I am currently reading the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. To be transparent, this is a required book for Consciousness I, that I am taking in the Winter Quarter. These are notes and main concepts as I am reading. This is only a helpful tool for understanding the book. I hope it helps you as well!
This is Part I – the first 4 chapters ( the first 1/3 of the book).
All intellectual thought and appropriate copyright belongs to the author.
You are not your mind
- The compulsive thinker, which means almost everyone, lives in a state of apparent separateness, in an insanely complex world of continuous problems and conflict, a world that reflects the ever-increasing fragmentation of the mind. Enlightenment is a state of wholeness of being “at one” and therefore at peace. At one with life and its manifested aspect, the world, as well as with your deepest self and life unmanifested – at one with Being. Enlightenment is not only the end of suffering and of continuous conflict within and without. But also the end of the dreadful enslavement to incessant thinking what an incredible liberation this is! (Pg 15)
- The beginning of freedom is the realization 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 realize that all the things that truly matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind. You begin to awaken. (Pg 17)
- So when you listen to a thought, you are aware not only of the thought but also of yourself as the witness of the thought. I new dimension of Consciousness has come in. As you listen to the thought, you feel a conscious presents – your Deeper Self – behind or underneath the thought, as it were. The thought then loses its power over you and quickly subsides, because you are no longer energizing the mind through identification with it. This is the beginning of the end of involuntary and compulsive thinking. (Pg 19)
- Instead of “watching the thinker,” you can also create a gap in the mind stream simply by directing the focus of your attention into the Now. Just become intensely conscious of the present moment. This is a deeply satisfying thing to do. And this way you draw Consciousness away from mind activity and create a gap of no-mind in which you are highly alert and aware but not thinking. This is the essence of meditation. For example, every time you walk up and down the stairs in your house or place of work, pay close attention of every step, every movement, even your breathing. Be totally present. Or when you wash your hands, pay attention to all the sense perceptions associated with the activity. (Pgs 20-21)
- Thinking and Consciousness are not synonymous. Thinking is only a small aspect of Consciousness. Thought cannot exist without Consciousness, but Consciousness does not need thought. (Pg 23.)
- If you have difficulty feeling your emotions, start by focusing attention on the inner energy field of your body. Feel the body from within. This will also put you in touch with your emotions. (Pg 26)
- So observing our emotions is as important as observing our thoughts? Yes. Make it a habit to ask yourself Colin what’s going on inside me at this moment? That question will point you in the right direction. But don’t analyze, just watch. Focus your attention within. Feel the energy of the emotion. If there is no emotion present, take your attention more deeply into the inner energy field of your body. It is the doorway into being. (Pg 27)
- All Cravings are the Mind seeking salvation or fulfillment in external things and in the future as a substitute for the joy of being as long as I am my mind, I am those Cravings, those needs, wants, attachments, and a versions, and apart from them there is no I accept as a mere possibility, and unfulfilled potential, a seed that has not yet sprouted. In that state, even my desire to become free or enlightened as just another craving for fulfillment or completion in the future. So don’t speak to become free of Desire or achieve enlightenment. Become present. Be there as the Observer of the Mind. Instead of quoting the Buddha, be the Buddha, be the awakened one, which is what the word Buddha means. (Pg 31)
Consciousness: The way out of pain
- Or you may put it like this: the more you are able to honor accept the Now, the more you are free of pain, of suffering — and free of the egoic mind. (Pg 33)
- Once you have understood the basic principle of being present as the watcher of what happens inside you — and you “understand” it by experiencing it — you have at your disposal the most potent transformation tool. (Pg 41)
- Some therapists may also be able to fulfill that function, provided that they have gone beyond the level of mind and can create and sustain a state of intense conscious presence while they are working with you. (Pg 42)
- Since the ego is a derived sense of self, it needs to identify with external things. It needs to be both defended and fed constantly. The most common ego identifications have to do with possessions, the work you do, social status and recognition….None of these is you.
