A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

the power of now eckhart tolle book summary and review notes

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. – Eckhart Tolle

I guess this doesn’t need any further introduction as this book has been a household name for reference on spiritual teachings, that it has also placed Eckhart Tolle as a top authority in the field. The New York Times calls him “the most popular spiritual author in the United States.” Popular, like if spirituality were a shoe brand, Tolle’s got to be Nike… And Chopra Adidas!

But whatever brand you choose, you still get to be the only one, and nobody else, to walk your path.

After you?

Being

Being is the eternal, ever-present One Life beyond the myriad forms of life that are subject to birth and death. However, Being is not only beyond but also deep within every form as its innermost invisible and indestructible essence. This means that it is accessible to you now as your own deepest self, your true nature. But don’t seek to grasp it with your mind. Don’t try to understand it. You can know it only when the mind is still. When you are present, when your attention is fully and intensely in the Now, Being can be felt, but it can never be understood mentally. To regain awareness of Being and to abide in that state of “feeling-realization” is enlightenment.

Remember “The Voice” we just talked about in The Untethered Soul?

“What voice?” you might be asking in your head… That voice, hah!

Now here, Tolle points directly to where that voice is coming from – your mind. Your thinking mind to be specific.

He says Descartes’ I think, therefore I am was a mistake. It’s a basic error to equate thinking with Being and identity with thinking.

We cannot think our way into knowing who we are. We can only experience who we are. Having an idea of riding a bike is not the same as the actual biking experience. Same goes for experiencing Being.

Becoming identified with the mind is the greatest obstacle to this, Tolle adds. However, we simply cannot stop the mind from thinking. That’s its job. We just don’t let it become the boss.

To overcome the obstacle, we must go beyond the mind. Transcend it.

So during your meditation exercise, you don’t try to stop the mind from thinking. You just watch it. Just let the thoughts pass through your awareness. As you become more and more relaxed, you will feel the presence of your Being, like it’s in the background. It’s been there all along. It’s you, all along.

Pain-Body

As long as you are unable to access the power of the Now, every emotional pain that you experience leaves behind a residue of pain that lives on in you. It merges with the pain from the past, which was already there, and becomes lodged in your mind and body. This, of course, includes the pain you suffered as a child, caused by the unconsciousness of the world into which you were born.

This accumulated pain is a negative energy field that occupies your body and mind.

Yep, Samskara it is! (Tolle’s and Singer’s books share a lot in common). Eckhart calls it the emotional pain-body, a negative energy field made up of accumulated pain since childhood.

There are two modes: dormant and active, which varies from person to person. When a dormant emotional pain-body is ready to awaken, Tolle says it can get activated easily. What activates it? Anything that resembles the experience that caused the pain the first time.

Eckhart warns that unhappiness, in whatever form, could be a sign of an awakening pain-body.

Must watch for it. At the moment the pain-body gets activated, we must be conscious of it. That means to allow the pain to resurface but no longer reacting to it. Remember, it’s from the past. We don’t need to relive it anymore.

In my experience, the pain-body has many layers. It has a thick skin, my friend! So we need to keep doing the work, keep peeling away the layers. It’s not easy. But I promise it will get easier in time. It only gets easier. 🙂

Clock Time vs. Psychological Time

Nothing ever happened in the past; it happened in the Now.

Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now.

What you think of as the past is a memory trace, stored in the mind, of a former Now. When you remember the past, you reactivate a memory trace — and you do so now. The future is an imagined Now, a projection of the mind. When the future comes, it comes as the 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.

Eckhart says that time and mind are inseparable. So if you’re identified with mind, you’re trapped in the illusion of time.

Illusion? Yes, a mind-made illusion. Imagine you’re in outer space, would time still function as it does on Earth? No, because it’s a completely different dimension out there. No sunrise, no sunset. Just a loooooong stretch of the present moment, the Now.

Time is just a numerical quantifier of the Now. What time is it now on your clock? Mine says it’s 2:35 PM now. 7 hours later, at 9:35 PM it will still be the same now. Just a darker now.

