There is no better time than the present. Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now shows you how to move past pain, stress and anxiety with the help of ancient teachings and modern thought designed to balance your life by living it moment to moment.
The Power of Now is author Eckhart Tolle's first book, but it made quite a splash when it appeared in the late '90s. It quickly built momentum and has since been translated into 33 languages and sold three million copies in North America alone. Now Tolle is one of the most popular spiritual authors out there, and he is constantly referenced in other books with interviews or excerpts. Inside the book you'll find lessons and teachings from spiritual leaders, exercises for maintaining presence in the moment, and approaches to meditation that don't get hung up on mere positive thinking.
Who This Book Is For
This book is for people who feel stuck in their past, people who can't get out of their own head, and people who feel like they're waiting around for happiness to come to them. It's also for those that catch themselves complaining too often, and those that feel constant anxiety or worry on the daily. If you have interest in meditation as a practice, or have never tried it but want some of the benefits, this book might be right up your alley. This book is probably not ideal for people who have no interest in zen teachings, think meditation is silly (it's really not), or find little value in philosophical lessons.
What You'll Get
The book focuses on one major subject: how to be consciously present in the moment and what that can do for you in your everyday life. You'll find some exercises and examples as you go that can help you understand the concepts more and put them into practice. The book isn't terribly short, so here is some of what you'll learn:
- In the chapter "You Are Not Your Mind", you'll learn: What being present means, how you can reach that state, and how it will help you be more aware of the things you do and why you do them.
- In the chapter "Consciousness - The Way Out of Pain", you'll learn: Personal pain and suffering are created in the mind by identifying yourself with the past or longing for the future, instead of just being in the moment.
- In the chapter "Moving Deeply Into the Now", you'll learn: Not to identify yourself with your problems (your "ego"). When you do that, you'll never be rid of them, because then the loss of problems will mean the loss of self.
- In the chapter "The Inner Body", you'll learn: How to use your body as way to keep you present in the moment, and how to truly listen to someone else without being in your own head.
- In the chapter "Beyond Happiness and Unhappiness There Is Peace", you'll learn: That you can feel peace without feeling happiness, and that the source of drama in your life can be traced back to the lack of acceptance.
It's also important to mention how this book is structured. There are chapters, just like any other book, but the chapters are broken up into different questions being asked by an assumed proxy of the reader (as if you're at a presentation and Tolle is taking questions). Sometimes it's a question you're already thinking as you read, and other times it's not something you'd think of asking at all. It's probably to your benefit to read every section, but if you feel you have a good understanding of what is being communicated, it's not the worst thing to skip a section because you already "get it".
There is also a symbol that shows up throughout the book. When you see it, you're meant to take a break from reading and stop to let what you've just read sink in, or practice an exercise. I took the breaks for every exercise and for every section that contained something I had never thought of before. It was helpful in understanding each lesson, personally. Whether you choose to take those breaks, is entirely up to you, but I will say that this isn't the kind of book you want to rush through anyway.
One Trick You'll Take Away
It's easy to get stuck dwelling on the past. Maybe you had a bad breakup, lost a job, or simply wish something had gone another way. Even worse, you might sit around waiting for the future to come along and save you. You hope that someone will find you, a great job will come knocking on your door, or things will just get better somehow. Combine both of those thought processes and suddenly the present moment in front of you has lost all of its value. To truly move on from your past and take control of your future, you have to take them out of your mind and focus on what you can do right now. Tolle suggests to only approach your past and future on the level of the present moment:
Whatever you need to know about the unconscious past in you, the challenges of the present will bring it out. If you delve into the past, it will become a bottomless pit: There is always more.
You don't want to deny your past or blow off your future, you just want to reach for them as tools when you need them instead:
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.
Essentially, you're dropping the weight of the past and the stress of the future to focus only on what's happening right in this very moment so you can actually do something. As things happen in the current moment, you can apply the lessons you've learnt in the past without letting it take over. As you strive towards your goals, you can make future plans without getting caught up in a daydream of what "may" happen. Focus on what's happening right now and everything else will fall into place.
Overall, this book has a lot of really great insights into presence, mindfulness, peace, and acceptance. It's the kind of book I would read if was feeling down and out, and it's probably one of those books you keep around for a time when you need it. The concepts are profound, the teachings Tolle uses from spiritual leaders like Buddha and Jesus are presented well, and there are a lot of useful tips in the form of truthful quotes. There aren't many step-by-step exercises, save for a few regarding the mind and breathing, but that's not what this book is about. Instead, you'll likely find yourself highlighting passages that just make sense and that you'll carry with you.
That being said, there is a lot to try and absorb here. Even if you get some useful ideas the first time around, it could take multiple readings to truly "get" some of what Tolle is trying explain. I mentioned the language Tolle uses earlier, and it will likely be a barrier for some. He sort of repurposes words to have their own meaning in the context of what he's trying to teach. So if you jumped to a random page, you'd probably be very confused. Start from the beginning, stick with it, and it's all worth it.
The book also has some ups and downs along the way. Tolle can be pretty repetitive — and sometimes tangential — when he tries to explain what presence means and how important it can be. Unfortunately, this can make the book seem a little longer than it really needs to be. Still, the structure of the book makes it feel fluid, and if you wanted to read through it again, you could self-prescribe yourself certain sections to read instead of going through the whole thing.
While reading the book won't necessarily change your life instantly, its concepts and message stick with you when you're done. Even if you don't immediately give in to its teachings, you'll likely find yourself trying to employ it's tactics for presence in your own life. Approach The Power of Now with an open mind, give it some time to sink in, and you might find your perspective on the world changing a little for the better.
You can grab The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment on Amazon on Kindle, or at most bookshops. You can also learn more about author Eckhart Tolle at his website.