The Power of Now - by Eckhart Tolle
It has a lot of insights about being present. I caught myself having the urge to be right when fighting with my wife and kids. This urge is something I need to watch more closely by being in the NOW.
Eckharts message: the problem of humanity is deeply rooted in the mind itself. Or rather, our misidentification with mind.
“Am I one or two? If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the ‘I’ and the ‘self’ that ‘I’ cannot live with.“ ”Maybe,“ I thought, ”only one of them is real.”
“You have it already. You just can’t feel it because your mind is making too much noise.”
YOU ARE NOT YOUR MIND
They are looking outside for scraps of pleasure or fulfillment, for validation, security, or love, while they have a treasure within that not only includes all those things but is infinitely greater than anything the world can offer.
I love the Buddha’s simple definition of enlightenment as “the end of suffering.
Identification with your mind, which 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.
The philosopher Descartes believed that he had found the most fundamental truth when he made his famous statement: “I think, therefore I am.” He had, in fact, given expression to the most basic error, to equate thinking with Being and identity with thinking.
The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive. To put it more accurately, it is not so much that you use your mind wrongly you usually don’t use it at all. It uses you. This is the disease. You believe that you are your mind. This is the delusion. The instrument has taken you over.
FREEING YOURSELF FROM YOUR MIND
This is what I mean by “watching the thinker,” which is another way of saying: listen to the voice in your head, be there as the witnessing presence.
When you listen to that voice, listen to it impartially. That is to say, do not judge. Do not judge or condemn what you hear,
In your everyday life, you can practice this by taking any routine activity that normally is only a means to an end and giving it your fullest attention, so that it becomes an end in itself.
This kind of compulsive thinking is actually an addiction. What characterizes an addiction? Quite simply this: you no longer feel that you have the choice to stop. It seems stronger than you. It also gives you a false sense of pleasure, pleasure that invariably turns into pain. Why should we be addicted to thinking?
As you grow up, you form a mental image of who you are, based on your personal and cultural conditioning. We may call this phantom self the ego. It consists of mind activity and can only be kept going through constant thinking. The term ego means different things to different people, but when I use it here it means a false self, created by unconscious identification with the mind.
To the ego, the present moment hardly exists. Only past and future are considered important.
the majority of scientists are not creative is not because they don’t know how to think but because they don’t know how to stop thinking!
EMOTION: THE BODY’S REACTION TO YOUR MIND
The more you are identified with your thinking, your likes and dislikes, judgments and interpretations, which is to say the less present you are as the watching consciousness, the stronger the emotional energy charge will be, whether you are aware of it or not.
Make it a habit to ask yourself. Whats going on inside me at this moment? That question will point you in the right direction. But don’t analyze, just watch. Focus your attention within. Feel the energy of the emotion.
Emotion literally means “disturbance.” The word comes from the Latin emovere, meaning “to disturb.”
Pleasure is always derived from something outside you, whereas joy arises from within. The very thing that gives you pleasure today will give you pain tomorrow, or it will leave you, so its absence will give you pain. And what is often referred to as love may be pleasurable and exciting for a while, but it is an addictive clinging, an extremely needy condition that can turn into its opposite at the flick of a switch. Many “love” relationships, after the initial euphoria has passed, actually oscillate between “love” and hate, attraction and attack.
All cravings are the mind seeking salvation or fulfillment in external things and in the future as a substitute for the joy of Being. As long as I am my mind, I am those cravings, those needs, wants, attachments, and aversions, and apart from them there is no ‘I’ except as a mere possibility, an unfulfilled potential, a seed that has not yet sprouted. In that state, even my desire to become free or enlightened is just another craving for fulfillment or completion in the future. So don’t seek to become free of desire or “achieve” enlightenment. Become present. Be there as the observer of the mind. Instead of quoting the Buddha, be the Buddha, be “the awakened one,” which is what the word buddha means.
There are two levels to your pain: the pain that you create now, and the pain from the past that still lives on in your mind and body. Ceasing to create pain in the present and dissolving past pain
CREATE NO MORE PAIN IN THE PRESENT
The mind always seeks to deny the Now and to escape from it. In other words, the more you are identified with your mind, the more you suffer. Or you may put it like this: the more you are able to honor and accept the Now, the more you are free of pain, of suffering and free of the egoic mind.