This is the correct use of time – “Clock time” – so we can allot our daily activities based on specific times of the day. The mind breaks down the infinite Now into finite measures of time, which is also a proper functioning of the mind.

The dysfunction happens when the mind thinks that what happened last week at 2:35 PM is still real now, when in fact it’s only a memory. It dwells in the past, not the present. It’s living in time, not in the now. And if we’re identified with this mind, we suffer.

In this context, Eckhart says that time is not precious at all because it’s not real. Now is what’s truly precious because it’s the only thing there is.

Life and Life Situation

When you are full of problems, there is no room for anything new to enter, no room for a solution. So whenever you can, make some room, create some space, so that you find the life underneath your life situation.

Aah, loved the clarity on this one – life and life situation.

Eckhart makes a clear distinction between the two: life is now, whatever is happening right this moment; life situations are time-bound, based on psychological time.

He says that what we consider “problem” is only a life situation, which is often recreated by the past, in the hopes that it would get better in some future time. But being not in the present, experiencing the life situation as it is and resenting it, is the real problem.

This is not to deny the challenging situation we’re facing. Everything is a valid life experience. But to add unnecessary drama, misinterpret it because of what happened in the past, and worry about the worst thing that could happen, that’s a different story. The mind loves fiction and attaches to it, but we must stick to the facts.

Here’s where we’re getting at: all problems exist in the mind.

Consider this: does thinking about the problem solve it? No, it just keeps your attention to it. And so it narrows down your focus to the life situation, blinding you of the larger picture that LIFE is.

Life doesn’t judge the life situation you’re in. It just experiences it. So in truth, it’s not life that goes on, but the life situations. They come and they go.

A helpful mantra we can remind ourselves in whatever situation we’re in: “This, too, shall pass.”

Karma Yoga

As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out of present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love — even the most simple action.

So do not be concerned with the fruit of your action — just give attention to the action itself. The fruit will come of its own accord.

I’m a bit uncomfortable with the concept of “hard work.” It just doesn’t sit well with me. I feel like I’m giving myself a false sense of pride when I say “I worked hard for this.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m wholeheartedly proud of what I do. I do it with love, passion, and fun. Especially fun!

My last book, Ganito Kami Noon (Filipino for “This We Were Before”), took me a year to finish writing it. I could have finished it sooner, but I had so much fun writing it that I somehow deliberately delayed its completion (took more than 2 years before it got published).

Two years sound like a lot of hard work, eh? I like the stroke to my ego, but truth be told, it never felt that way. Sure, it required a TON of work, but it wasn’t “hard” as it seems. I simply sat and typed in the words during the 3 – 4 hours I allot on a given day. Hard, if I thought about how many more words I needed to write to finish the entire book – if I thought about the future. But I was just there in each moment I was facing the laptop, my hands on the keyboard, typing word after word.

Just like how I’m typing now: “I don’t know what else to brag about… I’m cute.”

See? Nothing hard with writing about my cuteness. It feels natural. 😀

Kidding aside, you get the point. It’s called “Karma Yoga” as taught in the ancient spiritual tome, The Bhagavad Gita. It’s when you’re fully engaged in what you’re doing at a given moment that you don’t even become aware of the time’s passing.

As Eckhart writes it, it’s not what you do. It’s how you do it.

stephen king quote if there is no joy in it, it's just no good

What Are You Waiting For?

Waiting is a state of mind. Basically, it means that you want the future; you don’t want the present. You don’t want what you’ve got, and you want what you haven’t got. With every kind of waiting, you unconsciously create inner conflict between your here and now, where you don’t want to be, and the projected future, where you want to be. This greatly reduces the quality of your life by making you lose the present.

Fear, depression, anxiety, anger, and other “negative” emotional states – these are the obvious signs that we’re losing touch with The Power of Now.

But Eckhart cautions us more of the subtle signs of ordinary unconsciousness that go unnoticed because they seem so normal, when in fact they are abnormal, insane.

Any clues to what some of them are?

