The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle was published in 1997. This was his first book, initially printed in only 3,000 copies, many of which Tolle gave to the bookstores. After Oprah Winfrey recommended it in her magazine, the book spent 20 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and is very much appreciated and a welcome read to many people today.
As the title suggests, the book is intensely focused on the problems you have today and the person you are at this moment, denying our usual tendency to imagine some bright future or to dwell on the past, without ever really coming to grips with the present.
“The Power of Now” is written in the form of questions and answers, through an imaginary dialogue with the reader; most of the questions arose while he was teaching and counselling.
Since our civilization was built upon the achievements of the mind, we naturally confuse the mind as being us. However, there is a Being-ness behind the mind, the true “I”, and our goal should be to get in tune with it, so that we can control our thoughts and put our emotions into perspective.
The mind has continual conversations with itself, all based on what has happened in the past, and it’s difficult to turn it off. So, as today is never as good as the past times nor as glorious as the future ahead of us, we tend to disregard the things that happen right now. And it’s continual thinking that prevents us from enjoying simply being, of enjoying the moment.
We are compulsive thinkers, and we have to free ourselves from that if we want to access the state of ‘now’. But it’s not as difficult as it may sound: simply by acknowledging that the state of “now” does exist, we increase the amount of time we are fully ‘awake’. Every time we recognize we were not living in the present – for example: I acknowledge that for the past hour I was totally occupied by worry – the chances that we may live in the “now” increases for the future situations. Tolle also suggests that we should be aware of every moment when we do some routine things, like washing our hands, sitting in the car, breathing; as long as these are mechanical and automatic actions, we are not fully experiencing the present.
The more we resist our current situation, the more painful it is, Tolle says. The more you focus on waiting and looking forward to the day when you’ll be happy or prosperous, the stronger you resist to the present situation, making it unbearable. The solution is a bit paradoxal: you have to forgive the situation and accept its right to be. The Now is problem-free: as problems need to exist in time, the more you live in the present, the less life you give them.
In the Introduction, the author talks about the “inner transformation” that he experienced one night at the age of 29, when “the intense pressure of suffering that night must have forced my consciousness to withdraw from its identification with the unhappy and deeply fearful self, which is ultimately a fiction of the mind. (…) What was left then was my true nature as the ever-present I am”. The Introduction also presents what the reader will find inside the book, and how s/he should treat it: “Don’t read with the mind only. Watch out for any “feeling-response” as you read and a sense of recognition from deep within.”
- Chapter 1: You Are Not Your Mind. Identification of your self with the thoughts and emotions you have is a core error. We should become the watchers of our thoughts, instead of identifying ourselves with them. When we put your mind in to neutral – and we have the ability to do that – we then allow pure consciousness to emerge, and the mind then becomes a servant to your consciousness, instead of running on autopilot using you.
- Chapter 2: Consciousness: The Way Out of Pain. The physical body carries memories of past emotional pain, and your mind identifies itself with the pain – it believes that you are your pain, so if you let go of it, you won’t exist anymore. That’s why our mind resists letting go of the pain. But this pattern that lives in the past can be dissolved when we become totally aware of it and bring consciousness into the present moment.
- Chapter 3: Moving Deeply Into the Now. In order to dis-identify from the mind, we have to end the illusion of time. Tolle distinguishes between psychological and clock time: psychological time is obsessed with memory and anticipation, and should be removed from the mind so that we become able to be present; clock time, on the other hand, is the practical and helpful use of the concept of time that makes use of past and future in order to make the best use of Now. He illustrates this with the words: “Nothing ever happened in the past. It happened in the Now. Nothing will ever happen in the future, it will happen in the Now.”
- Chapter 4: Mind Strategies for Avoiding the Now. Knowing you are not present is a great success because this knowing is a form of presence. We should strive to bring more consciousness into life, and to accept what is. Complaining for example is one of the strategies for avoiding the Now – it’s a state of non-acceptance. Accepting means taking responsibility and acting: either taking action, leaving the situation, or accepting it as it is.
- Chapter 5: The State of Presence. Presence is the state free of thought, but you’re alert, and all your attention is in the Now. Tolle talks about Satori – it’s a Zen word that refers to those flashes of Presence; Satori moments are flashes of “no mind.” In the state of presence, you become conscious of Being – which is really that Being becomes conscious of itself, free of its identification with physical and mental forms. It becomes pure or enlightened consciousness, or presence.
- Chapter 6: The Inner Body. Body is our closest connection to animal life; as animals live instinctively and reactively, the more we pay attention to our body, the more we are able to live intentionally. Simply attending to the body is one way of moving past Mind. But he says: “The body that you can see and touch is only a thin illusory veil. Underneath it lies the invisible inner body, the doorway into Being, into Life Unmanifested.” The inner body does not age, and our connection with it will slow down the physical aging process; lower stress that a connection to Being brings can strengthen the immune system. He also explains how connection with Being via the body enhances creativity.
- Chapter 7: Portals into the Unmanifested. Sometimes we can connect with the Unmanifested (the invisible Source of all things) unexpectedly, but there are ways for us to nurture these portals: the Inner Body, opening the flow of Chi (flow of energy from the unmanifested to manifested form), dreamless sleep, Conscious awareness of the Now (which is the main portal), cessation of thinking, surrendering, silence, space and conscious death.
- Chapter 8: Enlightened Relationships. People think of relationships as the future experiences that will “save” them – another trick of the Mind and psychological time. The mind creates a love/hate cycle with all relationships, and that cycle can be very addictive. “Every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain. Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain. Whatever the substance you are addicted to—alcohol, food, legal or illegal drugs, or a person—you are using something or somebody to cover up your pain.” To heal, we must dis-identify with Mind and connect with Now. Tolle suggests relationships as spiritual practice.
- Chapter 9: Beyond Happiness and Unhappiness There Is Peace. The first step in experiencing peace is accepting things as they are: “When you live in complete acceptance of what is, that is the end of all drama in your life. Nobody can even have an argument with you, no matter how hard he or she tries”. And although physical pain can be a reality, all suffering is created by the ego’s resistance to accepting things. When we sense negativity arising in us, we can choose to be present and “wake up,” and let go of the mind games, as negativity is how ego tries and manipulates reality. When we begin to accept what is, then every moment becomes the best possible moment.
- Chapter 10: The Meaning of Surrender. Surrender is to accept the present moment unconditionally and without reservation. It’s not the same thing as resignation: one can surrender to the reality of a situation and still take steps to create a different path, because surrender is perfectly compatibile with taking action, intitiating change, or achieving goals.
Yes, I still have my doubts or worries about the future every now and then. But I remind myself that I need to delve deep into the inner recesses of my mind – to examine its flawed thinking and to retrain it for greater stillness.
I have certainly discovered a life far more joyous than the one that I used to live in. And it gets better day by day! I highly recommend The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle.
Until I read this book, I never noticed how in sane my mind can make me if I choose to let it. Tolle implores the reader to take the reigns of his own mind, focus on the beauty and love around him, just like we all did when we were children and the world was full of wonder.
NOW comes Eckhart Tolle with an unbelievably clear, powerful and succinct account of how and why our mind-based ego consciousness runs us, robs us of our birthright as humans, and why our society, at every turn, supports this process. His message is exquisitely eloquent and direct: Learn, through endless practice (unbending intent as Don Juan would say) to observe your mind without judgement. See where this leads you again and again as your sense of who you are escapes psychological time and the vastness, wholeness, and beauty of Creation opens before you.
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