Monday, February 15, 2016
Currently Reading 2.15.16
“Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present.”
-- Bill Keane
Many of us have come across this quote at some point and have probably thought “that's true” or something of the like. My question is: “What is the present, exactly and what makes it more important than the past or the future?” Literally speaking, the present is this exact moment in time and space in which you physically exist. So if yesterday is in the past and long gone, tomorrow is not promised, and all we have is this present moment in time, does this mean that we should perhaps quit our jobs/school and go travel? Or better yet, why waste your time doing those dishes that are piling up in the sink? If all we have is this moment, we'd better not waste it on mundane stuff, right? Hmmm. While I find the above quotation to be charming, I find that it can be misleading as heck too. It has a tendency to leave a lingering impression that perhaps what you're doing in this very moment is not good enough or that you're somehow wasting it.The truth is that we don't always have power and control over what is going on in our lives at this very moment.No, we can't all just pick up and go or “YOLO” our way through the present (YOLO doesn't pay the bills!!).
Upon first glance, I thought that The Power of Now was going to be yet another generic self-help book about how to do the “YOLO-thing.” As a result, I admit that after somehow falling into my hands, the book sat on my shelf unread and unloved, for about three years (gasp). Recently, while being in the process of de-cluttering for my big out-of-state move in the very near future, I came across this book sitting patiently on the shelf. Before getting rid of it, I decided to give it a complete and unbiased read-through. So glad I did!
The author, Eckhart Tolle, acknowledges that while we cannot control what happens to us as humans, we CAN control something very fundamental to ourselves and that is: the mind. Throughout history, the mind has been both a blessing and curse to or species. Our minds have given birth to many wondrous things and ideas (we have proof!). However, our minds also have the capacity to create destruction and pain (we also have proof!).When Tolle refers to the mind, he refers to its incessant chatter -- the constant inner dialogue we have -- judging, wondering, complaining, approving...etc. It doesn't stop.The problem with the mind is that it keeps us from really living and really just being in the present moment. Being -- not trying to change, not seeking something in particular, but just BEING. The mind in itself is just a tool, but just like any tool, there's a more productive and less productive way to use it.
"You have probably come across "mad" people in the street incessantly talking or muttering to themselves. Well, that's not much different from what you and all other "normal" people do, except that you don't do it out loud."
- Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now
The main understanding that the author attempts to convey is that "you are not your mind." In our modern fast-paced, overly stimulated society, over identification with one's mind has become the norm.According to Tolle, we all hold a place of "inner stillness" inside of us. This inner stillness gives us access to feelings of peace and is found beyond the incessant chatter of the mind. It is through this inner stillness that one gains access to creativity and the ability to transcend anything that life-circumstances may be presenting.
While Tolle does draw a lot of knowledge from the teachings of Buddha and even Jesus (more as a philosopher), I highly appreciate that the book is non-secular and can be of value to people from all walks of life. Regardless of your religious/spiritual background (or lack thereof), there is a wealth of information to ponder about from a philosophical stand point.
Yes --" the past is behind us, the future is not promised, all we have is this present moment," but we cannot forget the past because we can learn from it in the present and we cannot ignore the future because we must gain a sense of who we want to be. The beauty of The Power of Now, is that we simply learn how to control when we think about the past and future constructively in regards to the present moment. We don't have to abandon everything and "YOLO" because the beauty is to accept what is and just "be" with it non-judgmentally and with a clear mind. It's a real skill worth developing -- to just slow down and breathe.