A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
The Power of Now shook all the concepts I had about time, presence, mindfulness, ego and the meaning of life. This book offers simple concepts that are hard to accept and put into practice as we are profoundly unconscious and resist everything that is true.
Personally, it's one of the most powerful and transformative books I ever read. You will either hate or love this book, but you should learn something to become more aware and fight your ego that creates resistance that leads to pain and diseases.
Biggest lesson: Surrender to what is. The only time you should care about is the present moment.
In The Power of Now, spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle shows readers how to go beyond an intellectual understanding of the power of the Now and experience it directly within themselves.
Tolle describes how our ego-based state of consciousness (which is usually the case when we are thinking) often leads us to suffer unnecessarily from either anxiety, stress, or a general sense of lack.In contrast, when our consciousness is free from the ego, we are free from suffering and step into the present moment fully alive and aware.
Thinking has become a disease. Disease happens when things get out of balance.
You’ll soon realize: there is the voice, and here I am listening to it, watching it. This I am realization, this sense of your own presence, is not a thought. It arises from beyond the mind.
Just become intensely conscious of the present moment. This is a deeply satisfying thing to do. In this way, you draw consciousness away from mind activity and create a gap of no-mind in which you are highly alert and aware but not thinking. This is the essence of meditation.
About 80 to 90 percent 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. Observe your mind and you will find this to be true. It causes a serious leakage of vital energy. This kind of compulsive thinking is actually an addiction.
The present moment holds the key to liberation. But you cannot find the present moment as long as you are your mind.
Thinking and consciousness are not synonymous.
Research has shown that strong emotions even cause changes in the biochemistry of the body.
If you really want to know your mind, the body will always give you a truthful reflection, so look at the emotion, or rather feel it in your body. If there is an apparent conflict between them, the thought will be the lie, the emotion will be the truth. Not the ultimate truth of who you are, but the relative truth of your state of mind at that time.
Make it a habit to ask yourself: What’s going on inside me at this moment?
In fact, the harder the mind struggles to get rid of the pain, the greater the pain.
Emotion literally means “disturbance.” The word comes from the Latin emovere, meaning “to disturb.”
Pleasure is always derived from something outside you, whereas joy arises from within. The very thing that gives you pleasure today will give you pain tomorrow, or it will leave you, so its absence will give you pain.
The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life.
The more you are able to honor and accept the Now, the more you are free of pain, of suffering — and free of the egoic mind.
Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.
Surrender to what is.
Where there is anger, there is always pain underneath.
“Unconscious,” the way that I use the word here, means to be identified with some mental or emotional pattern. It implies a complete absence of the watcher.
Power over others is weakness disguised as strength.
The number of people who have gone beyond mind is as yet extremely small, so you can assume that virtually everyone you meet or know lives in a state of fear. Only the intensity of it varies.
The secret of life is to “die before you die” — and find that there is no death.
Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in 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.
The mind then 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 nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.
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.
In the world, on the level of your life situation, you may indeed become wealthy, knowledgeable, successful, free of this or that, but in the deeper dimension of Being you are complete and whole now.
On the level of your thinking, you will find a great deal of resistance in the form of judgment, discontent, and mental projection away from the Now. On the emotional level, there will be an undercurrent of unease, tension, boredom, or nervousness. Both are aspects of the mind in its habitual resistance mode.
Make it a habit to monitor your mental-emotional state through self-observation. “Am I at ease at this moment?” is a good question to ask yourself frequently.
The fact is that you are resisting what is. You are making the present moment into an enemy. You are creating unhappiness, conflict between the inner and the outer.
The pollution of the planet is only an outward reflection of an inner psychic pollution: millions of unconscious individuals not taking responsibility for their inner space.
Humans are a dangerously insane and very sick species. That’s not a judgment. It’s a fact. It is also a fact that the sanity is there underneath the madness.
Once you realize that a certain kind of food makes you sick, would you carry on eating that food and keep asserting that it is okay to be sick?
Wherever you are, be there totally. 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.
Stress is caused by being “here” but wanting to be “there,” or being in the present but wanting to be in the future. It’s a split that tears you apart inside.
Just moving, running, working — and enjoying it. Or you can drop the whole thing and sit on a park bench. But when you do, watch your mind. It may say: “You should be working. You are wasting time.” Observe the mind. Smile at it.
Ask yourself what “problem” you have right now, not next year, tomorrow, or five minutes from now. What is wrong with this moment? You can always cope with the Now, but you can never cope with the future — nor do you have to.
Are you a habitual “waiter”? How much of your life do you spend waiting? What I call “small-scale waiting” is waiting in line at the post office, in a traffic jam, at the airport, or waiting for someone to arrive, to finish work, and so on. “Large-scale waiting” is 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.
Waiting is a state of mind.
Understanding presence is being present.
Try a little experiment. Close your eyes and say to yourself: “I wonder what my next thought is going to be.” Then become very alert and wait for the next thought. Be like a cat watching a mouse hole. What thought is going to come out of the mouse hole? Try it now.
Eternity, of course, does not mean endless time, but no time.
“Water? What do you mean by that? I don’t understand it.” This is what a fish would say if it had a human mind. Please stop trying to understand Being. You have already had significant glimpses of Being, but the mind will always try to squeeze it into a little box and then put a label on it. It cannot be done.
The mind absorbs all your consciousness and transforms it into mind stuff. You cannot stop thinking. Compulsive thinking has become a collective disease.
To become conscious of Being, you need to reclaim consciousness from the mind.
A very effective way of doing this is simply to take the focus of your attention away from thinking and direct it into the body, where Being can be felt in the first instance as the invisible energy field that gives life to what you perceive as the physical body.
