I love to write about ideas that simplify life. Ideas that set up an “Oh, that’s all I have to do?” scenario. Today’s article is one of those.

I’ve heard this idea from Eckhart Tolle before, but when I heard it in one of his talks yesterday it struck a chord. What’s this fantastic, life-simplifying idea?

The conscious and the personal

We live our lives on two tracks. One track involves becoming more conscious. The other is our personal, “in the world” life. Take a wild guess as to which one Eckhart deems infinitely more important.

What is the consciousness track? It’s all the practices and techniques we employ to become more conscious.

What does it mean to become more conscious? There are myriad ways to express this, but I’ll go with: Chipping away at our fearful, insecure, grandiose, anxious, thought-factory egos (otherwise known as our false selves). The more we chip away, the closer we get to our authentic, conscious selves.

How to become more conscious

What does that chipping away involve? Regular meditation, practicing mindfulness, letting go of our ego when it rears its head and any other spiritual practices that liberate us from our minds.

Not surprisingly, Eckhart, and most spiritual teachers and traditions, teach that this consciousness work, what Ramana Maharshi and Yogananda called self-realization, is where we need to put most of our energy.

Consciousness is where it’s at

So if you take anything away from this article, I hope it’s the idea that working on becoming more conscious needs the overwhelming bulk of our attention.

And for any of you thinking that doing so is a big gamble and that you may come out with “nothing” if you put your life’s work there, worry not. Because greater consciousness yields the best that life has to offer. More peace. Less anxiety.

Better at everything

And let’s not forget that it also makes us better at everything we do. Like what? Like selling real estate. Playing golf. Running our flower shop. Writing articles. Parenting our kids. You name it. Higher consciousness makes us better.

It’s also the best thing we can do for humanity. As Ramana Maharshi said:

Your own self-realization is the greatest service you can render to the world.”

Now let’s pivot to that second track of our lives — the personal one. It’s what we do in the world every day. It’s what most of us, incorrectly, think of as the only life we have.

It’s this part of our lives that most trips us up. How? Because most people perpetually struggle with that vexing, existential question: “What should I do with my life?”

What Eckhart recommends is that we meditate on the question. Or pray, if that’s your practice.

But here’s the key. We don’t ask for what I want to do in the world.That is, we don’t ask for riches or to be a lawyer or a Wall Street mogul.

Ask what’s wanted from you

No. What we do is ask the Universe/God/Nature what it wants from US.Then we do what Ralph Waldo Emerson called accepting the place the divine providence has found for us.

We become instruments, like radios, that allow the Universe to express itself through us. The master Persian poet, Rumi, describes how this works:

When I run after what I think I want, my days are a furnace of distress and anxiety. If I sit in my own place of patience, what I need flows to me, and without any pain. From this I understand that what I want also wants me, is looking for me and attracting me.

Now, if I’m you, I’m asking, “I love all the spiritual mumbo-jumbo, but how does this actually work in practice?”

Eckhart as an example

Eckhart Tolle’s life provides a perfect example. The quick background is that he had a massive breakthrough in consciousness at age 29 after many miserable years. This was followed by a few years of living in bliss on park benches in London.

Eventually, he began counseling people on spiritual matters. After several years of seeing people on a small scale, it occurred to him that he could do more to help. So he went to a small church and prayed/meditated on this, asking for “acceleration.”

Precisely nothing changed in the following four months. Zip.

A message to move to North America

Then one day he got up in the morning and had this strange feeling/thought/sensation telling him to move to the west coast of North America. Which he then did, settling in Vancouver.

It was in Vancouver that he had another sensation, that there was a book that wanted to be written through him. Out of that came The Power of Now.

He was fortunate enough to get a small publisher that printed 1,000 copies of the book. Eckhart would walk around to different bookstores and ask if they wanted three or four copies. If they didn’t sell, he’d take them back. Some stores said yes, others said no.

Oprah swoops in

After a few years of this, Oprah got wind of the book and the rest is history.

But look at what Eckhart did. He just listened. And then acted. “I can do more…I need to move to North America…A book wants to be written…”

What’s far more important for our purposes is what Eckhart didn’t do. He didn’t get in the way. What “he” didn’t get in the way? His ego.

What would “getting in the way” have looked like? Immediately after meditating/praying for acceleration, he would have gone into fifth gear.

“I need to up my counseling marketing campaign! Put flyers all around London about my awesome counseling services. Then I’ll pester people at BBC to see if I can somehow get interviewed on TV. It’s a longshot, but nothing ventured, nothing gained!”

When the book thing happened, he would have gotten to thinking, “How can I write this in a way that will sell the most copies?” Which, had he done so, I can say with 100 percent certainty that The Power of Now would have been a mediocre book that went nowhere.

What he did do was take a page from Rumi. He “…sat in his own place of patience, then what he needed flowed to him…”

It’s not easy

Is this hard to pull off? Yes. Why? Because our egos are incredibly strong! They constantly want to worry about what path we’re on, or not on. Are we making something of our life? Are we clueless? Drifting? We worry. Criticize. Question. That’s what egos do.

But there is this other way to lead that personal life track. Keep asking what the Universe wants from you. Then be patient. And let it happen.

Again, it’s hard. I know. I’ve struggled with the whole “Hustle, hustle, hustle. Make things happen…Do something with your life…” ego noise for decades.

But the best years of my life have been the last ones where I’ve gotten better at getting out of my way. In fact, that could be one’s entire life mantra:

Get out of the way.

That’s it. Every day, just keep telling yourself to get out of the way and let nature, the Tao, the Universe, God…take over your steering wheel.

The takeaway

So hone your life down to those two things. Keep it simple.

It reminds me of writer Michael Pollan’s pithy dictum on nutrition: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

Here’s the living life version:

Devote most of your attention to becoming conscious; allot the rest to getting out of your way as you navigate your ship through the oceans of life.

You, those around you and the world will be better off for it.