The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment is a New York Times bestseller. The author, Eckhart Tolle, is a renowned spiritual teacher. Both the book and Tolle are endorsed by figures such as Oprah and Deepak Chopra. The Power of Now is considered a life-changing personal growth and spiritual staple.
Here are my top takeaways halfway through reading the book. (I plan on doing a more encompassing review when I finish.)
My own suffering comes from identifying with my suffering self
and being afraid to disidentify.
I spent most of my teenage and college years identifying as sad. Even now, I’ve considered the possibility that I am “meant” to be sad. Identifying as sad means I can cry all I want, stay in bed all day, and refuse to engage with others. In turn, my emotions, body, and relationships suffer. I identify as sad even further and continue to suffer.
‘Sad’ is easier than the alternative: taking the responsibility for removing sadness. Not being happy or at peace, but just removing sadness. It feels like a part of me by now, after so long. If I disidentify with ‘sad’, what’s left? Disidentifying with my suffering self means parting with this years-long identity. Who am I if I’m not sad? Is there any part of me left?
Working to create the future I want
doesn’t guarantee I’ll be happier or at peace.
Suffering comes from living either in the past or future.
Living for the future creates a gap between what is and what can be. If I imagine my ideal future, I create anticipation. If I imagine my worst future, I create anxiety. Both are illusions because neither exist. The gap is suffering.
However, I can work to change my life circumstances for my future: get another job, improve my health, and so on. But capital-L Life exists under life circumstances. Happiness or peace will only arrive when I learn to be present despite the circumstances. And only in the present can I train my inner state not to be dependent on outer circumstances.
I should get a tattoo.
I’ve wanted a Skyrim tattoo for a couple months. There’s a power called “Become Ethereal” that you activate by speaking in the dragon language. The words FADE SPIRIT BIND translate to FEIM ZII GRON in dragon language. In dragon script, it looks like this:
The common use of the power is to put distance between yourself and an enemy. It allows you to change your form such that you can’t be harmed, but you also can’t harm others. That latter part is considered a “drawback”.
Back to The Power of Now, Tolle advises we make the following decision:
If you create no more pain for yourself, then you create no more pain for others.
I had to reread that sentence over and over. It felt like an alternative interpretation of Become Ethereal. In this case, an inability to harm yourself comes with an inability to harm others. It’s not a “drawback”, but an incredible gift.
You harm yourself, bring yourself suffering, by creating problems for yourself. It’s better to think of potential “problems” as situations to be dealt with or accepted. When we label situations as problems, we give them an identity we’re invested in.
So decide no more problems. Just situations. No more problems, no more pain for yourself, no more pain you can inflict on others.
Anyway, I felt that coming across this idea was a synchronicity. I interpreted it as a sign I should allow myself to commit to the tattoo. (I’ll give an update at the end of the summer on this front.)
Negativity serves no purpose other than to contaminate.
In the past few years, I made the decision to be responsible for my energy. When I’m angry, I will sit and think about whether the anger is necessary. I’ll close my eyes, breathe, and not let the negative energy seep into the way I interact with others or my surroundings. No slamming doors, no sarcastic quips, no furrowed brow.
My anger is my own problem, even when it involves someone else. If I’m angry at someone, I’m angry. It’s my anger. I have the responsibility to let it sit with me, let it out against someone or something, or let it go. If I choose to let it sit with me, I’m responsible for my accumulation of pain. If I choose to let it out against someone, I’m responsible for dispensing negative energy to that person and unlucky bystanders.
Negativity contaminates people and spaces. By taking responsibility for disposing of negativity by letting it go, we learn to recognize how futile it is.
Final Thoughts (so far):
I’m finding The Power of Now to clarify ideas and experiences I’ve already had. And I love it. I’ve had vague ideas of identifying as suffering and contaminating energy before. But Tolle has a way of explaining ideas in clear (albeit lofty) terms, through storytelling and metaphors.
The writing was difficult to adjust to. I find myself rereading paragraphs every page. What makes it worse is that Tolle is very repetitive. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve missed the message of a section, because it feels like I’m reading the same lesson over and over again. But considering how intangible the content is, it can take a couple repetitions for a lesson to truly sink in.
This is definitely not a casual pick-up-for-a-two-minute-break kind of read. I’ve only been able to read maybe 10 pages at a time in an hour, at 7:00 AM when everyone in the house is asleep. And afterwards, I’m exhausted.
But the experience is so worth it. I’m learning and growing and understanding how to exist with (and not in) my mind. While I don’t expect to be ~spiritually enlightened~ when I finish, I know I’ll be more conscious of my inner light.