Why does the mind habitually deny or resist the Now? Because it cannot function and remain in control without time, which is past and future, so it perceives the timeless Now as threatening. Time and mind are in fact inseparable.
Imagine the Earth devoid of human life, inhabited only by plants and animals. Would it still have a past and a future? Could we still speak of time in any meaningful way? The question “What time is it?” or “What’s the date today?” if anybody were there to ask it would be quite meaningless. The oak tree or the eagle would be bemused by such a question. “What time?” they would ask. “Well, of course, it’s now. The time is now. What else is there?”
dont create any more time, or at least no more than is necessary to deal with the practical aspects of your life. How to stop creating time? Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.
a need to have some drama in your relationship
So the pain-body doesn’t want you to observe it directly and see it for what it is. The moment you observe it, feel its energy field within you, and take your attention into it, the identification is broken. A higher dimension of consciousness has come in. I call it presence. You are now the witness or the watcher of the pain-body. This means that it cannot use you anymore by pretending to be you, and it can no longer replenish itself through you. You have found your own innermost strength. You have accessed the power of Now.
St. Paul expressed this universal principle beautifully:. “Everything is shown up by being exposed to the light, and whatever is exposed to the light itself becomes light.” Just as you cannot fight the darkness, you cannot fight the pain-body.
When you start to disidentify and become the watcher, the pain-body will continue to operate for a while and will try to trick you into identifying with it again.
Focus attention on the feeling inside you. Know that it is the pain-body. Accept that it is there. Don’t think about it don’t let the feeling turn into thinking. Don’t judge or analyze. Don’t make an identity for yourself out of it. Stay present, and continue to be the observer of what is happening inside you. Become aware not only of the emotional pain but also of “the one who observes,” the silent watcher. This is the power of the Now, the power of your own conscious presence.
This is not to deny that you may encounter intense inner resistance to disidentifying from your pain. This will be the case particularly if you have lived closely identified with your emotional pain-body for most of your life and the whole or a large part of your sense of self is invested in it. What this means is that you have made an unhappy self out of your pain-body and believe that this mind-made fiction is who you are. In that case, unconscious fear of losing your identity will create strong resistance to any disidentification. In other words, you would rather be in pain be the pain-body than take a leap into the unknown and risk losing the familiar unhappy self.
The psychological condition of fear is divorced from any concrete and true immediate danger. It comes in many forms: unease, worry, anxiety, nervousness, tension, dread, phobia, and so on. This kind of psychological fear is always of something that might happen, not of something that is happening now.
To the ego, death is always just around the corner. In this mind-identified state, fear of death affects every aspect of your life.
So you as the ego cannot afford to be wrong. To be wrong is to die. Wars have been fought over this, and countless relationships have broken down.
Once you have disidentified from your mind, whether you are right or wrong makes no difference to your sense of self at all, so the forcefully compulsive and deeply unconscious need to be right, which is a form of violence, will no longer be there.
Another aspect of the emotional pain that is an intrinsic part of the egoic mind is a deep-seated sense of lack or incompleteness, of not being whole. In some people, this is conscious, in others unconscious. If it is conscious, it manifests as the unsettling and constant feeling of not being worthy or good enough. If it is unconscious, it will only be felt indirectly as an intense craving, wanting and needing. In either case, people will often enter into a compulsive pursuit of ego-gratification and things to identify with in order to fill this hole they feel within.
Death is a stripping away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to “die before you die” and find that there is no death.
Here is the key: End the delusion of time. Time and mind are inseparable
To be identified with your mind is to be trapped in time: the compulsion to live almost exclusively through memory and anticipation.
The compulsion arises because the past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation, of fulfillment in whatever form. Both are illusions.
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.
What you think of as the past is a memory trace, stored in the mind, of a former Now. When you remember the past, you reactivate a memory trace and you do so now. The future is an imagined Now, a projection of the mind. When the future comes, it comes as the Now. When you think about the future, you do it now. Past and future obviously have no reality of their own.
Make it your practice to withdraw attention from past and future whenever they are not needed. Step out of the time dimension as much as possible in everyday life.
If the imagined future is better, it gives you hope or pleasurable anticipation. If it is worse, it creates anxiety. Both are illusory. Through self-observation, more presence comes into your life automatically. The moment you realize you are not present, you are present. Whenever you are able to observe your mind, you are no longer trapped in it.
