Question: How do we find balance between our individual will and the natural flow of life?
Eckhart Tolle: By living aligned with the present moment, you also align your will with the universal will, which you could call “the will of God”. You don’t have a separate will. The separate will wants to enhance or strengthen one’s sense of self. The separate will is concerned with the “me”, the “I”, the ego. But there is a divine Consciousness, the one Consciousness, there is an evolutionary impulse. What we are doing here at every moment, is to align ourselves with that.
Non-resistance is vital because as long as you are in resistance to the present moment, you will be trapped in the little egoic will. The egoic will needs to subside – that’s surrender to the present moment, and surrender to what is. When you align yourself with what is internally, it looks at first almost like a position of weakness, and it can be misinterpreted as something that prevents you from taking effective action. But the acceptance of what is, is totally compatible with responding to whatever the present moment requires. Whatever wants to be created, manifested, done, at this moment – to be aligned with that, you need to first accept whatever form this moment takes.
Single out this moment only. For example, when you are ill, you don’t say “I need to accept this illness, the fact that I am ill, that I am suffering from this” because that is a whole conceptual story. All you need to accept is this moment as it is. There is never actually an illness in this moment, there is only a physical condition. There may be pain, there may be weakness, disability, discomfort. Those things may be there, and that’s the only thing you accept. This moment is as it is now.
If you are stuck in the mud somewhere, you don’t say, “Okay, I am in the mud, I have to accept it, and here I am – I’m not taking any action because I have to accept what is”. This moment is already always as it is, and there’s nothing you can do about that. That’s what you accept. Then, action that arises has a different energy to it. The will that flows into what you do is no longer egoic. When you have not accepted this moment, the will goes against the Universe – that is what the ego does. It is negative, it fights something that it says shouldn’t be there. If you use negativity, you are trapped in ego. The “little will” has to subside for the more powerful will to flow through and deal with the situation. It creates, it is not isolated from the totality. It is one with the totality. When that operates, another word for that universal will is intelligence. It’s only when you look at a situation, completely accept the is-ness of this moment, and then of course action may be required.
Once the opening is there, through acceptance, the next step that you take will be much more powerful. There’s a Buddhist term “right action”, that can only arise out of the right state of Consciousness. You have to get out of the ego first before you can have right action. The Buddha was talking about that which flows from the awakened state of consciousness. To surrender the little will is to say ‘yes’ to the present moment. It’s not a big thing, just say yes to what is – because it already is anyway. Why complain about something that is? It’s insane, but normal.
To give up the egoic will, all you have to do is not complain about what is. Be aligned with the isness – people, situations, whatever – this is already as it is. It’s the inevitability of is. Become friendly with what is, and you become intelligent for the first time.
With the simple act of surrender to the inevitability of the present moment, another energy comes. You could call that universal will, you could call that intelligence, you could call that the creative solution to whatever the so-called “problem” is. You could call that power coming in, that is greater than the limited power of your mind. Or it may use your mind, and suddenly you say the right thing, if that’s what the situation requires. Suddenly the words come – where do the words come from? You don’t know what you’re going to say next. They come from a deeper level because that intelligence uses the mind.
You and the Universe become one, and as such it creates through you as this form. That’s the beauty of it. When the unmanifested flows into this world, it assumes form. Most thoughts that people have in the unawakened state are repetitive old thoughts, conditioned thinking, conditioned by the past. All you can rely on then is what you have accumulated in the past, you deal with things through conditioned thinking. When the simple act of surrender opens your mind, it can then be used as an instrument. Then, a thought may come in that is original and fresh and new. That is the birth of form. The birth of thought creates the birth of form. The Universe uses you as a vehicle or a channel through which to create. You are one. It can use your mind, and become thought, words, physical things. That’s the way in which the mind can actually be a helpful tool – alignment with the greater Intelligence, the One Consciousness.
It all starts with the present moment, and your relationship with the present moment. Friend or enemy? Are you allowing it, or are you fighting it, resisting it? That’s the end of ego – because the ego needs resistance. The ego survives through complaining, it survives through denying, or wanting something else.
The present moment is the teacher. Work with that – that’s all you need, really. That’s the end of the “little will”, which isn’t all that powerful anyway. Whatever it creates, creates more problems.
It seems so simple, and it is simple. And yet, because of the many thousands of years of habit-patterns, often people tell me “It’s so difficult to be in the present moment and allow it to be”. Of course, the opposite is true. Life becomes difficult if you don’t. What you accept is the form of this moment. No more. Then, see what’s needed. You are not truly intelligent until that happens.
Sometimes holding that space of simple Presence activates other factors that then come in, seemingly, from the outside to change the situation. You have activated the intelligence of the totality. It’s not necessarily coming through this form. That is why people speak of synchronistic things happening, suddenly a helpful factor comes in, suddenly the right person appears, the right thing happens. Almost miraculous when you don’t know that it’s natural, it seems like a miracle at first because most humans are not used to that.
When you hold Presence, sometimes the change may not happen through your action. There are many situations where action at this moment is not possible. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do, however you can continue to be present. Then, a greater intelligence is activated. Very often you will find change happening in the situation.
This greater intelligence is not the conceptual intelligence that you can measure with IQ tests. It is non-conceptual intelligence. Conceptual intelligence is the ability to retain information, analyze, compare, and so forth. It’s a tiny fragment of what intelligence is. There is a vastness of non-conceptual intelligence. Our destiny is to be in that way, so that our whole life is to become a work of art. Not just be confined to that state of consciousness when you do your creative work. Any creative thing has a spark, an aliveness, a quality, a newness, a freshness. You connect with non-conceptual intelligence in the alert Stillness within. Everybody has that, as their essence. That is true intelligence. To what extent you are connected with that could not possibly be measured through any IQ test. Ultimately, you cannot measure creativity.
Very often, the form of the present moment seems like a limitation on your life, something that is impinging on your freedom. The body could become ill, you may find it hard to move. When something drastic happens, if you can learn to accept it, a little bit of spaciousness comes into your life. You say, “this is what is”. A little bit of space just opened up, and you’re no longer just a resisting entity. Then, you realize that you are essentially formless space. In other words, you find inner peace. At first it is very gentle in the background, in the midst of any situation. That peace is powerful. It can become so powerful, that is obliterates almost anything. Peace is the formless in you. By accepting the form, the formless within you opens up. This is how something seemingly bad – a limitation – becomes an opening for realization of who you truly are.