The Power of Now
book by Eckhart Tolle
(Redirected from The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment)
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment is a book by Eckhart Tolle. It was published in 1997.
- “I cannot live with myself any longer.” This was the thought that kept repeating itself in my mind. Then suddenly I became aware of what a peculiar thought it was. “Am I one or two? If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the ‘I’ and the ‘self’ that ‘I’ cannot live with.” “Maybe,” I thought, “only one of them is real.” (introduction)
- I could still function in the world, although I realized that nothing I ever did could possibly add anything to what I already had. p. 8
- People would occasionally come up to me and say: “I want what you have. Can you give it to me, or show me how to get it?” And I would say: “You have it already. You just can’t feel it because your mind is making too much noise.” p. 9
Chapter 1. You Are Not Your MindEdit
- Not to be able to stop thinking is a dreadful affliction, but we don’t realize this because almost everybody is suffering from it, so it is considered normal. p. 15
- The philosopher Descartes believed that he had found the most fundamental truth when he made his famous statement: “I think, therefore I am.” He had, in fact, given expression to the most basic error: to equate thinking with Being and identity with thinking.
- An opaque screen of concepts, labels, images, words, judgments, and definitions that blocks all true relationship ... comes between you and yourself, between you and your fellow man and woman, between you and nature... It is this screen of thought that creates the illusion of separateness, the illusion that there is you and a totally separate "other."
- When you listen to a thought, you are aware not only of the thought but also of yourself as the witness of the thought. A new dimension of consciousness has come in. p. 17
- Create a gap of no-mind in which you are highly alert and aware but not thinking. This is the essence of meditation. p. 18
- You can practice this by taking any routine activity that normally is only a means to an end and giving it your fullest attention, so that it becomes an end in itself.
- For example, every time you walk up and down the stairs in your house or place of work, pay close attention to every step, every movement, even your breathing. Be totally present.
- Or when you get into your car, after you close the door, pause for a few seconds and observe the flow of your breath.
- To the ego, the present moment hardly exists. Only past and future are considered important. This total reversal of the truth accounts for the fact that in the ego mode the mind is so dysfunctional. It is always concerned with keeping the past alive, because without it—who are you? It constantly projects itself into the future to ensure its continued survival. p. 19
- The ego ... misperceives it (the present) completely because it looks at it through the eyes of the past. Or it reduces the present to a means to an end, an end that always lies in the mind-projected future. p. 20
- All emotions are modifications of one primordial, undifferentiated emotion that has its origin in the loss of awareness of who you are beyond name and form. p. 23
- 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. p. 24
- Cravings are the mind seeking salvation or fulfillment in external things and in the future as a substitute for the joy of Being. p. 24
- So don't seek to become free of desire or "achieve" enlightenment. Become present. Be there as the observer of the mind. Instead of quoting the Buddha, be the Buddha, be "the awakened one," which is what the word buddha means. p. 25
Chapter 2. Consciousness: The Way Out of PainEdit
- The mind, to ensure that it remains in control, seeks continuously to cover up the present moment with past and future, and... your true nature becomes obscured by the mind. p. 26
- Whereas before you dwelt in time and paid brief visits to the Now, have your dwelling place in the Now and pay brief visits to past and future when required to deal with the practical aspects of your life situation. p. 27
- Even such a seemingly trivial and “normal” thing as the compulsive need to be right in an argument and make the other person wrong—defending the mental position with which you have identified—is due to the fear of death... So you as the ego cannot afford to be wrong. To be wrong is to die. p. 32
Chapter 3. Moving Deeply Into the NowEdit
- The mind in itself is not dysfunctional. It is a wonderful tool. Dysfunction sets in when you seek your self in it and mistake it for who you are. p. 35
- To be identified with your mind is to be trapped in time: the compulsion to live almost exclusively through memory and anticipation. This creates an endless preoccupation with past and future and an unwillingness to honor and acknowledge the present moment and allow it to be. The compulsion arises because the past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation, of fulfillment in whatever form. Both are illusions. p.36
- The past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation. ... Both are illusions.
- When you remember the past, you reactivate a memory trace—and you do so now. ... When you think about the future, you do it now. Past and future obviously have no reality of their own. Just as the moon has no light of its own, but can only reflect the light of the sun, so are past and future only pale reflections of the light, power, and reality of the eternal present. Their reality is “borrowed” from the Now.
