Can you describe your daily spiritual practices? How have they changed over the years?
Eckhart: For a number of years I enjoyed a daily meditation practice which was primarily a Buddhist type of meditation, Samatha, and also Vipassana. However, now I no longer have any formal spiritual practice or, to put it differently, daily life is my spiritual practice. What I mean by this is not getting lost in compulsive and unconscious thinking, but staying present every moment. Making the present moment the focal point of my life and realizing that ultimately the present moment is all there ever is. So I don’t have a formal spiritual practice anymore. There is just an inner alignment with whatever arises in the present moment so that no resistance arises – no resistance to what is. There’s a welcoming of whatever form the present moment takes, staying present rather than being identified with the continuous arising of thinking.
What do you believe is the purpose of spiritual practices?
Eckhart: There’s an enormous sense of liberation and freedom in cultivating awareness or mindfulness, in allowing our repetitive thought patterns to be replaced with a different state of consciousness that I usually call presence. When you’re at the mercy of the compulsive stream of thinking and identified with it, then you’re not free at all. You are then possessed by your mind and confuse who you are with a stream of thinking that arises continuously and is totally conditioned by the past. This dis-identification from thinking and the discovery that there is a dimension of consciousness in you that is higher than thinking is of course the purpose of any spiritual practice or meditation method.
Your books and teachings draws from many of the world’s spiritual traditions, including Christianity, Buddhism, and Vedanta. Could you share what writings and teachers have had the greatest influence on you?
Eckhart: Two spiritual teachers that I feel closely connected to, although I’ve never met them in person, are Krishnamurti and Ramana Maharshi. Their teachings seem very dissimilar at first. Krishnamurti taught mainly in negative terms just like the Buddha. By this I mean that he didn’t give you any inspiring words, ideas or concepts to believe in. He would tell you to investigate the workings of your own mind, in the same way that the Buddha taught us to investigate how suffering arises and by discovering the roots of suffering in our own minds arrive at a state of consciousness that he described as "the end of suffering." Whereas Ramana Maharshi would often point to that which lies beyond the realm of thinking, a dimension of consciousness he called the self. Ramana Maharshi’s teaching points to the possibility of finding true happiness by discovering the unconditioned dimension of consciousness itself. It is more inspiring than Krishnamurti‘s teaching in the same way that Jesus is more inspiring than the Buddha, although both point to the same truth. I feel that in my own teaching, those two seemingly dissimilar teaching-streams come together into one. Some of the spiritual texts that are very dear to me are the Tao Te Ching, the Bhagavad Gita, The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis and Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.