Welcome back to Week 9 of the Oprah Winfrey/Eckhart Tolle “A New Earth” web event. There’s only one more class to go in the ten-week course, if you can believe it! Monday night’s class, based on Chapter 9 “Your Inner Purpose,” is now available for viewing at Oprah.com or here at Beliefnet.
Monday night’s class proved to be quite relevant for me on several fronts as Oprah and Eckhart Tolle discussed finding one’s inner purpose, a topic that seems to affect so many people these days. If I had a dime for every time a friend has told me that they don’t know what they want to do with their life or asked me for advice on discovering the career that will truly make them happy, I’d be a venti latte richer by now, for sure!
Maybe it’s because I live in Los Angeles where everyone dares to dream big but then, often, has to amend those plans when years of struggling have left them disillusioned and defeated. I’m not going to blame this over-reaching zeal on the entertainment industry, however, because this idea of finding one’s purpose feels more like every American’s inherent birthright.
So just what is our inner purpose? And what does it have to do with the notions of the white picket fence, 2.5 children, and a career that’s both personally fulfilling and financially rewarding?
Our two web teachers opened up this latest class with their standard silent meditation, but Eckhart asked us to keep a certain Bible scripture in mind as we went into the present moment. He wanted us to meditate on:
Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalms 46:10)
A very powerful quote, indeed, as that has been the focus of the entire book and class—to align ourselves with the present moment, which is stillness, and awareness itself. By fighting what already is, we fight life and so, conversely, by becoming still we connect fully into Life. And I doubt that many readers here would find it difficult to connect Life to what many consider to be its very source, God.
So as they have been saying throughout the past nine weeks, if you want to get to “know” God, it’s best to get cracking at living in the moment and learning to silence the mind which is always distracting us from the beautiful Now because it is stuck in the past or the future.
Back to finding our inner purpose, Oprah mentioned several times, off of the book’s chapter, that each of us has an inner purpose and an outer purpose. From the book:
Inner purpose concerns Being and is primary. Outer purpose concerns doing and is secondary.
Your inner purpose is to awaken. It is as simple as that. You share that purpose with every other person on the planet—because it is the purpose of humanity. …Your outer purpose can change over time. It varies greatly from person to person. Finding and living in alignment with the inner purpose is the foundation for fulfilling your outer purpose. It is the basis for true success. (p.258)
She went on to say that we tend to approach it backwards in this country, that it’s not about finding the right job, it’s about finding and aligning our inner purpose, which is our first priority, with our outer purpose. Once that happens, everything else falls into place career-wise, etc.
So how do we find our inner purpose already?
You guessed it! Inner purpose is found when you align yourself fully with the present moment. Basically, be total in doing what you’re doing now and from that complete commitment to the present, your passions and your career “track” will bubble up and be delivered to you from your Higher Consciousness as coincidences, opportunities, etc.
As Eckhart says, and to which we should all be nodding our heads by now, life is always just the Now. It makes complete sense but he says it is often an amazing realization for most people when they finally grasp it.
Now for some highlights of this particular class:
1) Oprah told the story of being in 3rd grade and turning in a book report early. Her teacher was so impressed she told all the other teachers and Oprah became known as the kid who loved to read. She has never forgotten that event because it taught Oprah to do her best in every given moment.
Eckhart pointed out that that was one little step of many that has led to her eventually running this online web class. All great things (not that he called this web class a great thing, necessarily) begin with small steps performed with attention in the present moment.
But just how do we reconcile the timeless inner purpose with the time-bound outer purpose of a rewarding, successful life?
By realizing that your entire life journey ultimately consists of the step you are taking at this moment. There is always only this one step, and so you give it your fullest attention. This doesn’t mean you don’t know where you are going; it just means this step is primary, the destination secondary. … Another way of putting it: What the future holds for you depends on your state of consciousness right now. (p.271)
This all is sounding familiar, yes? “Life’s about the journey, not the destination.” No witchcraft to be found in anything there.
2) This next passage I found particularly relevant to my own way of thinking—the idea that success only follows real struggle of some sort.
Let’s say that you are a businessperson and after two years of intense stress and strain you finally manage to come out with a product or service that sells well and makes money. Success? In conventional terms, yes. In reality, you spent two years polluting your body as well as the earth with negative energy, made yourself and those around you miserable, and affected many others you never even met. The unconscious assumption behind all such action is that success is a future event, and that the end justifies the means. But the end and the means are one. And if the means did not contribute to human happiness, neither will the end. (pp.270-271)
It makes perfect sense to read it like that, but, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why I thought (believed in my bones, even) it was just the opposite. Common for many of us, I imagine.
