When I was home over the Spring Festival holiday, I saw a copy of The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle, sitting around my parent’s house. I read the introduction on a trip to the bathroom (I can’t seem to get off this bathroom theme), and packed the book in my bag when we left to head back to China towards the end of February. I probably should have asked before taking it.
My interpretation of Tolle’s basic premise is that “the Now” is really all that we live in. The future and the past exist only in our minds, so they are not real. The Now is also our point of access to Being, which Tolle equates with concepts such as God and the Dao in other spiritual traditions. According to Tolle, enlightenment is achieved by accepting, or surrendering, to the Now, which is done by separating ourselves from our mind by observing our thoughts and feelings. He claims that the thoughts in our mind are separate from who we really are.
Reading the book was a powerful experience for me. I read it in short bits–in the car between filming locations, before I went to bed–and found the practice of observing my thoughts, particularly my negative thought patterns, to be very freeing. I’m not sure if everyone else is like this, but I tend to go off unconsciously on little thought journeys thinking about the future or the past, and sometimes the thoughts tend to spiral out of control. I’ll start to think about house payments, then children, then work, then retirement, then what I really want to do with my life, and on and on. To be honest, I’d never really thought about whether or not these thought patterns were productive. They just sort of were for me, and I let them go, perhaps hoping that they might lead somewhere productive. Tolle’s claim is that these thought patterns are unconscious, lead to negativity, and keep us out of the present moment. He says that observing thoughts can keep them under control. I was amazed at the peace that observing/noticing these thought patterns brought about for me. Because I read the book over a period of about ten days or so, such moments of peace came quite often, as I was reminded to be “conscious” simply by the fact that I was reading the book. I’m curious to see if I’ll be able to keep a similar level of presence now that I’m done with the book.
The book includes a lot more detail about Tolle’s philosophy, and I’m not ready to accept all of it. There is a lot of talk about how the Now is the gateway between the “Manifested” and the “Unmanifested”, about huge coming shifts in human consciousness, and about vibrational frequencies that I tend to find hokey, but am not ready to make a judgment on. I will say, however, that I am very grateful for the enhanced feeling of peace and joy that reading Tolle’s book brought to my life. (I should also say that I’m afraid that the last sentence sounds a little bit hokey, but it’s true for me.)
A disclaimer: It’s quite likely that I’m misinterpreting or misrepresenting some of Tolle’s ideas and concepts. I haven’t looked at the book since reading it, and my interpretations are based on my own experience reading the book.