Stillness Speaks

Stillness Speaks

by Eckhart Tolle

As the foreword of this book says, “In this age when our minds are running to nowhere on treadmills, and getting there fast, Eckhart’s message in Stillness Speaks is loud and clear. Stillness is also an inner peace, and that stillness and peace are the essence of your Being. It is inner stillness that will save and transform the world.”

Stillness Speaks is an absolutely essential book for anyone looking to bring mindfulness, peace, and ultimately a deeper joy and power into their lives. Enjoy!

Summary Notes

Silence & Stillness

When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world.

The equivalent of external noise is the inner noise of thinking, and the equivalent of external silence is inner stillness. Whenever there is silence around you, listen to it. Pay attention to it. Listening to silence awakens stillness within you, because it’s only through stillness that you can be aware of silence.

See that in the moment of noticing the silence, you are not thinking. When you become aware of silence, there is immediately a state of inner still alertness, and at this point you are present. True intelligence operates silently, and stillness is where creativity and solutions to problems are found.

Actions to take

Beyond the Thinking Mind

Most people spend their entire life imprisoned within the confines of their own thoughts. They never go beyond a narrow mind-made, personalized sense of self that is conditioned by the past.

In you, as in every human being, there is a dimension of consciousness far deeper than thought. It is the very essence of who you are. Finding that dimension frees you and the world from the suffering you inflict on yourself and others when the mind-made “little me” is all you know and runs your life. Love, joy, creativity, and inner peace come into your life through the deeper unconditioned dimension of consciousness.

The thinking mind is useful and powerful and also very limiting when it takes over your life completely—when you don’t realize that it’s only a small aspect of the consciousness that you are. Whenever you are immersed in compulsive thinking, you are avoiding what is. You don’t want to be where you are, which is here and now. Spiritual awakening is awakening from the dream of thought. When you no longer believe everything you think, you step out of thought and see clearly that the thinker is not who you are.

The mind exists in a state of “not enough” and so is always greedy for more. Boredom means the mind is hungry for more stimulus, more food for thought—its hunger is not being satisfied, and so you satisfy the hunger with reading, talking, TV, internet, shopping, and/or actually eating needlessly.

When you stop and choose to bring awareness to the feeling, you will find that there is space and stillness around the feeling, and as the inner space grows, the feeling of boredom begins to diminish. So even boredom can teach you who you are and who you are not. You discover that a bored person is not who you are, but it is simply a condition of the human mind that will come and go. Nothing that comes and goes is you.

Actions to take

The Egoic Self

The mind is incessantly 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.

When you think or speak about yourself, when you say “I,” this is normally referring to “me and my story.” This is the “I” of your likes and dislikes, fears and desires—the “I” that is never satisfied for long. It is a mind-made sense of who you are, conditioned by the past and seeking to find its fulfilment in the future. This is the ego.

Almost every ego contains an element of a “victim identity.” Some have such a strong victim identity that it becomes the core of their ego, and resentment and grievances form an essential part of their sense of self. Even if your grievances are “justified,” you have constructed an identity for yourself that is much like a prison whose bars are made of thoughts. See what you, or rather your mind, is doing to you. With the awareness comes transformation—and freedom.

When you notice this voice—the thinker—you realize you are not the voice, but the one who is aware of it, and knowing yourself as the awareness behind the voice is where true freedom (beyond ego) lies.

Actions to take

The Now

Is life ever not ‘this moment’?

This one moment—Now—is the only thing you can never escape from, the one constant factor in your life. No matter what happens, no matter how much your life changes, one thing is certain: It’s always Now. The division of life into past, present, and future is mind made and an illusion. The past remembered is remembered in the Now, and the future when it comes is the Now. So the only thing that is real is Now. The more you live in the Now, the more you sense the simple yet profound joy of Being and the sacredness of all life.

Actions to take

Who You Truly Are

You cannot find yourself in the past or future. You can only find yourself in the Now.

The Now is inseparable from who you are at the deepest level. Many things in your life matter—whether you succeed or fail, whether you are rich or poor, healthy or unhealthy. All these things matter, yet only one thing matters absolutely: that you will find peace, not in your circumstances, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.

When you don’t know who you are, you create a mind-made self and cling to that fearful and needy self. When you know who you truly are, there is a sense of peace. You could call it joy: vibrantly alive peace. This is the joy of being—of being who you truly are—to know yourself as the very essence of life itself, beyond anything that is mind-made.

Actions to take

Acceptance & Surrender

Whatever you accept completely will take you to peace, including the acceptance that you cannot accept. Leave life alone. Let it be.

It has been said that “wherever you go, there you are.” In other words, you are here. Always. You don’t need to have a reactive like/dislike relationship with life where you are in continuous conflict with situations and people. It’s just a deep-seated habit that can be broken, simply by allowing this moment to be as it is.

