Question: When you know a certain person or situation is likely to trigger your Painbody, is it better to avoid them altogether or is it helpful to the development of Consciousness to stay with them and observe your Painbodies?
Eckhart Tolle: There is no clear answer to that - it depends on the situation. In some situations you cannot even walk away. There may be a situation at work, or wherever, that may require you to be there at that moment, and all you can do is be present with your Painbody. In other situations it may be better to walk out instead of being engaged in useless argumentation or conflict; sometimes it may be better to walk out of a situation and let someone else’s Painbody exhaust itself rather than stay with that person. Nobody can give you a clear guideline of whether this is right or that is right, you have to take individual situations and feel what is right to do.
There is no way of avoiding the Painbody altogether. If you live in this world, there will always be situations in your life [that trigger it], unless you are a complete hermit. Even if you are a complete hermit, it may happen because your own Painbody may arise as a result of certain thoughts that may trigger it. There is no way to avoid encountering Painbodies. And certainly you cannot run away every time you encounter someone else’s Painbody. Your spiritual practice will have to be a heightening of presence as soon as you notice somebody close to you who is being drawn into that deep unconsciousness that is the identification with the Painbody.
The intensity of Presence needs to arise so that you can counteract the deep, powerful pull of unconsciousness of the other person’s Painbody, that wants your Painbody to react - it wants an emotional reaction from you. It’s like a dimmer switch, you need to turn the dimmer switch up so that you become intensely present while the other person’s Painbody is trying to get some kind of reaction from you. It’s a very subtle thing, it can easily be confused with closing down or shutting yourself off from the other person.
When I talk about intense Presence, it has nothing to do with closing yourself to the other person, shutting down - this is energetically completely different. If you close down and you say “nothing can touch me now, I am not going to react”, then you shut off. You might fool yourself into believing that you are so present that nothing can touch you. You have created a barrier between yourself and the other person. That’s not what I mean by intensification of Presence. With intensification of Presence, there is a complete openness toward your surroundings, toward the Other, but there is that high degree of alertness, and that alertness is open towards what is. After a while you will find that you do that automatically, it’s not a decision-making process.
Whenever there is a pull of unconsciousness in a situation, you find yourself becoming more alert and awake. When you find yourself being challenged, you will find yourself becoming more alert – like the light is being turned up. That’s wonderful, because then it means that whatever the challenge may be, its function is to push you into intensified Presence. That’s the only way you can not be drawn into somebody else’s Painbody.
Once you realize that this is possible, you will find in situations the intensity of Presence inside you will vary. It becomes very intense the moment you are challenged by a difficult situation. Immediately you find, rather than being pulled into unconsciousness by a challenge, which is the case for most people, you intensify your presence.