“To know yourself as the Being underneath the thinker, the stillness underneath the mental noise, the love and joy underneath the pain, is freedom, salvation, enlightenment.”
Given that I’m a personal development addict fromway back and The Power of Now was first published in 1997 it’s strange that I only came across it at the end of this year. But I’m glad I finally did hear about it and read it.
Despite (or maybe because) he was listed as one of the most spiritually influential people in the world, the author Eckhard Tolle has his fair share of detractors.
But I found The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment was another great tool to help me with mindfulness, awareness and the quest for conscious living, rather than sleep-walking through life on auto-pilot. It seems that Tolle was writing about mindfulness (which he calls “being in the now” well before it became mainstream.
Yes, there’s a bit of gobbledygook in the book. In other words, I found some of the concepts are hard to grasp even on a second or third reading. So if you’ve never explored your spirituality much before and you’re interested in mindfulness then Sane New World: A User’s Guide to the Normal-Crazy Mind by Ruby Wax or anything by Jon Kabat Zinn is probably a better starting point than The Power of Now.
But there are also some deep truths in this book which spoke to me and helped me elevate my mindfulness practice to a new level. Particularly the parts about how being around difficult people will help us become far more enlightened than hiding ourselves away in a cave.
The section on the ‘pain body’ also captured my imagination. Tolle calls the ‘pain body’ that part of us which has been injured and lies dormant within us but which rears its head when certain situations remind us of past pains. That made sense to me. Especially as I reread the book and listened to it on CD.
So if you’re interested in mindulness, meditation and personal development but you haven’t already read The Power of Now I highly recommend it, especially the spin off and more accessible Practicing the Power of Now.
Here are a few quotes to give you a taste of the book although you’ll get a lot more out of it by reading it from cover to cover.
“The term ego means different things to different people, but when I use it here it means a false self, created by unconscious identification with the mind.
To the ego, the present moment hardly exists. Only past and future are considered important. This total reversal of the truth accounts for the fact that in the ego mode the mind is dysfunctional. It is always concerned with keeping the past alive, because without it – who are you? It constantly projects itself into the future to ensure its continued survival and to seek some kind of releases or fulfillment there….
Even when the ego seems to be concerned with the present, it is not the present it sees: It misperceives it completely because it look as it through the eyes of the past. Or it reduces the present to a means to an end, an end that always lies in the mind-projected future.”
“The present moment holds the key to liberation… .
Enlightenment means rising above thought.”
On emotions and bringing all that is unconscious in you in the light of consciousness
“Make it a habit to ask yourself: What’s going on inside me at this moment? That question will point you in the right direction. But don’t analyze, just watch. Focus your attention within. Feel the energy of the emotion.
If there is no emotion present, take your attention more deeply into the inner energy field of your body. It is the doorway into Being.”
On the delusion of time
“To be identified with your mind is to be trapped in time: the compulsion to live almost exclusively through memory and anticipation. This creates an endless preoccupation with past and future and an unwillingness to honor and acknowledge the present moment and allow it to be. The compulsion arises because the past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation, of fulfillment in whatever form. Both are illusions.”
On being in the now
“Break the old pattern of present-moment denial and present-moment resistance. Make it your practice to withdraw attention from past and future whenever they are not needed. Step out of the time dimension as much as possible in everyday life.”
“If you find it hard to enter the Now directly, start by observing the habitual tendency of your mind to want to escape from the Now. You will observe that the future is usually imagined as either better or worse than the present. If the imagined future is better, it gives you hope or pleasurable anticipation. If it is worse, it creates anxiety. Both are illusory.
Through self-observation, more presence comes into your life automatically. The moment you realize you are not present, you are present. When you are able to observe your mind, you are no longer trapped in it. Another factor has come in, something that is not of the mind: the witnessing presence.
Be present as the watcher of your mind — of your thoughts and emotions as well as your reactions in various situations. Be at least as interested in your reactions as in the situation or person that causes you to react.
Notice also how often your attention is in the past or future. Don’t judge or analyze what you observe. Watch the thought, feel the emotion, observe the reaction. Don’t make a personal problem out of them. You will then feel something more powerful than any of those things that you observe: the still, observing presence itself behind the content of your mind, the silent watcher.”
“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.”
“When every cell of your body is so present that it feels vibrant with life, and when you can feel that life every moment as the joy of Being, then it can be said that you are free of time.To be free of time is to be free of the psychological need of past for your identity and future for your fulfillment. It represents the most profound transformation of consciousness that you can imagine.”
