The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle

Summary

Eckhart Tolle explores presence, thinking, and spirituality to help you understand what presence means, how thinking and non-acceptance drive a lot of human pain, and how to live a life that reduces suffering.

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Key Takeaways

Your life is now

“Your life situation exists in time. Your life is now. Your life situation is mind-stuff. Your life is real.”

While it’s easy to forget, your life exists in the present moment, in the now. On the other hand, your life situation – your finances, the state of your career, your relationships – those are situations that exist in your mind. Too often, we allow our mind to consume our present moment. And in doing so, we fail to recognize the difference between our thoughts about reality and reality itself.

Complaining is non-acceptance

“To complain is always non-acceptance of what is.”

When you criticize, condemn, or complain, you aren’t accepting reality. Instead, you are rejecting reality in favor of your expectations or thoughts about what reality should be. And in doing so, you will end up less happy than if you accepted the situation you’re facing and figured out a productive path forward.

How to deal with an unpleasant situation

“If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally.”

When you find yourself in an unhappy situation, you can either remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it. That’s it. No complaining. No bickering. No feeling bad. You either leave it, change it, or accept it for what it is. I use this simple framework for dealing with unpleasant realities very frequently.

Presence is freedom from thought

“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.”

“Compulsive thinking has become a collective disease.”

“Most people don’t know how to listen because the major part of their attention is taken up by thinking.”

Compulsive thinking is the norm – most of us spend the majority of our time in our heads. Instead of being highly alert and free of thought, both of which are requirements of being in the present moment, we allow our consciousness to bring us into the mental noise that clutters our days. But if we learn to escape the collective disease of compulsive thinking, we can better listen and live in the present.

The dangers of the mind in relationships

“When the mind is running your life, conflict, strife, and problems are inevitable. Being in touch with your inner body creates a clear space of no-mind within which the relationship can flower.”

Don’t let your mind run your life. If you do, it will be consumed with inner conflict and problems, which will worsen your relationship. Instead, create inner space and stillness to allow your relationship to flourish.

Death is an illusion

“You then realize that death is an illusion, just as your identification with form was an illusion. The end of illusion — that’s all that death is.”

Death is an event – just like birth, a meeting with a good friend, and a big promotion, it’s simply one of the things that happens to us in life. Once we realize that death is simply a part of what it means to live, we can let go of our obsession with identifying with the state of being alive.

Accept 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.”

If you feel the need to judge or change your partner, you will cause relationship-ending problems in your relationship. However, if you decide to accept your partner for what he or she is, you will find yourself with fewer problems and a healthier dynamic.

Find happiness alone before seeking a partner

“If you cannot be at ease with yourself when you are alone, you will seek a relationship to cover up your unease.”

If you cannot spend an entire day alone, that’s a signal that you might have some work to do. If you seek a relationship to cover up your unease with being alone, you will never solve the source of your unease. So before commiting to someone else, ensure that you have an internal comfort when you’re alone. In doing so, you will give your relationship a better chance at flourishing.

What it means to forgive

“Somebody says something to you that is rude or designed to hurt. Instead of going into unconscious reaction and negativity, such as attack, defense, or withdrawal, you let it pass right through you. Offer no resistance. It is as if there is nobody there to get hurt anymore. That is forgiveness.”

If you feel that someone has been rude to you or said something hurtful, try to let the feeling pass through you. Instead of feeling attacked and going on the defensive, try to resist these feelings. When you can do this, and sometimes it takes time, you have truly forgiven the person.

Compassion

“Compassion is the awareness of a deep bond between yourself and all creatures.”

I cited this quote in the eulogy I wrote for my mom, the most compassionate person I have ever known. I think it’s a beautiful simple understanding of what compassion really means.

Suffering and negativity only exist in time

“Without time, no suffering, no negativity, can survive.”

Suffering and negativity cannot exist in the present moment. They exist in time. They exist in our mind and the stories we tell ourselves about the events that happen in our lives. Time is the medium through which these negative emotions thrive. If you live presently, suffering and negativity will not endure.

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