- The reason why some people love to engage in dangerous activities, such as mountain climbing, car racing, and so on, although they may not be aware of it, is that it forces them into the Now—that intensely alive state that is free of time, free of problems, free of thinking, free of the burden of the personality. p. 37
- If you go to a church...you might hear the passage about the beautiful flowers that are not anxious about tomorrow but live with ease in the timeless Now and are provided for abundantly by God.
- The whole essence of Zen consists in walking along the razor's edge of Now - to be so utterly, so completely present that no problem, no suffering, nothing that is not who you are in your essence, can survive in you.
- In the Now, in the absence of time, all your problems dissolve. Suffering needs time; it cannot survive in the Now.
- Make it your practice to withdraw attention from past and future whenever they are not needed. Step out of the time dimension as much as possible in everyday life.
- Start by observing the habitual tendency of your mind to want to escape from 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. p. 39
- 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.
- Be present as the watcher of your mind.
- Identification with the mind gives it more energy; observation of the mind withdraws energy from it. Identification with the mind creates more time; observation of the mind opens up the dimension of the timeless. The energy that is withdrawn from the mind turns into presence.
- If you made a mistake in the past and learn from it now, you are using clock time. On the other hand, if you dwell on it mentally, and self-criticism, remorse, or guilt come up, then you are making the mistake into “me” and “mine”: you make it part of your sense of self, and it has become psychological time, which is always linked to a false sense of identity. Non-forgiveness necessarily implies a heavy burden of psychological time.
- If you set yourself a goal and work toward it, you are using clock time. You are aware of where you want to go, but you honor and give your fullest attention to the step that you are taking at this moment. If you then become excessively focused on the goal, ... the Now is no longer honored. It becomes reduced to a mere stepping stone to the future, with no intrinsic value. Clock time then turns into psychological time. Your life’s journey is no longer an adventure, just an obsessive need to arrive. p. 40
- The belief that the future will be better than the present is not always an illusion. The present can be dreadful, and things can get better in the future, and often they do.
- Usually, the future is a replica of the past. Superficial changes are possible, but real transformation is rare and depends upon whether you can become present enough to dissolve the past. ... The quality of your consciousness at this moment is what shapes the future—which, of course, can only be experienced as the Now.
- A state of consciousness totally free of all negativity is possible. And yet this is the liberated state to which all spiritual teachings point. It is the promise of salvation, not in an illusory future but right here and now. p. 42
- Hope keeps you focused on the future, and this continued focus perpetuates your denial of the Now and therefore your unhappiness.
- If you have ever been in a life-or-death emergency situation, you will know that it wasn’t a problem. The mind didn’t have time to fool around and make it into a problem. ... In any emergency, either you survive or you don’t. Either way, it is not a problem.
- “Problem” means that you are dwelling on a situation mentally without there being a true intention or possibility of taking action now and that you are unconsciously making it part of your sense of self. p. 45
- If there is no joy, ease, or lightness in what you are doing, it does not necessarily mean that you need to change what you are doing. It may be sufficient to change the how. “How” is always more important than “what.” See if you can give much more attention to the doing than to the result that you want to achieve through it.
- Do not be concerned with the fruit of your action—just give attention to the action itself.
- The moment your attention turns to the Now, you feel a presence, a stillness, a peace. You no longer depend on the future for fulfillment and satisfaction—you don’t look to it for salvation.
- Neither failure nor success has the power to change your inner state of Being. You have found the life underneath your life situation. p. 47
- When your deeper sense of self is derived from Being... You don’t demand that situations, conditions, places, or people should make you happy, and then suffer when they don’t live up to your expectations.
- You know that "nothing real can be threatened."
- When this is your state of Being, how can you not succeed? You have succeeded already. p. 48
Chapter 4. Mind Strategies for avoiding the nowEdit
- Loss of Now is loss of Being.
- To be free of time is to be free of the psychological need of past for your identity and future for your fulfillment.
- Be at least as interested in what goes on inside you as what happens outside.
