which is never not now."

"I'm grateful for always this moment, the now, no matter what form it takes."

"To know yourself as the Being underneath the thinker, the stillness underneath the mental noise, the love and joy underneath the pain, is freedom, salvation, enlightenment."

What is Your Elevation Level?


"Boredom, anger, sadness, or fear are not 'yours,' not personal. They are conditions of the human mind. They come and go. Nothing that comes and goes is you."

"Your entire life only happens in this moment. The present moment is life itself. Yet, people live as if the opposite were true and treat the present moment as a stepping stone to the next moment - a means to an end."

"If small things have the power to disturb you, then who you think you are is exactly that: small."

"The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present."

"Always say 'yes' to the present moment... Surrender to what is. Say 'yes' to life - and see how life starts suddenly to start working for you rather than against you."

"People tend to dwell more on negative things than on good things. So the mind then becomes obsessed with negative things, with judgments, guilt and anxiety produced by thoughts about the future and so on."

"Some people awaken spiritually without ever coming into contact with any meditation technique or any spiritual teaching. They may awaken simply because they can't stand the suffering anymore."

"There is a fine balance between honoring the past and losing yourself in it. For example, you can acknowledge and learn from mistakes you made, and then move on and refocus on the now. It is called forgiving yourself."

"Discontent, blaming, complaining, self-pity cannot serve as a foundation for a good future, no matter how much effort you make."

"The personal ego already has a strong element of dysfunction, but the collective ego is, frequently, even more dysfunctional, to the point of absolute insanity."

"The personal ego already has a strong element of dysfunction, but the collective ego is, frequently, even more dysfunctional, to the point of absolute insanity."

"Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally. If you want to take responsibility for your life, you must choose one of those three options, and you must choose now. Then accept the consequences."

"To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness."

"What a liberation to realize that the 'voice in my head' is not who I am. 'Who am I, then?' The one who sees that."

"It is through gratitude for the present moment that the spiritual dimension of life opens up."

"In the stillness of your presence, you can feel your own formless and timeless reality as the unmanifested life that animates your physical form. You can then feel the same life deep within every other human and every other creature. You look beyond the veil of form and separation. This is the realization of oneness. This is love."

"Was Jesus the son of God? Yes. But so are you."

"You just haven't realized it yet.When you wash your hands, when you make a cup of coffee, when you're waiting for the elevator - instead of indulging in thinking, these are all opportunities for being there as a still, alert presence."

"Fear seems to have many causes. Fear of loss, fear of failure, fear of being hurt, and so on, but ultimately all fear is the ego's fear of death, of annihilation. To the ego, death is always just around the corner. In this mind-identified state, fear of death affects every aspect of your life."

"Memories are thoughts that arise. They're not realities. Only when you believe that they are real, then they have the power over you. But when you realize it's just another thought arising about the past, then you can have a spacious relationship with that thought. The thought no longer has you in its grip."

"In the egoic state, your sense of self, your identity, is derived from your thinking mind - in other words, what your mind tells you about yourself: the storyline of you, the memories, the expectations, all the thoughts that go through your head continuously and the emotions that reflect those thoughts. All those things make up your sense of self."

"Don't wait to be successful at some future point. Have a successful relationship with the present moment and be fully present in whatever you are doing. That is success."

Chief Editor

Tal Gur is an impact-driven entrepreneur, author, and investor. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living - 1 Man, 10 Years, 100 Life Goals Around the World, has led him to found Elevate Society.

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