The main message in Eckhart Tolle's book, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment is that we are NOT our minds. Our mind is a tool, a great tool when used wisely. But a tool that should not consume us, and not take us over completely. The mind keeps us from the present, and being present, being in the NOW is the key to enlightenment.
One of the main goals of meditating is exactly to regain the power of our minds. To be able to turn it off for a moment and experience our inner being. And in doing so, it strengthens our core, our true self, so gradually our true self doesn't get blocked out as much by our egoistic mind.
And while meditation is great, and a wonderful instrument, the ultimate goal is to find the stillness, the peace, the wisdom that you experience during meditation, in every moment of your life. We should be able to experience this whether we are working, exercising, talking, walking...but it is a muscle that needs to be trained. Tolle describes the ability to be fully in the Now as almost a shortcut to enlightenment, as it is all that you need, and it is always available to you. The problem of course is that embracing the moment is quite difficult for most people - and it takes practice.
how to be in the now?
- Meditate. I think meditation is a great first step. If you meditate regularly, even for just a few minutes every day, you will experience the peace that comes with a quiet mind - and hence you know what you are looking for in the Now.
- Watch your mind. Don't fight it, but observe it. Observe your thoughts, your negative or positive self-talk. Your stories. This is so unbelievably eye-opening.
- Exercise. Some people find inner peace when they are exercising. Perhaps if you are pushing yourself to the limit, you are forced into the Now, forced to turn off your uncontrollable mind for the time being. My own experience is quite the opposite. When I exercise, my mind is usually unstoppable. I can't stop thinking about how much I loathe exercising, how I would rather be at home drinking coffee, eating pastries and listening to Tom Waits records, how I can't go on for freakin' 10 more minutes, etc. etc. But these days as I go for a run, I try to shut my brain down. I focus on the now. Put on my running shoes, turn on my ipod, just start running. Then (and here it gets more difficult for me) as I am running, I try to focus only on the now, my breathing, my surroundings, my body, my music. Just observing, not judging.
- Listen to others. I really want to be able to listen to others fully and completely. Not be occupied with what I will say when it is my turn to talk. But just be present and listen with my whole body.
- Listen to yourself. I think it is also valuable to listen to your own voice. Any negativity, resistance, and worries that go through your mind - can be heard in your voice if you listen carefully. Stay with your voice and learn from it.
- Feel your inner body. Tolle emphasizes this in his book, and this truly leads to an amazing feeling. And an amazing realization when you discover how disconnected from your body you are most of the time. Focus on the inside, on your feelings and what happens inside your body as you get stressed, as you become joyful, anxious, excited...Feel your whole body whatever you are doing. Do this while you meditate, and then try it as you walk, as you listen, as you exercise, as you eat. Amazing.
The Power of Now is perhaps not a book for everyone. Maybe you need to be fluffy enough to enjoy it:) And at times I found the tone of the book to be slightly arrogant. But nevertheless I would recommend it for anyone who is looking for an inspiration to become more aware, more present, more in the Now. Below are a few quotes from the book that I found worth highlighting:
A victim identity is the belief that the past is more powerful than the present, which is the opposite of the truth.
Do what you have to do. In the meantime, accept what is.
The pain that you create now is always some form of nonacceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is.
Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life. Whereas before you dwelt in time and paid brief visits to the Now, have your dwelling place in the Now and pay brief visits to the past and future...
Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.
When you are full of problems, there is no room for anything new to enter, no room for a solution. So whenever you can, make some room, create some space, so that you can find the life underneath your life situation.
It is true that only an unconscious person will try to use or manipulate others, but it is equally true that only an unconscious person can be used and manipulated.
As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. 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.
The moment your attention turns to the Now, you feel a presence, a stillness, a peace. You no longer depend on the future for fulfillment and satisfaction - you don't look to it for salvation.
Negativity is never the optimum way of dealing with any situation.
To complain is always nonacceptance of what is.
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. If you want to take responsibility for your life, you must choose one of those three options, and you must choose now. Then accept the consequences. No excuses. No negativity. No psychic pollution. Keep your inner space clear.
You can improve your life situation, but you cannot improve your life. Life is primary. Life is your deepest inner Being. It is already whole, complete, perfect.
The only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. That's all there ever is.