The Power of Now

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When you listen to a thought, you are aware not only of the thought but also of yourself as the witness of the thought. A new dimension of consciousness has come in.

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment is a book by Eckhart Tolle. It was published in 1997.

Quotes[edit]

  • “I cannot live with myself any longer.” This was the thought that kept repeating itself in my mind. Then suddenly I became aware of what a peculiar thought it was. “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.”
  • I could still function in the world, although I realized that nothing I ever did could possibly add anything to what I already had.
  • People would occasionally come up to me and say: “I want what you have. Can you give it to me, or show me how to get it?” And I would say: “You have it already. You just can’t feel it because your mind is making too much noise.”
  • 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.
  • An opaque screen of concepts, labels, images, words, judgments, and definitions that blocks all true relationship ... comes between you and yourself, between you and your fellow man and woman, between you and nature.
  • When you listen to a thought, you are aware not only of the thought but also of yourself as the witness of the thought. A new dimension of consciousness has come in.
  • Create a gap of no-mind in which you are highly alert and aware but not thinking. This is the essence of meditation.
  • 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.
  • To the ego, the present moment hardly exists. Only past and future are considered important. This total reversal of the truth accounts for the fact that in the ego mode the mind is so dysfunctional. It is always concerned with keeping the past alive, because without it—who are you? It constantly projects itself into the future to ensure its continued survival.
  • The ego ... reduces the present to a means to an end.
  • 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.
  • Pleasure is always derived from something outside you, whereas joy arises from within.
  • Cravings are the mind seeking salvation or fulfillment in external things and in the future as a substitute for the joy of Being.
  • Instead of quoting the Buddha, be the Buddha.
  • The mind, to ensure that it remains in control, seeks continuously to cover up the present moment with past and future.
  • Whereas before you dwelt in time and paid brief visits to the Now, have your dwelling place in the Now and pay brief visits to past and future when required to deal with the practical aspects of your life situation.
  • Even such a seemingly trivial and “normal” thing as the compulsive need to be right in an argument and make the other person wrong—defending the mental position with which you have identified—is due to the fear of death. If you identify with a mental position, then if you are wrong, your mind-based sense of self is seriously threatened with annihilation. So you as the ego cannot afford to be wrong. To be wrong is to die.
  • The mind in itself is not dysfunctional. It is a wonderful tool. Dysfunction sets in when you seek your self in it and mistake it for who you are.
  • To be identified with your mind is to be trapped in time: the compulsion to live almost exclusively through memory and anticipation. This creates an endless preoccupation with past and future and an unwillingness to honor and acknowledge the present moment and allow it to be. 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.
  • The past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation. ... Both are illusions.
  • When you remember the past, you reactivate a memory trace—and you do so now. ... When you think about the future, you do it now. Past and future obviously have no reality of their own. Just as the moon has no light of its own, but can only reflect the light of the sun, so are past and future only pale reflections of the light, power, and reality of the eternal present. Their reality is “borrowed” from the Now.
  • The reason why some people love to engage in dangerous activities, such as mountain climbing, car racing, and so on, although they may not be aware of it, is that it forces them into the Now—that intensely alive state that is free of time, free of problems, free of thinking, free of the burden of the personality. Slipping away from the present moment even for a second may mean death. Unfortunately, they come to depend on a particular activity to be in that state. But you don’ t need to climb the north face of the Eiger. You can enter that state now.
  • 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.
  • Start by observing the habitual tendency of your mind to want to escape from the Now. You will observe that the future is usually imagined as either better or worse than the present. If the imagined future is better, it gives you hope or pleasurable anticipation. If it is worse, it creates anxiety. Both are illusory.
  • Whenever you are able to observe your mind, you are no longer trapped in it. Another factor has come in, something that is not of the mind: the witnessing presence.
  • Be present as the watcher of your mind.
  • Identification with the mind gives it more energy; observation of the mind withdraws energy from it. Identification with the mind creates more time; observation of the mind opens up the dimension of the timeless. The energy that is withdrawn from the mind turns into presence.
  • 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. Non-forgiveness 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, ... 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.
  • The belief that the future will be better than the present is not always an illusion. The present can be dreadful, and things can get better in the future, and often they do.
  • Usually, the future is a replica of the past. Superficial changes are possible, but real transformation is rare and depends upon whether you can become present enough to dissolve the past. ... The quality of your consciousness at this moment is what shapes the future—which, of course, can only be experienced as the Now.
  • A state of consciousness totally free of all negativity ... is the liberated state to which all spiritual teachings point. It is the promise of salvation, not in an illusory future but right here and now.
  • Hope keeps you focused on the future, and this continued focus perpetuates your denial of the Now and therefore your unhappiness.
  • If you have ever been in a life-or-death emergency situation, you will know that it wasn’t a problem. The mind didn’t have time to fool around and make it into a problem. ... In any emergency, either you survive or you don’t. Either way, it is not a problem.
  • “Problem” means that you are dwelling on a situation mentally without there being a true intention or possibility of taking action now and that you are unconsciously making it part of your sense of self. You become so overwhelmed by your life situation that you lose your sense of life, of Being.
