*Warning: some naughty language ahead!
Whenever times get dark, my path gets windy, my momentum breaks, or I am desperately looking for some resolution, I turn to books.
My hunger for knowledge and my determination to break cycles usually sends me straight to the self-help aisle or as I like to call it the “Shelf of Salvation.”
Some books I read once, some twice, and some become a beacon of light that I revisit time and time again.
Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment is one of those.
Less a book, more a bible; it’s the book that I go back to time and time again; the one I make notes in; the one that I aspire to fully comprehend (still working on that one); and the one that always gives me perspective.
I am more conscious now than ever before of the power of being in the moment.
On paper and when spoken, it sounds like a simplistic approach; the theory is that there is no past nor present—there is only now. Simple, right? No! It’s not; it’s a mind-boggling, deeply unsettling yet completely liberating theory.
The first time I read the book, I was confused.
The second time, I was following it but deeply unsettled and left with so much to ponder. Are there two versions of me, inside me? Is my mind the enemy? How the fuck do I tap into this true being? How do you stop your mind from wondering? Help!
The third read was when the penny dropped; here is a sentence that, for me, summarises the key message in the book:
“Every second you spend worrying about the future or thinking about the past, regretfully or not, is a second lost, because really all you have to live in is the present, the now.”
Tolle says that the only important time is the one we think about the least: the present.
The reason only the present matters is that everything happens here. Everything you feel and sense takes place in the present. When you think about it, the past is nothing more than all present moments that have gone by, and the future is just the collection of present moments waiting to arrive.
Now, that’s all good and well, but our minds work in overdrive against this, and so we must practice hard to be in a position where we can fully be in the now. This is the tricky part—shutting down our minds for long enough to just be.
First, we must acknowledge that we are not our thoughts; they are a by-product of our environments, our emotions, our experiences, and fears. They are not our true being.
And practice you must, especially if you are like me—the worst meditator in the history of the world.
In the book, Tolle delivers several practical skills and things that we can do to help us observe our thoughts and, in effect, slow them down or even stop them for long enough to tap into the present moment.
This kind of practice is not for the fainthearted; it takes some real practice—but it works.
Take it from a bona fide overthinker, it is achievable, and when you get there, it’s literally going to become your go-to tool for life. Observing your mind, separating your body from your thoughts, and really becoming aware of what you can and cannot control will become a strategy for life—this shit is transformational.
The result is more time, more focus, and an understanding of what matters the most—this very single second.
The most transformative element to this book, and what really stunned me, was that this “being,” this part of me that was being distracted by my mind’s noise, was not some undiscovered, separate part of me. I didn’t have to seek her out. I didn’t need to search or imagine or even create this version. It was me—the true me—and I was here all along.
The truth is within.
Worrying is bullshit.
Worry is fear; it is a monumental waste of time, because it’s not something we can do anything about—all it does is serve to make us miserable.
Living in the now removes the fear of what will be or the regret of what has been. When we focus on the present, we are focusing on the only thing we have any control over.
Here are 10 quotes from the book to help us all escape from the trap of worrying about things we cannot change:
“Stress is caused by being “here” but wanting to be “there,” or being in the present but wanting to be in the future.”
“The moment you realize you are not present, you are present. Whenever you are able to observe your mind, you are no longer trapped in it. Another factor has come in, something that is not of the mind: the witnessing presence.”
“You attract and manifest whatever corresponds to your inner state.”
“But look closely and you will find that your thinking and behavior are designed to keep the pain going—for yourself and others. If you were truly conscious of it, the pattern would dissolve, for to want more pain is insanity, and nobody is consciously insane.”
“The mind unconsciously loves problems because they give you an identity of sorts.”
“You mean stop thinking altogether? No, I can’t, except maybe for a moment or two. Then the mind is using you. You are unconsciously identified with it, so you don’t even know that you are its slave. It’s almost as if you were possessed without knowing it, and so you take the possessing entity to be yourself.
The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not the possessing entity—the thinker. Knowing this enables you to observe the entity. The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, that thought is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence. You also realize that all the things that truly matter—beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace—arise from beyond the mind. You begin to awaken.”
“Your mind is an instrument, a tool. It is there to be used for a specific task, and when the task is completed, you lay it down. As it is, I would say 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. What characterizes an addiction? Quite simply this: you no longer feel that you have the choice to stop. It seems stronger than you. It also gives you a false sense of pleasure, pleasure that invariably turns into pain.”
“In fact, the harder the mind struggles to get rid of the pain, the greater the pain. The mind can never find the solution, nor can it afford to allow you to find the solution, because it is itself an intrinsic part of the ‘problem.’ Imagine a chief of police trying to find an arsonist when the arsonist is the chief of police. You will not be free of that pain until you cease to derive your sense of self from identification with the mind, which is to say from ego. The mind is then toppled from its place”
“Failures lies concealed in every success in every failure.”
“It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living.”