Here goes: worrying, complaining, and waiting – signs indicating the denial of the Now, resenting it, not wanting it.

And therein lies the inner conflict, says Eckhart. You’re here, but you want to be there.

You might argue “Fred, you’re cute, but nothing good is happening here in my life right now.”

So, let me ask: Can you be okay with that? If not, can you be okay with not-being-okay with that? Oh, thanks by the way for the compliment. But I learned this “okayness” from Jeff Foster in his book, The Deepest Acceptance.

This is the “surrender” that most spiritual teachings refer to, including Tolle’s – to be totally accepting of whatever you’re experiencing here and now. Surrender means accepting life as it is whether you like your life situation or not.

In surrender, life doesn’t change, you do. You resolve your inner conflict. And because your life situations are a mere reflection of your life, your external circumstances start to change, too.

Ego says, 'Once everything falls into place, I'll feel peace.' Spirit says, 'Find your peace, and then everything will fall into place.' Marianne Williamson quote

Before You Enter, Forgive

The key is to be in a state of permanent connectedness with your inner body — to feel it at all times. This will rapidly deepen and transform your life. The more consciousness you direct into the inner body, the higher its vibrational frequency becomes, much like a light that grows brighter as you turn up the dimmer switch and so increase the flow of electricity. At this higher energy level, negativity cannot affect you anymore, and you tend to attract new circumstances that reflect this higher frequency.

If you keep your attention in the body as much as possible, you will be anchored in the Now. You won’t lose yourself in the external world, and you won’t lose yourself in your mind.

While the pain-body is the obstacle to accessing The Power of Now, it’s also the gateway to it. The stoic philosophy is spot-on: “The obstacle is the way.”

But that’s the thing, right? Why would we get in touch with a painful body? Well, in the first place, it became a body of pain because we lost touch with it. We ignored it, denied it, and even regarded it as “sinful.”

There are healing tools and techniques we can use to help us reconnect with our body. There’s The Healing Code and The Emotion Code. EFT and Body Scan that I both feature in The Path to Awesomeness book. Plus references particular to bodywork such as Reclaiming Your Body and The Body Keeps the Score.

All of which has one pre- and co-requisite: forgiveness. Eckhart relays the words of Jesus: “Before you enter the temple, forgive.” Every step we’ll take to reach the altar of our Being, what we call Christ, will be a step of forgiveness.

This is not mental work. We cannot think our way to healing. We must feel it. In other words, to forgive is to feel our pain.

The cure for pain is in the pain rumi quote

When we’re willing to forgive ourselves, we’ll realize that there’s more to the body than just pain. Beneath it, there’s wisdom and joy. There’s freedom and peace. And there’s love.

This is Love

Love is a state of Being. Your love is not outside; it is deep within you. You can never lose it, and it cannot leave you. It is not dependent on some other body, some external form. In the stillness of your presence, you can feel your own formless and timeless reality as the unmanifested life that animates your physical form. You can then feel the same life deep within every other human and every other creature. You look beyond the veil of form and separation. This is the realization of oneness. This is love.

What is God? The eternal One Life underneath all the forms of life. What is love? To feel the presence of that One Life deep within yourself and within all creatures. To be it. Therefore, all love is the love of God.

I find Tolle’s lengthy discussion on love the most enlightening part in The Power of Now because it’s also where we, humans in general, got it all wrong. And just because everyone is experiencing it, doesn’t make it “normal” or true. A lie, no matter how good it sounds, even if everyone believes it, remains a lie.

We’ve talked much about this in The 5 Love Languages and The Road Less Traveled. To sum them up, romantic love is just another mind’s concept for what true love is. We think there is someone special whom we fall in love with and save us from our loneliness and pain. We get into a special relationship only to experience later more pain and suffering, then make-believe that the hurt is “normal” in any relationship.

But here’s the truth: love is not capable of hurting. It’s the lie that hurts, not the truth.

