The Power of Now Book Review – When the student is ready!
On the shelf for 20 years
I picked up my first copy of the best-selling book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle around 20 years ago which was about the time it was first published.
Back then, I have to say that I didn’t get it or perhaps I wasn’t ready. Perhaps I hadn’t suffered enough. Who knows, needless to say I put it aside and there it stayed in my bookshelf.
It was some 15 or so years later that I picked up my dusty copy of The Power of Now again and this time it spoke to me. I was definitely in a time of crisis and desperately needed what Eckhart Tolle shared.
Since then, I have personally bought many of Eckhart Tolle’s teachings in CD form – I did one of his retreats at home (Deepening the Dimension of Stillness), and book form (A New Earth – had me nodding from the get go), video, undertaken his online course The Power of Presence (which has a waiting list at the moment but you can still register to express your interest), been a member of eckharttolle.com.
I also listen to him whilst I drive or watch him on Youtube frequently and attended one of his live talks in Melbourne, Australia.
Let’s get the basics out the way
My Rating: A must have on your bedside table just like Oprah – 10/10
It’s a best seller for a reason
I have read many books on awareness, mindfulness and presence but I find Eckhart Tolle the best. This might sound like strange word to use but I find him soothing. I suppose that when someone is distressed, unhappy or anxious or whatever negative emotion one is experiencing, then soothing is what is needed.
The last thing I need is judgement, accusation, non-acceptance – who does? He gives this.
He embodies and emanates presence, he is enlightened and so with it brings one a sense of calm whether directly whilst in his presence or indirectly through his books and other resources.
There is a sense of rightness when he speaks and writes.
He does not come from a place of ego. You never hear him flogging his own products and I mean NEVER.
He has used the term spiritual teacher in regards to himself, however, this is only because the world of form needs such descriptions and labels to feel comfortable. I think he himself would not use such a term or others if he could avoid them.
Language can be divisive and can repel some people, so as mentioned previously he is mindful of this and so is cautious and provides explanations where he can.
He has been compelled to write and to share what he knows via various avenues to help others. The fact that he earns an income out of it is not his driving force. I truly believe this.
In my opinion, there is nobody better to explain presence and being in the Now. Where possible he uses simple terms and he is careful with the language he uses so as not to alienate anyone. He exudes gentleness and kindness, non-judgement, an acceptance of all and humour.
So, whether you read his book or obtain an audio copy it’s well worth it. I would even suggest both if you are inclined. Sometimes, I feel like reading, sometimes I just feel like listening. So, it doesn’t hurt to have options.
Obviously, I’m an advocate. I share my own experiences and those resources that have helped me to hopefully help others.
The teachings are universal truths that are applicable to anyone interested enough to learn a little more and to live a more peaceful and joyful existence free from fear.
I still revisit my well-worn copy from time to time when I need a little reminder.
Now let’s get into the review!
The Power of Now Book Review – Chapters 1-5
From this point on I am going to refer to Eckhart Tolle as Eckhart. I feel like I can.
Eckhart begins by sharing a little about the origin of the book. He very rarely talks of the past as to paraphrase him he has very little use for it and rarely thinks about it.
He talks briefly of his own past struggle with anxiety, periods of suicidal depression and the sense of meaninglessness he felt.
He then speaks of his enlightenment/awakening at the age of 29. By his own admission he didn’t know what it was at the time only that something significant had happened.
For a period after, he had no relationships, no home, no social identity and no physical belongings.
He spent some two years sitting on park benches. But, as he states, he was in a state of intense joy.
If he was able to experience ‘intense joy’ in what on the surface appears to be destitution, I can’t think of any other state that I would want to experience more and regardless of the circumstances.
Chapter 1 – You are not your mind
Eckhart talks about how the overactive mind is the greatest obstacle to enlightenment (your natural state of felt oneness with Being – your true nature beyond name and form).
He quotes the Buddha’s definition of enlightenment as “the end of suffering.”
