My wife and I are currently reading “The Power of Now,” by Eckhart Tolle. My wife had read it, but I never had, although being a longtime New Age self-help book junky, I had definitely heard about it for years. We have taken to reading it a little at a time, usually in the mornings. It had been awhile since we read a book together, so this has been especially nice.
Tolle’s premise seems to be that humans generally live in a world dominated by the mind: the stories of the mind, the concerns of the mind, and the past and future pre-occupation of the mind. While these certainly have their place, Tolle points out that all of life is happening right now, and only now. As he writes,
Have you ever experienced, done, thought, or felt anything outside the Now? Do you think you ever will? Is it possible for anything to happen or be outside the Now? The answer’s obvious, is it not?
Nothing ever happened in the past; it happened in the Now.
Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now.
(“The Power of Now,” p. 50)
Tolle encourages us to get into the present moment, through meditation and present moment awareness. Recently I have been getting this message A LOT, from a lot of different directions. It is the perfect reminder to focus on what is real, and to distinguish reality from what we merely think is real.
You see, our minds make up things all the time. Last night I was doing some meditating and reflecting on the past, and then I realized: while I am thinking about the past, that is not the past. Instead, it is only my mind storing what we call “memories.” Yet even that is not the past. It is a bit of data, if you will, filed in my mind. And even it is subject to my interpretation and story, it is not necessarily real.
I realized that what I was thinking about was a projection in my mind! Furthermore, in this case, it was a story devised to make me feel powerless. It was an interpretation that my mind made up. And now it was running on automatic, like a computer program.
That’s when I realized that our sense of the past is nothing more than a program in our minds. After all, as Tolle points out, the past doesn’t exist. Only the now does. Think about it, there are only present moment events. As they occur, our minds create interpretations of what they mean for us. That, plus the sensory data we experience in the moment, is what we are left with. Otherwise, the past simply does not exist!
More from Tolle:
End the delusion of time. Time and mind are inseparable. Remove time from the mind and it stops– unless you choose to use it.
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 Power of Now, p. 48)
I especially love this passage. The idea that the mind has invented time is a new concept to me, and a most glorious one. Again, think about it: where does the past exist? In reality? No. In our heads. Maybe in a documentary or book. Yet even then, we can only experience the past by thinking about it.
Where does the future exist? Also in our heads. We can anticipate it, and plan for it, but it still is a concept in our heads. Of course, even science fiction is obviously a product of our minds!
To me, it is a glorious idea to be freed from excessive focus on past or future. This is probably because I have spent most of my life in my head thinking about one or the other!
As I said, this book has arrived at the perfect time… er, maybe given the subject matter I should use a different word. This book has arrive at the moment of Now in which I am ready for it! And so, in this Now I am choosing to write about it, expressing my appreciation for it because thinking about this book is Now something natural and appropriate for me. Whereas, at an earlier moment of Now it was not 🙂