Most people spend their days either thinking about the past they cannot change or a future they cannot control whilst clinging to the hope that they can control their life, become happier, and even find enlightenment despite having no proper idea of how to do that.
The Power of Now seeks to change this through the wise, and very practical, words of Eckhart Tolle, a world-renowned spiritual guide, who guides the reader through the complex ground of their inner thoughts and relationship with the past, present, and future so they can enjoy better self-esteem, better relationships, and finally, feel able to fully immerse themselves in life without getting bogged down in all the overthinking.
Connecting the mind with suffering, Eckhart Tolle talks about living in the present moment as a way to avoid much of the pain we experience as humans thanks to our ego and outlines various perspectives on the self-destructive ways that we trap ourselves in our suffering, making our happiness something that becomes out of our reach. By learning to separate yourself from your mind to focus on your body, he teaches you how to make your life one that’s happier and more at peace.
To awaken where you are, right now, today one must seize the present moment. Eckhart Tolle encourages his readers to realize they only have this very moment to enjoy and teaches them how to think and feel in a way that allows them to live each day to its fullest. The clear, uplifting prose makes the book a great introduction to intentional living and spirituality, for those new to mindfulness.
Key Takeaways from “The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle
Takeaway #1 Live In The Now
We tend to live in the past or the present, daydreaming or worrying about what our future will look like and dwelling or reminiscing on past events rather than focusing on what's happening right now in the present moment. Nothing ever happens in the past or the future, it happens now. Big problems are problems of the future that we have lumped together, small problems are problems of the present moment – Stay present and tackle each small problem as it arises. By staying in the present moment we can find inner peace and improve our lives.
Takeaway #2 You Create Pain
Pain of the heart and mind is usually a self-created inner resistance to what is happening around you that you cannot change. You feel pain when you are unhappy with how things are in life yet you don't feel strong enough to change them for the better. A part of your self needs pain in order to survive, it can thrive on feelings of misery. Let this need for pain go on for too long and you can become dependant on it, you identify with the feeling of pain and have a need for it in your life. Saying that, we cannot avoid pain altogether such as when someone close to us dies. By remaining present you'll have the strength to accept this pain for what it is and move on from it when the time comes.
Takeaway #3 The Ego Stops You From Being Happy
People don't want to be miserable but so many are. Where does this self sabotaging behaviour come from? The ego is to blame. It's destructive and controls your thoughts and your behaviour often without you even noticing. It zaps your happiness because without misery it cannot survive. The ego is responsible for all the drama, all the times you've overreacted, and all the times you've picked a fight over something trivial. To leave your ego behind and become a happier person you must separate yourself from your mind, leaving the judgement behind and instead pay close attention to your body.
Takeaway #4 Stay Alert
If you're alert you're living in the present moment. Being alert is like being in a state where you're actively waiting. You're not off daydreaming or planning the future, and you're not reflecting on the past, you're just waiting for the here and now, ready for whatever comes up. You must listen to your body when you're actively waiting because it must be ready for anything – When you're ready for anything you're alert waiting and watching for that thing to happen so that you don't miss it.
In-Depth Lessons from The Power of Now
Lesson #1. Improve Your Life By Ignoring the Past and the Future and Focusing On The Present Instead.
If you’re seeking inner peace and an improved life, stop reminiscing or regretting things that have happened in the past and stop worrying, daydreaming, or planning for things that may never happen in the future. Instead, focus on the present moment - now. Not an hour from now, not 5 minutes ago but right now.
Only the present is important because things only happen in an uninterrupted stream of present moments - nothing ever takes place in the past or future.
Every time you feel something, you experience it in the present as your senses only give you information about what’s happening in this specific moment in time. When you say that something happened in the past, what you mean is that it happened in a single present moment for ‘the past’ is a collection of once-present moments that have passed. Similarly, ‘the future’ is made up of present moments that have yet to arrive.
This means, there are no advantages to dwelling on the past or worrying about the future however, there are many advantages to living in the now. If you can manage to do this, you won’t have any major problems in life, only small ones that you can easily deal with as and when they crop up.
Think about completing a challenging piece of written work for school or work, it can often feel too large and complicated so you spend hours worrying about it, putting it off, then regretting the time you’ve wasted putting it off! When you stay in the present moment, dealing with a task like this means solving one small achievable problem at a time such as researching, structuring, then writing the first paragraph, then the second and third until the task is completed.
