“All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness.” – Eckhart Tolle
Recently I was listening to an episode of the Oprah / Eckhart Tolle podcasts. Tolle described how he writes, and I was struck by the simplicity and peacefulness of the process. If you ever experience writer’s block, or if the words you do write feel forced, this guide may prove to be the solution for your troubles. The following is a summary of how Eckhart Tolle writes:
- Awareness of thoughts as they arise
- Write, or if the thought is not relevant or useful, wait in stillness for the next one
I think this writing process can be condensed even further into the following two words: stillness speaks (fans of Tolle will recognize this as the name of one of this books). Recently I have been testing this process, and in this article I would like to share some practical advice related to each of the above steps.
“Meet everyone and everything through stillness rather than mental noise.”
Be mindful of when and where you write. As I write this the clock shows the time to be 6am. My wife and two sons are still fast asleep, and there is very little noise except for the occasional creaking sound. For me, this is the perfect time to be writing. Sometimes I write during my lunch break in the park close to my work, or occasionally I even get a burst of inspiration late at night when I am the only one awake. My point here is to find a time and place to write that is peaceful and still. Clear your mind prior to writing. Stillness here refers to both your mind and body. Sometimes it feels like my mind is racing at a million miles per hour, and while this can be good for brain-storming ideas I don’t find it to be a good state of mind for writing. Instead, I prefer my mind to be “empty”. The most effective ways for me to achieve this state of mind are meditation, a good work out or yoga. I would be interested to hear other suggestions in the comments below.
“Knowing yourself as the awareness behind the voice is freedom.”
Allow thoughts to arise. Tolle told Oprah he sits in stillness and allows thoughts to naturally arise. Not every thought will be useful or worth writing, and that is fine because he knows he will have plenty more. For me, the key here is that Tolle is not forcing himself to think. It may seem counterintuitive to seek an empty mind, but I have found it is from this place the best writing is produced. Mindfulness. To be mindful is to be aware of your thoughts. When I began to observe my mind, I noticed many of my thoughts were simply meaningless chatter. Since noticing this chatter I have become free to observe life without getting caught in the commentary. When it comes to writing, such mindfulness means I can let a thought go without feeling the need to chase it.
“Stay present, stay conscious. Be the ever-alert guardian of your inner space.”
Be present. Once you start writing, it is important to stay present in the moment. This means your mind does not drift to the past, the future, what is on your to-do list or some other unrelated topic. Of course this is easier said than done. If you are interested in learning more about being present, or any other ideas mentioned in this article, I highly recommend the following:
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23 thoughts on “Eckhart Tolle’s Guide to Writing”
These are very well thought out ideas about the art of writing, Peter.
I particularly like Tolle’s advice on being still as a pre-cursor to generating ideas. All too often, the buzz of daily life can drown out creativity. A blank mind is usually a good canvas on which to paint words.
I’ve not personally read any of Tolle’s writing, though I have heard much talk about them. This article is a great introduction and has whetted my appetite to find out more.
Scott, I really like how you have worded this.
If you enjoyed these ideas I would encourage you to read/ listen to some of his books/ lectures/ podcasts/ etc.
I have downloaded a few of his books and lectures from audible.com. But if you are looking for a place to start, the Oprah and Tolle podcasts are excellent. You can’t go wrong with free!
I think peace and stillness is essential to unlocking our inner wisdom. I have to say, though, that this is not necessarily dependent on outer stillness for me. Oddly enough, I sometimes do my best writing in the middle of a noisy coffee shop! However, if I am not still on the inside, it doesn’t work out too well …
I also ask Spirit for inspiration a day or so before I want to sit and write an article. Normally, the topic pops up in my head within a few hours, and by the time I sit down to write, it flows.
Like Peter (and Tolle), I find stillness essential for good writing. My most productive time is early morning — while I was working full time (left my job last Thurs!), I would get up at 6am to write and could accomplish a lot in an hour.
I’d recommend journalling or self-dialoguing (writing questions and answers, like talking to yourself) as good ways to work through mental chatter and achieve a clarity of mind. Switching off emails, Twitter, messenger, the phone, etc can also be a big help; it’s very hard to write effectively with dozens of little distractions around.
Thanks for the article, Peter!
There is something about stillness and quiet that seems to open the mind. I think that by eliminating some of the normal “noise” going on in our lives, we’re able to finally hear what we’re trying to say to ourselves.
For me, as well, morning is a good time for this to occur. Before anyone else in the house is moving. There is a peacefulness to it all.
I do my best thinking/idea generating lying in bed in the morning. I also spend time looking for pictures that go with a topic. The important thing is slip into “sacred space” (http://cheerfulmonk.com/2008/05/05/slipping-into-sacred-space/). That post was about taking pictures just for the joy of it, but anything we do for its own sake connects us with something deeper than our own little egos. Then when we write we’re more apt to have something worthwhile to say.
