Tim's Reviews > The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
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it was ok
bookshelves: buddhism, spirit-religion-philosophy

Tolle is a German former scientist, and now freelance mystic who has written a few books and started a movement. A friend gave me this book, and I tend to agree with her judgement about it, that it was pretty good, but contained nothing really new. Tolle tends to repeat himself quite a bit, and because of this I felt no desire to finish the book.

There is a lot of similarity between Tolle’s thinking and Buddhism, particularly Zen, and I wonder why he went his own way instead of following the Buddhist path. His life story is compelling – he is a well-educated scientist who became fed up with the constant unhappiness and anxiety of ordinary life, then began to undergo, with the help of some readings, a spiritual transformation.

His main thing is focusing on the present moment, and living fully and happily in the now. Much pain and anxiety is caused by us constantly worrying over the past and the future. In fact our most basic emotion is a kind of steady pain and anxiety, a feeling that we are incomplete and have to do all sorts of things to fill up that emptiness, and from this arises most emotions. (This is very similar to the Buddhist concept of self-grasping.) When we experience genuine happiness, it is because we briefly let down our guard and allow ourselves to feel connected to the universal joy that is always available to us. There is also something, says Tolle, called the pain body – it is like a phantom other that controls our bodies and selves and brings us pain. This idea I really could not embrace.

There are a couple of interesting quotes that I would like to save, since I will not be keeping the book:

Basically, all emotions are modifications of one primordial, undifferentiated emotion that has its origin in the loss of awareness of who you are beyond name and form. . . . It is hard to find a name that precisely describes this emotion. “Fear” comes close, but apart from a continuous sense of threat, it also includes a deep sense of abandonment and incompleteness. . . . One of the main tasks of the mind is to fight or remove that emotional pain, which is one of the reasons for its incessant activity, but all it can achieve is to cover it up temporarily. In fact, the harder the mind struggles to get rid of the pain, the greater the pain. The mind can never find the solution, nor can it afford to allow you to find the solution, because it is itself an intrinsic part of the “problem.” . . . You will not be free of that pain until you cease to derive your sense of self from identification with the mind, which is to say from ego. (pg. 23)

So in the unenlightened, mind-identified condition, what is sometimes wrongly called joy is the usually short-lived pleasure side of the continuously alternating pain/pleasure cycle. 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.

Real love doesn’t make you suffer. How could it? It doesn’t suddenly turn into hate, nor does real joy turn into pain. As I said, even before you are enlightened . . . you may get glimpses of true joy, true love, or a deep inner peace, still but vibrantly alive. These are aspects of your true nature, which is usually obscured by the mind. Even within a “normal” addictive relationship, there can be moments when the presence of something more genuine, something incorruptible, can be felt. But they will only be glimpses . . . It may then seem that you had something very precious and lost it, or your mind may convince you that it was all an illusion anyway. The truth is that it wasn’t an illusion, and you cannot lose it. It is part of your natural state, which can be obscured but can never be destroyed . . . (pp. 24-25)

Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life. (pg. 29)

So there is some real wisdom in this book, and when I reread passages like that, I think that perhaps I should have kept reading to the end. But I did look ahead, and it seemed to pretty much repeat these kinds of statements, and less interesting ones too.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
December 7, 2015 – Shelved
December 7, 2015 – Shelved as: buddhism
December 7, 2015 – Shelved as: spirit-religion-philosophy

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