The nature of the mind is explained further. He talks of compulsive thinking (which most of us do and is considered normal) that creates a false mind-made self that casts a shadow of fear and suffering. How does this happen? It happens through identification with our minds e.g. with labels, images, words, judgements etc.
This identification comes between you and your fellow man and woman, between you and yourself and between you and nature. Further, it blocks all true relationship.
The chapter goes on to explain how to free yourself form your mind, rising above thought and emotion – the body’s reaction to your mind.
The knowing of this is key. The knowing that you are not your mind. That your mind is the false self – the ego. It is the ego that prevents us from experiencing our Being and expressing our true nature. Or rather, our lack of consciousness of the ego (and its rampant thoughts) is what stands in the way. I think this knowledge provides a tremendous amount of relief.
Chapter 2 – Consciousness: the way out of pain
This chapter introduces the concept of the Now and how in this space no more pain is created as most human pain is created through the unobserved mind.
The more you are able to honor and accept the Now, the more you are free of pain and suffering and free of the egoic mind.
Much of our time is spent thinking about the past or future and denying or resisting the present. But this causes suffering.
Eckhart suggests that we realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have and make this the primary focus of your life.
This chapter also introduces the concept of the pain body (past pain) and dissolving the pain body.
Fundamentally, we need to become conscious, conscious of our thoughts and the pain body in order to transmute it. Eckhart explains how to do this for example in becoming the watcher.
Finally, the important origin of fear is discussed.
Chapter 3 – Moving deeply into the Now
People think that they need to learn more and more in order to understand the mind in order to become conscious or enlightened (or dare I say happy or to end their suffering).
This is not the case, as Eckhart says “the problems of the mind, cannot be solved on the level of the mind”.
This statement rings true for me. No amount of talking about my problems, or what happened to me yesterday, 5, 20 or 30 years ago or what didn’t happen does not help me at all. It also doesn’t help me to understand why it happened. That doesn’t change anything. And, if I need the why, what if I never get the why? Where would that leave me? Personally, I don’t see any value whatsoever in re-living past traumas or unhappy experiences. It does nothing but bring one down and then it has a snowball affect. I’m not saying deny the emotions either or push the thoughts away aggressively, but this is where we need to look at the pain body as per the previous chapter and watch our thoughts without identifying with them.
Eckhart talks of not seeking your self in the mind. That is, don’t identify with the ego, the false self.
He also goes on to speak of ending the delusion of time. When you are identified with the mind, you are trapped in time. Our compulsion is to live exclusively through memory (past) and anticipation (future).
The Now is the most precious thing there is. Why? Because it is all there is. Nothing exists outside the Now.
The key to the spiritual dimension is the Now.
Eckhart explains how to access the power of Now.
Chapter 4 – Mind strategies for avoiding the Now
Eckhart talks about ordinary and deep unconsciousness and how the best indicator of your level of consciousness is how you deal with life’s challenges when they come.
Through these challenges, the already unconscious person becomes more deeply unconscious.
He goes on to say that you can use a challenge to awaken you, or you can allow it to pull you into even deeper sleep. The dream of unconsciousness then turns into a nightmare.
We need to learn to be present, to be the watcher, the witness of our thoughts and emotions.
On the level of thinking, you will find a great deal of resistance in the form of judgement, discontent, and mental projection away from the Now. On the emotional level, there will be an undercurrent of unease, tension, boredom or nervousness. These are both aspects of the mind it is habitual resistance mode.
When you become conscious through observing the mind and emotions, you can then dissolve the unconsciousness.
Eckhart then moves in to talking about freedom from unhappiness and dropping negativity.
Chapter 5 – The State of Presence
Eckhart explains that you can’t think about presence and the mind can’t understand it.
Understanding presence is being present.
He elaborates on the esoteric meaning of ‘waiting’, beauty in stillness and realizing pure consciousness.
When the student is ready!
This article was becoming quite lengthy and so I decided that I would review chapters 1-5 and follow up with a review of chapters 6-10.
You can read that review here.
