‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle is a book that stands the test of time; marking its 20th anniversary last year. Its one I had heard much about about. It claimed to be a ‘guide to spiritual enlightenment’; a bestseller that would revolutionise your thinking. In this review, Mind Ninja explores the key findings and shares our verdict.
Watch the mind
Tolle makes the case for the mind as an instrument for greatness but also often destructive. He argues that learning to ‘disidentify from the mind is the single most vital step in the journey to enlightenment’.
Tolle urges the reader to start watching the thinker - listening to the voice in your head as often as you can and paying attention to repetitive thought patterns.
He explains that listening impartially is key. When you are a witness to the thought, Tolle explains, and surrendering to the present moment, we are able to ‘leave our analytical mind and false created ego’. Through this, we can find joy. Tolle describes the ego as being concerned with keeping past alive and projects itself into the future. When it comes to emotions, Tolle argues that they are the body’s reaction to the mind. He urges us to feel the emotions rather than analyse. The imperative point is to observe emotions and thoughts rather than continually trying to mirco manage them.
Consciousness; the way out of pain
Tolle observes that a greater part of human pain is unnecessary and ‘self created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life’. He urges the reader to observe how the mind labels the moment and how this labelling process creates pain and unhappiness. When discussing emotional triggering he calls ‘pain body’, Tolle suggests ‘becoming conscious enough to break our identification with it, focus attention on the feeling inside you. Accept it is there. Don’t judge or analyse. Don’t make an identity for yourself out of it. Stay present. Continue to observe what is happening inside you as a silent watcher.’ With regards to coping with fears, whether the are ‘unease, worry, anxiety, nervousness, tension, dread, phobia’, this type of psychological fear is often about something that may happen, not of something happening right now. Tolle explains, ‘you are in the here and now and the mind is in the future’. This creates an ‘anxiety gap’. Tolle describes how drugs, acohol, sex, food, work, television and shopping as anaesthetics to remove basic unease. Being free of this is through observation of the mind. He urges the reader to avoid being the habitual waiter for the next holiday, better job, children to grow up etc. Becoming more present, enhancing your consciousness thereby is the way out of pain.
Moving deeply into the now
Tolle talks much about time. As many mindfulness teachers, Tolle argues that nothing exists outside the now and urges the reader to step out of the time dimension as much as possible in everyday life. He explains that through self observation, more presence comes into our life automatically. Tolle suggests this through regular checking in; noticing how much your attention is in the past or future.
‘Don’t judge or analyse. Watch the thought, feel the emotion and observe the reaction.’
Tolle urges us to pay attention to our life, not what he calls the life situation. Tolle explains that your life situation exists in time whereas your life is now. Through using our senses fully we are able to move deeply into the now. Tolle describes this includes seeing the light, shapes, colours, textures and observing the rhythm of your breathing; feeling the air flowing in and out.
Anchor to the now
Tolle urges the reader to keep their attention in the body as much as possible and thereby anchoring to the present. He suggests 10-15 minutes daily practice, without external distractions, sitting on a chair with your spine straight and staying alert.
I enjoyed reading this book, especially the way Tolle tackles his subject through answering common questions in response to his teachings. The key message of being fully present runs throughout the book. Tolle makes an excellent case for mindfulness and embracing the power of the present to find joy in the now. I also enjoyed learning more about the author’s journey to discovering mindfulness. Tolle shares that upto his 30th year, he was depressed and suicidal. Ultimately the messages of regularly checking in, observing thoughts rather than interacting, becoming aware of all the senses and anchoring to the present with the breath make this book embraced by a global audience.