The fact is that no one has ever become enlightened through denying or fighting the body or through an out-of-body experience.
If you keep your attention in the body as much as possible, you will be anchored in the Now. You won’t lose yourself in the external world, and you won’t lose yourself in your mind.
Feeling will get you closer to the truth of who you are than thinking.
The body loves your attention. It is also a potent form of self-healing. Most illnesses creep in when you are not present in the body. If the master is not present in the house, all kinds of shady characters will take up residence there. When you inhabit your body, it will be hard for unwanted guests to enter.
If at any time you are finding it hard to get in touch with the inner body, it is usually easier to focus on your breathing first. Conscious breathing, which is a powerful meditation in its own right, will gradually put you in touch with the body. Follow the breath with your attention as it moves in and out of your body.
Make it into a meditation. It needn’t take long. Ten to fifteen minutes of clock time should be sufficient. Make sure first that there are no external distractions such as telephones or people who are likely to interrupt you. Sit on a chair, but don’t lean back. Keep the spine erect. Doing so will help you to stay alert. Alternatively, choose your own favorite position for meditation.
Make sure the body is relaxed. Close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths. Feel yourself breathing into the lower abdomen, as it were. Observe how it expands and contracts slightly with each in and out breath. Then become aware of the entire inner energy field of the body. Don’t think about it — feel it. By doing this, you reclaim consciousness from the mind.
Every sound is born out of silence, dies back into silence, and during its life span is surrounded by silence. Silence enables the sound to be.
Just as no sound can exist without silence, nothing can exist without no-thing, without the empty space that enables it to be. Every physical object or body has come out of nothing, is surrounded by nothing, and will eventually return to nothing. Not only that, but even inside every physical body there is far more “nothing” than “something.” Physicists tell us that the solidity of matter is an illusion.
Even seemingly solid matter, including your physical body, is nearly 100 percent empty space — so vast are the distances between the atoms compared to their size. What is more, even inside every atom there is mostly empty space. What is left is more like a vibrational frequency than particles of solid matter, more like a musical note. Buddhists have known that for over 2,500 years. “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form,” states the Heart Sutra, one of the best known ancient Buddhist texts. The essence of all things is emptiness.
You may have heard the Buddhist saying: “If there were no illusion, there would be no enlightenment.”
Every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain. Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain. Whatever the substance you are addicted to — alcohol, food, legal or illegal drugs, or a person — you are using something or somebody to cover up your pain. That is why, after the initial euphoria has passed, there is so much unhappiness, so much pain in intimate relationships.
First you stop judging yourself; then you stop judging your partner. 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.
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.
Love is not selective, just as the light of the sun is not selective. It does not make one person special. It is not exclusive.
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.
The light is too painful for someone who wants to remain in darkness.
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 — no-body else is — and that the past cannot prevail against the power of the Now.
Whenever you are not honoring the present moment by allowing it to be, you are creating drama.
All suffering is ego-created and is due to resistance.
A Buddhist monk once told me: “All I have learned in the twenty years that I have been a monk I can sum up in one sentence: All that arises passes away. This I know.”
All inner resistance is experienced as negativity in one form or another. All negativity is resistance.
Watch any plant or animal and let it teach you acceptance of what is, surrender to the Now. Let it teach you Being. Let it teach you integrity — which means to be one, to be yourself, to be real.
Remember that your perception of the world is a reflection of your state of consciousness.
There is a human world, an ant world, a dolphin world, and so on. There are countless beings whose consciousness frequency is so different from yours that you are probably unaware of their existence, as they are of yours.
All evils are the effect of unconsciousness.
Just as you cannot fight the darkness, so you cannot fight unconsciousness.
Resistance is the mind.
If your overall situation is unsatisfactory or unpleasant, separate out this instant and surrender to what is.
Ask yourself, “Is there anything I can do to change the situation, improve it, or remove myself from it?” If so, you take appropriate action.
Allow the suffering to force you into the present moment, into a state of intense conscious presence. Use it for enlightenment. Surrender does not transform what is, at least not directly. Surrender transforms you.
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. And, of course, if you attack the image, it attacks you back. If you accept the image, no matter what it is, if you become friendly toward it, it cannot not become friendly toward you. This is how you change the world.
Now here is your second chance at surrender: If you cannot accept what is outside, then accept what is inside. If you cannot accept the external condition, accept the internal condition. This means: Do not resist the pain. Allow it to be there. Surrender to the grief, despair, fear, loneliness, or whatever form the suffering takes. Witness it without labeling it mentally. Embrace it. Then see how the miracle of surrender transmutes deep suffering into deep peace. This is your crucifixion. Let it become your resurrection and ascension.
The acceptance of suffering is a journey into death. Facing deep pain, allowing it to be, taking your attention into it, is to enter death consciously. When you have died this death, you realize that there is no death — and there is nothing to fear.
Choice implies consciousness — a high degree of consciousness. Without it, you have no choice. Choice begins the moment you disidentify from the mind and its conditioned patterns, the moment you become present.
Nobody chooses dysfunction, conflict, pain. Nobody chooses insanity. They happen because there is not enough presence in you to dissolve the past, not enough light to dispel the darkness. You are not fully here.
You have not quite woken up yet. In the meantime, the conditioned mind is running your life.
It always looks as if people had a choice, but that is an illusion.
Only through accessing the power of the Now, which is your own power, can there be true forgiveness. This renders the past powerless, and you realize deeply that nothing you ever did or that was ever done to you could touch even in the slightest the radiant essence of who you are. The whole concept of forgiveness then becomes unnecessary.