As Eckhart says, love is a state of being. That cannot come from outside of us. Can I give you my cuteness? No, it’s my state of being. You, too, have intrinsic cuteness in you. I cannot give you what you already have. And though we cannot make each other cute, we can share our cuteness together. Same goes for love.

We still have a lot to (un)learn about love, lots of room to grow in relationships, but I hope my cuteness helps. 😎

The Higher Good

Whenever anything negative happens to you, there is a deep lesson concealed within it, although you may not see it at the time. Even a brief illness or an accident can show you what is real and unreal in your life, what ultimately matters and what doesn’t.

From ordinary consciousness, as seen from the ego’s perspective, there will always be positive and negative life situations. There are good things and bad things that happen in life. And they do, we’re not denying that.

Eckhart says, however, when seen from a higher perspective, that of your Being or your “Higher Self”, life is as it is. There’s no good or bad. No opposites. No polarities. This is also how he further describes real love – no conditions, or rather beyond conditions. You don’t judge life or the person. Instead, you are fully accepting and forgiving.

That is only possible with greater awareness, with higher consciousness. Because from a larger perspective, you will have the knowing that the “bad” is part of, even necessary for the “higher good” to emerge.

Dealing with chronic thyroid illness, losing my father to cancer, and sinking to financial rock bottom are the “worst” situations I’ve been through. “Bad” is an understatement. They are hell-like experiences.

But you know what? Had I not been through them, there won’t be The Path to Awesomeness and all the other heaven-like experiences I’m having now.

It made me realize its higher purpose – the worst situations always bring out the best in me. Not wishing for another one though!

But I wish you also come around to this realization that whatever happens in life, happens for your higher good.

True Compassion

It is only at this point that you begin to make a real contribution toward bringing about a better world, toward creating a different order of reality. It is only at this point that you are able to feel true compassion and to help others at the level of cause. Only those who have transcended the world can bring about a better world.

The causal level needs to remain your primary focus, the teaching of enlightenment your main purpose, and peace your most precious gift to the world.

When you’ve reached that greater awareness, the higher perspective, true compassion will also grow in you.

We know that compassion means “to suffer with,” or having empathy for the suffering of others. But Eckhart says this is only one side of compassion. What he refers to as “true compassion” is seeing not only the suffering but also beyond the suffering. It means seeing life in all life situations. You see the Being in every person.

True compassion is knowing that what you go or been through is what the world at large is going through. It is knowing that the suffering in the world is not because of the “bad” things that happen, but because of the unconsciousness that creates it, and perpetuates it.

While you see the effect, you are aware of the cause. And that is where you focus, where you bring forth change – at the causal level – at the level of Being.

As Eckhart puts it:

Who you are is always a more vital teaching and a more powerful transformer of the world than what you say, and more essential even than what you do.

This doesn’t mean you don’t do anything at all. You still do everything within your capability in every given opportunity that presents itself. But you now act from Being, not from ego.

Because you’re not fighting the ego. In fact, you’re no longer fighting. You’re at peace. You remain in a peaceful state in all of your actions.

Who you are is your power. You, my friend, will be your greatest gift to the world.

Your time is NOW.

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ECKHART TOLLE, the bestselling author of The Power of Now and A New Earth, was born in Germany, where he spent the first thirteen years of his life. After graduating from the University of London, he was a research scholar and supervisor at Cambridge University. When he was twenty-nine, a profound spiritual transformation virtually dissolved his old identity and radically changed the course of his life.

He devoted the next few years to understanding, integrating, and deepening that transformation, which marked the beginning of an intense inward journey. Eckhart is not aligned with any particular religion or tradition. In his teaching, he conveys a simple yet profound message with the timeless and uncomplicated clarity of the ancient spiritual masters: there is a way out of suffering and into peace.

Eckhart is currently traveling extensively, taking his teachings and his presence throughout the world. He has lived in Vancouver, Canada, since 1996.

Visit him at EckhartTolle.com

Other Books by Eckhart Tolle

Practicing the Power of Now: Essential Teachings, Meditations, and Exercises from the Power of Now
Stillness Speaks


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