The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

by Eckhart Tolle

A step-by-step guide to spiritual enlightenment. It discusses how people interact with themselves and others. It teaches how to free yourself from the egoic mind so you can free yourself from the illusion and live in the truth of the Now.

Summary Notes

You Are Not Your Mind

"The mind is the greatest obstacle to enlightenment."

The greatest obstacle to enlightenment is the mind. You must look inside yourself to understand that you're not your mind.

Freedom begins when you realize that you are not the possessing entity, the thinker. 

Knowing this enables you to observe the entity. The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, that thought is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence. You also recognize that all the things that truly matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind. You begin to awaken.

So you see and judge the present through the eyes of the past and get a totally distorted view of it. It is not uncommon for the voice to be a person’s own worst enemy. Instead of “watching the thinker, " you can simply create a gap in the mind by focusing on the now. Just become intensely conscious of the present moment. 

This is the essence of meditation. It allows you to become aware of a silent but powerful sense of presence. One criterion by which you can measure your success in the practice is the degree of peace you feel within.

The single most vital step on your journey toward enlightenment is learning to disidentify from your mind. Every time you create a gap in the mind stream, the light of your consciousness grows stronger. To the ego, the present moment hardly exists. Only the past and future are considered important. 

The present moment holds the key to liberation, but you cannot find the present moment as long as you are in your mind. The predominance of the mind is no more than a stage in the evolution of consciousness. We must move quickly to the next stage; otherwise, we will be destroyed by the mind. Our mind is essentially a survival machine. Pleasure is always derived from something outside you, whereas joy arises from within.

Actions to take

Consciousness: The Way Out of Pain

"The pain you create now is always a form of non acceptance."

The more you can honor and accept the now, the more you are free of pain, suffering and the egoic mind. After all, the present moment is all you ever have. 

So, make the now the primary focus of your life and surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life – and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you. Everything is shown up by being exposed to the light, and whatever is exposed to it becomes light.

The most common ego identifications have to do with our possessions, the work you do, social status and recognition, knowledge and education, physical appearance, special abilities, relationships, personal and family history, belief systems, and other collective identifications. None of these is you; they are the things you will have to relinquish sooner or later. 

Death is a stripping away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to “die before you die” – and realize that there is no death.

Actions to take

Moving Deeply Into the Now

"Don't seek yourself in mind."

The present moment is all you ever have. When you don’t think this way, your mind will create an obsession with the future to escape from the unsatisfactory present. 

Usually, the future is a replica of the past. The quality of your consciousness at this moment is what shapes the future. Your degree of presence determines the quality of your consciousness. 

So the only place true change can occur and the past can be dissolved is the now. All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. 

You may find it hard to recognize that time is the cause of your suffering or your problems. But you have to realize that there are actually no life “problems,” only situations. A great deal of what people say, think, or do is actually motivated by fear, which is always linked with having your focus on the future and being out of touch with the now. 

As there are no problems in the now, there is no fear either. If there is no joy, ease, or lightness in what you do, it does not necessarily mean that you need to change what you are doing. It may be sufficient to change the “how,” as it is always more important than “what.” 

So do not be concerned with the fruit of your action; instead, pay attention to your actions itself. The fruit will come of its own accord. When the compulsive striving away from the now ceases, the Joy of Being will flow into everything you do. 

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. Therefore, you are not attached to the results. Neither failure nor success can change your inner state of being. You have found the life underneath your life situation.

Actions to take

Mind Strategies for Avoiding the Now

"When you can feel life every moment as the joy of being, it can be said that you are free of time."

The root of suffering is found in our constant desire and craving. Humans are a dangerously insane and very sick species. 

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. Any action is often better than no action. Only a surrendered person has spiritual power. 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. There is nothing wrong with striving to improve your life situation. You can improve your life situation, but you cannot improve your life. Life is primary, and it is your deepest inner being. It is already whole, complete, and perfect. Your life situation consists of your circumstance and your experiences. 

There is nothing wrong with setting goals and striving to achieve things. The mistake lies in using it as a substitute for the feeling of life, for being. 

Ultimately, every outer purpose is doomed to “fail” sooner or later 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. Only the present can free you from the past. You cannot find yourself by going into the past. You find yourself by coming into the present.

Actions to take

The Inner Body

"Being is your deepest self."

Life is like the light switch and the light globe. All people have their light globe on (living) and are scared of their light globe turning off (death) because they fear the dark (after death) none existence. 

But who turned on your light in the first place. Where were you before your globe turned on? The illusion that you are nothing more than your physical body and your mind is the “illusion of the self.” To become conscious of being, you need to reclaim consciousness from the mind. This is an essential task on your spiritual journey. It will free vast amounts of consciousness previously trapped in useless and compulsive thinking.

Transformation is through the body, not away from it. Do not fight against the body, for you are also fighting against your own reality. You are your body. The body you can see and touch is only a thin illusory veil. Through the inner body, you are forever one with God.

