I was listening to an Eckhart Tolle talk the other day when he threw out a doozy. It’s so simple and obvious, but when I heard him say it, it connected on a deep level.

It was in response to a question posed by one of his followers. The person asked:

“Why is this process of awakening taking so long for me?”

After several minutes of directly answering the question, Eckhart pivoted to this:

“It’s futile to ask yourself how much longer before you’ll be completely awake. The only helpful question is: Am I awake at this moment or am I identified with thinking?”

Why did this particular Eckhart nugget resonate so deeply with me? I’ve been active on the spiritual path for many years now and at any time there are myriad questions that race through my head depending on the situation.

Questions I ask myself

Am I resisting something right now? Am I desiring too much? Am I attached to some thing or situation? Do I need to simply relax and let go? Do I need to surrender to whatever’s going on in the moment? Do I need to just get out of my own way?

Sometimes I feel bombarded by these questions and frankly overwhelmed. All of them are valid questions to ask ourselves.

But I love Eckhart’s assertion that the only helpful question is to ask ourselves if we are awake in this present moment. It always seems to come back to that one thing. Am I here, now?

A wise reader

I remember not long ago I got a comment on one of my articles that was particularly deep and wise. I can’t remember the subject or the gentleman’s name, but I’m pretty sure he was from India.

I responded to his thoughtful comment by writing that he seemed to be far further along the spiritual path than I was. He then topped his previous comment with another sage response. He said,

“No. Just practicing here, now. That’s all.”

I love that sublime simplicity. Just here, now.

But we all know that remaining here, now epitomizes the adage ‘easier said than done.’ It requires the reverse learning process that Adyashanti recommends for meditators. Instead of starting in kindergarten and working our way up to a Phd, we crazed, thinking addicted humans start at the Phd and need to work our way back to the simplicity of kindergarten. By the way, I have a daughter in kindergarten and I can vouch that she is here, now 24/7!

What it means for you

With the holidays upon us and all the stress that brings for many of us, now is an opportune time to practice asking the question Eckhart posed. In the days and weeks ahead, try asking yourself, continually, if you are awake in the moment or identified with the thoughts racing through your head. In other words, are you here, now or lost in thought?

If you find that you’re not present, that’s fine. Simply notice that’s the case, take a few conscious breaths, look around and survey your surroundings for a short while and voila…you’re back in the here and now.

Then rinse and repeat. Thousands of times…for the rest of your life.

Happy holidays.