Moving deeply into the Now
- This is why, for so many people, a large part of their sense of self is intimately connected with their problems. Once this has happened, the last thing they want is to become free of them; that would mean loss of self. There can be a great deal of unconscious ego investment in pain and suffering. (Pg 48)
- Why is it the most precious thing? Firstly, because it is the only thing. It’s all there is. The eternal present is the space within which your whole life unfolds, the one factor that remains constant. Life is now. There was never a time when your life was not now, nor will there ever be. Secondly then now is the only point that can take you beyond the limited confines of the mind. It is your only point of access into the Timeless and formless realm of being. (Pg 49)
- What you think of as the past is a memory trace, stored in the mind, of a former Now. When you remember the past, you reactivate a memory Trace – and you do so now. The future is an imagined now, a projection of the mind. When the future comes, it comes as the now. When you think about the future, you do it now. Past and future obviously have no reality of their own. Just as the moon has no light of its own, but can only reflect the light of the Sun, so are past and future only pale reflections of the light, power, and reality of the eternal present. Their reality is “borrowed” from the Now. (Pg 50)
- The Mind cannot know the tree. It can only no facts or information about the tree. My mind cannot know you, only labels, judgements, facts, and opinions about you. Being alone knows directly. (Pg 54)
- Be present as The Watcher of your mind dash of your thoughts and emotions as well as your reactions in various situations. Be at least as interested in your reactions as in the situation or person that causes you to react. Notice also how often your attention is in the past or future. Don’t judge your analyze What You observe. Watch the thought, feel the emotion, observe the reaction. Don’t make a personal problem out of them. You will then feel something more powerful than any of those things that you observe: the still, observing presents itself behind the content of your mind, the silent watcher. (Pg 55)
- If you set yourself a goal and work towards it, you are using clock time. You are aware of where you want to go, but you honor and give your fullest attention to the step that you were taking at this moment. If you then become excessively focused on the goal, perhaps because you are seeking happiness, fulfillment, or more complete sense of self in it, the now is no longer honored it because reduced to a mere stepping stone to the future, with no intrinsic value. (Pg 57)
- What you refer to as your life should more accurately be called your life situation. It is psychological time colon past and future. Certain things in the past didn’t go the way you wanted them to go. You were still resisting what happened in the past, and now you’re resisting what is. Hope is what keeps you going, but hope keeps you focused on the future, and this continued focus perpetuates your denial of the now and therefore your unhappiness.
- If there is no jewelry, East, or lightness in what you’re doing, it does not necessarily mean that you need to change what you are doing. It may be sufficient to change the how. How is always more important than what. See if you can give much more attention to the doing then to the result that you want to achieve through it. Give your fullest attention to whatever the moment presents. This implies that you also completely accept what is, because you cannot give your full attention to something and at the same time resist it. …. As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out of present moment awareness, whatever you do to become imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love – even the most simple action. (Pg 68)
- When the compulsive striving away from the now thesis, the joy of being flows into everything you do. The moment your attention turns to the now, you feel a presence, a Stillness, a piece. You no longer depend on the future for filament and satisfaction – you don’t look to it for some vacation. Therefore you are not attached to the results. Neither failure nor success has the power to change your inner state of being.
Mind Strategies for Avoiding the Now
- Make it a habit to monitor your mental-emotional state through self-observation. “Am I at ease at this moment?” is a good question to ask yourself frequently. Or you can ask: “What’s going on inside me at this moment?” Be at least as interested in what goes on inside you as what happens outside. If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place. Primary reality is within, secondary reality without. But don’t answer these questions immediately. Direct your attention inward. Have a look inside yourself. What kind of thoughts is your mind producing? What do you feel? Direct your attention into the body. Is there any tension? Once you detect that there is a low level of unease, the background static, see in what way you are avoiding, resisting, or denying life — by denying the Now. There are many ways in which people unconsciously resist the present moment. I will give you a few examples. With practice, your power of self-observation, of monitoring your inner state, will become sharpened. (Pg 77)
- The Now, of course, also implies the here. Are you resisting your here and Now? Some people would always rather be somewhere else. Their “here” is never good enough. Through self-observation, find out if that is the case in your life. 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. Then accept the consequences. No excuses. No negativity. No psychic pollution. Keep your inner space clear. (Pg 82)
- Or is there something that you “should” be doing but are not doing it? Get up and do it now. Alternatively, completely accept your inactivity, laziness, or passivity at this moment, if that is your choice. Go into it fully. Enjoy it. Be as lazy or inactive as you can. If you go into it fully and consciously, you will soon come out of it. Or maybe you won’t. Either way, there is no inner conflict, no resistance, no negativity. (Pg 83)
- Die to the Past every moment. You don’t need it. Only refer to it when it is absolutely relevant to the present. Feel the power of this moment and the fullness of being. Feel your presence. (Pg 84)
- So give up waiting as a state of mind. When you catch yourself slipping into waiting… snap out of it. Come into the present moment. Just be, and enjoy being. If you are present there is never any need for you to wait for anything. So next time somebody says, “Sorry to have kept you waiting,” you can reply, “That’s all right, I wasn’t waiting. I was just standing here enjoying myself – in joy in my self.” (Pg 87)
- … Give attention to the present; give attention to your behavior, to your reactions, moods, thoughts, emotions, fears, and desires as they occur in the present. There’s the past in you. If you can be present enough to watch all those things, not critically or analytically but non-judgmentally, then you are dealing with the past and dissolving it through the power of your presence. You cannot find yourself by going into the past. You find yourself by coming into the present. (Pg 91)