Eckhart Tolle can be a laborious read – maybe because he’s so other-worldly or because the subject is difficult to communicate. Either way, it would seem a boot camp it necessary just to successfully tackle and comprehend his work. Below I’ve extracted 3 essential lessons from his books and created a simple and easy to understand summary of The Power Of Now. Enjoy!
If A Course In Miracles is the New Age Bible then The Power Of Now is the Gospel According to Eckhart.
Better yet, if the former presents a literary temple, the latter explains the liturgy.
Sure, you may be thinking “Tim, I literally haven’t the slightest clue what you’re talking about,” but fear not, because he comes recommended by no other than the queen bee herself – and no, I’m not referring to Beyonce; we’re talking Oprah ladies and gentlemen.
Alright, glad we got through that.
Let’s saunter back to the liturgical figures of speech mentioned at the outset.
Consider a liturgy the temples structured service. It’s the play by play of the ritual, seeing it thru from start to finish.
If the temple is the shape, the liturgy is the substance.
Now, my biggest complaint with A Course In Miracles is the appalling lack of practical application. It is far too abstract for immediate implementation.
What good is an appetite for steak to a man with no teeth?
Luckily, this is precisely what The Power of Now unpacks.
The Book Summed Up In A Paragraph
The past is no longer occurring and thus is outside of your control. The future has yet to occur and is thus outside of your control. Your inability to control these two things causes not only great dissatisfaction, discomfort, and restlessness, but also makes you feel like a toddler in the land full of giants (shout out to Alfred Adler) – it appears to evaporate any possibility of security. This insecurity becomes an identity known as the ego, which resides in the mind. The accompanying pain which precipitates it is called the pain-body. These two entities, if I may call them that, coexist in the future and past, that is, they cannot exist in the present moment because the present is that which is within your control, and control brings predictability, manageability, and security, and in a word, peace. This book is a how-to guide, it’s a survival manual of sorts, a battle plan to disengage the ego, to sever the pain-body, and to arrive in the present moment, to awaken the giant within (shout out to Tony Robbins).
[If for some reason you can’t read any further or if you a more visual learner, check out this video its a solid representation of the book]
The 3 Essential Lessons
Lesson 1: The Ego.
In A New Earth, Tolle’s follow up to The Power of Now, he defines the ego consummately,
“The ego could be defined simply in this way: a dysfunctional relationship with the present moment.” (1)
Thus, the ego is the time-courier, that which transports an individual to anywhere but the present moment – which is coincidentally the only veritable moment. This further distorts one’s interpretation of the present moment because they fail to be available for said interpretation – making it mere guesswork
The conclusion is therefore inescapable: a wise and optimized life can only be lived in the present.
Any emotional pain associated with living contrary to this truth is designed by the body to prompt the mind back to the present moment. Thus, the pain ironically speaks of good news, namely, the gospel of reconnection, restoration, and ultimately recreation via the present moment (See my article Emotional Discomfort: Pain, The Spirit’s Informant).
However, when the pain is identified with rather than listened to, it becomes a beast in its own right. For all intents and purposes, one becomes their pain, their identity is founded upon it.
This is the true definition of ego, an identity founded upon a dysfunctional relationship with the present moment.
Lesson 2: The Pain-Body.
If the ego is the vehicle, the Pain-Body is the fuel. A vehicle is worthless without fuel, therefore, the Pain-Body is crucial to the egos expiration.
“There is such a thing as old emotional pain living inside you. It is an accumulation of painful life experience that was not fully faced and accepted in the moment it arose. It leaves behind an energy form of emotional pain. It comes together with other energy forms from other instances, and so after some years you have a “painbody,” an energy entity consisting of old emotion.” (2)
Earlier I discussed how pain is either befriended and it’s accompanying message is tended to or it’s merged with the personality and becomes a cornerstone in one’s identity.
It’s odd that pain is designed to bring one back to the present moment, yet at the same time, the ego leverages it to sustain existence outside of the present moment.
The Pain-Body is ultimately an equivalent to trauma, which is purely past emotional pain that resurfaces in the present and distorts the ability to reason clearly, interpret events rationally, and form healthy emotional relationships with others.
Moreover, it wants to exist, it wants its own will, so it will tend to create experiences which perpetuate and valid the initial pain. Compound this with years of added layers and a monster has been created.
So where can one go from here?
Has does one process the Pain-Body?
How does one hush down the ego with its incessant need to deal with emotional pain in places where it can not be addressed e.g. past and future?
As is evident with the title of the book, the solution lies within the Now.
Lesson 3: The Now.
One writer captures the essence of Tolle’s instructions for arriving in the present moment, he notes two recommendations,
- Constantly ask yourself: “What will my next thought be?”
- Stop judging your thoughts and urges.
The first strategy is based on an effect from physics, called the quantum zeno effect. It says that you can freeze any system in its current state by constantly observing it. Asking yourself this question over and over will usually delay your actual next thought, thus giving you enough time to realize how much time you actually spend in autopilot mode. This way you can start interrupting your mind and thus separating from it. (3)
The first recommendation is as ancient as the second. However, it is his explanation of the second which sets Tolle apart from other New Age gurus.
It is this: the solution is found in the body. Why? Because it’s permanently in the present moment.
This is the brilliance that smacks contemporary therapeutic thought right between the eyes. So much time spent analyzing thought-processes when perhaps in our Cartesian arrogance we overlooked the one key to mental stabilization – the body e.g. breathing, sensations, etc.
If the mind is susceptible to time, existing in the past, present, and future, and if the body is permanently present, is it a stretch to assume the mind might find it’s anchor in the body?
Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below. Let’s learn and grow together.
Timmy G (2018)
- Eckhart Tolle. A New Earth.