“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have”. – Eckhart Tolle
Eckhart Tolle is a contemporary spiritual teacher not aligned with any particular religion or spiritual path. Although he has been influenced by Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism, his writings are predominantly based on his own personal experience. His first book, The Power of Now, published in 1997, has sold over 2 million copies and been translated into 17 languages.
Tolle was born in Germany and trained as a philosopher and research scholar at Cambridge University in England. When he was 29, he had a spiritual transformation that pulled him out of a severe depression and changed the course of his life. He spent the next ten years reading spiritual literature and studying with various modern spiritual teachers.
A strength of this book is that it combines eastern mystical practices with western psychology, science, and philosophy to describe the process of spiritual transformation. Tolle’s main message is that we are not our “egoic” mind, Through the discipline of observing our mind, rather than being identified with it, we can remove much of our psychological suffering. We must stop “compulsive thinking”, a condition of “incessant mental noise”. By surrendering to the present moment we will find freedom, joy and what he terms “authentic human power”. In the present moment, in inner silence, we have access to our inner self. This inner experience revels that we are already complete and perfect.
The Power of Now is taken from Tolle’s response to questions put to him during seminars, meditation classes, and private counseling sessions. He speaks in terms of reaching the word “enlightenment”. For him “enlightenment” means a state of feeling at one with all Being:
The word enlightenment conjures up the idea of some superhuman accomplishment, and the ego likes to keep it that way, but it is simply your natural state of felt oneness with Being. It is a state of connectedness with something immeasurable and indestructible, something that, almost paradoxically, is essentially you and yet is much greater than you. It is finding your true nature beyond name and form. inability to feel this connectedness gives rise to the illusion of separation, from yourself and from the world around you. You then perceive yourself, consciously or unconsciously, as an isolated fragment. Fear arises, and conflict within and without becomes the norm.
Instead of using the word “God”, he uses words like the “Unmanifested” or “Being” to refer to “the eternal, ever-present One Life beyond the myriad forms of life that are subject to birth and death. However, “Being’ is not only beyond but also deep within every form as its innermost invisible and indestructible essence.”
He explains that our greatest obstacle to experiencing this “Being” is our misidentification with our mind:
Identification with your mind … causes thought to become compulsive. Not to be able to stop thinking is a dreadful affliction, but we don’t realize this because almost everybody is suffering from it, so it is considered normal. This incessant mental noise prevents you from finding that realm of inner stillness that is inseparable from Being.
Tolle believes that suffering is caused by the lack of consciousness that comes from living in the past and the future:
All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms off — are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.
Living in the present moment is the antidote to identification with the ego; it is a “portal” into the “inner body:’ unmanifested reality. He says:
Why is the now the most precious thing? Firstly, because it is the only thing. It’s all there is. The eternal present is the space within your whole life unfolds, the one factor that remains constant. Life is now. There was never a time when your life was not now, nor will there ever be. Secondly, the Now is the only point that can take you beyond the limited confines of the mind. It is your only point access into the timeless and formless realm of Being.
Tolle recommends developing the habit of watching your mind. This helps disconnect your consciousness from the mind and direct towards the inner spiritual path.
To become conscious of Being, you need to reclaim consciousness from the mind. This is one of the most essential tasks on your spiritual journey. It will free vast amounts of consciousness that previously had been trapped in useless and compulsive thinking. A very effective way of doing this is simply to take the focus of your attention away from thinking and direct it into the body, where Being can be felt in the first instance as the invisible energy field that gives life to what you perceive as the physical body.
Eckhart Tolle is loosely allied with a group of thinkers who believe that the world is undergoing a spiritual movement as part of the next step in human evolution. As he says: You are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold. That is how important you are!”