This is a book which I think I’ve started on no less than 3 occasions over a period of probably about 10 years. And, finally, I can say that I have finished it – hurrah!
This book is pretty well known as a “self-help” staple and one that often gets recommended if, like me, you find yourself in a state of general life confusion.
I give this book a 6.5/10 rating – flaky i know but a 6 would genuinely seem too harsh and a 7 too generous.
There are some fantastic sections and stand-alone phrases which, when extracted, are insightful and compelling. To whet your appetite these are the concepts which really resonated for me:
- We don’t use our minds wrongly – we let them use us.
- Resisting the present moment is entirely futile – it just is.
- We spend a lot of time fearing what might happen, not things which are happening now. We are in the here and now, while our minds are in the future. We can always cope with the present moment.
- How much time and energy many of us spend trying to get somewhere other than where we are.
- The mind creates an obsession with the future as an escape from the unsatisfactory present.
- If we don’t like a situation, leave it or accept it – all else is madness.
- Some people would always rather be somewhere else. Their “here” is never good enough.
- We are often so busy getting to the future that the present is reduced to just a means of getting there.
- Emotions, without the intervention of our mind, have a very short life span. Like a momentary ripple or wave on the surface.
- How will I know when I have surrendered? When you no longer need to ask the question.
However, the reason why I don’t feel able to rate this book more highly is because these nuggets do feel somewhat hidden in amongst a lot of other narrative which either felt somewhat surplus to my requirements or slightly off-putting.
In some places it feels that the book is pitched at those who have never before contemplated the subject matter – in particular, I found the tone of the question and answer format somewhat patronising – while, in contrast, some of the context and inferred sentiment is detailed, relatively complex and, towards the end, took on quite a religious angle which didn’t work for me at all.
Essentially, I’m not sure this book really knows who it wants it’s audience to be.
So, unlike my first book ‘Flow’ which I would highly recommend reading from cover to cover, I would suggest that reading my review below may be the best way of getting the most value for your time out of this book.
The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle
- Unless you learn to recognise the false as false – as not you – there can be no lasting transformation, and you would always end up being drawn back into illusion and into some form of pain. On this level, I also show you how not to make that which is false in you into a self and into a personal problem, for that is how the false perpetuates itself.
Chapter 1 – You are not your mind
- Those who have not found their wealth are beggars, looking outside for scraps of pleasure of fulfilment, 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 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.
- All the things that truly matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind.
- Your mind is an instrument, a tool. It is there to be used for a specific task, and when the task is completed, you lay it down. As it is, I would say about 80-90% of most people’s thinking is not only repetitive and useless, but because of its dysfunctional and often negative nature, much of it is also harmful. It causes a serious leakage of vital energy.
- As you grow up, you form a mental image of who you are, based on your personal and cultural conditioning. We may call this phantom self the ego.
- To the ego, the present moment hardly exists. Only past and future are considered important.
- One of the main tasks of the mind is to fight or remove emotional pain, which is one of the reasons for its incessant activity, but all it can ever achieve is to cover it up temporarily. In fact, the harder the mind struggles to get rid of the pain, the greater the pain. The mind can never find the solution, nor can it afford to allow you to find the solution, because it is itself an intrinsic part of the “problem”. You will not be free of that pain until you cease to derive your sense of self from identification with the mind, which is to say from ego.
- Love, joy, and peace cannot flourish until you have freed yourself from mind dominance.
- Even when the sky is heavily overcast, the sun hasn’t disappeared. It’s still there on the other side of the clouds.
- Don’t seek to become free of desire or “achieve” enlightenment. Become present. Be there as the observer of the mind.
Chapter 2 – Consciousness: the way out of pain
- The pain that you create now is always some form of nonacceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is.
- If you no longer want to create pain for yourself and others, if you no longer want to add to the residue of past pain that still lives on in you, then don’t create any more time, or at least no more than is necessary to deal with the practical aspects of your life. Realise deeply that the present moment is all you ever have.
- Have your dwelling place in the Now and pay brief visits to past and future when required to deal with the practical aspects of your life situation. What could be more futile than to create inner resistance to something that already is?
- Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.
- Accumulated pain is a negative energy field which occupies your body and mind. This pain-body wants to survive, just like every other entity in existence, and it can only survive if it gets you to unconsciously identify with it.
