OPRAH: We live in a world where most people believe they are their story. "I was born in this family, this is where I was raised, these are the things that happened to me, and this is what I did." If you are not your story, then who are you?
ECKHART: That's a very good question. You cannot deny, of course, that these events exist; one's personal history has its place, and it needs to be honored. It's not problematic unless you become totally lost in that dimension. How do you experience your past? As memories. And what are memories? Thoughts in your head. If you're totally identified with these thoughts in your head, then you're trapped in your past history. So, is that all there is to who you are? Or are you more than your personal history? When you step out of identification with that and realize for the first time that you're actually the presence behind the thinking, then you're able to use thought when it's helpful and necessary. But you are no longer possessed by the thinking mind, which then becomes a helpful, useful servant. If you never go beyond the thinking mind and there is no sense of space, it creates continuous conflict in relationships.
OPRAH: Tell me more about that space.
ECKHART: It's that spacious, aware presence that you can bring to any relationship. For example, when you listen to your partner or a friend or even an acquaintance, can you be there as the aware space that is listening? Or, while the other person is speaking, are you constantly thinking, preparing the next thing you're going to say? Are you judging and evaluating what you're hearing, or can you be there as the space for the other person? I would say that's the greatest gift you can give someone. It's especially important for parents and children, but also in intimate relationships. Can you listen to the other person in that simple state of alertness in which you're not judging what you're listening to? If you can, then you're there as a presence rather than as a person. You're not imposing mental labels, judgments, or definitions on the other person. There's a deeper level of awareness.
OPRAH: For those of us who are still working with this idea of separating ourselves from that voice in our heads, how do we become a nonjudgmental space?
ECKHART: You can invite it by bringing more awareness of the present moment into your life. For example, I recommend that people bring a conscious presence to the everyday activities that they do unconsciously. When you wash your hands, when you make a cup of coffee, when you're waiting for the elevator-instead of indulging in thinking, these are all opportunities for being there as a still, alert presence.
OPRAH: Yes. Like when people take showers in the morning, they're not in the shower; they're thinking about getting to the office, what they have to do that day, and making lists instead of feeling the water, staying in the moment.
ECKHART: That's right. Bring those spaces into your everyday life, as many as possible. When you get into your car, shut the door and be there for just half a minute. Breathe, feel the energy inside your body, look around at the sky, the trees. The mind might tell you, I don't have time. But that's the mind talking to you. Even the busiest person has time for 30 seconds of space.
We Hear You!