  • If there is no joy, ease, or lightness in what you are doing, it does not necessarily mean that you need to change what you are doing. It may be sufficient to change the how. “How” is always more important than “what.” See if you can give much more attention to the doing than to the result that you want to achieve through it.
  • Do not be concerned with the fruit of your action—just give attention to the action itself.
  • The moment your attention turns to the Now, you feel a presence, a stillness, a peace. You no longer depend on the future for fulfillment and satisfaction—you don’t look to it for salvation.
  • 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. ... You don’t demand that situations, conditions, places, or people should make you happy, and then suffer when they don’t live up to your expectations. ...
  • When this is your state of Being, how can you not succeed? You have succeeded already.
  • Loss of Now is loss of Being.
  • To be free of time is to be free of the psychological need of past for your identity and future for your fulfillment.
  • Be at least as interested in what goes on inside you as what happens outside.
  • Maybe you are being taken advantage of, maybe the activity you are engaged in is tedious, maybe someone close to you is dishonest, irritating, or unconscious, but all this is irrelevant. Whether your thoughts and emotions about this situation are justified or not makes no difference. The fact is that you are resisting what is. You are making the present moment into an enemy.
  • Some people would always rather be somewhere else. Their “here” is never good enough. Through self observation, find out if that is the case in your life. Wherever you are, be there totally. 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. If you want to take responsibility for your life, you must choose one of those three options, and you must choose now. Then accept the consequences. No excuses. No negativity. No psychic pollution. Keep your inner space clear.
  • If you take any action—leaving or changing your situation—drop the negativity first, if at all possible. Action arising out of insight into what is required is more effective than action arising out of negativity.
  • All that you ever have to deal with, cope with, in real life—as opposed to imaginary mind projections—is this moment. Ask yourself what “problem” you have right now, not next year, tomorrow, or five minutes from now. What is wrong with this moment?
  • Is your goal taking up so much of your attention that you reduce the present moment to a means to an end? Is it taking the joy out of your doing? Are you waiting to start living? If you develop such a mind pattern, no matter what you achieve or get, the present will never be good enough; the future will always seem better. A perfect recipe for permanent dissatisfaction and nonfulfillment.
  • Your life’s journey has an outer purpose and an inner purpose. The outer purpose is to arrive at your goal or destination, to accomplish what you set out to do, to achieve this or that, which, of course, implies future. But if your destination, or the steps you are going to take in the future, take up so much of your attention that they become more important to you than the step you are taking now, then you completely miss the journey’s inner purpose, which has nothing to do with where you are going or what you are doing, but everything to do with how. It has nothing to do with future but everything to do with the quality of your consciousness at this moment.
  • Does it matter whether we achieve our outer purpose, whether we succeed or fail in the world?
  • It will matter to you as long as you haven’t realized your inner purpose. After that, the outer purpose is just a game that you may continue to play simply because you enjoy it. It is also possible to fail completely in your outer purpose and at the same time totally succeed in your inner purpose. Or the other way around, which is actually more common: outer riches and inner poverty, or to “gain the world and lose your soul,” as Jesus puts it. Ultimately, of course, every outer purpose is doomed to “fail” sooner or later, simply because it is subject to the law of impermanence of all things. The sooner you realize that your outer purpose cannot give you lasting fulfillment, the better. When you have seen the limitations of your outer purpose, you give up your unrealistic expectation that it should make you happy, and you make it subservient to your inner purpose.
  • You can’t think about presence. ... Understanding presence is being present.
  • Close your eyes and say to yourself: “I wonder what my next thought is going to be.” Then become very alert and wait for the next thought. Be like a cat watching a mouse hole. What thought is going to come out of the mouse hole?
  • I had to wait for quite a long time before a thought came in.
  • Exactly. As long as you are in a state of intense presence, you are free of thought.
  • If a fish is born in your aquarium and you call it John, write out a birth certificate, tell him about his family history, and two minutes later he gets eaten by another fish—that’s tragic. But it’s only tragic because you projected a separate self where there was none. You got hold of a fraction of a dynamic process, a molecular dance, and made a separate entity out of it.
  • Enlightened masters, the very few that are real, are not special as persons. Without a false self to uphold, defend, and feed, they are more simple, more ordinary than the ordinary man or woman. Anyone with a strong ego would regard them as insignificant or, more likely, not see them at all.
  • Do not give all your attention away to the mind and the external world. By all means focus on what you are doing, but feel the inner body at the same time whenever possible. Stay rooted within. Then observe how this changes your state of consciousness and the quality of what you are doing.
  • Whenever you are waiting, wherever it may be, use that time to feel the inner body. In this way, traffic jams and line-ups become very enjoyable. Instead of mentally projecting yourself away from the Now, go more deeply into the Now by going more deeply into the body.
  • The art of inner-body awareness will develop into a completely new way of living, a state of permanent connectedness with Being, and will add a depth to your life that you have never known before.
  • It is easy to stay present as the observer of your mind when you are deeply rooted within your body. No matter what happens on the outside, nothing can shake you anymore.
  • Unless you stay present—and inhabiting your body is always an essential aspect of it—you will continue to be run by your mind. The script in your head that you learned a long time ago, the conditioning of your mind, will dictate your thinking and your behavior.

External links[edit]

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