- If you cannot be present even in normal circumstances, such as when you are sitting alone in a room, walking in the woods, or listening to someone, then you certainly won't be able to stay conscious when something "goes wrong" or you are faced with difficult people or situations, with loss or the threat of loss. p.51
- The best indicator of your level of consciousness is how you deal with life's challenges when they come.
- Only people who are in a deeply negative state, who feel very bad indeed, would create such a reality as a reflection of how they feel. Now they are engaged in destroying nature and the planet that sustains them. Unbelievable but true.
- Humans are a dangerously insane and very sick species. That's not a judgment. Ifs a fact. It is also a fact that the sanity is there underneath the madness. Healing and redemption are available right now.
- See if you can catch yourself complaining, in either speech or thought, about a situation you find yourself in, what other people do or say, your surroundings, your life situation, even the weather. To complain is always non-acceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge.
- When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power.
- So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness. p.56
- You can use a challenge to awaken you, or you can allow it to pull you into even deeper sleep. The dream of ordinary unconsciousness then turns into a nightmare.
- Maybe you are being taken advantage of, maybe the activity you are engaged in is tedious, maybe someone close to you is dishonest, irritating, or unconscious, but all this is irrelevant. Whether your thoughts and emotions about this situation are justified or not makes no difference. The fact is that you are resisting what is. You are making the present moment into an enemy.
- Some people would always rather be somewhere else. Their “here” is never good enough. Through self observation, find out if that is the case in your life. 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. If you want to take responsibility for your life, you must choose one of those three options, and you must choose now. Then accept the consequences. No excuses. No negativity. No psychic pollution. Keep your inner space clear.
- If you take any action—leaving or changing your situation—drop the negativity first, if at all possible. Action arising out of insight into what is required is more effective than action arising out of negativity.
- All that you ever have to deal with, cope with, in real life—as opposed to imaginary mind projections—is this moment. Ask yourself what “problem” you have right now, not next year, tomorrow, or five minutes from now. What is wrong with this moment?
- Is your goal taking up so much of your attention that you reduce the present moment to a means to an end? Is it taking the joy out of your doing? Are you waiting to start living? If you develop such a mind pattern, no matter what you achieve or get, the present will never be good enough; the future will always seem better. A perfect recipe for permanent dissatisfaction and nonfulfillment.
- Your life’s journey has an outer purpose and an inner purpose. The outer purpose is to arrive at your goal or destination, to accomplish what you set out to do, to achieve this or that, which, of course, implies future. But if your destination, or the steps you are going to take in the future, take up so much of your attention that they become more important to you than the step you are taking now, then you completely miss the journey’s inner purpose, which has nothing to do with where you are going or what you are doing, but everything to do with how. It has nothing to do with future but everything to do with the quality of your consciousness at this moment.
- Does it matter whether we achieve our outer purpose, whether we succeed or fail in the world?
- The sooner you realize that your outer purpose cannot give you lasting fulfillment, the better. When you have seen the limitations of your outer purpose, you give up your unrealistic expectation that it should make you happy, and you make it subservient to your inner purpose.
- Most people don't know how to listen because the major part of their attention is taken up by thinking. They pay more attention to that than to what the other person is saying
- When the mind is running your life, conflict, strife and problems are inevitable. Being in touch with your inner body creates a clear space of no-mind within which the relationship can flower. 82
Chapter 5. The State of PresenceEdit
- 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?
- I had to wait for quite a long time before a thought came in... As long as you are in a state of intense presence, you are free of thought. p. 62
- If a fish is born in your aquarium and you call it John, write out a birth certificate, tell him about his family history, and two minutes later he gets eaten by another fish—that’s tragic. But it’s only tragic because you projected a separate self where there was none. You got hold of a fraction of a dynamic process, a molecular dance, and made a separate entity out of it.
- Most humans are still in the grip of the egoic mode of consciousness: identified with their mind and run by their mind. If they do not free themselves from their mind in time, they will be destroyed by it.
They will experience increasing confusion, conflict, violence, illness, despair, madness.
- Egoic mind has become like a sinking ship. If you don't get off, you will go down with it. The collective egoic mind is the most dangerously insane and destructive entity ever to inhabit this planet.
