Oprah discusses 'A New Earth'

In January 2008, Oprah announced her 61st Oprah's Book Club selection, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. Unlike past selections, this book isn't a novel or a memoir. In fact, Oprah called it her boldest choice yet.

"Being able to share this material with you is a gift and a part of the fulfillment of my life's purpose," she said. "It was an awakening for me that I want for you too."

To bring Eckhart's spiritual teachings to readers around the world, Oprah teamed up with the author for the first live, interactive Web series in Oprah Show history. Every Monday, people come together in the Oprah.com online classroom to discuss the chapters' themes and ask questions.

The 10-part series kicked off on March 3, 2008, and since then, Oprah says it's all she wants to talk about. "It's just the most exciting thing I've ever done," she says. "Millions of people around the world have begun experiencing A New Earth for themselves and are awakening to the possibilities of their lives."

During the classes, Oprah says she and Eckhart have touched on topics like how to quiet the mind, how to put the ego in check and how to be fully present in the moment. "The one thing I know for sure is that you cannot even begin to live your best life without being connected to your spirit," she says.

New Earth students from as far away as Iraq and Australia are joining Oprah to continue the conversation about her favorite topic.
Jillian and Doug

Jillian and Doug, a married couple from Washington, began embracing Eckhart's teachings after their world came crashing down.

For years, Jillian, Doug and their children enjoyed the luxuries many people dream of. "We had a beautiful 5,000-square-foot home," Jillian says. "We had a beautiful pool and a spa, and we had beautiful cars. We had a Russian au pair who lived with us and took care of the children. We had a gardener. We had a housekeeper. Essentially, everything that needed to be done, we hired someone to do it."

Then, in 2007, Jillian says they lost 60 percent of their income and could no longer afford the lifestyle they'd become accustomed to. "We lost everything," she says. "When we knew the home was going to go into foreclosure, the bank came out and put locks on the garage doors."

Doug and his wife of 22 years were forced to file bankruptcy. "At some point, I had to admit to myself that I had failed," Doug says. "I'd lost our dream home, our dream cars, the dream job, the dream business."

Though millions of people go bankrupt every year, Jillian says it's different when it happens to your family. "It's humbling," she says. "It just strips you bare."

After losing everything, Jillian says she suffered from anxiety and was barely able to go out in public. Then, she logged on to Oprah and Eckhart's weekly Web class. During the Chapter 1 discussion, Jillian says the author said something that saved her.

"For many people, that's a very important lesson when suddenly they do lose something," Eckhart said. "It can be a wonderful spiritual lesson. Then perhaps you suffer, and then your attachment gets broken, and suddenly, you go beyond the attachment. There have been people who have lost everything and suddenly become free of the ego because the ego had nothing left to identify with."

Jillian says Eckhart's words helped her learn to accept the present moment as it is. "[It] helped me was to see that those attachments were very, very superficial," she says. "What I was experiencing—the anxiety and the loss and everything—was really just an acceptance of looking in the mirror and seeing myself...and finding out what was left when all those things were stripped away."
Jillian and Doug

Reading A New Earth has changed the way Jillian thinks about her family's financial situation, as well as her role as a parent.

As the mother of two grown children and four adopted children with special needs, Jillian says she always tried to play the role of perfect, therapeutic mother. "That role nearly buried me," she says. "This book helped me to see that really my gift to my children is that I'm present. That I'm with them. That I'm here."

Doug says he's also noticed changes in the way Jillian lives her life. "She's much more peaceful," he says. "It's been a wonderful change in the past few weeks."

Now that she's been stripped of her material wealth and her ego, Jillian says she's getting the best sleep she's had in years. "I sleep very peacefully."

While some people use Eckhart's teachings to be better parents or reach a new level of consciousness, Krys, a 24-year-old reader from San Antonio, says A New Earth has helped her overcome weight issues.