For example, if you made a mistake in the past and learn from it now, you are using clock time. On the other hand, if you dwell on it mentally, and self-criticism, remorse, or guilt come up, then you are making the mistake into “me” and “mine”: you make it part of your sense of self, and it has become psychological time, which is always linked to a false sense of identity. Nonforgiveness necessarily implies a heavy burden of psychological time.
If you set yourself a goal and work toward it, you are using clock time. You are aware of where you want to go, but you honor and give your fullest attention to the step that you are taking at this moment. If you then become excessively focused on the goal, perhaps because you are seeking happiness, fulfillment, or a more complete sense of self in it, the Now is no longer honored. It becomes reduced to a mere stepping stone to the future, with no intrinsic value. Clock time then turns into psychological time. Your life’s journey is no longer an adventure, just an obsessive need to arrive, to attain, to “make it.” You no longer see or smell the flowers by the wayside either, nor are you aware of the beauty and the miracle of life that unfolds all around you when you are present in the Now.
This is a chilling example of how belief in a future heaven creates a present hell.
The mind then creates an obsession with the future as an escape from the unsatisfactory present.
You may win $10 million, but that kind of change is no more than skin deep. You would simply continue to act out the same conditioned patterns in more luxurious surroundings.
Your life situation exists in time. Your life is now.
The mind unconsciously loves problems because they give you an identity of sorts.
Or you are carrying in your mind the insane burden of a hundred things that you will or may have to do in the future instead of focusing your attention on the one thing that you can do now.
When you create a problem, you create pain. All it takes is a simple choice, a simple decision: no matter what happens, I will create no more pain for myself. I will create no more problems.
So do not be concerned with the fruit of your action just give attention to the action itself.
When your deeper sense of self is derived from Being, when you are free of “becoming” as a psychological need, neither your happiness nor your sense of self depends on the outcome, and so there is freedom from fear.
Stress is caused by being “here” but wanting to be “there,” or being in the present but wanting to be in the future. Its a split that tears 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.
Die to the past every moment. You dont need it. Only refer to it when it is absolutely relevant to the present. Feel the power of this moment and the fullness of Being. Feel your presence.
It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living.
You may think that you need more time to understand the past or become free of it, in other words, that the future will eventually free you of the past. This is a delusion. Only the present can free you of the past. More time cannot free you of time.
The past cannot survive in your presence. It can only survive in your absence.
As long as you are in a state of intense presence, you are free of thought. You are still, yet highly alert. The instant your conscious attention sinks below a certain level, thought rushes in. The mental noise returns; the stillness is lost. You are back in time.
Dont get stuck on the level of words. A word is no more than a means to an end.
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.
If you keep your attention in the body as much as possible, you will be anchored in the Now. You won’t lose yourself in the external world, and you wont lose yourself in your mind. Thoughts and emotions, fears and desires, may still be there to some extent, but they won’t take you over.
Nonforgiveness is often toward another person or yourself, but it may just as well be toward any situation or condition past, present or future that your mind refuses to accept.
I cannot tell you anything that deep within you don’t already know.
“Form is emptiness, emptiness is form,”
you are waiting for an event in time to save you. Is this not the core error that we have been talking about? Salvation is not elsewhere in place or time. It is here and now.
You see time as the means to salvation, whereas in truth it is the greatest obstacle to salvation.
You cannot love your partner one moment and attack him or her the next. True love has no opposite. If your “love” has an opposite, then it is not love but a strong ego-need for a more complete and deeper sense of self, a need that the other person temporarily meets. It is the ego’s substitute for salvation, and for a short time it almost does feel like salvation.
Every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain. Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain.
In fact, the moment that judgment stops through acceptance of what is, you are free of the mind. You have made room for love, for joy, for peace. First you stop judging yourself; then you stop judging your partner. The greatest catalyst for change in a relationship is complete acceptance of your partner as he or she is, without needing to judge or change them in any way. That immediately takes you beyond ego.
To relinquish judgment does not mean that you do not recognize dysfunction and unconsciousness when you see it. It means “being the knowing” rather than “being the reaction” and the judge. You will then either be totally free of reaction or you may react and still be the knowing, the space in which the reaction is watched and allowed to be. Instead of fighting the darkness, you bring in the light. Instead of reacting to delusion, you see the delusion yet at the same time look through it.