On struggles and burdens
“See if you can give more attention to the doing than to the results that you want to achieve through it. Give your fullest attention to whatever the moment presents. This implies that you also completely accept what is, because you cannot give your full attention to something and at the same time resist it.”
“The down cycle is absolutely essential for spiritual realization. You must have failed deeply on some level or experienced some deep loss or pain to be drawn to the spiritual dimension. Or perhaps your very success became empty and meaningless and so turned out to be failure.”
“Don’t look for peace. Don’t look for any other state than the one you are in now, otherwise, you will set up inner conflict and unconscious
resistance. Forgive yourself for not being at peace. The moment you completely accept your non-peace, your nonpeace becomes transmuted into peace. Anything you accept fully will get you there, will take you into peace. This is the miracle of surrender. When you accept what is every moment is the best. That is enlightenment.”
On letting go of the past
“The truth is that the only power there is, is contained within this moment: It is the power of your presence. Once you know that,
you also realize that you are responsible for your inner space now – nobody else is – and that the past cannot prevail against the power of the Now. What happens to the pain-body when we become conscious enough to break our identification with it? Unconsciousness creates it; consciousness transmutes it into itself. St. Paul expressed this universal principle beautifully: “Everything is shown up by being exposed to the light, and whatever is exposed to the light itself becomes light.” Just as you cannot fight the darkness, you cannot fight the pain-body. Trying to do so would create inner conflict and thus further pain. Watching it is enough. Watching it implies accepting it as part of what is at that moment.”
“Attention is essential, but not to the past as past. Give attention to the present; give attention to your behavior, to your reactions, moods, thoughts, emotions, fears, and desires as they occur in the present. There’s the past in you. If you can be present enough to watch all those things, not critically or analytically but nonjudgmentally, then you are dealing with the past and dissolving it through the power of your presence. You cannot find yourself by going into the past. You find yourself by coming into the present.”
On dealing with past 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.”
On spiritual teachers, therapists and turning pain into enlightmenent
“Only you can do this. Nobody can do it for you. But if you are fortunate enough to find someone who is intensely conscious, if you can be with them and join them in the state of presence, that can be helpful and will accelerate things. In this way, your own light will quickly grow stronger. When a log that has only just started to burn is placed next to one that is burning fiercely, and after a while they are separated again, the first log will be burning with much greater intensity. After all, it is the same fire. To be such a fire is one of the functions of a spiritual teacher. Some therapists may also be able to fulfill that function, provided that they have gone beyond the level of mind and can create and sustain a state of intense conscious presence while they are working with you.”
On difficult relationships
“Avoidance of relationships in an attempt to avoid pain is not the answer either. The pain is there anyway. Three failed relationships in as many years are more likely to force you into awakening than three years on a desert island or shut away in your room. But if you could bring intense presence into your aloneness, that would work for you too.”
” If relationships energize and magnify egoic mind patterns and activate the pain-body, as they do at this time, why not accept this fact rather than try to escape from it? Why not cooperate with it instead of avoiding relationships or continuing to pursue the phantom of an ideal partner as an answer to your problems or a means of feeling fulfilled? The opportunity that is concealed within every crisis does not manifest until all the facts of any given situation are acknowledged and fully accepted. As long as you deny them, as long as you try to escape from them or wish that things were different, the window of opportunity does not open up, and you remain trapped inside that situation, which will remain the same or deteriorate further. With the acknowledgment and acceptance of the facts also comes a degree of freedom from them. For example, when you know there is disharmony and you hold that “knowing,” through your knowing a new factor has come in, and the disharmony cannot remain unchanged. When you know you are not at peace, your knowing creates a still space that surrounds your nonpeace in a loving and tender embrace and then transmutes your nonpeace into peace. As far as inner transformation is concerned, there is nothing you can do about it. You cannot transform yourself, and you certainly cannot transform your partner or anybody else. All you can do is create a space for transformation to happen, for grace and love to enter. So whenever your relationship is not working, whenever it brings out the “madness” in you and in your partner, be glad. What was unconscious is being brought up to the light. It is an opportunity for salvation. Every moment, hold the knowing of that moment, particularly of your inner state. If there is anger, know that there is anger. If there is jealousy, defensiveness, the urge to argue, the need to be right, an inner child demanding love and attention, or emotional pain of any kind – whatever it is, know the reality of that moment and hold the knowing. The relationship then becomes your sadhana, your spiritual practice. If you observe unconscious behavior in your partner, hold it in the loving embrace of your knowing so that you won’t react. Unconsciousness and knowing cannot coexist for long – even if the knowing is only in the other person and not in the one who is acting out the unconsciousness. The energy form that lies behind hostility and attack finds the presence of love absolutely intolerable. If you react at all to your partner’s unconsciousness, you become unconscious yourself. But if you then remember to know your reaction, nothing is lost. ”
