Book Review-”The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle

The Power of Now- Eckhart Tolle

Living in the present moment is the essential spiritual practice one would undertake to get a glimpse of the joy and peace that comes by letting go of the past and future. This is the beginning of the journey into the formless world that exists within us and through which everything emerges.

Even during the course of the journey, this one practice sees us through the ups and downs that come as we let go of identification with the various layers that we take on during lifetimes and finally establish a constant connection with the Source.

As a continuous practice, living in the present moment would mean giving complete undivided attention to whatever comes up at that moment- without engaging in thoughts arising in the mind. It would mean taking each breath deeply and feeling it. It would mean being totally aware of how your child looks and feels as she comes to you for a hug. It would mean being aware of the temperature of the running water, the touch of the dishes and the smell of the soap while washing dishes. It would mean listening to the person talking to you, through every pore of your body. Many of us do it unconsciously when we are living the moment from our heart, when we are engaged in an activity we love doing -like singing, or painting or gardening or just looking at a beautiful rose, a waterfall or the starry night sky. If you could take a moment and experience the peace and joy that particular moment brings unconsciously, you can carry it to all activities that you do.

The following book review of the phenomenal book by the luminary Eckhart Tolle, ‘THE POWER OF NOW’, is intended to remind us of this basic truth. I have given a few excerpts (in quotes) from the book so the readers can feel the power of those words for themselves and get a glimpse into what priceless wisdom they can gather from the book.

The book explains the concept of Beingness, which we so often forget in this world of form and activity, explains the illusion that prevents us from Being, and then takes us through the practice of Living in the Now as the one main path to that Beingness, Oneness, or the Source. Understanding the perception of mind and time- that has come from the conditioning throughout our lives , is very important to know the barriers to present moment awareness. Once, we are free of this illusion, the Beingness just shines forth.

 

Being

The book begins with a beautiful story, which reminds us that looking within is the only direction we need to take in our spiritual journeys to discover who we truly are. Discovering who we are directs us to the steps we can take to fulfill  our highest purpose.

“A beggar had been sitting by the side of a road for over thirty years. One day, a stranger walked by. “Spare some change?” mumbled the beggar, mechanically holding out his old baseball cap. “I have nothing to give you.” said the stranger. Then he asked:”What’s that  you are sitting on?” “Nothing,” replied the beggar.”Just an old box as far as I can remember.” “Ever looked inside?” asked the stranger.”No,” said the beggar. ”What’s the point?There’s nothing in there.” “Have a look inside,” insisted the stranger. The beggar managed to pry open the lid. With astonishment, disbelief, and elation, he saw that the box was filled with gold. “

I am that stranger who has nothing to give you and who is telling you to look inside. Not inside any box, as in the parable, but somewhere even closer: inside yourself.

Those who have not found their true wealth, which is radiant joy of Being and the deep, unshakable peace that comes with it, are beggars, even if they have great material wealth. They are looking outside for scraps of pleasure or fulfillment, for validation, security, or love, while they have a treasure within that not only includes all those things but is infinitely greater than anything the world can offer.”

The “Beingness”, “Oneness”, or “God”, “Truth”, “Supreme Self”- that’s who we really are, has been explained thus-

Being is the eternal, ever-present One life beyond the myriad forms of life that are subject to birth and death. However, Being is not only beyond but also deep within every form as its innermost invisible and indestructible essence. This means it is accessible to you now as your deepest own self, your true nature. But don’t seek to grasp it with your mind. Don’t try to understand it. You can know it only when the mind is still. When you are present, when your attention is fully and intensely in the Now, Being can be felt, but it can never be understood mentally. To regain awareness of Being and to abide in that state of “feeling-realization” is enlightenment.”

Mind

The mind creates our world- so by nature, it points outwards. It also judges and analyzes the world, labeling everything, every second of our life- if we are not aware of it! This kind of activity keeps it immensely busy. So, when we identify with our mind, that’s what we become- extremely busy and stressed!

“Greatest obstacle to experiencing Beingness – Identification with your mind, which causes thought to become compulsive. Not to be able to stop thinking is a dreadful affliction, but we don’t realize this because almost everybody is suffering from  it, so it is considered normal. This incessant mental noise prevents you from finding that realm of inner stillness that is inseparable from Being. It also creates a false mind-made self that casts a shadow of fear and suffering.”

So, what is the usefulness of mind?

“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly.  Used wrongly , however, it becomes very destructive. To put it more accurately, it is not so much that you use your mind wrongly- you usually don’t use it at all. It uses you. This is the disease. You believe that you are your mind. This is the delusion. The instrument has taken you over.

Just because you can solve crossword puzzle or build an atom bomb doesn’t mean that you use your mind. Just as dogs love to chew bones, the mind loves to get its teeth into problems. That’s why it does crossword puzzles and builds atom bombs. You have no interest in  either. Let me ask you this:can you be free of your mind whenever you want to? Have you found the “off” button?

The good news is that you can free yourself from your mind. This is the only true liberation.”

Time

Time is created by the mind to support the sense of separateness it creates. Mind stores memories as an identification for the ego, instead of as neutral facts. So, instead of remembering a situation as it was, we remember the interpretations we made and the associated emotions, memories attached to the situation. This “remembering” gives identity to the mind, as well as a lot of emotional baggage to carry, with every judgement made. The emotions are seldom processed to get out of the system. So, eventually an imaginable number of them pile up in the system.