- If it weren't for alcohol, tranquilizers, antidepressants, as well as the illegal drugs, which are all consumed in vast quantities, the insanity of the human mind would become even more glaringly obvious than it is already... if deprived of their drugs, a large part of the population would become a danger to themselves and others.
- These drugs, of course, simply keep you stuck in dysfunction. Their widespread use only delays the breakdown of the old mind structures and the emergence of higher consciousness. p.67
Chapter 6. The Inner BodyEdit
- Do not give all your attention away to the mind and the external world. By all means focus on what you are doing, but feel the inner body at the same time whenever possible.
- Whenever you are waiting, wherever it may be, use that time to feel the inner body. In this way, traffic jams and line-ups become very enjoyable. Instead of mentally projecting yourself away from the Now, go more deeply into the Now by going more deeply into the body. p. 76
- The art of inner-body awareness will develop into a completely new way of living, a state of permanent connectedness with Being, and will add a depth to your life that you have never known before.
- It is easy to stay present as the observer of your mind when you are deeply rooted within your body. No matter what happens on the outside, nothing can shake you anymore.
- Unless you stay present—and inhabiting your body is always an essential aspect of it—you will continue to be run by your mind. The script in your head that you learned a long time ago, the conditioning of your mind, will dictate your thinking and your behavior.
- If a word doesn't work for you anymore, then drop it and replace it with one that does work. If you don't like the word sin, then call it unconsciousness or insanity. That may get you closer to the truth, the reality behind the word, than a long-misused word like sin, and leaves little room for guilt. p.71
- Open your eyes and see the fear, the despair, the greed, and the violence that are all-pervasive. See the heinous cruelty and suffering on an unimaginable scale that humans have inflicted and continue to inflict on each other as well as on other life forms on the planet. You don't need to condemn. Just observe. That is sin. That is insanity. p.71
- When such challenges come, as they always do, make it a habit to go within at once and focus as much as you can on the inner energy field of your body. This need not take long, just a few seconds. But you need to do it the moment that the challenge presents itself. Any delay will allow a conditioned mental-emotional reaction to arise and take you over. p. 76
- Most people don't know how to listen because the major part of their attention is taken up by thinking. They pay more attention to that than to what the other person is saying
- You cannot feel someone else's Being except through your own. This is the beginning of the realization of oneness, which is love. At the deepest level of Being, you are one with all that is.
- When the mind is running your life, conflict, strife and problems are inevitable. p. 82
Chapter 7. Portals Into the ManifestedEdit
- You also realize that the light is not separate from who you are but constitutes your very essence.
- When you are intensely present, you don't need to be concerned about the cessation of thinking, of course, because the mind then stops automatically.
- Surrender - the letting go of mental-emotional resistance to what is - also becomes a portal into the Unmanifested.
- Inner resistance cuts you off from other people, from yourself, from the world around you. It strengthens the feeling of separateness on which the ego depends for its survival.
- In the state of surrender, your form identity softens and becomes somewhat "transparent," as it were, so the Unmanifested can shine through you.
- As soon as one of the portals is open, love is present in you as the "feeling-realization" of oneness. Love isn't a portal; it's what comes through the portal into this world.
- As long as you are completely trapped in your form identity, there can be no love. Your task is not to search for love but to find a portal through which love can enter.
- Pay more attention to the silence than to the sounds. Paying attention to outer silence creates inner silence: the mind becomes still. A portal is opening up.
- You cannot pay attention to silence without simultaneously becoming still within.
- If you remain in conscious connection with the Unmanifested, you value, love, and deeply respect the manifested and every life form in it as an expression of the One Life... You also know that every form is destined to dissolve again and that ultimately nothing out here matters all that much. You have "overcome the world," in the words of Jesus, or, as the Buddha put it, you have "crossed over to the other shore."
- Hence, the ultimate purpose of the world lies not within the world but in transcendence of the world... It is through the world and ultimately through you that the Unmanifested knows itself. You are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold.
- Apart from dreamless sleep, which I mentioned already, there is one other involuntary portal. It opens up briefly at the time of physical death. Even if you have missed all the other opportunities for spiritual realization during your lifetime, one last portal will open up for you immediately after the body has died.
- Eventually, there will be another round of birth and death. Their presence wasn't strong enough yet for conscious immortality.
