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Current Update as of May 04, 2003

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The Power of Now

Eckhart Tolle

Book Summary by Ann Holland

Many of us who attempt to align ourselves with the 'oneness with Being' have yet to fully embrace exactly what that might mean. How does one come to identify with one's true nature, allowing the realization and ultimate resurrection of the I Am ... "consciousness in its pure state before identification with form ..."?

At the age of twenty-nine, Eckhart Tolle had spent years existing in a world of deep depression, burdened by anxious and suicidal thoughts. During a particularly dark night and in the early morning hours, filled with despair, Tolle experienced a profound awakening. The question he asked himself over and over again ... "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," he thought, "only one of them is real."

In his book, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment (New World Library), Tolle tells us that the true wealth of being can never be found outside of ourselves. It is in discovering our connectedness to all things that we find our true nature and the ability to feel 'oneness with Being.' This is enlightenment. And yet, he describes it as a paradox of  "something that is essentially you and yet is much greater than you." In the absence of connectedness we experience fear and separation from our Source or true self.

Being cannot be made clear with the mind. In learning to be present and with our attention fully in the Now, Being can only be felt. It is the essence of self ... the I Am before the mind tells you that you are this or that. To have the awareness of self-realization and to remain in its state is to be enlightened.

The greatest obstacle to experiencing one's true nature is the constant chatter of the mind. As a result of using our minds, we have created labels, images, words, judgments, and definitions of people and events that shade and come between our relationship to all things. What we need to remember is that we are one with all that is. Tolle believes that the mind uses us, rather than us using our mind. This causes disease, an imbalance of being. Believing that you are your mind is delusional thinking.

Tolle asks the question ... "Can you be free of your mind whenever you want to? Have you found the "off" button?" He suggests that one begin by "watching the thinker." Once we learn to detach ourselves from the mind, we move quickly into a higher level of consciousness. We become the observer and, in doing so, tap into the vast realm of intelligence, beyond the mind, where we access the reality of beauty, love, creativity, joy, and inner peace.

Our mind is involved continuously in monologues and dialogues, imagining the future based on past events. We worry. We relive the recent or distant past and allow those thoughts and pictures to get in the way of what is real. Tolle, however, believes that you can free yourself from the barrage of voices. How? Begin by listening, as often as you can. Pay particular attention to repetitive or compulsive thoughts. Learn to listen without judgment or condemnation. This is "watching the thinker." By paying attention, you bring an awareness of self - the I am. This realization of one's own presence comes from beyond the mind and is not involved in thought.

As you begin to become aware of your patterns of thinking, you bring in another level of consciousness. Compulsive and repetitive thoughts lose their power over you. By interrupting the chatter, you create a discontinuity and what Tolle calls "a gap of no-mind" ... the beginning of your natural state of felt oneness with Being." In this space you will find an endless source of peace and joy.

Once you have mastered the art of the  "watchful thinker," you can then learn to direct your focus into the Now - the ultimate meditation. Be totally present in whatever it is you might be doing. Pay attention to all your senses. Be alert. How do you know you've been successful? Tolle says you will know by "the degree of peace that you feel within."

Vital to your journey towards enlightenment is learning to dis-identify from your mind. With each gap you create, your consciousness grows stronger.

Tolle believes that 80 to 90 percent of our thoughts are not only useless and repetitive, but harmful as well. Compulsive thinking is an addiction. You feel you cannot stop because it is stronger than you. Often, you are filled with a false sense of pleasure that inevitably turns to pain.

The ego is identified by Tolle as being the false self. It is the mental image of ourselves that develops as we grow up. These are images affected by personal and cultural conditioning. The ego is not concerned with the present moment, but rather it is concerned with the past and keeping it alive. It is, as we choose to believe, who we are.

Consciousness exists without thought; however, thought requires some consciousness. In an enlightened state one learns to rise above thought. During the creative process there is a pattern of oscillating between thought and stillness, mind and no-mind. Creation takes place in the space of no-mind.

Tolle describes emotions as being the mind's reflection in the body and, like your thoughts; you must learn to observe your emotions. How do they feel in your body? Unchecked emotions manifest not only physically, but will also attract to you external events that reflect the emotion, such as anger or hostility that is unprovoked. If your thoughts and emotions seem to be in conflict, the emotion will be real. The thought is false. Watching emotions are the same as watching your thoughts.

