The Power of Now states that living in the now is the most authentic path to happiness and enlightenment. Eckhart Tolle awakens readers to their role as a creator of pain. He also shows them how to have a pain-free identity by living fully in the present. If you surrender to the present moment, your problems will no longer exist. The present is where you will find joy, embrace your true self, and discover you are already complete and perfect.
About Eckhart Tolle
A German resident of Canada, Eckhart Tolle is a spiritual leader and author. In 2008, the New York Times described Tolle as “The most popular spiritual author in the United States.” Additionally, the Watkins Review claimed, in 2011, that he was the most spiritually influential person in the world. Although not identified with a particular religion, Toll claims to be influenced by multiple religions and spiritual works.
Chapter One – You Are Not Your Mind
Your mind is the primary origin of pain. Hence, if you allow your ego to take over, you will endure considerably more pain. Your mind is associated with pain because it frequently brings up memories. Focusing on your memories will often lead to worries about the past and more significant anxiety about the future. Generally, our mind fixates on negative memories. Subsequently, this prevents us from living in the present. The pain associated with memories is compounded by us having no control over these events. Eckhart Tolle highlights we only have control over the present. We have no control over our memories or future events.
Tolle suggests you try to separate yourself from your mind due to the pain associated with your mind. Alternatively, try to focus on your body. Your body understands what is best for you. Subsequently, you can learn a lot about the critical factors within your life by choosing to focus on your body. Tolle argues that nobody has ever found enlightenment by focusing on their mind and ignoring their body.
The Buddha was passionate about the concept of separating your mind from your body. The Buddha learned from spending six years abstaining, while also intermittently fasting, that he could not reach enlightenment by separating his body. Instead, he found the only effective practices to be those that helped him feel united with his body.
Chapter Two – Consciousness: The Way Out of Pain
“Focus attention on the feeling inside you. Know that it is the pain-body. Accept that it is there. Don’t think about it – don’t let the feeling turn into thinking. Don’t judge or analyze. Don’t make an identity for yourself out of it. Stay present, and continue to be the observer of what is happening inside you. Become aware not only of the emotional pain but also of “the one who observes,” the silent watcher. This is the power of the Now, the power of your own conscious presence. Then see what happens.”– Eckhart Tolle
When you seek to detach yourself from your mind, you must be fully conscious of your mind’s power. This consciousness should allow you to highlight the subtle ways in which your mind causes you pain. This pain could be through behavior or thoughts. Simply observing your relationship with your mind will create a gap in the flow of your thinking. For example, suppose you ask yourself what your next thought will be. In this case, it is likely there will be a delay before your next clear thought arrives. Consistently utilizing questions like this will help you become more conscious of how you become so used to your mind’s flow. Alternatively, breaking up your thoughts will help you isolate your mind and separate yourself from it. Specifically, try to accept these thoughts as they arise. However, do not necessarily follow the advice of these thoughts.
Chapter Three – Moving Deeply Into the Now
It is likely you spend most of your time thinking about the past and future. Subsequently, Tolle suggests you could be neglecting the only moment that is fully available to you, which is your present. No events occur in the past or future. Instead, life is just a continuous stream of present moments over time. Hence, Tolle describes the past as a collection of once-present moments that have passed. Comparatively, the future is filled with several present moments that are yet to arrive.
As the past and future are simply alternative versions of the present, there are no advantages to worrying about them. If you can simply focus on the present, then you will only be dealing with minor problems as they arise. You can break a challenging task into several minor challenges.
Chapter Four – Mind Strategies for Avoiding the Now
Living in the present does not mean you should be surrendering to the present. Instead, you should be adopting mind strategies to deal with any negative feelings that emerge from dealing with the present. Not all pain is within our control, as we all experience challenging moments like loved ones passing away. However, you must accept these traumatic events for what they are. You can limit the quantity of pain and the length of this painful period by accepting that this tragedy happened. Understanding that nothing can now be changed will help you avoid needless additional suffering. Detaching from your mind will provide you with the inner strength required to accept painful situations.
Chapter Five – The State of Presence
Eckhart Tolle describes the optimal state of presence as being permanent alertness. As well as separating yourself from your mind, you should also adopt an active waiting technique. Active waiting is characterized by being aware that something important could happen at any moment. Hence, during this state, you have all your attention focused on the present moment.
Active waiting suppresses any opportunities to daydream, plan for the future, or remember the past. It is impossible to be distracted from the present. One of the strengths of active waiting is it helps you pay attention to your body for potential events. Tolle explains that Zen masters sneak up on their pupils when they have their eyes closed. Then, they attempt to hit the student. This approach forced their students to adopt active waiting, which helped them fully concentrate on their bodies.
