Five Days with Eckhart Tolle
Five Days with Eckhart Tolle
Will Ottley visits Norway for a mindfulness retreat with Eckhart Tolle
A Norwegian fiord has to be the perfect setting for a spiritual retreat with Eckhart Tolle and his partner Kim Eng. This was an opportunity for several hundred people from all over the world to deepen their awareness in the presence of one of the Worlds pre-eminent teachers of mindfulness.
A week before the retreat, I saw Eckhart walking towards me on a London Street. An image of Yoda from Star Wars came to mind. Tolle said later that he sometimes uses mindfulness to lower his public persona.
Bergen - a haven for the arts
Flying into Norway I took the opportunity to first visit Bergen, a picturesque town set within a harbour and surrounding hills.
Bergen is a haven for artisans. I visited a local potter’s studio within a buzzing arts and cultural centre, at the former USF canning factory. I also saw the KODE Art Museum that includes original works by the renowned artist, Edward Munch. How did Munch, produce paintings that remain so relevant and captivating? I suspect that he was accessing the creative aspect of mindfulness. Artists, writers and sportsmen often talk about entering a quite mental zone, where their greatest work almost produces itself.
Travelling by train to Oslo Fiord, along what must be one of the world’s most scenic routes, I reached the retreat centre in the pouring rain. Eckhart joked that this would be a Buddhist rains retreat, and that the Sun would come out when we reached a higher state of consciousness. It did.
During the retreat it was clear that Eckhart embodies the presence that he describes in his books, The Power of Now and A New Earth. The man is true to his words, and more importantly the wordless. Rarely has someone attained the authentic mindfulness of Tolle. He effortlessly and respectfully fielded questions put to him, from the superficial through to the existential. Very few people can share a stage with him, which is not to say that other teachers are not exceptional. It’s just that he demonstrates such a high-level understanding and presence, that he overshadows others.
What is the importance of people such as Eckhart Tolle? He says that presence is infectious, and so too is ignorance. It takes more effort to remain mindful in modern society, than for example, in a Himalayan cave. He talks about authentic presence beyond habitual thought that few can muster for prolonged periods of time.
The breakdown in mindfulness can be seen in the destruction of our planet. Yet Eckhart says the world is becoming more mindful, and in so doing, disrupting societies most rigid beliefs. The drive towards sustainability for example, has challenged the traditional energy and logging sectors. Organic farming, recycling, an increased respect for animals, equality of the sexes and protecting precious Earth habitats are now the norm in much of the world. The Internet has enabled likeminded groups to connect to each other. The renaissance in planetary awareness has helped to bring back the majestic blue wale from the brink of extinction, surely an emblem for mindfulness?
Eckhart warns that we have entered a delicate period, necessitating heightened alertness so as not to fall back in our progress. We need a strong sense of balance between compassion and wisdom in a fast changing world. Surely the key to this balance is mindfulness, navigating us steadily towards Tolle’s new earth.
Will Ottley is a freelance travel writer and author of the inspirational story, Mountain Garden, but does not work with or for any of the parties mentioned in this article. Follow Will Ottley on: www.mountaingarden.co.uk