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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.”

Summary Notes

Chapter 1 - 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.

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Chapter 2 - 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.

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Chapter 3 - 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.

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Chapter 4 - 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.

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Chapter 5 - 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.

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Chapter 6 - 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.

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Chapter 7 - Nature

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.

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Chapter 8 - Relationships

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.

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Chapter 9 - 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.

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Chapter 10 - 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.

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.

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