I’ve stumbled this post. :)
Jean Browman–Cheerful Monks last blog post..This Mystery Called Life
What a lovely post Peter. You prepare the mind for writing by silencing inner chatter, you’re confident that there are many ideas available to you, and then you allow the ideas to flow into your mind and then unto the paper. This almost sounds like writing as prayer.
I hate to be the party crasher here, and while I love Eckhart’s teaching, I don’t think he’s a fabulous writer. Often his writing to me is convoluted and unclear. I’ve seen a lot of other writers on similar subjects write much more clearly. D.T. Suzuki, Alan Watts, Thich Nhat Hanh, Deepak Chopra and others come to mind.
I love Eckhart, but I think he’s a much better speaker than he is a writer.
That’s certainly a valid point Jonathan. A New Earth is the only book of Tolle’s I have read, the rest I have listened to. Listening to Tolle, and in particular coming to grips with the way he speaks, really has helped me appreciate his message. Plus when you hear him speak in front of an audience you come to realize he has a very good sense of humor.
That said, I think it is possible to appreciate his “writing process” without necessarily considering him to be the greatest of writers. It is Tolle’s ideas that I appreciate, and what I like about the way he writes is that it is a practical application of his ideas.
Wow….thanks for sharing!! I love this article. I connected with it rightaway because I have been trying to practice it somewhat. When I am lacking in inspiration, I would leave my PC and sit in silence, tuning in, somewhere else in my home. I try to be still first. If any thought should come forth, I allow my mind to follow it for a while longer (in seconds) just to make sure this is the one. It usually is and funnily, it is usually something that I’ve learnt during the week for myself.
I’m not successful if my mind cannot settle down. Thanks for pointing out the podcast. I’m going to be listening to it.
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I’ve not read Tolle but he apparently has found a way to make ideas that have existed for centuries more accessible to the masses.
His idea of “stillness” to allow thoughts to present themselves is similar to many other thoughts I admire:
“Freedom from the desire for an answer is essential to the understanding of a problem.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
Tolle’s ideas are not original because there is no such thing as “original thought.;” however, he has made old thoughts his own by interpreting and delivering them in a way that makes sense to him…
“All truly wise thoughts have been thought already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.” ~ Basho
Thanks for the post…
Kent (The Financial Philosopher)
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Well written and infomative. Thanks for sharing these tips with us.
Stumbled and Dugg. ;-)
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I really enjoyed your article, it was written very well. I am also a writer, please shoot me an e-mail if you’d be interested in exchanging links with my blog:
I have some great articles about Eckhart Tolle.
Enjoy your week.
I truly cannot say enough about the writings of Eckhart Tolle. I love everything about this literature and find it so useful. When I do read this work, I find myself in a place of peace. No matter where I am.
Thanks for sharing how Eckhart Tolle writes.
Excellent presentation of Tolle’s approach to writing. I started listening to his stuff a month or so ago. I’m a big fan of his now. Some folks aren’t crazy about his angle on religion, but I hope people give his material a chance regardless of what they may have heard, as much of the information he presents isn’t directly related to religion.
MonkMojos last blog post..The Tony Robbins vs Eckhart Tolle Debate
Since I write about everyday life events, there always seems to be a part of my brain always on an alert for stories. At the time, the only thing that registers, however, is ‘huh, that could work!’ Then as I am doing something quiet, like gardening or running, my mind starts to formulate the direction the story will take. It’s not really a deliberate or conscious process. Thoughts are still just drifting through. Finally, when I am ready to write, I sit down, block out the world, and let the story unfold. In order for all this to take place, I need to make sure I have ‘quiet time’ every single day. It’s good for the soul, and good for the stories.
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I read ‘The Power of Now’ many years ago and was struck by its power. I still have great affection for it. Simple and profound.
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Hi Peter – a very timely article for me because today’s the day I start to write my next post (I post once a week and it’s early Friday morning here at the moment). I find the best way to start is to go for a walk – then ideas come to me. I may have to deliberately focus on stilling my mind if nothing comes. Then when I get home I start writing. If I get stuck along the way, I go for more walks.
This post is so meaningful to me.
While I admit that sometimes Tolle’s writing took a turn that made things suddenly cloudy I still believe that the meaning was there when the mind was ready to receive it. Also, his point about stillness is absolutely true, it’s just stillness means different things and different times for all of us, as indicated by the variety of comments.
Thanks for confirming what I’ve always found true when writing. Stillness is absolutely essential.
Flora Morris Brown, Ph.D.s last blog post..It’s Either Now or Later
Very nice article and blog. Glad that I stumbled on it today. My writing is also done in a similar fashion. When I feel an urge to write I sit down to write. When I don’t feel like writing I don’t push it. My process is documented here: http://www.desikanadadur.com/blog/2008/08/13/doing-by-being/
Thanks again for a nice article.
Peter I think when Eckhart Tolle speaks it is always worth listening to. I really like how you have put the points across in your article. Well written and easy to digest. I will be looking out for your future articles.
This is a great post. For me surrendering to the writing process and allowing ideas to come up organically is powerful and exciting.