Eckhart Tolle, the author of “The Power of Now” stops by Google for a fireside chat with Bradley Horowitz. On the subject: “Living with Meaning, Purpose and Wisdom in the Digital Age.” Below is the full transcript of the full session of the chat…
Aired on Feb 23, 2012
Hello everyone. Welcome. I’m Rich Fernandez from the Learning and Development Team here at Google. So about six months ago we wrote a letter to Eckhart Tolle inviting him to come here to Google. “Eckhart, dude, come to Google,” we said.
Well, something along those lines. We make some of the world’s most valued and most used technology. We aspire to do epic stuff and to make a difference in the world. And yet even as we create this dazzling technology, we want to be sure to pay attention to our own inner technology. We want to ask ourselves the searching and far ranging questions about how we’re getting on in the world. As we optimize our technology, how can we also optimize our lives so that we can be our best selves?
All of this is a lot easier said than done. We operate in a hyper-connected world, always on and we go at it with great pace and intensity. The urgent question of the day is how we can take an intelligent approach to our work and our lives with all of the demands of our time and attention.
Amidst this flood of information how can we discern the signal from the noise in order to access and act on what is most essential to each of us? Eckhart Tolle takes a refreshingly contemporary approach to the question of what it means to live a meaningful and inspired life and with great intelligence. And in so being, how we can each experience a great sense of clarity, peace, and the joy of being alive.
So we’re very lucky that Eckhart accepted our invitation and said yes to come here today. He knows our ethos that we have a profound interest in being our best selves and doing meaningful and inspired work. We seek to change the world for the better and he understands that, we understand that, in order to transform the world we must first render the necessary transformation within ourselves.
So Eckhart is here today to assist and suggest with some things for us to consider.
Eckhart Tolle has written bestselling books, including The Power of Now and A New Earth and they’ve sold millions of copies worldwide and have been translated into 33 languages. He is widely regarded as one of the foremost teachers on the subject of wisdom and Conscious Living.
Joining Eckhart in conversation today is our Vice President of Product, Bradley Horowitz.
Now when we proposed to Bradley that he might engage in a dialogue with Eckhart as part of this tech talk, he was really excited which makes sense because Bradley’s cool like that.
Bradley also helped create Google+, Google Apps, and Google+ which we all love.
So without further ado, please join me in welcoming Eckhart Tolle and Bradley Horowitz as they discuss what it means to live with meaning, purpose, and wisdom in the digital age.
Eckhart Tolle: Thank you.
Bradley Horowitz: So on behalf of Google and all the many Googlers here and those tuning in from our overflow rooms, welcome. It’s great to have you here. And it’s very special to have you here. I understand that you don’t often visit corporations and so this has been a journey we’ve taken together over the course of the day.
Eckhart had a moment to meet with some of us earlier and we found that really valuable. And one of the things we discussed this morning was wisdom and the difference between information and wisdom. Google has a mission to organize the world’s information and I think if you think about the hierarchy there’s signal and data and information and knowledge and at the very top of the pyramid is wisdom. And I wondered if you could comment a little bit on what you understand to be the difference between information and wisdom.
Eckhart Tolle: Good question. Let’s kind of set that aside for just one moment –
Bradley Horowitz: Let’s do that.
Eckhart Tolle: To say how happy I am to be here, how impressed I am by what I have seen, and by the people who work here, and the general energy field in the company. And if you have come, the many young people here, if you’ve come straight from college then I’m sure you don’t know how lucky you are until you start working for another company.
Perhaps everybody who works here one would — as they would say in India, “You must have very good Karma to be working here.” Openness of people that’s reflected in the structure of the company, the way things are arranged, the little rooms that you have for quietness, for meditation, the cafeterias and all that is just beyond belief so —
I also experience an openness in the people who work here and far less ego because many companies are still predominately run by very big egos. I’m not saying that everybody here’s entirely free of ego yet, but — much less so than in many other places. So it’s wonderful to be here and if my book sales ever decline and I need a job — I hope you will, you probably won’t but — because first of all I have no computer skills — and secondly I’m too old — since the average age here is probably about 30.
So your question was important? I remember it, I remember it.
Knowledge, information, and wisdom, how do they relate?