Chapter Six – The Inner Body
Tolle speaks at length about the negative impact of your ego. Your ego is a part of your mind that controls your thoughts and behavior. Crucially, ego is part of your ‘inner body’, which means it often controls you without your knowledge. Tolle highlights that your ego depends on your misery for its continued existence. As your ego relies on misery, it also obstructs your potential happiness.
The impact of egos on humans is apparent when one considers nobody wants to suffer. Yet, there are so many people who are architects of their own downfall. They intentionally sabotage their own happiness or stay in painful relationships. The ego is a destructive part of the human mind. It wants to be an essential part of you and knows no limits. Therefore, if you let it gain control, it will bring you much suffering.
Chapter Seven – Portals Into the Unmanifested
Tolle recommends readers to connect to the unmanifested presence of the now that we carry with us at all times. Hence, we must practice being present to inner energy for 10-15 minutes at a time. Breaking away from a focus on your body will allow you to be more aware of this energy. Specifically, once you have identified unmanifested energy, you want to flow this energy into the manifested form. Tolle calls this Chi.
Sleep is a period when you will experience more of the unmanifested. However, you will not liberate the energy associated with the manifested unless you enter it consciously. Therefore, conscious awareness of the now is your main portal. You can reinforce your awareness of the now by practicing silence. The interplay of sound and silence shapes all our manifested experience. Space is also the emptiness among the atoms of the world. Therefore, space is comparable to silence. It is usually impossible to be fully aware of space or silence. However, if you can become aware of space, you will also become aware of the unmanifested.
Sleep is an example of an involuntary portal. Similarly, death is another involuntary portal. It opens up briefly at the time of physical death. Suppose you missed all other opportunities for spiritual realization during your lifetime. In this case, you will still have one last portal open up for you immediately after the body has died.
Chapter Eight – Enlightened Relationships
“Unless and until you access the consciousness frequency of presence, all relationships, and particularly intimate relationships, are deeply flawed and ultimately dysfunctional.”– Eckhart Tolle
Relationships are consistently associated with suffering, partly because society believes we are entitled to great relationships. However, Tolle believes that relationships often pull us away from the present. This is common because relationships encourage us to consider future experiences as saviors. However, relationships are naturally addictive because they create a love-hate cycle. These cycles make us feel alive. However, we are often drawn to people romantically because of our wounds. Subsequently, we become disillusioned when our romantic partners are unable to heal these wounds.
Ultimately, your spiritual path should never be dependent on another person. This is particularly important to consider as relationships can activate the pain-body when we are disillusioned with the relationship. To “heal” we must dis-identify with the mind and connect with now.
Tolle believes women are naturally closer to enlightenment as they are also naturally closer to their bodies. Men are too obsessed with their minds. Despite this, women also have a collective pain-body due to women being subjugated within society. Therefore, women must reflect upon the degree to which they resist letting go of their pain.
Chapter Nine – Beyond Happiness and Unhappiness There Is Peace
Simply accepting things as they are is the first step in achieving peace. Hence, Tolle suggests you move beyond the binary of good and bad. Instead, view every experience as possessing the potential to move you toward peace. Most “bad” things in life are created by the ego’s need for control. We can create drama when we battle with other egos, and we can create drama on our own, battling with our ego. Tolle says humans are the only life form on earth that knows negativity. We use it to pollute our environment. Instead, utilize detachment so you can be free of expectations and acquire genuine compassion.
Chapter Ten – The Meaning of Surrender
“Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life.”– Eckhart Tolle
Surrender is not the same thing as resignation. One can surrender to the reality of a situation and still take steps to create a different path. Surrendered actions involve letting go of judgment while seeking change. Tolle believes that you can experience more effective motivation when you surrender. Surrender your resistance by first acknowledging the resistance and then understanding how your mind seeks to label and judge this resistance. Understanding your resistance will liberate you from being reactive and allow you to choose your actions freely.
Surrendering is another way of achieving peace. Tolle suggests you mindfully surrender to each moment. Essentially, say yes to both what is and what isn’t. Without surrendering, we are swapping potential peace for suffering through resistance. You will know that you have effectively surrendered when you no longer have to ask yourself whether you have surrendered.
“The pain that you create now is always some form of nonacceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. On the level of thought, the resistance is some form of judgment. On the emotional level, it is some form of negativity. The intensity of the pain depends on the degree of resistance to the present moment, and this in turn depends on how strongly you are identified with your mind. The mind always seeks to deny the Now and to escape from it. In other words, the more you are identified with your mind, the more you suffer. Or you may put it like this: the more you are able to honor and accept the Now, the more you are free of pain, of suffering – and free of the egoic mind. Why does the mind habitually deny or resist the Now? Because it cannot function and remain in control without time, which is past and future, so it perceives the timeless Now as threatening. Time and mind are in fact inseparable.”– Eckhart Tolle
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