Once dubbed by the New York Times as “the most popular spiritual author in the United States,” Eckhart Tolle helps people awaken to lives of purpose and presence through books, television appearances, membership in his on-line community, and face-to-face gatherings. One of my good friends counts herself among an international cohort that has embarked on a six-month training program jointly delivered by Tolle and Kim Eng, creator of Presence Through Movement. Given her enthusiasm, I went to the library and checked out a copy of The Power of NOW: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment to see how it might speak to me.
It’s safe to say that Tolle’s book is not designed to be a quick read. In fact, he inserts “pauses” in each chapter to encourage readers to stop and digest the content. While I couldn’t begin to capture the richness of the material, I’ll share a few concepts that I found especially meaningful.
Our minds prevent us from attaining enlightenment when we’re inundated by our internal chatter – i.e., commenting, speculating, worrying, judging, comparing, complaining, pondering. We may be stuck reliving and acting from old pain that still live within us (a.k.a., “pain bodies”). We may be steeped in anxiety about future events. We may escape reality by daydreaming.
When we are caught up in our internal chatter, we give our power over to our thoughts. They’re driving us. We aren’t free.
As an antidote, become identified as an Observer of thoughts, not a Thinker of them. In that state, we notice when moodiness, anger, resentment, unease, fear, and other emotions well up, but we aren’t driven to act on them. We make conscious choices that benefit ourselves and those around us. We aren’t feeding our “pain bodies” or calling others’ “pain bodies” into action. We make room for love, joy, and peace. So long as we are invested in emotional anguish, we will resist or sabotage attempts to help it.
Focus on the present moment. On the NOW. Let the mind be what it is without getting entangled in it. As Tolle says, “In the now, you leave behind the deadening world of mental distraction… You feel a presence, a stillness, a peace.” The NOW is all any of us really have.
Being present means that wherever you are, be there totally. Complaint suggests non-acceptance of what is. It may well be that we find ourselves in persistently difficult relationships and/or circumstances. We are not called to simply surrender to them. We have three choices in the NOW: accept what is without complaint, take action to effect change, or leave. Persistent grumbling should not be an option!
There’s nothing wrong with thinking about the future and setting goals to move toward a desired outcome. Focus on the immediate steps to be taken, not the hundreds or thousands of steps in the journey ahead. Don’t get attached to outcomes. Ask: Is there joy, ease, and lightness in what I am doing right now? Be open to course correction if it seems right to do so. Don’t fall into the trap of attaching self-worth to outcomes.
Finally, nothing “out there” will ever provide deep, lasting satisfaction. There is no salvation in anything that we do, attain, or possess. Rather:
“True salvation is fulfillment, peace, life in all its fullness. It is to be who you are, to feel within you the good that has no opposite, the joy of Being that depends on nothing outside itself. It is felt not as a passing experience but as an abiding presence.”