A summary of The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle

My Introduction

On the 5th of January, 2005, I started reading The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle.

This spiritual book is a stunning piece of work. It's simple, yet profound teachings have flowed into many aspects of my life, and has brought me much peace and joy.

Enlightenment is not something so difficult that only a few can achieve, thereby making them more special than everyone else. It is simply the end of personal suffering. To be enlightened is to be at peace within yourself. That is all.

This brief summary of the first 2 chapters, and a bit of the third chapter, is my small contribution to the greater good.

Peace to all.

DMP, 2007
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Chapter 1: You are not your mind

The greatest obstacle to enlightenment

Compulsive thinking is the greatest obstacle. The voice(s) in our heads is continuously complaining, commenting, judging, criticising, and labelling people and situations. This involuntary, incessant stream of mental noise is a veil that distorts our perception of reality, pollutes us with negativity, and drains us of vitality.

Freeing yourself from Your Mind

You are pure consciousness. Consciousness is the the background upon which thoughts, emotions and reactions arise. Consciousness (awareness) is not thought. Close your eyes. Watch your thoughts. Do not judge or label the thoughts, do not resist them; watch them, allow them to be. By watching (being aware) of your thoughts, the watching consciousness comes to the fore, and the thoughts will subside into the background. There will be a break in the continuous stream of thinking. There is stillness, and it is only then that true peace can arise.

Enlightenment: Rising above Thought

It is not necessary, to think all the time. The mind (thought) is a tool. You use it when you need to for practical purposes, and stop using it when that purpose ends. For example, you need to think to do your job, but don't need to think when you're sitting quietly at home, or going for a walk. This does not mean that you are in a vegetative state, or become unconscious. You are highly alert, highly aware, but not thinking.

Emotion: The Body's Reaction to Your Mind

Emotions are reflections of the mind in the body. Whatever the mind is thinking will result in an emotion in the body. A fearful thought will result in your body tensing, your heart beating faster, your breathing becoming shallow - a condition known as "fight or flight". A negative, hostile thought will result in the emotion of anger in the body.

Sometimes you may not even be aware of any thought in particular, yet you can feel the resulting emotion in the body, such as anxiety, restlessness, or agitation. Hence, watching the emotions in your body is as important as watching your thoughts, because the emotion is a true indication of the nature of your thoughts. If you are not conscious (aware) of your emotions, the emotion can quickly take you over and before you know it, you are yelling at someone.

Chapter 2: Consciousness: The Way Out of Pain

Create No More Pain in the Present

The emotional pain that we feel is the result of the mind not being Present. The mind continually lives in memory of the past, or anticipation of an imaginary future. Guilt, regret, bitterness and remorse are the result of too much past; stress, anxiety, and worry is the result of too much future. The Now is all there is; even the future will be another Now when that time is reached.

Past Pain: Dissolving the Pain-Body

The pain-body is an accumulation of past emotional pain that resides within your mind and your body. Human beings carry around a heavy burden of residual pain from the past - this burden keeps getting heavier and heavier as each new emotional pain is added to it. Not being Present means not being able to let go of the Past, and the pains of the past (as pain-bodies) are still causing you to suffer Now.

How to be Present and free yourself of the pain-body? Watch the emotions in your body. Feel them. Don't label or judge what you feel. Allow the emotions to be there. By watching and feeling them without judgement, you are allowing them to be. And by allowing them to be, you accept that they are there, without any negativity. Miraculously, the emotions will dissolve, as if by magic, and all that is left is the consciousness (awareness) that was watching the emotions (and allowing them to be). This consciousness is the real YOU. There is stillness, and it is only then that true peace can arise. This method is most effective when you are upset, because the emotions in your body are strong and easy to detect.

Ego Identification with the Pain-Body

We are identified with our pain-bodies. We think our past pains make us who we are today. So we keep talking about our past pains to reinforce our sense of identity. "I was a bankrupt; I was an alcoholic; I had this and this happen to me".

The Origin of Fear

Instinctive fear, which is real fear, arises when there is a real chance of getting hurt such as when someone actually threatens you. Psychological fear is fear of things that may happen in the future. It is not real fear because there is no direct, solid threat. Psychological fear requires time (future), and is the result of not being present. You are here now, worrying about the future. Stress, worry, and anxiety are psychological fears. Be present by watching your thoughts or emotions in your body, eliminate past and future, and you will be free of psychological fear.

The Ego’s Search for Wholeness

The mind feels incomplete, lacking, and seeks gratification in achieving, obtaining, relationships and knowledge and physical appearance etc. “I will be complete, whole, when I own a house, when I am married, when I get a job promotion, when I understand the workings of the universe, when I look like a model. Then I will be happy”. All of these things require time (future). The truth is, you are already whole and complete Now, and you don’t need any mind gratifications in the future to feel better about yourself.

Chapter 3: Moving Deeply into the Now

Letting Go of Psychological Time

There is chronological (clock) time, and psychological (mind time). Clock time is real, practical time, such as the time to start work. Psychological time is not real time, but exists only in the mind. You are living in psychological time when you relive past emotional pains, or worry about the future. Be present.

The Insanity of Psychological Time

If you are living in psychological time (in your mind) you are not honouring the present. You are using the present moment (Now) as a means to get to the future. The present moment really doesn’t even exist for you. You are not enjoying the present moment, but only want to escape it to an imaginary point in the future, where you think things will be better for you.

Negativity and Suffering Have Their Roots in Time

The mind continually lives in memory of the past, or anticipation of an imaginary future. Guilt, regret, bitterness and remorse is the result of too much past; stress, anxiety, and worry is the result of too much future. Can you see what roles psychological time plays in your emotional suffering?

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