“All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry- all forms of fear- are caused by too much future, and not enough present. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievance, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.”

So, the mind and the illusion of time together give us the illusion of this world. The world appears different to each individual, rather everybody “perceives” the world differently depending on how much they identify with mind and are burdened with time! So, could our world be better if we were to change how much we identify with the mind and time?

 

Presence

Living in the now, being in the present moment totally,  is the ultimate gift we can give to ourselves.

It is in the ‘Now’ that creation occurs, that joy comes, freedom comes. Everything that has ever happened has only happened in the ‘Now’. Past and future are just the baggage we carry. We can let go of the past by learning from it and looking at it from a place of neutrality- the unnecessary baggage is gone and the necessary lessons are imbibed to serve living in the Now. The future is anyway determined by how we live in the Now, so there is no need to worry about it. The key here is to remain neutral, to not come from a place of judgement and allow yourself to live in the present moment.

“Most people find it difficult to believe that a state of consciousness totally free of all negativity is possible. And yet this is the liberated state to which all the spiritual teachings point. It is the promise of salvation, not in the illusory future but right here and now.

You may find it hard to recognize that time is the cause of your suffering or your problems. you believe that they are caused by specific situations in your life, and seen from a conventional point of view, this is true. But until you have dealt with the basic problem- making dysfunction of the mind- its attachment to past and future and denial of the Now- problems are actually inter changeable. If all your problems or perceived causes of suffering or unhappiness were miraculously removed for you today, but you had not become more present, more conscious, you would soon find yourself with a similar set of problems or causes of suffering, like a shadow that follows you wherever you go. Ultimately , there is only one problem- the time bound mind itself.

There is no salvation in time. You cannot be free in the future. Presence is the key to freedom, so you can only be free now.

If you found yourself in paradise, it wouldn’t be long before your mind would say,”yes, but…” Ultimately, this is not about solving your problems.Its about realizing that there are no problems. Only situations- to be dealt with now, or to be left alone and accepted as a part of the “isness” of the present moment until they change or can be dealt with. Problems are mind-made and need time to survive. They cannot survive in the actuality of the Now.

Focus your attention on the Now and tell me what problem you have at this moment.

It is impossible to have a problem when your attention is focused in the Now.A situation that needs to be either dealt with or accepted- yes. why make it into a problem? Isn’t life challenging enough as it is? What do you need problems for? The mind unconsciously loves problems because they give you an identity of sorts. This is normal and it is insane.”Problem ” means that you are dwelling on a situation mentally without there being a true intention or possibility of taking action now and that you are unconsciously making it part of your sense of self. You become so overwhelmed by your life situation that you lose your sense of life, of Being. Or you are carrying in your mind an insane burden of a hundred things that you will or may have to do in the future instead of focusing your attention on the one thing that you can do now.

When you create a problem you create pain. All it takes is a simple choice, a simple decision: no matter what happens, I will create no more pain for myself. I will create no more problems. Although it is a simple choice, it is also very radical. You won’t make that choice unless you are truly fed up with suffering, unless you have truly had enough. And you won’t be able to go through with it unless you access the power of Now. If you create no more pain for yourself, then you create no more pain for others. You also no longer contaminate the beautiful earth, your inner space, and the collective human psyche with the negativity of problem- making.”


Portals  into the Unmanifested

Being in the Now is the main portal to access the Source of life, the Oneness underlying all lives, our inner essence.
As Eckhart explains beautifully, there are a few portals that can lead us into the unmanifested, the Oneness consciousness

Feeling the inner body- “Merging into the inner energy field of the body, by going deeply into the body, you have transcended the body.Having access to that formless realm is truly liberating.”

Present moment awareness“When you dissolve psychological time through intense present-moment awareness, you become conscious of the Unmanifested both directly and indirectly.”

Cessation of thinking- “Continuous mind activity keeps you imprisoned in the world of form and becomes an opaque screen that prevents you from becoming conscious of the Unmanifested, conscious of the formless and timeless God-essence in yourself and in all things and all creatures.”

Surrender- “The letting go of mental-emotional resistance to what is becomes a portal into the Unmanifested”

Silence- “Look for the Unmanifest in the silence out of which the sounds come and into which they return. Pay more attention to the silence than to the sounds. Paying attention to outer silence creates inner silence: the mind becomes still.”

Space- “Just as no sound can exist without silence, nothing can exist without no-thing, without the empty space that enables it to be.”

Dreamless sleep- “You make a journey into the Unmanifested every night when you enter the phase of deep, dreamless sleep. you merge with the Source.”

Conscious Death- “Even if you have missed all the other opportunities for spiritual realization during your lifetime, one last portal will open up for you immediately after the body has died.This portal opens up only briefly, and unless you have already encountered the dimension of the Unmanifested in your lifetime, you will likely miss it.”

In closing

The book  has many pointers to how you can be aware of the Beingness. Each of them can be made into a regular spiritual practice that can help us live a more harmonious life, free of pain and suffering and in connection with the Spirit.

Since the book is in a question-answer format, with the questions coming from people who want to understand how to be in the present moment, it addresses the practical problems one would face on this path.

To buy the book, please click on the link here -http://www.eckharttolle.com/books/now/

There are many videos on Eckhart talking about the ‘Now’ on youtube , which you can look up and enjoy.

 

Enjoy reading!

-Vijaya

 

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