Over the years, Krys says she's maintained an active lifestyle, run marathons, played sports and worked out with a personal trainer, but the extra pounds stayed put. "I have a struggle with food that has kept my weight about 30 pounds above where it probably should be," she says.

Krys says she read a passage on page 86 of Oprah's latest Book Club selection that resonated with her. On this page, Eckhart writes, "Behind every negative self-concept is the hidden desire of being the greatest or being better than others."

Krys says these words helped her recognize the real reason she's been battling the bulge for so many years. "My inner ego desire was to be skinnier than other people or better than other people because I was skinnier," she says. "It just really resonated inside my entire being because I don't think I realized that I had that inside of me."
Krys dropped three pant sizes.

Krys says reading Eckhart's book and taking the Web class has helped her let go of the need to be skinnier—or anything "er"—than others. "[I realized] I just could be present in my own life and be where I was and not be worried about how I compared to other people," she says.

From that day on, Krys says she stopped emotional eating. "I just eat if I need to. It's like a fuel," she says. "If I get upset about something, I don't know, I just have this ability now to sort of stay in the moment that I'm in. ... It takes work, but I'm a lot better at it than I ever was."

Before learning to live in the present, Krys wore a size 16–18 and weighed herself several times a day. Her new outlook on life has helped her drop three pant sizes, and she's stopped stepping on the scale. "I don't really need to weigh myself anymore," she says.
Jim Carrey

Comedian Jim Carrey may be known for his hilarious antics, but he's serious about the lessons in A New Earth. "Eckhart's philosophy is basically about the idea that the present moment is all that we have," he says. "It's all there is and all there ever will be."

Before reading Eckhart's first best-seller, The Power of Now, and his latest work, Jim says he would waste hours trapped in the movement of his own thoughts.

"Sometimes I've spent two hours of my day thinking about one person I resent and going through orations and [thinking], 'If he ever says this, I'll say that,'" Jim says. "I find myself now, when I get caught up in something like that, becoming conscious suddenly and going, 'Oh, wait, I'm here. I'm not with that person right now. I'm creating things that don't even exist.' It's useless. It's time badly spent."
Elizabeth Lesser and Oprah

Eckhart isn't the only spiritual thinker encouraging people to explore their true callings. After every Web class, Elizabeth Lesser, author of The Seeker's Guide, answers more reader questions on her Oprah Radio show.

As the co-founder of Omega Institute, America's largest adult education center focusing on health, wellness, spirituality and creativity, Elizabeth has studied and worked with leading figures in the fields of healing and spiritual development for decades. "[Omega Institute] is one of the premiere centers for spiritual growth and healing in the United States," Oprah says.
Elizabeth Lesser

Every week, Elizabeth hears from a diverse group of readers, many of whom want to know—will A New Earth interfere with their religious beliefs?

Elizabeth says the teachings in this book are not part of another belief system. In fact, she compares the lessons to the honey in your tea or sugar in your coffee. "It's really a sweetener," she says. "If you are a religious person, and you practice ... being fully present and alive in the moment, and let's say your moment is church or the mosque or temple. Wow, that's just going to make it even better."

Read Elizabeth's definition of spirituality and religion.

Oprah says books like A New Earth help readers connect to their spirits, souls, consciousness...or whatever you want to call it. Elizabeth says they also help answer questions like, "Who am I?" and "What's my purpose?"

"Every one of us here in this audience, we long for something more than just getting up and battling our way through life," she says. "We somehow sense that there's something more, that we came from somewhere, that we're going somewhere. This journey we're on in life is really an eternal journey. Religions grew up around those deep questions."
Elizabeth Lesser and Oprah

Elizabeth wasn't always connected to her spiritual self. As a child, she says she had a premature terror of death and was neurotically obsessed with where she would go when she died.

