It's all of our conditioning, all of our social conditioning, our educational conditioning, our religious conditioning, our cultural conditioning. It has to do with the type of society that we've grown up in. Every nation has different kinds of conditioning. The educational system that has emphasized the development of the mind at the expense of emotional intelligence, for example. And some of it has to do with being born in a human form. Again this is a kind of Buddhist understanding. That just being born in a body there's an inherent kind of process of conditioning and limitation that arises through form. Through the form of the human body, through the form of the human mind.

How can "being in the now" help people, for example, cope with anxiety? Such as fears of terrorism?

My sense of that is that as one practices, or cultivates the capacity to access presence, the amount of mental or emotional activity that entertains disaster scenarios begins to diminish. In other words one is not always collapsing into the future. Because the future is either the desire for something to happen or the fear that something will happen. The past has to do with the regret for something that did happen or didn't, or the attachment to something that did happen in the sense of the "good ol' days."

It's not a question of denial or putting your head in the sand like an ostrich. As people can access the capacity to be in stillness and presence, that fear begins to diminish, and then you take whatever course of action is necessary. The mind still continues to function but it functions in a clearer, a better way. So you may take a look at your situation and say maybe it's time to leave New York or Washington, maybe it's time to take some practical steps, to have some food and water stored.

As a teacher of Tolle's work, why do you think his message resonates with so many people? What is it that the people in your workshops are searching for?

Every so often something comes along that really captures the people at a deep level. My own reading when I read "The Power of Now" I was just so captured by it because it seemed to me to be coming from such a pure, clear place. One could almost say - this sounds a little woo woo - the book was written from such a level of depth and consciousness that it was contagious just reading it. But in reading it I became aware, or still.

I think there is a kind of spirituality emerging that is free from institutional forms. It's very much a kind of grassroots spirituality, or if you want a label for it, a secular spirituality. My sense is, and Eckhart has pointed to this also, that there is a tremendous quickening going on now and people are waking up to a deeper level of consciousness. Traditional religious institutions don't do a very good job of addressing that inner search.

In his book you find the essence of all religions, particularly what you might describe as esoteric Christianity, or esoteric Buddhism. He jokes sometimes and says "I'm not Christian enough for the Christians, I'm not Buddhist enough for the hardcore Buddhists" -- but it does speak to many Christians and many Buddhists who in reading the book are reminded of the core of their own teachings. It captures truth in a way that's accessible to people - in a very practical, nondogmatic way.

In what role does Tolle see himself? As an enlightened being like the Buddha? As a prophet? A teacher?

He's said on occasion that being a spiritual teacher is a function not a role. So that when he's in a retreat or in a seminar he's functioning as a spiritual teacher. But when that's over he's just an ordinary person, he goes to the supermarket. And I love the simplicity of that. But he clearly has a deep enlightened capacity. And I love it because to me he's a kind of Every Man; he's just an ordinary person who one day woke up.

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