Item ID : 1400
Item ID : 1400
Eckhart Tolle is today one of the most renowned spiritual teachers in the West. The Power of Now begins with a description of the night in which he has undergone a profound transformation one may call “enlightenment”. After years of suffering from depression he woke up with a tremendous dread, and told himself “I can’t live with myself”. Interestingly it is this utterance that made him consider this split of I/self and understanding that one of them must be fake. Everything stopped, and he could not recollect what happened next, yet he woke up with a profound realization that continued for months, leading to his study of diverse traditions that allowed him to conceptualize his experience. The book describes Tolle’s teachings exemplified both through Buddhism and Christianity.
Descartes’ error was “to equate thinking with Being and identity with thinking.” (p.15). The human disease lies in the mind’s having control. One needs thus to cultivate the ability to watch the thinker (p. 17). The mind is a tool that is required, yet once used it needs to be put aside. Yet our addiction to thinking is revealed by our inability to choose whether to think or not. The reason for this addiction lies in the fact that we think we will cease to exist if we stop thinking, thus the mind keeps the past alive and plans the future ahead, for without these, what will be left? Mind is that which entraps us in time and prevents us from living Now. The reason why people go for extreme sports for example is that it forces them to be in the Now. (p. 51). Suffering occurs only within the context of mind and time. The ego strengthens the presence of mind through enemies and problems. It will create problems for the sake of its own survival. (p. 161) One resists his own spiritual awakening for one is enamored in his drama of life. Take that away from him and he has nothing left (p. 182). “The secret of life is to ‘die before you die’ – and find that there is no death” (p. 46). That is, to break the fetter of the false identity with mind that is the source of our anxiety and fear of our own annihilation.
Tolle explores the tension between wanting to achieve goals and living in the Now. “Your outer journey may contain a million steps; your inner journey only has one; the step you are taking right now.” (pp. 88-9). It is our fixation on the goal that derails us and makes us forgetful of Now. The indication for one’s engrossment in time is how much joy he experiences. (p. 67)
The enlightened state is one that is non-dual. “you are yourself…You do not judge yourself, you do not feel sorry for yourself, you are not proud of yourself…..” (p. 174). The flow of life is such that it has cycles reflecting one’s creativity and energy. Many problems arise when one does not listen to these cycles and remains compulsively attached to the need to be productive and achieve. (p. 184).
The following passage is both beautiful and thought provoking as depicting Tolle’s ideas: “I have lived with several Zen masters – all of them cats. Even ducks have taught me important spiritual lessons. Just watching them is a meditation. How peacefully they float along, at ease with themselves, totally present in the Now, dignified and perfect as only a mindless creature can be. Occasionally, however, two ducks will get into a fight – sometimes for no apparent reason, or because one duck has strayed into another’s private space. The fight usually lasts only for a few seconds, and then the ducks separate, swim off in opposite directions, and vigorously flap their wings a few times. They then continue to swim on peacefully as if the fight had never happened. When I observed that for the first time, I suddenly realized that by flapping their wings they were releasing surplus energy, thus preventing it from becoming trapped in their body and turning into negativity. This is natural wisdom, and it is easy for them because they do not have a mind that keeps the past alive unnecessarily and then build an identity around it.” (p. 190)
Pedagogy: One can know the mind by feeling the body as it discloses emotions. Thus Tolle advises: “Make it a habit to ask yourself: What’s going on inside me at this moment?” (p.27). Tolle’s instructions are very much in tune with Vipassana meditation (though he never uses that word). One is to inhabit his body fully “always have some of your attention in the inner energy field of your body…Body awareness keeps you present.” (p. 94). “The process…is profoundly powerful yet simple. It could be taught to a child, and hopefully one day it will be one of the first things children learn at school.” (p. 41). Tolle addresses the role of the spiritual teacher: “when a log that has only just started to burn is placed next to one that is burning fiercely, and after a while they are separated again, the first log will be burning with much greater intensify. After all it is the same fire. To be such fire is one of the functions of a spiritual teacher.” (p. 42).
“…who you are is always a more vital teaching and a more powerful transformer of the world than what you say, and more essential even than what you do.” (p. 202)
Other practices Tolle recommends are to look at the negative accent. That is, listen to the silence between the words, the space between objects etc.: “You cannot pay attention to silence without simultaneously becoming still within.” (p. 136) “practice with little things first. The car alarm, the dog barking, the children screaming, the traffic jam. Instead of having a wall of resistance inside you that gets constantly and painfully hit by things that ‘should not be happening,’ let everything pass through you.” (p.193)
‘When you become involved in an argument or some conflict situation…start by observing how defensive you become as your own position is attacked, or feel the force of your own aggression as you attack the other person’s position. Observe the attachment to your views and opinions. Feel the mental-emotional energy behind your need to be right and make the other person wrong. That’s the energy of the egoic mind. You make it conscious by acknowledging it, by feeling it as fully as possible. Then one day, in the middle of an argument, you will suddenly realize that you have a choice, and you may decide to drop you own reaction – just to see what happens.” (p. 214)