Remember that the ego needs problems, conflict, and “enemies” to strengthen the sense of separateness on which its identity depends.
once you understand the root of the dysfunction, you do not need to explore its countless manifestations.
To go beyond the mind and reconnect with the deeper reality of Being, very different qualities are needed: surrender, nonjudgment, an openness that allows life to be instead of resisting it, the capacity to hold all things in the loving embrace of your knowing.
If you cannot be at ease with yourself when you are alone, you will seek a relationship to cover up your unease.
For example, when a loved one has just died, or you feel your own death approaching, you cannot be happy. It is impossible. But you can be at peace. There may be sadness and tears, but provided that you have relinquished resistance, underneath the sadness you will feel a deep serenity, a stillness, a sacred presence.
The compulsion to do, and the tendency to derive your sense of self-worth and identity from external factors such as achievement, is an inevitable illusion as long as you are identified with the mind. This makes it hard or impossible for you to accept the low cycles and allow them to be. Thus, the intelligence of the organism may take over as a self-protective measure and create an illness in order to force you to stop, so that the necessary regeneration can take place.
They cannot distinguish between their life and their life situation.
The more you seek happiness in this way, the more it will elude you. Nothing out there will ever satisfy you except temporarily and superficially, but you may need to experience many disillusionments before you realize that truth. Things and conditions can give you pleasure, but they will also give you pain. Things and conditions can give you pleasure, but they cannot give you joy. Nothing can give you joy. Joy is uncaused and arises from within as the joy of Being. It is an essential part of the inner state of peace, the state that has been called the peace of God. It is your natural state, not something that you need to work hard for or struggle to attain.
The ego believes that through negativity it can manipulate reality and get what it wants. It believes that through it, it can attract a desirable condition or dissolve an undesirable one.
Have you ever seen an unhappy flower or a stressed oak tree? Have you come across a depressed dolphin, a frog that has a problem with self-esteem, a cat that cannot relax, or a bird that carries hatred and resentment? The only animals that may occasionally experience something akin to negativity or show signs of neurotic behavior are those that live in close contact with humans and so link into the human mind and its insanity.
Forgive yourself for not being at peace. The moment you completely accept your non- peace, your nonpeace becomes transmuted into peace.
Compassion is the awareness of a deep bond between yourself and all creatures.
One of the most powerful spiritual practices is to meditate deeply on the mortality of physical forms, including your own. This is called: Die before you die.
Remember. Just as you cannot fight the darkness, so you cannot fight unconsciousness. If you try to do so, the polar opposites will become strengthened and more deeply entrenched. You will become identified with one of the polarities, you will create an “enemy,” and so be drawn into unconsciousness yourself.
Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life.
Through nonresistance, the quality of your consciousness and, therefore, the quality of whatever you are doing or creating is enhanced immeasurably.
Focus not on the 100 things that you will or may have to do at some future time but on the one thing that you can do now. This doesn’t mean you should not do any planning. It may well be that planning is the one thing you can do now. But make sure you don’t start to run “mental movies,” project yourself into the future, and so lose the Now.
When you become involved in an argument or some conflict situation, perhaps with a partner or someone close to you, 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. Thats 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 your own reaction just to see what happens. You surrender.
The ego is cunning, so you have to be very alert, very present, and totally honest with yourself to see whether you have truly relinquished your identification with a mental position and so freed yourself from your mind.
Nonresistance doesn’t necessarily mean doing nothing. All it means is that any “doing” becomes nonreactive. Remember the deep wisdom underlying the practice of Eastern martial arts: don’t resist the opponents force. Yield to overcome.
In Taoism, there is a term called wu wei, which is usually translated as “actionless activity” or “sitting quietly doing nothing.”
The real “doing nothing” implies inner nonresistance and intense alertness.
Illness is not the problem. You are the problem as long as the egoic mind is in control.
Do not blame life for treating you unfairly, but do not blame yourself either. All that is resistance.
Do not resist the pain. Allow it to be there. Surrender to the grief, despair, fear, loneliness, or whatever form the suffering takes. Witness it without labeling it mentally. Embrace it. Then see how the miracle of surrender transmutes deep suffering into deep peace.
If you think that you need more time, you will get more time and more pain. Time and pain are inseparable.