The habitual and reactive “no” strengthens the ego. “Yes” weakens it: The ego cannot survive surrender. Surrender becomes so much easier when you realize the fleeting nature of all experiences. Surrender comes when you no longer ask, ”Why is this happening to me?.” Acceptance of what seems like the unacceptable is the greatest source of grace in this world.

It is not the amount of things you do or the effort required that determines your success in life. Effort implies stress and strain, needing to reach a certain point in the future or accomplish a certain result. Presence and surrender to the moment is what determines your success in life, as this is where the deeper life works through you.

“Doing one thing at a time” is how one Zen master defined the essence of Zen. Doing one thing at a time means to be at one with what you do, to give it your complete attention. This is surrendered action, empowered action. Your acceptance of what is takes you to a deeper level where your inner state as well as your sense of self no longer depends on the mind’s judgements of good or bad.

When you say yes to life, when you accept this moment as it is, a sense of space opens in you that is deeply peaceful.

Actions to take


We have forgotten what rocks, plants and animals still know. We have forgotten how to be; to be still, to be ourselves, to be where life is: Here and Now.

We depend on nature not only for our physical survival, but also to show us out of the prison of our own minds. We got lost in doing, thinking, remembering—lost in a maze of complexity and a world of problems.

Thinking is a stage in the evolution of life. Nature exists in innocent stillness that is prior to the arising of thought. The tree, the flower, the bird, the rock are unaware of their own beauty and sacredness. Nature can bring you to stillness. That is its gift to you.

Beyond the sounds, there is something greater: a sacredness that cannot be understood through thought—a sacred mystery that not only permeates the whole of nature but is also within you. When you approach nature in this way, it will respond to you.

Actions to take


Ultimately, of course, there is no other, and you are always meeting yourself.

Every human being has been conditioned to think and behave in certain ways—from genetics, experiences, and environment—and we are very quick to form conclusions and opinions about each other. When we judge in this way, we are confusing others’ conditioned mind patterns with who they are (whereas their mind patterns are simply who they appear to be, not who they are). When we do this, we are giving them a false identity that becomes a prison, not only for them, but also for us.

To let go of judgement liberates us and the other person, and the ego no longer runs our relationships. Relationships based on ego and judgement tend to be based on fear and desire. What you desire from the other may be pleasure, attention, praise, recognition, or some sort of self-validation through comparison and establishing them as less than you. What you fear may be the opposite: that they are in some way more than you are.

However, being fully present—without using it as a means to an end, but as the true focal point—brings relationships into the present and beyond fear and desire to a place of pure love, and pure love does not want or fear anything. When you allow people to be who they are, they begin to change.

To know someone, you don’t need to know about them. About them are just circumstances: their past, their history, their story. “Knowing about” and “knowing” are totally different. One operates through thought, the other through stillness. Knowing about is helpful for practical purposes. However, it can become destructive as concepts create barriers, and without these barriers, love is naturally present in all human interactions.

Actions to take

Death & the Eternal

Death is not the opposite of life. Life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal.

When you walk through a forest, you see not only abundant, fertile life, but also decaying and dying fallen trees and leaves. Wherever you look, there is death as well as life. However, when you look closer, you see that the decaying trees and leaves give birth to new life and are full of microorganisms and life itself.

Most people turn away from death in fear; however, acceptance that life is fleeting and impermanent can bring a sense of peace, as you lose attachment to form, to the human body. A culture that is in denial about death becomes shallow and superficial, concerned only with the external form of things. When death is denied, life loses its depth. Death is the opening of the possibility of knowing ourselves beyond our name and form.

Death is not the dreadful event that modern culture would have you believe, but the most natural thing in the world, inseparable from and just as natural as birth. Remind yourself of this when you sit with a dying person. It is a great privilege and a sacred act to be present at a person’s death as a witness and companion. Surrender completely to the moment—with the surrender comes stillness, and with the stillness comes Peace.

Actions to take

Suffering & the End of Suffering

Whatever is could not be otherwise.

True freedom and the end of suffering is living as if you had completely chosen whatever you feel or experience at this moment. This inner alignment with Now is the end of suffering.

Is suffering really necessary? Yes and no. Without your suffering, there would be no depth, humility, or compassion, and you probably would not be reading this now. Suffering cracks open the ego and is necessary until you realize it is no longer necessary. Unhappiness needs a mind-made story of “me,” and it needs time—past and future. When you remove time from unhappiness, what remains? This moment.

Indeed, naming something as bad or as a problem causes an emotional contraction within you. When you let it be without naming it, enormous power is suddenly available to you. The contraction cuts you off from that power—the power of life itself. When you go beyond the habitual naming, the power of the universe moves through you.

Much suffering and unhappiness arises when we take each thought in our head as the truth. “What a miserable day,” “He didn’t have the decency to call,” “She let me down”—these are stories told as complaints, making others wrong and us right, and with being right comes strength and superiority of the ego, which gets fed. With these judgements, you have a reactive relationship to people and events in your life, and the ego feeds on reactivity and conflict.

Actions to take

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