"If it is only a dream, why is pain so real?" "A dream head struck against a dream wall causes dream pain. A dreamer is not cognizant of the hallucinatory fabric of a dream until he awakens. Similarly, man does not understand the delusory nature of the cosmic dream of creation until he awakens in God." Paramahansa Yogananda

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Eckhart Tolle on Prayer

I was very excited when I read this response Eckhart
Tolle gave to someone asking about prayer. 30 years ago
I studied the writings of Joel Goldsmith. I read The Art
of Spiritual Healing until the bindings fell apart. I also
studied Practicing the Presence. This deeply informed
the way I pray and the healing I do. Some 20 or so
years later I studied the teachings of Eckhart Tolle.
This served to move my spiritual practice to an even
deeper level. I was especially moved by Stillness Speaks
as it gave words to an experience I had of complete
stillness coming to me at a seemingly random moment
as I walked to the beach with a friend. This experience
helped me profoundly as it is very easy now for me to
access stillness in my daily life as well in my time of
prayer, meditation and healing work. Over the years
people have asked how I pray. I can now direct them
to this for it is exactly the way I pray. When I read
this I immediately emailed Eckhart Teachings and
asked if I could post it on my blog and to my delight
they said yes.

'From the time I was a little girl, I was raised as a Catholic.
I went completely full circle to denying God, not believing
in God. And now, thanks to a large extent what you teach
and share, I know that connectedness is there, awareness,
Stillness is there. But I got the thought, why do I pray?
Because if God is all-knowing, omnipotent, all-loving, and
so on, I don’t think he/she/it needs me to say, “Psst – my
friend is dying of cancer, can you help her?” I don’t think
it’s necessary, but I enjoy praying. I’d love to hear your
thoughts; what would be appropriate to pray for? Do you
believe in prayer?

ET: Perhaps you can upgrade your prayers from
petitionary prayers (“please make this happen”) to little
mental pointers, towards peace for example. Little mental
pointers still use concepts, because every prayer consists of
words and concepts – to point, to help you go beyond
concepts. You could say, for example, an affirmation – like
what Jesus said, “I am the light of the word”. It’s an
affirmation – it’s a concept, it points to a reality far deeper
than the words. You can say, if you still want some petition,
“please let me know that I am the light of the world”.
Duality is implied usually, in the usual prayer. It implies that
there is God, and here is me, asking God. That duality is
ultimately an illusion, because you are an expression of God.
You and God merge. The deepest prayers, then, are no longer
prayers as such. They are when you adopt a listening attitude
rather than a saying of words. As long as you enjoy it, that’s
fine. But gradually get away from asking somebody to do
something for you, because that keeps you stuck in duality.

Affirmations, if they are done rightly, can be very beautiful
substitutes for prayers. “I am healed and whole and at peace”.
And after that, let there be a space. And really, the power is
in that space. In the space, you experience that you are already
whole. The outward form might tell you something different –
“I am holy”, A Course in Miracles says. You are, and so it’s
simply an affirmation of how it is. Healing, for somebody else –
you are either with that person, or that person comes into your
mind, that person may be ill. The most powerful healing, I
find, is to hold an image of that person and then go deeper into
yourself, where the wholeness of life lies. Where nothing is
needed, nothing needs to be added. There you find the
wholeness also of that person – they are already healed at
the deepest level, beyond form. So you go from form, into

That is the healing that was practiced by Joel Goldsmith, he
has a lovely book called “The Art of Spiritual Healing”. That
is really not to dwell at all on the condition that needs to be
healed, but to focus on the essential reality of that human
being which is one with your essential reality, and go into
deep Stillness where nothing is needed. He would often get
phone calls, sometimes in the middle of the night. Someone
would desperately need healing, and they would tell him the
name of the person and what they were suffering from. What
he would then do is immediately put the phone down and go
into absolutely no thought. For a moment he heard the name
of the person, he heard what was wrong with them, and
immediately let go of that, then for two or three minutes went
into no thought –just absolute presence. There is absolute
perfection in the realm of the formless. And that is the essence
of the person who needed healing. So you take the form into
the formless, where the form is no longer. No condition to be
treated, nothing is needed, just go into that.
That was his way of healing. He was quite a powerful healer.
That is the ultimate form of healing, and that really is the non-
dual kind of prayer. It’s going beyond prayer where you say
“Please God, heal” – you go to the very Source itself, that is
inseparable from who you are, and is inseparable from who
that person is.

Prayer can gradually become listening to God rather than
talking to God. What does listening mean? Listening means
there is a field of bare, pure attention. Listening does not
mean that you are waiting for some answer, because then
you are not really listening. In listening you are not waiting
for anything – there is just a field of pure attention.
That is a much deeper prayer than any words. True prayer
is where prayer also becomes meditation. Not even wanting
an answer, it’s enough to be in the silence. Sometimes an
answer comes, or the thing becomes resolved, sometimes,
suddenly. Listen. Any trouble in this world, any disturbance,
and they happen all the time – people around you, or a
disturbance in the mind, goes into pure aware, listening
presence. Listening is a way of speaking about presence.
When you are present, it is as if you are in a state of
listening. Now, listening is usually associated with the
auditory sense perception. But this listening goes beyond
the auditory sense perception; it’s the state of consciousness
that underlies the auditory sense perception. Everybody
knows what that is like –because when you are really listening
for some faint sound, what is the state of consciousness that
underlies this listening for the faint sound? It’s a state of
absolute, relaxed alertness. So when we say listening, it’s a
helpful thing because everybody knows what listening means.
I am just pointing out that it’s not the external sense
perception that is the essence in listening; the essence in
listening is the underlying state of consciousness, of absolute
receptivity and alert presence.
This is why I believe that Jesus had parables about the servant
and staying awake, because he doesn’t know when the master
is going to come home. Many of the things have come down in
a somewhat distorted way, because it was transmitted verbally,
and then written down, and in the process some things got turned
around or went missing. I think he was talking about the attitude
of that – a state of consciousness, the servant waiting just to hear
the master come home. It’s waiting in a different sense from the
normal thing that we call ‘waiting’, which is the mind saying
“When is it going to happen? Why isn’t it happening yet?” – he
uses waiting in a completely different sense. Many times Jesus
talked about staying awake, that’s a very important part of his
teaching – stay awake, don’t go to sleep, stay present. Any words
you use in prayer, use them as pointers toward that. You could say
“I am listening”.'
Permission to reprint granted by Eckhart Teachings