When she was in her mid-20s, Elizabeth had a defining spiritual moment, which she shares in the May 2008 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine. The moment occurred as she sat at the bedside of a close friend who was dying from cancer. "I sort of followed her breathing out, and as she took her last breaths, I sort of went a little ways with her," Elizabeth says. "It was in that moment, I really had something that you can hardly describe...some miraculous moment where I really got in touch with my eternal soul."

By dropping some association of herself as only her body, Elizabeth says she was able to go a little ways with her friend as she passed away. "That really set me on my path," she says.

Margit is a lay minister from Texas who says she's changed the way she teaches after reading A New Earth. She says pages 70 and 71, where Eckhart writes about a Zen master watching an archery competition, provided her a deeper understanding of her faith. In the story, a man is struggling to win a competition, but the Zen master says it is the man's need to win that drains him of his power. During the discussion of Chapter 3, Eckhart explained, "So his attention is not totally in the now. Because to have mastery in any endeavor, whatever it is, you need to be total in what you do."

A New Earth has also shown Margit a different way of looking at Jesus Christ. "I've always tried to find a deeper inner connection with the purpose that Christ had here on earth," Margit says. "All my life, I thought it was just for him to die on the cross for my sins. But I now recognize that Jesus actually taught me Christ consciousness. To be fully human is to be Christ-like."
Katie Joel talks about 'A New Earth'

When Katie Joel made her first appearance on The Oprah Show, she says she had A New Earth to thank for a great interview. Instead of focusing on the nervousness she was feeling, Katie says she turned her attention to the audience.

"I looked out at them, and I saw their faces, and they looked like my mom or my aunt or my friends, and I thought, 'Today's really about them. It's about them having a good time and enjoying being here on this show,'" she says. "So I took a deep breath, and I was able to leave my nerves behind and I made peace with the present moment. I sat down on that couch, and I had the best time and I enjoyed every moment of it."  
Kim, Katie Joel's mother

Katie's mom, Kim, also read A New Earth and says it has changed the way she parents Katie. When Eckhart explained the role of parents during Oprah and Eckhart's Chapter 4 Web class, Kim says it was a wake-up call for her. "I thought it was my obligation to give her advice whether she asked for it or not," Kim says. "I realized I need to learn that this is a role that's no longer required of me. She's an adult, and I need to relate to her as a mother and be there for her on a different level."

"I was so glad that she watched that class," Katie says. "She hasn't been calling me and giving me unsolicited advice. When we talk, I feel more like we're having a conversation—like she's one of my friends. My mom's my best friend, so I'm happy about the shift."
Jenny McCarthy talks about 'A New Earth'

One of the greatest wisdoms Jenny McCarthy says she's gotten out of reading A New Earth is the ability to find peace.

Watch Jim and Jenny discuss living in the moment. Watch

"The only peace you can ever find is in the now. In this moment right here. As soon as my thoughts go out to tomorrow—I'm worried about this bill I have and I need to pay off, or my mortgage, or Evan's behavior or medicines—I am unconscious," she says. "If I come right back to the present, which is me sitting in this chair and I'm talking to you, there's peace."
Kidada Jones

During the Chapter 3 class of Oprah and Eckhart's Web class, Kidada Jones, daughter of legendary music producer Quincy Jones, asked a question that resonated with many people. "This book hits me really, really deep in my heart, and I know it to be the truth, but I have such resistance. And I feel like if everything in form is an illusion, it feels really disenchanting," she said. "I'm at a point in my life where I have goals, I'm excited about my career, I want to have kids, I want to meet a great partner. If it's all illusion, where is the fun?"

Oprah says she was afraid she and Eckhart did not fully answer that question, but Kidada says the answer became clear during the class on Chapter 4. "I would have to say that his very specific instructions of feeling the subtle body breathing, paying attention to nature...those very specific instructions brought a space into my life that I haven't experienced," Kidada says. "Within the space came all of these gifts—compassion, patience, newfound oneness. All of my time kind of slowed down. Everything just kind of had brakes. When I pay attention to those very specific directions, it's a whole new reality for me."