- Once the pain-body has taken you over, you want more pain. You become a victim or a perpetrator. Look closely and you will find that your thinking and behaviour are designed to keep the pain going, for yourself and others. If you were truly conscious of it, the pattern would dissolve, for to want more pain is insanity, and nobody is consciously insane.
- 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 analyse.
- This is not to deny that you may encounter intense inner resistance to disidentifying from your pain. This will be the case particularly if you have lived closely identified with your emotional pain-body for most of your life and the whole or a large part of yourself is invested in it. What this means is that you have made an unhappy self out of your pain-body and believe that this mind-made fiction is who you are. You would rather be in pain – be the pain-body – than take a leap into the unknown and risk losing the familiar unhappy self.
- If this applies to you, observe the resistance within yourself. Observe the attachment to your pain. Be very alert. Observe the particular pleasure you derive from being unhappy. Observe the compulsion to talk or think about it.
- The psychological condition of fear is divorced from any concrete and true immediate danger. It comes in many forms: unease, worry, anxiety, nervousness, tension, dread, phobia and so on. This kind of psychological fear is always of something that might happen, not of something that is happening now. You are in the here and now, while your mind is in the future. This creates an anxiety gap.
- You can always cope with the present moment, but you cannot cope with something that is only a mind projection – you cannot cope with the future.
- Once you have disidentified from your mind, whether you are right or wrong makes no difference to your sense of self at all, so the forcefully compulsive and deeply unconscious need to be right, which is a form of violence, will no longer be there. You can state clearly and firmly how you feel or what you think, but there will be no aggressiveness or defensiveness about it.
- Power over others is weakness disguised as strength. True power is within, and it is available to you now.
- As long as the egoic mind is running your life, you cannot truly be at ease; you cannot be at peace or fulfilled except for brief intervals when you obtained what you wanted, when a craving has just been fulfilled.
- The most common ego identifications have to do with possessions, the work you do, social status and recognition, knowledge and education, physical appearance, special abilities, relationships, personal and family history, belief systems, and often also political, nationalistic, racial, religious and other collective identifications. None of these is you.
Chapter 3 – Moving deeply into the now
- The problems of the mind cannot be solved on the level of the mind. Once you have understood the basic dysfunction, there really isn’t much else that you need to learn or understand.
- When you are present, you can allow the mind to be as it is without getting entangled in it. The mind in itself is not dysfunctional. It is a wonderful tool. Dysfunction sets in when you seek your self in it and mistake it for who you are.
- To be identified with your mind is to be trapped in time: the compulsion to live almost exclusively through memory and anticipation. The compulsion arises because the past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation, of fulfilment in whatever form. Both are illusions.
- Have you ever experienced, done, thought, or felt anything outside the Now? Do you think you ever will? Is it possible for anything to happen or be outside the Now? The answer is obvious, is it not? Nothing ever happened in the past; it happened in the Now. Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now.
- In life threatening emergency situations, the shift in consciousness from time to presence sometimes happens naturally.
- The reason why some people love to engage in dangerous activities is that it forces them into the Now – that intensely alive state that is free of time, free of problems, free of thinking, free of the burden of the personality.
- The moment you realise you are not present, you are present. Whenever you are able to observe your mind, you are no longer trapped in it.
- Be at least as interested in your reactions as in the situation or person that caused you to react.
- If you set yourself a goal and work toward it, you are using clock time. You are aware of where you want to go, but you honour and give your fullest attention to the step that you are taking in this moment.
- If you become obsessively focused on the goal, perhaps because you are seeking happiness, fulfilment, or a more complete sense of self in it, the Now is no longer honoured. It becomes reduced to a mere stepping stone to the future, with no intrinsic value. Clock time then turns into psychological time. Your life’s journey is no longer an adventure, just an obsessive need to arrive, to attain, to “make it”. You no longer see or small the flowers by the wayside either, nor are you aware of the beauty and the miracle of life that unfolds all around you when you are present in the Now.
- Are you always trying to get somewhere other than where you are? Is fulfilment always just around the corner or confined to short-lived pleasures, such as sex, food, drink, drugs, or thrills and excitement? Are you always focused on becoming, achieving, and attaining, or alternatively chasing some new thrill or pleasure? Are you waiting for a man or woman to give meaning to your life?