3) Here’s a familiar sentiment from the book and the classes that I thought bore repeating:
Instead of being lost in your thinking, when you are awake you recognize yourself as the awareness behind it. (p.259)
Yep, yep, yep. I’m good with that one now.
Oprah remarked that, in essence, our goal on earth is to allow the light of inner purpose or consciousness to come through in everything that we do.
Eckhart: “Yes, that is why we’re here. The purpose of the universe, you could say, is the flowering of consciousness.”
Oprah: “When you allow the light of God, of consciousness, to come through and fuel you, it will allow you to be the best at what you do.”
Eckhart: “Yes, and how you do it. Even if it’s something that to the world seems to be of little importance.”
4) Ivy in Richmond, VA had a question. She’s 26 and has been trying to find a career that merges her inner purpose with her outer purpose and wanted to know how she could do that. She mentioned that she doesn’t know what her passions are and she’s not comfortable living in the inherent uncertainty of the moment.
Eckhart responded with a great line.
Life is an adventure…it’s not a package tour.
Basically, if you knew exactly how your life were going to unfold, what fun would that be? We should be developing a love for the adventure itself with our studies.
Oprah chimed in to tell Ivy that that’s what being 26 years old is all about…not knowing. She says there’s a reason the popular soap opera is called “The Young & The Restless.” (I thought that was funny.)
Oprah then told a story from her own life. She worked in news for awhile and knew that just wasn’t what she wanted to do. She felt it was too exploitive, among other things. However, she knew that she wanted to be in television and sometimes that is all you need to acknowledge the journey; that is, knowing what you don’t want to do can be an invaluable lesson.
A significant tidbit from the class that almost sounds counterintuitive is: Our secondary purpose will only come to us when we are comfortable with the “not knowing.”
As Oprah repeated to lost Ivy (and I’m paraphrasing here without a true transcript):
[What you should be doing, your passion] does not come from your head…it is never going to be something you think up. It’s a feeling. You’ll notice “I feel better doing this thing rather than that thing.” And that’s how it starts.
When you’re not afraid of the uncertainty, the universe rises up to meet you. Coincidences happen. Then you have to be alert and open to the moment so you can see them and take action.
Eckhart warned to be careful that we’re not in a state of dissatisfaction when we’re exploring our life’s passions and purpose because the answer will not come then.
5) Eckhart brought up a wonderful point that I know to be true from my own past days of performing/acting. As a performer, the future is always secondary in the doing. Any performer, be they an actor or musician or athlete, knows that you have to be in the moment, totally in the present moment, to be any good at what you do.
Therefore, the same could be true for any of us who want to be “good” at life, for lack of a better expression.
6) The following is one of those moments where I almost shouted “Amen!” to the computer screen. Eckhart, in making another point, said that he didn’t want anyone to believe what he says –he wants them to go within and find it to be true for themselves.
He’s saying that to blindly believe something that someone tells you only sets up another belief system as an obstacle you have to surmount to get to the Truth within you, the Truth that defies words, concepts, beliefs and forms.
I was so happy to hear this because I gather that some of my friends think I’ve sought and/or found a guru in Eckhart Tolle. My normal response is that I don’t want a guru and he doesn’t want to be one. Eckhart simply reminds me of truths that I already know within. While I thank him for what he’s doing with these web classes, I have no particular desire to meet him or necessarily read any more of his books, though I do own another one (“The Power of Now”) and pick it up from time to time for a refresher.
7) Joanie from Long Beach had posted a message on the Oprah.com message boards about how this book had deepened her Catholic faith and finally gave meaning to her rote views of the Trinity.
It’s an involved letter that Oprah reads and one worth checking out in the transcript if it really strikes a chord with you, but she ended with a wonderful line:
Life is a gift. Live everyday as a thank-you note.
I loved that for its sheer simplicity.
8) Renee from Indianapolis wanted to know where Eckhart’s knowledge comes from.
He replied that it comes from becoming still and listening to what comes through from the stillness. It is not knowledge per se; the answers come from being still when he writes.
9) My final highlight (and it’s a great one to end on here) is something Eckhart said near the end of the class.
You can only manifest that which you already are.
I love these self-empowering lines. It’s the same line of thinking of seeing something beautiful in nature. You only know it’s beautiful because beauty is already within you. Otherwise, you wouldn’t/couldn’t be caught by its beauty.
Everything we need we already have within us if we only take the time (an odd turn of phrase given that I’m talking about being in the moment) to become still and just be.
That’s all for this week. I’m actually a little relieved that next Monday’s class is the final one because these commentaries have grown in length to resemble court briefs! Hey, maybe that’s my outer purpose…to one day be writing lengthy summations for the Supreme Court.
I’ll see you back here next week for the final class on Chapter Ten: “A New Earth.”
Wishing everyone a great week!