The Power of Now
This is a stunningly powerful book.
I was attracted to the title as my work on organisational change had identified that organisations often chose to chase the illusion of best practice, an illusion created by a misunderstanding of time. I anticipated that the book may also explore this area. The book does this to a degree but has an emphasis on personal change.
In the introduction Eckhart Tolle describes the origins of his thinking through a simple but powerful illustration, He talks of waking up with a feeling of deep loathing for the world and a deep sense of dread. The repeated thought that ‘I cannot live with myself’ leads to a sudden awareness of how peculiar this thought is. ‘Am I one or two?’ If I can’t live with myself, there must be two of me, the ‘I’ and the ‘self’.
This thought and the impact of pursuing what it means are at the heart of what the book explores; the means to stand outside the thinking-self and observe, to be a watcher. A key thrust of the book is that thinking, the ability to think, represents a key advance for mankind, but like all advances can become a ball and chain preventing further advances. Eckhart proposes that our current thinking represents a level of development which should now be replaced by a more advanced ability. Indeed his frequent references to Buddha, Zen masters and others indicate that this transformation has been signposted for some time and may be long overdue.
As Eckhart says, he can tell the reader nothing that they don’t already know. I suspect that five years ago I may not have read beyond the first five pages, if indeed I had ever picked the book up. Now this book is one I’d like to recommend everyone to read. I wouldn’t, simply because as I wasn’t, many may not be ready for it. For some the language may be too ‘new-age’. It is important to recognise that the words are symbols for ideas, even so I found that to some I attached personal meaning and consequently found them grate. The underlying ideas when I was able to see them were however deeply profound.
It is impossible to attempt a summary, but to provide a glimpse of the transition beyond current thinking and its applicability to change. Eckhart refers to research identifying that ideas are not the product of thinking, but of some other process. We don’t get ideas by thinking, perhaps walking the dog, taking a bath, through physical exertion, but not by thinking. We actually get ideas when there is no thinking. What we need is not more thinking, but less. Less thinking, but better controlled, focussed use of our minds.
He goes on to describe our minds as in uncontrolled overdrive, processing thoughts in a random and ad hoc manner. It’s as if in our mind we each posses a super computer, but the program controlling it is written by chance rather than being written by ourselves as computer programmers. Thus events, situations and experience each form part of the programme and our thinking as a result begins to constrict understanding which in many ways limits, rather than extends what we may achieve. Our thinking builds attachments to our past and restrictions on our future and avoids the present moment, the Now.
Eckhart then begins to develop the means by which we can take control of our thinking and rather than be described by behaviours that result from this ad hoc programming, what we do connects with what we are. The consequences of this transformation are wide ranging and dramatic.
The book deals with what are extremely challenging ideas in a way that is remarkably accessible and uplifting. The format follows the style of a dialogue between a questioner and Eckhart's responses, which aids the accessibility by allowing the questions the reader may have, to be posed on their behalf.
I highly recommend that you read this book. If you find it impenetrable, then put it on the bookshelf with a reminder to return on each anniversary to try again. Once you have read it, you will need a reminder to reread it, as each time you do you will learn more. A remarkable work.
August 22 2005
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