- The mind creates an obsession with the future as an escape from the unsatisfactory present.
- Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non forgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.
- 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. Ultimately there is only one problem: the time-bound mind itself.
- Your life situation may be full of problems – most life situations are – but find out if you have any problem at this moment. Not tomorrow or in ten minutes, but now. Do you have a problem now?
- When you are full of problems, there is no room for anything new to enter, no room for a solution.
- Use your senses fully. Be where you are. Look around. Just look, don’t interpret. See the light, shapes, colours, textures. Observe the rhythm of your breathing; feel the air flowing in and out, feel the life energy inside your body.
- Ultimately, this not about solving your problems. It’s about realising that there are no problems. Only situations – to be dealt with now, or to be left alone and accepted as part of the “isness” of the present moment until they change or can be dealt with.
- A situation needs to be either dealt with or accepted. Why make it into a problem? Why make anything into a a problem? Isn’t life challenging enough as it is? What do you need problems for?
- You carry in your mind the 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.
- Should a situation arise that you need to deal with now, your action will be clear and incisive if it arises out of present-moment awareness. It is also more likely to be effective.
- To alert you that you have allowed yourself to be taken over by psychological time, you can use a simple criterion. Ask yourself: is there joy, ease, and lightness in what I am doing? If there isn’t, then time is covering up the present moment, and life is perceived as a burden or a struggle.
- If there is no joy, ease or lightness in what you are doing, it does not necessarily mean that you need to change what you are doing. It be may be sufficient to change the how. “How” is always more important than “what”. See if you can give much more attention to the doing than to the result 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.
- When you act out of present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love – even the most simple action.
- Neither failure nor success has the power to change your inner state of Being. You have found the life underneath your life situation.
- You are still able to pursue external goals but you will not have illusory expectations that anything or anybody in the future will save you or make you happy.
- Being free of psychological time, you no longer pursue your goals with grim determination, driven by fear, anger, discontent, or the need to become someone. Nor will you remain inactive through fear of failure, which to the ego is loss of self. You don’t demand that situations, conditions, place, or people should make you happy, and then suffer when they don’t live up to your expectations.
Chapter 4 – Mind strategies for avoiding the now
- You can use a challenge to awaken you, or you can allow it to pull you into even deeper sleep.
- Can anxious thought add a single day to your life?
- Make it a habit to monitor your mental-emotional state through self-observation. Direct your attention inward. Have a look inside yourself. What kind of thoughts is your mind producing? What do you feel? Director your attention into the body. Is there any tension? Once you detect that there is a low level of unease, a background static, see in what way you are avoiding, resisting, or denying life – by denying the Now.
- Whether your thoughts and emotions about a situation are justified or not makes no difference. The fact is that you are resisting what is. You are making the present moment into an enemy.
- Either stop doing what you are doing, speak to the person concerned and express fully what you feel, or drop the negativity that your mind has created around the situation and that serves no purpose whatsoever except to strengthen a false sense of self. Negativity is never an optimum way of dealing with a situation.
- Once a mind pattern, an emotion or reaction is there, accept it.
- When you have been practicing acceptance for a while there comes a point when you need to go on to the next stage, where those negative emotions are not created anymore. If you don’t, your “acceptance” just becomes a mental label that allows your ego to continue to indulge in unhappiness and so strengthen its sense of separation from other people, your surroundings, your here and now.
- To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.
- Some people would always rather be somewhere else. Their “here” is never good enough. If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally.
- Any action is better than no action, especially if you have been stuck in an unhappy situation for a long time. If it is a mistake, at least you learn something, in which case it’s no longer a mistake.
- Is there is something that you “should” be doing but are not doing it? Get up and do it now. Alternatively, completely accept you inactivity, laziness, or passivity at this moment, if that is your choice. Go into it fully. Enjoy it. Be as lazy or inactive as you can.
- Are you so busy getting to the future that the present is reduced to a means of getting there?
- Are you a habitual “waiter”? Waiting for the next vacation, for a better job, for the children to grow up, for a truly meaningful relationship, for success, to make money, to be important, to become enlightened. It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living.