“But if you accept that the relationship is here to make you conscious instead of happy, then the relationship will offer you salvation, and you will be aligning yourself with the higher consciousness that wants to be born into this world. For those who hold on to the old patterns, there will be increasing pain, violence, confusion, and madness. ”
“When your partner behaves unconsciously, relinquish all judgment. Judgment is either to confuse someone’s unconscious behavior with who they are or to project your own unconsciousness onto another person and mistake that for who they are. To relinquish judgment does not mean that you do not recognize dysfunction and unconsciousness when you see it. It means “being the knowing” rather than “being the reaction” and the judge. You will then either be totally free of reaction or you may react and still be the knowing, the space in which the reaction is watched and allowed to be. Instead of fighting the darkness, you bring in the light. Instead of reacting to delusion, you see the delusion yet at the same time look through it. Being the knowing creates a clear space of loving presence that allows all things and all people to be as they are. No greater catalyst for transformation exists. If you practice this, your partner cannot stay with you and remain unconscious.”
“Learn to give expression to what you feel without blaming. Learn to listen to your partner in an open, nondefensive way. Give your partner space for expressing himself or herself. Be present. Accusing, defending, attacking – all those patterns that are designed to strengthen or protect the ego or to get its needs met will then become redundant. Giving space to others – and to yourself – is vital. Love cannot flourish without it. ”
“Love is a state of Being. Your love is not outside; it is deep within you. You can never lose it, and it cannot leave you. It is not dependent on some other body, some external form. In the stillness of your presence, you can feel your own formless and timeless reality as the unmanifested life that animates your physical form. You can then feel the same life deep within every other human and every other creature. You look beyond the veil of form and separation. This is the realization of oneness. This is love.
On life cycles and letting go
“There are cycles of success, when things come to you and thrive, and cycles of failure, when they wither or disintegrate and you have to let them go in order to make room for new things to arise, or for transformation to happen. If you cling and resist at that point, it means you are refusing to go with the flow of life, and you will suffer. It is not true that the up cycle is good and the down cycle bad, except in the mind’s judgment. Growth is usually considered positive, but nothing can grow forever. If growth, of whatever kind, were to go on and on, it would eventually become monstrous and destructive. Dissolution is needed for new growth to happen. One cannot exist without the other.”
“One of the most powerful spiritual practices is to meditate deeply on the mortality of physical forms, including your own. This is called: Die before you die. Go into it deeply. Your physical form is dissolving, is no more. Then a moment comes when all mind-forms or thoughts also die. Yet you are still there – the divine presence that you are. Radiant, fully awake. Nothing that was real ever died, only names, forms, and
illusions.” (If you’d like to explore this more check out Jon Kabat Zinn’s YouTube Meditation on dying before you die).
“As you go about your life, don’t give 100 percent of your attention to the external world and to your mind. Keep some within. I have spoken about this already. Feel the inner body even when engaged in everyday activities, especially when engaged in relationships or when you are relating with nature. Feel the stillness deep inside it. Keep the portal open. It is quite possible to be conscious of the Unmanifested throughout your life. You feel it as a deep sense of peace somewhere in the background, a stillness that never leaves you, no matter what happens out here. You become a bridge between the Unmanifested and the manifested, between God and the world. This is the state of connectedness with the Source that we call enlightenment.”
“In the state of enlightenment, you are yourself – “you’ and “yourself” merge into one. You do not judge yourself, you do not feel sorry for yourself, you are not proud of yourself, you do not love yourself, you do not hate yourself, and so on. The split caused by self reflective consciousness is healed, its curse removed. There is no “self” that you need to protect, defend, or feed anymore. When you are enlightened, there is one relationship that you no longer have: the relationship with yourself. Once you have given that up, all your other relationships will be love relationships. ”
Sounds good? To find out more do get a copy of Practicing The Power of Now to read or listen to. This is a book that changed my way of thinking, acting and being for the better.
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