Emotion is the result of the loss of awareness of who you are beyond name and form. The harder the mind tries to control pain, the greater the pain. The mind becomes part of the problem. When you learn to observe thoughts and emotions and detach yourself from ego or mind, just Being will reveal itself as your true nature.

Love, joy, and peace are integral to one's inner connectedness with Being; however, they are not considered to be emotions by Tolle. He believes that they come from beyond the mind, whereas emotions are derived out of a dualistic mind. For that reason, emotions are subject to the law of opposites, the good and the bad. True love does not turn to suffering, nor does real joy cause you to experience pain, unless, of course, the source of these "emotions" comes from outside yourself.

Tolle gives an excellent analogy ... "Even when the sky is heavily overcast, the sun hasn't disappeared. It's still there on the other side of the clouds." It is so with our experiences of true love, joy, and peace that are born from within. They are eternal and ever-present.

As long as we "seek to be free of desire" or wish to "achieve enlightenment" it will elude us. The need for salvation and fulfillment are external cravings, preventing us from becoming present and experiencing the joy of Being. Learn to observe the mind.  Within the "mind-identified egoic state of consciousness" there exists two levels of pain: Pain we create now and pain from the past that we continue to be identify within the mind and body.

The intensity of one's pain is parallel to the degree of resistance to the present moment; therefore, most human pain is unnecessary. The mind believes that in order for us to be in control in the present, we must consider the past or future. We're conditioned.

How do we stop creating pain for ourselves and others? Stop creating time. That means stay in the moment. Create no more time than is necessary for taking care of the practical aspects of your life.

How do we stop creating time? Choose to be deeply in the moment. Instead of relying on past or future events, "surrender to what is." Tolle adds, "Say 'yes' to life - and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you. Make Now the primary focus in your life."

Be careful when the mind has labeled a moment as unacceptable, unpleasant, or awful. Accept the moment "as it is" - then act. Understand that it is your creation and learn to work with it, not against it. Pay attention to the inner workings of the mind and realize, and perhaps recognize, the resistance patterns and find the freedom to let go of external conditions. Make the moment your friend and you will transform your life.

As long as we hold on to the pain of past events, negative energy will be created within our mind and body. The emotional pain-body is an invisible entity that is ever-dormant or activated.

Pain-bodies manifest in many different forms. Some are obnoxious, but harmless, such as whining. Others are extremely harmful and can be self-destructive. It is possible for these pain-bodies to lead to illness, accidents - even suicide.

As we experience pain-bodies in others, their behavior may take us by surprise. What is actually occurring is a reflection and manifestation of our own unhappiness. Usually, it's our ego looking for drama. The more  we involve ourselves with the pain, the more pain we create. It's unconscious. Pain, however, cannot live in light. Make yourself conscious of the pain you perpetuate. Until you do, you will be forced to live it again and again.

Giving attention to your pain-bodies, learning to observe them as illusions, breaks your identification with them. They no longer have power over you. You have achieved a higher level of consciousness, having accessed the power of Now.

Tolle summarizes the process in this way: "Focus attention on the feeling inside you. Know that it is the pain-body. Accept that it is there. Don't think about it - don't let the feeling turn into thinking. Don't judge or analyze. Don't make an identity for yourself out of it. Stay present, and continue to be the observer of what is happening inside you. Become aware not only of the emotional pain but also of "the one who observes," the silent watcher. This is the power of the Now, the power of your own conscious presence. Then see what happens."

Unconscious state: "Identification with the mind, which creates a false self, the ego, as a substitute for your true self rooted in Being." The ego, itself, is in constant need of attention. Therefore, many of us identify with our sense of self as being our problems, fully involved with pain and suffering. When we are not conscious, we allow our egoic mind to take over.

A way of learning to dis-identify with the mind is to "end the delusion of time." Our preoccupation with past and future - memory and anticipation - leaves us prisoners of time and our minds. Being focused on the past and/or future prevents us from the Now. Now is the only truly precious thing that matters. There is only Now.

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