I wanted to share some reflections on this book because it’s a new favorite of mine, and because the philosophy that underlies this book is one of the fundamental perspectives with which I Now approach my clients. Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment is a New York Times Bestseller that many successful people (yes, I realize I read what Oprah tells me to) cite as one of their most influential books. One day, I was in McKay’s Used Books and I saw almost an entire row of copies in the Philosophy section for about $1.50. I remembered that I’m often seeing quotes of his, and my friends and clients alike had recommended him. So I bought one for myself, and later, my cousin and I decided to read it together. Now that I’ve finished, every time I’m in West Nashville, I’m going to go by McKay’s to get the whole shelf for all of my friends.
Tolle writes about the Now. This moment. And this one. He proposes, rather convincingly, that all pain and trouble in life come from not living in the present moment. When we stress, we are either ruminating about something that has already happened or we are worried about something that hasn’t happened yet. In doing so, we miss the beauty that is all around us, and we create a reality that is plagued with negativity. In the present, we can come to understand that the world we live in is fascinating and beautiful. When this happens, we can come to a place where we transcend thoughts of good or bad and enter into a state of sustainable peace.
That sounds a little heady doesn’t it? That’s only because I summarized in a paragraph what he gracefully explains in 229 pages. The trick is to not over-think it, because over-thinking takes us out of the Now. The notion that he shares that struck me, personally, the most was our addiction to thinking. Tolle points out how we often confuse ourselves with our thoughts. You may have even had the thought “If people only knew who I really am, I wouldn’t have friends,” but what you meant was “If people only knew what went on in my head, I wouldn’t have friends.” That’s because you think you are your thoughts, when you’re thoughts are simply products of you. Our thoughts take us out of the Now, and we miss the beauty that lies within every moment.
I’ll use myself as an example. I am a pathological intellectualizer. I have fooled myself into believing that if I can make something make sense in my mind than I can have some sort of divine power over it. I’m sure I’ve even alienated friends not because I had a problem with their opinions but because I felt the need to highlight their inability to make an argument. While I’m not going to deny that intellectualization has benefited me in some ways, wrapping my head around a difficult occurrence doesn’t make it less painful. It simply takes me out of the Now, which can create even more pain.
Tolle suggests that when thoughts are focused on the present moment, we can always find our way to peace. Even if your Now brings you something negative, as long as you are truly present with that moment you can find a way to be at peace with your feelings. I’m not suggesting it won’t take practice, but the sooner you are in control of how you see the world the sooner you will be able to see it change to your benefit.
The knowledge that you can be at peace in all of the Nows may eventually lead to a wonderful state of joy. Gregory of Nicaea once said, “Concepts create idols; only wonder comprehends anything. People kill each other over idols. Wonder makes us fall to our knees.” I illustrated this once with an ink pin to a client. She was struggling with depression so much that it had taken her to the point of utter despair. I was able to take her out of that place by showing her how to be in awe of an ink pin. When you think about it, the pin can write a message that can make a friend’s day. The tiny ball in the tip of that pin that enables the ink to run smoothly across paper was, I’m sure, quite a feat of engineering to create. To top it off, most pins are plastic, which is decomposed organic matter. The utensil with which you write is made of dead, and likely extinct, animals and vegetation. To me, that’s fascinating. What if we could look at everything in our lives with that same appreciation?
It is possible as long as you stay in the now. Every single moment contains something to captivate our since of wonder. If we aren’t in the Now, I wonder what beauty, joy, and wisdom we could be missing.