- When you are on a journey, it is certainly helpful to know where you are going or at least the general direction in which you are moving, but don’t forget: the only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step you are taking at this moment. That’s all there ever is.
Chapter 6 – The inner body
- You are cut off from Being as long as your mind takes up all your attention. When this happens – and it happens continuously for most people – you are not in your body. The mind absorbs all your consciousness and transforms it into mind stuff. You cannot stop thinking. Compulsive thinking has become a collective disease. Your whole sense of who you are is then derived from mind activity. Your identity, as it is no longer rooted in Being, becomes vulnerable and ever-needy mental construct, which creates fear as the predominant underlying emotion.
- In a fully functioning organism, an emotion has a very short life span. It is like a momentary ripple or wave on the surface of your Being. When you are not in your body, however, an emotion can survive inside you for days or weeks, or join with other emotions of a similar frequency that have merged and become the pain-body, a parasite that can live inside you for years, feed on your energy, lead to physical illness, and make your life miserable.
Chapter 8 – Enlightened relationships
- Unless and until you access the consciousness frequency of presence, all relationships, and particularly intimate relationships, are deeply flawed and ultimately dysfunctional. They may seem perfect for a while, such as when you are “in love”, but invariably that apparent perfection gets disrupted as arguments, conflicts, dissatisfaction, and emotional and or even physical violence occur with increasing frequency. It seems that most “love relationships” become love/hate relationships before long. This is considered normal. The relationships then oscillates between the polarities of “love” and hate, and it gives you as much pleasure as it gives you pain. It is not uncommon for couples to become addicted to those cycles. Their drama makes them feel alive.
- The greatest catalyst for change in a relationship is complete acceptance of your partner as he or she is, without needing to judge or change them in any way. That immediately takes you beyond ego. All mind games and all addictive clinging are then over.
- At times, it may be appropriate to point out certain aspects of your partner’s behaviour. If you are very alert, very present, you can do so without ego involvement – without blaming, accusing, or making the other wrong.
- If you cannot be at ease with yourself when you are alone, you will seek a relationship to cover up your unease. You can be sure that the unease will then reappear in some other form within the relationship, and you will probably hold your partner responsible for it.
- In the state of enlightenment, you are yourself. You do not judge yourself, you do not feel sorry for yourself, you are not proud of yourself, you do not love yourself. There is no “self” that you need to protect, defend, or feed anymore.
Chapter 9 – Beyond happiness and unhappiness there is peace
- Most people are in love with their particular life drama. Their story is their identity. What they fear and resist the most is the end of their drama.
- 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. You cannot have an argument with a fully conscious person. You can still make your point clearly and firmly, but there will be no reactive force behind it, no defense or attack.
- It is not true that the up cycle is good and the down cycle bad, except in the mind’s judgement. 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.
- Failure lies concealed in every success. and success in every failure.
- You can still be active and enjoy manifesting and creating new forms and circumstances, but you won’t be identified with them. You do not need them to give you a sense of self. They are not your life – only your life situation.
- To offer no resistance to life is to be in a state of grace, ease, and lightness. This state is then no longer dependent upon things being in a certain way, good or bad.
Chapter 10 – The meaning of surrender
- To some people, surrender may have negative connotations, implying defeat, giving up, failing to rise to the challenges of life, becoming lethargic and so on. True surrender is something entirely different. It is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life. The only place where you can experience the flow of life is the Now, so to surrender is to accept the present moment unconditionally and without reservation.
- Surrender is perfectly compatible with taking action, initiating change or achieving goals. But in the surrendered state a totally different energy, a different quality, flows into your doing. Surrender reconnects you with the source-energy of Being, and if your doing is infused with Being, it becomes a joyful celebration of life energy that takes you more deeply into the Now.
- When you enter this timeless dimension of the present, change often comes about in strange ways without the need for a great deal of doing on your part. Life becomes helpful and cooperative.
- You keep your unhappiness alive by giving it time.
- If you looked in the mirror and did not like what you saw, you would have to be mad to attack the image in the mirror. That is precisely what you do when you are in a state of nonacceptance.
- How will I know when I have surrendered? When you no longer need to ask the question.
What a fantastic way to end!
TMM book review #3 will be The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.