Now here’s a life-changing classic. I remember reading it when it first came out thinking: Wow! This is powerful stuff. I also listened to Eckhart Tolle’s lectures, and was swept away by his calming voice and kind sense of humour. I´ve just revisited this book and am happy to share some insights from it.
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment takes you on an inspiring spiritual journey navigating your inner life and your relationship to the past present and the future.
Tolle’s practical philosophy emphasises on living in the present moment to avoid much of the pain we usually experience. By doing this we can greatly improve our lives.
It is interesting how Tolle states that a part of you needs pain to survive and that part of you creates most of the pain that is in your life. This pain comes from inner resistance to external things that are beyond your control. The part of you that needs pain to survive is what Tolle calls the “pain-body”. The pain-body is consists of your painful experiences and it gets stronger whenever you feel pain and will therefore try to make you miserable and sad.
According to Tolle the ego is the part of your mind that controls your thoughts and behaviour without you knowing it. Since it is not easily observed it is hard to know to which extent the ego controls your life. Because it depends on your misery to exist, it can make you do or say things that you regret, acting against your own best interest. The ego wants to be the most important part of you and if you let it, it will bring you great suffering.
But what can you do about all of this?
Well you can start by shifting your focus from the mind to the body. By listening to the body you can gain understanding of what is important in your life.
Next you could try to observe your mind without judgement. It is the best way to separate from it and free yourself from pain.
As you are getting better at freeing yourself from your mind you can also adopt another technique called active waiting, an alert state where all your attention focuses on the now. Many spiritual teachers recommend the state of waiting, for example Jesus, who told his disciples to “be like a servant waiting for the return of the master”
At this point you might be asking yourself: But what about real pain like from the death of a loved one? Tolle says that not all pain is avoidable and surrendering to the present doesn’t have to mean ignoring sad or hurtful feelings. Another example of unavoidable pain is the pain inflicted on you by people who are controlled by their destructive mind. When you experience something traumatic that causes real pain all you can do is accepting it for what it is and that it cannot be changed. That way you avoid needless suffering.
Tolle is careful in his teachings. He warns that when you start living in the now it may be hard for your partner but he also states that it can improve the relationship which I believe is true, especially if both are ready for a transformation like this. Tolle has been criticised for focusing only on pain when it comes to the past and the future, since we also have good memories and things to look forward to. I understand the argument but I think it’s important not to take teachings such as Tolle’s too literally. I guess it’s always a question of taking what is useful for you and leaving the rest behind. 🙂