Kidada says her mind used to be like a moving freeway, but slowing down has been like lifting a veil. "I feel a greater sense of confidence," she says. "I feel a greater sense of togetherness. I feel like we're all on the same path. We're all headed to the same thing, and there's no need to be judgmental."
Penny has terminal ovarian cancer.

Penny from Ontario, Canada, says she has been practicing Eckhart's advice even though she's in the midst of facing her greatest challenge. In 2004, Penny was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer, and doctors estimated she had five years left to live. The cancer spread to her lymph nodes, and Penny went through 18 rounds of chemotherapy.

"Recently, my depression has been getting worse because I'm now approaching the five-year mark," she says. "I'm coming to terms with my mortality, thinking about how I'm going to die, when I'll die and if it will be painful."

Penny says she used to obsess about her fear of dying, but after reading Eckhart's explanation of eternal life, she says she has a completely new outlook on her life.

During the Chapter 4 class, Eckhart explained why he does not fear death. "The ego has dissolved, and so only the ego fears death," he said. "I know there is no death. Usually when people talk about immortality, they use certain arguments, perhaps from physics. They say the energy never gets destroyed. Energy can only become transformed. So the vital energy that is your life, because energy cannot be destroyed, must survive in some form. That is often the argument for the survival of that life—there is no death. Only the form dissolves."

Penny says she now no longer struggles with depression and anxiety. She's just excited to live! "I planned a trip to Vegas. Even when I bake a pie now I smell it, I feel the dough. I know my body's crumbling. I'm out of energy a lot, and it's probably happening. But at the same time, it doesn't scare me."
U.S. Army Captain Mason Weiss

U.S. Army Captain Mason Weiss is stationed in Iraq and constantly needs to be prepared. "I'm in a base that's close to Sadr City, and we had rockets and mortars getting shot over us and at us," he says. "We had a number of occasions where we had to run into duck-and-cover shelters and drop what we were doing and walk around in body armor."

Mason says reading A New Earth has helped him cope with the stresses of war. "My mom gave it to me to read before I came here and, like I said, with the recent fighting that's going on, I've realized at any moment—not to sound melodramatic—but I could be casualty number 4,003 or 4,004. And that can drive you crazy," he says. "I've tried to just calm myself down and stay in the present moment and realize that I'm probably going to live through this. When I get back home, I don't get a gift certificate or anything with all that wasted energy worrying about it."

To remind himself to stay in the present, Mason says he carries a card in his pocket at all times with 10 principles from A New Earth written on it. "It says, 'Getting through Iraq and beyond—some practical steps,'" Mason says. "I wrote, 'Be aware that what I think to a large extent creates the emotions that I feel. See the link between my thinking and my emotions. Rather than being my thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.'"
Jenny has a troubled marriage

Jenny says her home in Sydney, Australia, hasn't been a happy one because she is struggling with a troubled marriage. "I first became separated early this year," she says. "I'd only been married just over a year, and I felt my husband changed quite a lot and we wanted different things. At first, my reaction was an egoic one, and I was angry and I reacted with self-pity."

Jenny says a passage on page 8 of A New Earth helped her let go of her negative emotions. On this page, Eckhart writes, "When you can recognize the unconsciousness in you, that which makes the recognition possible is the arising consciousness, is awakening. You cannot fight against the ego and win, just as you cannot fight against darkness. The light of consciousness is all that is necessary. You are the light."

Although she and her husband are still separated, Jenny says she now reacts to her husband without anger. "Reading Tolle and accepting what he is and realizing that advice about pain-bodies, we're just trying to be built up, and our egos were trying to be inflated, that really helped me," she says. "When I read Eckhart say that's what was happening, to not do that, and to let go, that was quite a relief."

For anyone looking to live their best life, Oprah says A New Earth can be an important part of the spiritual journey.

"It's not too late for you to be a part of it," she says. "I promise you this, if you're ready, it can help transform your life...in little ways and big ways."