Eckhart Tolle's primary teaching is about negating the symbolic-self. The symbolic-self is based on a symbolic mapping of physical space & physical behaviours. Our symbolic self is analogous to the way we make a drawn map of a territory and then we pinpoint our physical location within that symbolic map of the territory to help us navigate the physical space based on our physical movements.
I recently visited a city overseas, where I had to rely on symbolic mapping in order to navigate the town without getting lost. Symbolic thought is a very important skill to have at our disposal.
These active symbols we use to create symbolic maps of a territory in the brain...inevitably lead to the same kind of self-reference which Gödel proved was inherent in any complex logical or arithmetical system in his Incompleteness Theorem. Gödel showed that mathematics and logic contain Strange Loops: propositions that not only refer to mathematical and logical truths, but also to the symbol systems expressing those truths.
The symbolic-self arises out of a similar kind of paradox. We are not born with an ‘I’ – the ego emerges only gradually as experience shapes our dense web of active symbols into a tapestry rich and complex enough to begin twisting back upon itself.
According to this view the symbolic-self is a narrative fiction, something created only from intake of symbolic data and its own ability to create stories about itself from that data. The consequence is that a perspective (a mind) is a culmination of a unique pattern of symbolic activity in our nervous systems, which suggests that the pattern of symbolic activity that makes identity, that constitutes subjectivity, can be replicated within the brains of others, and perhaps even in artificial brains.
Tolle believes that we can negate our symbolic-self, by withdrawing attention from physical objects and start paying attention to the physical empty space itself . He says this simultaneously withdraws attention from symbolic thought and emotions that arise as a result of symbolic thought such as symbolic fear, guilt, regret, etc (i.e symbolic suffering).
Tolle says the symbolic-self only becomes problematic, causing symbolic suffering, when we forget to withdraw attention from its active symbols when not needed. Obviously when I needed to navigate the foreign town I needed to rely on those active symbols, but otherwise I should attend to the physical space & physical behaviours without the use of symbolic time (past & future) and an active symbolic self.
Therefore we all must have a non-symbolic self, which is free of active symbols. We find this non-symbolic self by diverting our attention to the "space" of the inner physical body - the source domain that creates the target domain (active symbols) . This withdraws attention from the active symbols being formed in the brain. This is what Tolle refers to being in the HERE & NOW, which is free of all symbolic thought.... and that troublesome 'fictitious' symbolic-self.
Active Symbolic 'attention' is needed for cognitive tasks. Non-symbolic 'attention' is needed for motor tasks. Almost all learning and curricula (e.g, reading, mathematics, social studies, science) require humans to manipulate, acquire, retain, transform, and recall and attend to active symbols. In contrast, non-symbolic 'attention' requires them to learn physical or motor tasks, such as picking up a pencil, shooting a basketball, or running and jumping.