The Power of Now
Reviewed by Heidi Boudro
When young, we feel immortal, that life has no limits, that one has all the time in the world. I think that throughout our lives, we need this feeling in order to function. But in maturity, we see that feeling for what it is, an illusion. As grown-ups, we know that our lives are constrained by forces beyond our control, among them physical weakness and death; that outward success does not always happen; and that if it does, it can be taken away in an instant.
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, by Eckhart Tolle, is, in my view, a self-help book for adults. It will not be to everyone's taste. Its Eastern-influenced theology of the connectedness of all things is compatible with the major religions, but not identical to them. The book is particularly useful, however, in conjunction with meditation, non-attachment to outcomes, and spiritual or mystical interpretations of the major religions.
Its main exhortation is to pay attention to the present moment. This is not merely a way to stop thinking about things. Paying attention to the present moment also has spiritual implications. And, perhaps as a by-product, it can help you become a more effective person in daily life.
Similarly, Tolle encourages you to realize that you are not the sum of things you remember or things you have achieved (or not achieved). Instead, you are the consciousness that has the capability to observe those things without being emotionally consumed by them. He describes those memories as "mind," a "mental construct" formed from the remembered past and anticipated future, as the "externally derived sense of self."
Tolle recounts a night of emotional suffering during which he thought, "I cannot live with myself any longer." Who was this "I" who watched his miserable "self"? The insights he gained then and afterwards were to lead him to an enlightenment, to the ability to stop his anxiety and depression, and to a new appreciation and perspective on life.
Simply getting a different perspective toward the present moment and toward yourself can end the emotional suffering, worry about the future, dwelling on the past, creating of problems with other people, and other effects of what he calls "unconsciousness."
Happiness is not found in success, achievements, relationships, or other circumstances, but from the perspective within yourself. A book that can express this truth and point to the means to find this truth for yourself is certainly worthy of being called a self-help book for adults.
Copyright © 2006 by Heidi Boudro