Actions to take

Portals Into the Unmanifested

"Having access to the formless realm is truly liberating."

Your feelings will get you closer to the truth of who you are than thinking. Your task is not to search for love but to find a portal through which love can enter. 

Every physical object or body has come out of nothing, is surrounded by nothing, and will eventually return to nothing. Even inside every physical body, there is far more “nothing” than something. Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form. The essence of all things is emptiness. Space has no existence. To exist literally means to stand out. You cannot understand space because it doesn’t stand out. 

Nothing real can be threatened, and nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God. You know that every form is destined to dissolve again, and ultimately, nothing out here matters much. You have overcome the world, in the words of Jesus, or, as the Buddha put it, you have “crossed over to the other shore.” If there were no illusion, there would be no enlightenment.” The unmanifested knows itself through the world and ultimately through you. 

We live in a culture almost totally ignorant of death, as it is almost totally ignorant of anything that truly matters. Every portal is a portal of death, the death of the false self. When you go through it, you cease to derive your identity from your psychological, mind-made form. You then realize that death is an illusion, just as your identification with form was an illusion. The end of illusion – that’s all that death is. It is painful only as long as you cling to illusion.

Actions to take

Enlightened Relationships

"Salvation is not elsewhere in salvation or time."

Most people pursue physical pleasures or various forms of psychological gratification because they believe that those things will make them happy or free them from a feeling of fear or lack. True salvation is a state of freedom – from fear, suffering, and a perceived state of lack and insufficiency; thus, from all wanting, needing, grasping, and clinging. It is freedom from compulsive thinking, negativity, and above all, from past and future as a psychological need.

True communication is communion. The realization of oneness, which is love, is quickly lost again unless you are able to stay present enough to keep out the mind and its old patterns. As soon as the mind and mind identification return, you are no longer yourself but a mental image of yourself, and you start playing games and roles again to get your ego needs to be met.

Humanity is under great pressure to evolve because it is our only chance of survival as a race. Refusing judgment does not mean you do not recognize dysfunction and unconsciousness when you see it. It means “being the knowing” rather than “being the reaction” and the judge.

Actions to take

Peace Beyond Happiness and Unhappiness

"Happiness depends on conditions; peace does not"

Happiness depends on conditions being perceived as positive, and inner peace does not. By allowing the “isness” of all things, a deeper dimension underneath the play of opposites reveals itself to you as an abiding presence, an unchanging deep stillness, an uncaused joy beyond good and bad. This is the joy of being, the peace of God.

All conditions are highly unstable and in constant flux, or, as he put it, impermanence is a characteristic of every situation you will ever encounter in your life. It will change, disappear, or no longer satisfy you. This essential kind of knowledge is not yet widely accessible. Nothing can give you joy. Joy is uncaused and arises from within as the joy of being. It is an essential part of the inner state of peace, the state that has been called the peace of God. It is your natural state, not something you must work hard for or struggle to attain. 

Life flows with ease. Having gone beyond the mind-made opposites, you become like a deep lake. Sometimes calm, sometimes windy and rough, according to the cycles and seasons. Deep down, however, the lake is always undisturbed. You are the whole lake, not just the surface, and you are in touch with your own depth, which remains absolutely still.

You don’t resist change by mentally clinging to any situation. Your inner peace does not depend on it. You abide in being – unchanging, timeless, deathless – and you are no longer dependent for fulfillment or happiness on the outer world of constantly fluctuating forms. You can enjoy them, play with them, create new forms, and appreciate their beauty. But there will be no need to attach yourself to any of it. Awaken out of identification with form. Only those who have transcended the world can bring about a better world.

Actions to take

The Meaning of Surrender

"Acceptance of what free you from mind identification."

Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life. You cannot be conscious and unhappy, conscious and in negativity. Negativity, unhappiness, or suffering in whatever form means that there is resistance, and resistance is always unconscious. 

If you cannot surrender, take action immediately. Speak up or do something to change the situation – or remove yourself from it. Take responsibility for your life. Do not pollute your beautiful, radiant inner being or the earth with negativity. Do not give unhappiness in any form whatsoever a dwelling place inside you.

You only need to be concerned with the inner aspect. That is primary. Of course, that will also transform the conduct of your outer life, your relationships, and so on. You attract and manifest whatever corresponds to your inner state. God is itself, not a being. There can be no subject-object relationship here, no duality, no you and God.

The mind always adheres to the known. The unknown is dangerous because it has no control over it. That’s why the mind dislikes and ignores the present moment. Present-moment awareness creates a gap not only in the mind stream but also in the past-future continuum. 

Nothing truly new and creative can come into this world except through that gap, that clear space of infinite possibility. It always looks as if people had a choice, but that is an illusion. 

The mind-identified state is severely dysfunctional. It is a form of insanity. Almost everyone is suffering from this illness to varying degrees. The moment you realize this, there can be no resentment. How can you resent someone’s illness? The only appropriate response is compassion. When you surrender to what is here and so become fully present, the past ceases to have any power.

Actions to take

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