Nevertheless, I am hoping that you have the gist of the book from what I have written and that this alone will be enough to perhaps whet your appetite.
I recommend this book to people all the time particularly if I feel they are in some sort of distress and I have personally bought copies for friends and family members.
And, even if they don’t take to it then, I know it’s always going to be there for when they are ready.
I would say the same to you. Don’t hesitate to get a copy. It can always wait until you are ready and if not now, then maybe later. As they say, when the student is ready, the teacher will come.
Of course, you don’t have to be in immediate distress to get a copy and start to apply the teachings. It’s just that usually people seek such resources when they are in need, not when everything is going along hunky dory (or so it seems on the surface).
Really, I just wish everyone would read it.
If I sound like I’m pushing this book, I probably am but it’s not for the reasons you may think. I’m just passionate about it. I’m passionate about the concepts. It’s the truth. I know how it can help you to be free from suffering in whatever form that takes.
Life can be so much richer and joyful regardless of how good we think it is or how bad we think it is.
If you want to transform your experience of life, this is the book to help you do it.
You can also get a companion book – Practising the Power of Now. Again it’s available in hard copy or audio.
Once again, if you would like to find out more of what’s included in the book, check out Part 2 of my review covering Chapters 6-10 – The Power of Now Book Review – The Teacher Will Appear!
If you’re already convinced this book will change your life, buy it here!
I am very happy to receive your comments and any questions you may have. Please share them below and I’ll respond as soon as possible.
Please share this article if you have found it of value or know someone who might get something out of it.
Thank you for taking the time to read.
Go forth with ease and just be!
Hi Martine, you’ve painted Eckhart Tolle in a good light. He sounds like a non judgemental mentor. The part about the overactive mind, I’m sure that’s causing me all sorts of problems. I may check out this book. The audio version might be good for when I’m driving.
I’m sure it is. We all suffer with it and we don’t really realise how much it affects our wellbeing until we become aware of it. It’s incessant. And a non-judgemental guide is really important. Our own ego does a pretty good job of criticising us without others adding to it (though of corse that’s their ego too). You definitely won’t regret it if you choose to have a read or listen. Thanks very much for your comment John.
Hi Martine, Eckhart Tolle sounds like a wonderful teacher and guide. I’ve certainly heard of him, mostly through his uplifting quotes. You’ve outlined his book perfectly, and it’s so true that most people spend time worrying about the future or fretting over past events. I know I’m guilty of that! I have tried mindful meditation and it does work. Immersing yourself in writing also helps me. Thank you for sharing:)
Thanks Kathy, yes meditation is really helpful even if only a few minutes a day. Dwelling in the past can be so debilitating. Not a nice place to live. Thankyou for your comment.
I love this book and also have it on my bookshelf. I think it shares some interesting guidelines to learn more about how you treat yourself and how to get out of negative thought patterns. Would recommend it to anyone with a bit of interest in their own mental well-being.
It’s gold! We can be very hard on ourselves, so yes we need to treat ourselves with compassion too. Thanks for your comment Jonas.
Hallo Martina, regards from Bosnia. This is my first comment and I like the ease of presentation and good lyrics on your blog site. I especially like the minimalist start with the lovely detail. Achieving minimalism, in anything serious, is very difficult! I would rather read that book than do what I do now (don’t get me wrong). I think it’s a book for me !!! Thank you and here, I’ll leave you a link so check out my site and I’ll talk to you. Reg Goran
Thanks Goran. It definitely helped and helps me still. I hope you give it a go. Thanks for your comment.
To hear about him not having a home, personal belongings or relationships and still being filled with immense feelings of joy is pretty mind boggling. In a good way of course. I’ll have to give this book a try sometime soon because I’m always stressing out over the little things. I just don’t want to live with that mentality anymore.
Hi Matthew. Yes, I couldn’t live with it anymore either. I hope you do. The knowledge is life changing. Thanks for your comment.
One of the best books in years. Each sentence sounds with truth and power.