Of course with the technological revolution, information revolution, digital revolution, whatever you call it, there’s an enormous amount of knowledge available to everybody. Almost the whole of the world’s knowledge and there’s the interconnectedness between people and so on — that’s all very good of course to have all that accessible to you.
There is a danger though that you get drowned in too much information and too much knowledge. And by drowned, I mean that the mind gets bombarded with an excess of input and therefore you miss something that is essential for a human life to be truly fulfilled and that is the place of peace, inner peace, or stillness; the place that one could describe as the source of all intelligence that many people don’t actually — don’t even realize exists within them.
So I’d like to just talk briefly about that, that really we’re talking about the core of what spirituality means. Spirituality is not having a particular belief structure, is not subscribing to a particular set of thoughts. Spirituality is discovering a dimension within yourself, that is we can either say deeper or higher than the continuous movement of thinking.
And of course all this information and knowledge is experienced in you as thought. So the thinking mind has always been active for many thousands of years in humans but now it’s even more active than before because it gets energized by the incredible increase in input. Before all you had was simple, the simple sensory input in your immediate surroundings, then later came books, so you have the added input of that. And then gradually came the mass media, and now this incredible revolution of information technology, computers, and so on.
So it energizes that movement of thought that’s taking place in every human which in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. It only becomes a bad thing and self-destructive thing if that is all you experience inside you in your consciousness. If all you ever experience is that, I call it sometimes mental noise, then you begin to derive your identity from the thoughts in your head; what the thoughts tell you about yourself, and you are trapped in that identity that is based on identification with thinking.
All spiritual teachings point to the possibility of finding something in you that is deeper than thinking — a space, a stillness that’s always there. And the informational, excess of information you can only successfully deal with that if you have a balance in your consciousness between using your mind to absorb information, to put out new information, to work on the information that you have taken in, input, if you have a balance between that and something that is deeper than thought in you.
And really instead of giving you new knowledge here, I don’t want to do that because I don’t want to add to the knowledge that you’re taking in anyway, it’s far more than you ever need.
So instead of giving you knowledge here, I’d like to suggest that you experience at first hand in yourself that place of, I call it sometimes a presence, where you are alert, conscious, but not thinking.
And every creative person has some access to that realm. If you have a truly creative insight you have to go to that place that is deeper than analytical thinking. Analytic thinking itself or processing information is not creative. So even to find a creative, a new solution to a problem in your life requires some creative insight. So whether it’s a problem in your work situation or your personal life or something that you need to build or do and you have come to a dead end or you want to create something, whatever it is a work of art or a new system for the computer, I don’t have the expressions for that, you need to go to the place where creativity arises. And every human who brings, who is creative has some access to that even if they don’t know it.
But it’s not only the — it’s not only the place where creativity arises, it’s also the place that gives sanity to your life to find a place of stillness, peace, aliveness, where you’re not burdened by most, a lot of the time, unnecessary mental noise. So when you do start thinking again it actually can be more productive.
So where is that place? How do you find that place? If it’s there in everyone how do I realize that within myself? That’s really the question.
I can just suggest to you three or four entry points into that state of consciousness and after I’ve done that we can carry on the conversation.
A very simple entry point, and this is why my first book is called The Power of Now, is the realization that your entire life consists of the present moment and only the present moment ever.
Now most people perhaps they — in some abstract way, they know that but they cannot sense or feel the truth of that and I’d like to invite you to actually sense and feel the truth of what I’m saying which not, even if there’s a great philosopher here he cannot possibly argue, he or she cannot argue with this statement that whatever you experience ever is present moment. Your entire life unfolds in the present moment; that’s all you ever have.
Most people don’t live as if this were true they don’t, they live as if the opposite almost were true, as if the future moment were more important always than the next one. And that, that happens because of excessive identification with thinking because usually the thoughts are about the next thing, the next and the next or what could happen or might happen.
So if you can just come to this realization, well, this is all I ever have and ever experienced is this moment, this is undoubtedly true, there is nothing else ever, and at that moment when you fully realize that you can only realize that an alertness arises in you. Wow! You become alert to, one could almost call it, the presence of the power of this moment, the power of life itself in this present moment which consists of – yes, it consists of sense perceptions — it also consists of, well, let’s look what is this present moment? This present moment is this room, what we perceive here visually, what we see, hear, the lights, the totality of the room. So let’s become alert so that we can really perceive that and be on to that to which we perceive in this room.
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