- Every portal is a portal of death, the death of the false self. When you go through it, you cease to derive your identity from your psychological, mind-made form. You then realize that death is an illusion, just as your identification with form was an illusion. The end of illusion - that's all that death is. It is painful only as long as you cling to illusion.
Chapter 8. Enlightened RelationshipsEdit
- Most people pursue physical pleasures or various forms of psychological gratification because they believe that those things will make them happy or free them from a feeling of fear or lack. p. 93
- 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. In theistic language, it is to "know God" - not as something outside you but as your own innermost essence.
- True salvation is to know yourself as an inseparable part of the timeless and formless One Life from which all that exists derives its being.
- Your existence has suddenly become meaningful because someone needs you, wants you, and makes you feel special, and you do the same for him or her. When you are together, you feel whole. The feeling can become so intense that the rest of the world fades into insignificance.
- You become addicted to the other person... even the possibility or the thought that he or she might no longer be there for you can lead to jealousy, possessiveness, attempts at manipulation through emotional blackmail, blaming and accusing - fear of loss.
- If the other person does leave you... In an instant, loving tenderness can turn into a savage attack or dreadful grief.
- Can love change into its opposite in an instant? Was it love in the first place, or just an addictive grasping and clinging? p. 95
- The reason why the romantic love relationship is such an intense and universally sought-after experience is that it seems to offer liberation from a deep-seated state of fear, need, lack, and incompleteness that is part of the human condition in its unredeemed and unenlightened state.
- There is a physical as well as a psychological dimension...On the physical level, you are obviously not whole, nor will you ever be: You are either a man or a woman, which is to say, one-half of the whole. On this level, the longing for wholeness - the return to oneness - manifests as male-female attraction, man's need for a woman, woman's need for a man. It is an almost irresistible urge for union with the opposite energy polarity. p. 95
- Avoidance of relationships in an attempt to avoid pain is not the answer either. The pain is there anyway. Three failed relationships in as many years are more likely to force you into awakening than three years on a desert island or shut away in your room. But if you could bring intense presence into your aloneness, that would work for you too. p. 98
- 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. In the stillness of your presence, you can feel your own formless and timeless reality as the unmanifested life that animates your physical form. You can then feel the same life deep within every other human and every other creature.
- You look beyond the veil of form and separation. This is the realization of oneness. This is love. p. 98
- As soon as the mind and mind identification return, you are no longer yourself but a mental image of yourself, and you start playing games and roles again to get your ego needs met. You are a human mind again, pretending to be a human being, interacting with another mind, playing a drama called "love."
- Although brief glimpses are possible, love cannot flourish unless you are permanently free of mind identification and your presence is intense enough to have dissolved the pain-body - or you can at least remain present as the watcher. The pain-body cannot then take you over and so become destructive of love.
- Every crisis represents not only danger but also opportunity. If relationships energize and magnify egoic mind patterns and activate the pain-body, as they do at this time, why not accept this fact rather than try to escape from it? Why not cooperate with it instead of avoiding relationships or continuing to pursue the phantom of an ideal partner as an answer to your problems or a means of feeling fulfilled?
- The opportunity that is concealed within every crisis does not manifest until all the facts of any given situation are acknowledged and fully accepted.
- With the acknowledgment and acceptance of the facts also comes a degree of freedom from them. For example, when you know there is disharmony and you hold that "knowing," through your knowing a new factor has come in, and the disharmony cannot remain unchanged.
- When you know you are not at peace, your knowing creates a still space that surrounds your nonpeace in a loving and tender embrace and then transmutes your nonpeace into peace.
- As far as inner transformation is concerned, there is nothing you can do about it. 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.
- If there is anger, know that there is anger. If there is jealousy, defensiveness, the urge to argue, the need to be right, an inner child demanding love and attention, or emotional pain of any kind - whatever it is, know the reality of that moment and hold the knowing.
- Unconsciousness and knowing cannot coexist for long - even if the knowing is only in the other person and not in the one who is acting out the unconsciousness. The energy form that lies behind hostility and attack finds the presence of love absolutely intolerable.
- If you react at all to your partner's unconsciousness, you become unconscious yourself. But if you then remember to know your reaction, nothing is lost.
- Humanity is under great pressure to evolve because it is our only chance of survival as a race. p. 101