Brain Snacks: Eckhardt Tolle – The Power of Now

Eckhardt Tolle - The Power of Now

[…] it is not so much that you use your mind wrongly, you usually don’t use it at all. It uses you. This is the disease. […] The instrument has taken you over.

Have your ever gotten into an argument with yourself inside your own head? You know when a thought pops up that is uncomfortable or scary or evokes any other negative emotion and you start discussing with yourself whether or not it’s true? Or you judge yourself for having it and think you are a bad person?

I was a master at this. I would spent so much time mired in my own mental processes, jumping from self-judgment to self-judgment and going down the endless rabbit hole. It is a recipe for anxiety, insomnia, mental burn-out, and self-hate.

Maybe you can relate to what I describe above. Maybe you are not as much of an overthinker as I am but you are still kept awake at night by the mental chatter going on in your head. Maybe you are just stressed by the demands of daily life, have problems concentrating and are looking for some peace of mind. In all cases The Power of Now is a book I highly recommend.

Before we get started

If you are not very spiritually inclined (as I am), the concepts in this book are somewhat unusual and might cause you to dismiss them before trying. I personally also like to stay away from things that I perceive as hocus pocus or that rely too much on you “believing” in something in order for it to work. Instead what I am striving for is things that empirically work for me and that I can turn into a “method”, meaning I can establish a clear correlation of “when x happens, I can do y, and it leads to desired outcome z”.

This is definitely the case for this book. It has measurably made my life better. Therefore I advise to approach it with an open mind and reserve judgment for the time after trying out the concepts given forth within (actually, that is sound advice for almost all situations). Some people might feel it’s a little too granola, especially when Tolle starts talking about concepts such as the “pain body”. I encourage you to ignore the names of the concepts and just try the methods he advises.

On today’s table: Eckhardt Tolle- The Power of Now

Eckhardt Tolle was born in Germany, lived in the United Kingdom, and now resides in Canada. According to himself, until he was 30 years old, he spent most of his life “in a state of almost continuous anxiety interspersed with periods of suicidal depression”. It was shortly after his twenty-ninth birthday that he experienced an “inner transformation” which freed him of his misery and led to the writing of The Power of Now.

By now Tolle is a New York Times Bestselling Author, he has given live webinars with Oprah Winfrey, has been called the “most popular spiritual author in the United States” by the NYT, and appeared on stage with the Dalai Lama. He has also written several more books, some of which were even more successful than The Power of Now.

Main Takeaways

You are not your mind, you have a mind

Your thoughts and emotional reactions are not you. They are not your identity or true self. You can distance yourself from your thoughts and take on the role of an observer and watch what is going on in your mind without judging it. You don’t have to be identified with everything you think or feel and let it dictate your actions. You have a choice.

Presence is everything

Most emotional pain and stress comes from reliving the past or projecting into the future. Mistakes we made earlier, regret for things undone, “what if?” thinking about the future, all the things that keep us awake at night. Both are illusions, phantoms that only exist in our mind. All we ever have is the present moment. Only in the present moment can we take action and make changes that will create new outcomes.

Pain is resistance

Any emotional pain is resistance to what is at the present moment. Once you allow these feelings to be there, once you feel them fully and entirely and stop judging them, they will start to fade away. Do not try to fight the pain, doing so will only make it stronger, create more internal conflict and provide it with more energy. Stop judging and accept every moment as it is. Don’t make the present into an enemy.

How to be more present

Concentrate on your emotions – Take your attention inside of yourself and fully feel whatever you feel at the present moment. Be aware of the emotional energy within you. Refrain from judgment or analysis. Merely accept and observe. This will start its transformation.

Surrender – The concept of surrendering to a situation is very powerful. Many times we keep up our anxiety and negative emotions because we try to control everything around us. Inner resistance cuts you off from other people, your sense of self and the world around you. It strengthens the feeling of being separate. Surrendering by dropping all inner resistance takes the energy out of that process and frees you from it.

Concentrate on your physical body – Always have some of your attention in the inner energy field of your body. This awareness will anchor you in the here and now.

Favorite quotes

“The present moment is sometimes unacceptable, unpleasant, or awful. It is what it is. Observe how your mind labels it and how this labeling process, this continuous sitting in judgment creates pain and unhappiness.”

“Accept then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.”

Impact on my life

I really liked this book and it had a tremendously positive impact on my life. The concept of “I have a mind” as opposed to “I am my mind” was a real paradigm shift for me. My tendency to get into arguments with myself used to cause a lot of anxiety and kept me from taking action, which is the most important thing. The notion of just letting my thoughts be my thoughts had a real transformative effect on my life.

Oftentimes we try to “explain away” negative emotions, which almost never helps. It only keeps the mind carousel going and puts more fuel on the fire. By merely concentrating on what is going on, and observing, negative emotions take care of themselves. Meanwhile you are free to pursue whatever you want at that moment.

While reading the book and putting its concepts into practice, I found myself walking the streets of Istanbul, with its hundreds of cars and pedestrians and felt incredibly peaceful as if, instead of a city of 14 million, I was in a cozy little village somewhere. This state of mind I had before only achieved briefly during meditation. Tolle’s book shows how to turn life itself into a meditative experience.

Does this always work? Do I now walk around like an enlightened zen master, free of all worry and at peace with the universe at all times? No. But I do fall asleep faster, deal with turbulent times better, feel less stressed out, and enjoy myself a little more than before. And a little more peace of mind is well worth the two hours of reading this book. You can get the book on amazon. All books are also on the resources page.

Further reading:

Josh Waitzkin – The Art of Learning

Which are the most important books you have read in your life? Which books do you keep rereading? From which did you learn the most important lessons? Tell me about it in the comments.

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