The Power of Now

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The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is a very odd mix of truth and bullshit. The truth comes when he's describing his experience and talking about the mental state of most humans. The bullshit is when he tries to tell you how to get there. I don't think the bullshit is intentional, I just think Tolle has no idea how he got there so he doesn't know how how to help you get there. It's like he woke up in a beautiful park one morning but he doesn't know where the park is so he can't give you directions beyond "just come here". I also think he suffers from a lot wishful thinking when it comes to Jesus instructions on how to be enlightened.

Some quotes and commentary:

Pg 21

So the single most vital step on your journey toward enlightenment is this: learn to disidentify from you mind. Every time you create a gap in the stream of the mind, the light of your consciousness grows stronger.

As with all of his other suggestions he doesn't say how to do this. Meditate. When you're learning to meditate the surrounding philosophy frequently says "you are not your thoughts" and/or "you are not your feelings". This runs into the "there is no I/self" thing that's really hard to understand when you say it that way.

So what are "you"? You're a story that "you" made up and believe, and that you can stop believing. TODO ...


One day you may catch yourself smiling at the voice in your head, as you would smile at the antics of a child. This means that you no longer take the content of your mind all that seriously, as your sense of self does not depend on it.

This is excellent advice. You want a lighthearted attitude when dealing with your inner animal/robot/child. They did the best they could.

Pg 49-50

Nothing Exists Outside the Now

Aren't past and future just as real, sometimes even more real, than the present? After all, the past determines who we are, as well as how we perceive and behave in the present. And our future goals determine which actions we take in the present.

You haven't yet grasped the essence of what I am saying because you are trying to understand it mentally. The mind cannot understand this. Only you can. Please just listen.

I disagree, I think the mind can understand but understanding isn't the same as experiencing. There's a lot of places where I still say "I think I get it" but English just doesn't have the right words to describe it. When it clicks there's a shift, just a tiny little shift, in perspective. It's so small you might not notice how groundbreaking it is.

I also think that here and in a number of other places he comes off somewhat condescending. He has the secret knowledge and you don't. He doesn't really mention that the secret knowledge has been public for at least 2,500 years. He does mention the Buddha and others but he never says "go learn what they taught".

Have you ever experienced, done, thought, or felt anything outside the Now? Do you think you ever will? Is it possible for anything to happen or be outside the Now. The answer is obvious, is it not?

Nothing ever happened in the past; it happened in the Now.

Nothing will ever happen in the future; it swill happen in the Now.

This bit is good, and has been said in many books on Buddhism.

When that thing happened yesterday, it was "now". Now it's in the past, just a memory in your mind, but when it happened it was "now". That thing you're planning for tomorrow? That hasn't happened yet, it's just an idea in your mind. When it happens, if it happens, it will be "now" and the current now will be in the past. See what I mean about English? There might be a language that has words for these concepts but English is the only one I speak and it's very awkward.

Pg 67

To alert you that you have allowed yourself to be taken over psychological time, you can use a simple criterion. Ask yourself: Is there joy, ease, and lightness in what I am doing? If there isn't, then time is covering up the present moment, and life is perceived as a burden or a struggle.

He sort of defines "psychological time" but what he means is your mind is off in the past or the future. A better test to see if you're present is just to feel your body. This is not original to me, Oren Jay Sofer said it in a podcast and I'm pretty sure I've heard it other podcasts. Your body is physical. It's always right here and right now, so if pay attention to your body it brings your mind into the present as well. Can you feel your feet? Butt on chair? Fingers on keyboard? You're right here and right now.

Pg 72

When you have had your first few glimpses of the timeless state of consciousness, you begin to move back and forth between the dimensions of time and presence. First you become aware of just how rarely your attention is truly in the Now. But to know that you are not present is a great success: That knowing is presence -- even if initially it only lasts for a couple of seconds of clock time before it is lost again. Then, with increasing frequency, you choose to have the focus of your consciousness in the present moment rather than in the past or future, and whenever you realize that you had lost the Now, you are able to stay in it not just for a couple of seconds, but for longer periods as perceived from the external perspective of clock time. So before you are firmly established in the state of presence, which is to say before you are fully conscious, you shift back and forth for a while between consciousness and unconsciousness, between the state of presence and the state of mind identification. You lose the Now, and you return to it, again and again. Eventually, presence becomes your predominant state.

For most people, presence is experienced either never at all or only accidentally and briefly on rare occasions without being recognized for what it is. Most humans alternate not between consciousness and unconsciousness but only between different levels of unconsciousness.

This is bit dead on a great description of my current state. Here/now, gone, here/now, gone.

Pg 73

What do you mean by different levels of unconsciousness?

As you probably know, in sleep you constantly move between the phases of dreamless sleep and the dream state. Similarly, in wakefulness most people only shift between ordinary unconsciousness and deep unconsciousness. What I call ordinary unconsciousness means being identified with your thought processes and emotions, your reactions, desires, and aversions. It is most people's normal state. In that state, you are run by the egoic mind, and you are unaware of Being. It is a state not of acute pain or unhappiness but of an almost continuous low level of unease, discontent, boredom, or nervousness -- a kind of background static. You may not realize this because it is so much a part of "normal" living, just as you are not aware of a continuous low background noise, such as the hum of an air conditioner, until it stops. When it suddenly does stop, there is a sense of relief. Many people use alcohol, drugs, sex, food, work, television, or even shopping as anesthetics in an unconscious attempt to remove the basic unease. When this happens, an activity that might be very enjoyable if used in moderation becomes imbued with a compulsive or addictive quality, and all that is ever achieved through it is extremely short-lived symptom relief.

This is a great description of life on autopilot.

Pg 77

Make it a habit to monitor your mental-emotional state through self-observation.

To practice "monitoring your mental-emotional state through self-observation" you can sit comfortably, watch your breath and when you notice your mind has wandered return to watching your breath. In other words, meditate.

Pg 79

How can we drop negativity, as you suggest?

By just dropping it.

He goes on but he never gets beyond "just do it". If it were that easy we'd have done it and wouldn't need his book.

The way you do it is by practicing over-and-over-and-over on the meditation cushion until it becomes so second nature that it starts happening in the rest of your life. And you probably won't even notice at first.

In meditation you watch your breath, you notice you've become distracted and you return to your breath. What did you do with the distraction? That's right, you dropped it.

Pg 84

Are you stressed? Are you so busy getting to the future that the present is reduced to a means of getting there? Stress is caused by being "here" but wanting to be "there," or being in the present but wanting to be in the future. It's a split that tear you apart inside. To create and live with such an inner split is insane. The fact that everyone else is doing it doesn't make it any less insane. If you have to, you can move fast, work fast, or even run, with projecting yourself into the future and without resisting the present. As you move, work, run -- do it totally. Enjoy the flow of energy, the high energy of that moment. Now you are no longer stressed, no longer splitting yourself in two. Just moving, running, working -- and enjoying it. Or you can drop the whole thing and sit on a park bench. But when you do, watch your mind. It may say: "You should be working. You are wasting time." Observe the mind. Smile at it.

Yes to all of that, especially the last sentence. Have compassion for yourself.

What he doesn't talk about here is acceptance. ???TODO

Pg xxx