Lesson #2. Most Of The Pain You Experience Is Created Because You Think You Need It To Survive.
When living in the present moment, you’ll still have moments where you experience physical or emotional suffering. Realize that the pain is just a self-created inner resistance to external things that you cannot change. Pain is felt when you feel unsatisfied with how things are yet you don’t feel powerful enough to change the situation.
Once you understand that living in the present moment means that there are many things you cannot change, you develop an inner resistance to the way things are and how you experience pain. It’s not just mental pain that’s self-created, we also have a part of us that feels the need for body pain in order to survive. Body pain is composed of your painful experiences and therefore grows and strengthens when you experience pain making you feel sad and miserable. This cycle continues for so long unknowingly that the pain becomes an essential part of you that you fully identify with so that if you were to let the pain go, it would mean re-evaluating your whole identity, something most people are too afraid to do.
Think about the pain of getting angry - something or someone annoys you or frustrates you and you feel the anger taking over, you cannot act or think rationally which leads to more pain. Although you might think that all your pain comes from the outside, for the most part, you’ve created it - the pain comes from within not from the external world. Don’t feel bad, when it’s self-created it means you can fix it.
Lesson #3. Your Ego Stops You From Being Happy
Nobody wants to be miserable so why do people sabotage themselves? It’s all down to your ego - that part of your mind that’s in control of your thoughts and behavior without you even realizing it.
It’s your ego that makes you overreact in the heat of the moment, leading you into conflict by influencing and controlling your thoughts and behavior and is what keeps people stuck in deeply painful and unhealthy relationships. A highly destructive part of your mind, your ego depends on your misery for its continued existence; that's right, your ego works its hardest to stop your happiness in its tracks and works against your best interests so that you become unhappy with your current situation.
Whenever you see drama you can be sure that two or more egos have come together be that at home or at the office - think about yourself or other people getting into a fiery debate over trivial things such as whose turn it is to clean the kitchen or who left the light switch on. This is all the work of the ego which knows no limits in its quest to be the most important part of you. Listen to it and you’ll suffer.
Lesson #4. Separate Yourself From Your Mind and Concentrate On Your Body If You Want a Richer, Less Painful Life
Because your mind is responsible for your pain, when you focus on your body rather than your mind, you diminish the power your mind has over you. Diminish your mind’s power over you and put your focus on your body. Your body knows what’s best for you and by listening to it, you can get a clear understanding of what’s important to you in life.
Don’t try to separate yourself from your body as enlightenment and peace is not about mind over matter, it’s about body over mind so treat your body like a temple - listen to it.
Lesson #5. Separate From Your Mind and Your Pain by Observing Your Thoughts Without Judgment
Your mind is the one thing that’s stopping you from truly living in the Now. To detach from this cycle you need to become fully conscious of your mind and the power it has over you so that you can begin to notice the subtle ways it influences your behavior, your thinking, and your happiness.
Pause a moment and ask yourself “What will my next thought be?”
By focusing fully on this question, you’ll notice that a clear thought doesn’t arrive immediately - Congratulations, you’ve just created a gap in your flow of thinking and discovered the primary tool for interrupting your thoughts thus, separating yourself from your mind.
When you create enough gaps in your flow of thinking, you’ll realize how often you’re normally occupied by a continuous flow of thought so keep interrupting your mind!
You can also observe your mind by not judging it. This means not listening to the little voice in your head that tells you when and why you shouldn’t do something you feel like doing i.e if you get the impulse to go for a run in the middle of the work day but your mind says no, you can’t do that - you’re at work! Listen to your body not your mind and go for that run as your body knows what it needs far better than your mind does but at the same time, don’t judge the voice that told you ‘no’ as right or wrong - just smile at it inwardly knowing that it exists inside of you, safe in the knowledge that you don’t have to follow its advice.
When you’re not judging you’ve separated from your mind but as soon as you judge something or someone it means you’ve gone back into your mind so practice noticing your inner voice and acknowledging it without the need to always follow it.
Lesson #6. Try To Stay In A State Of Alertness
Separating yourself from your mind takes time, practice, and patience so in the meantime, adopt the method of active waiting. In this state, all of your attention if focused on the now, much like it would be if you were aware of an important or serious event that was going to happen at any moment i.e a phone call telling you if a loved one made it through a difficult operation, waiting to be called into the dentist’s office (especially if you’re nervous), or waiting for an exam result due any second.
During this state, your body is ready for anything to occur and you pay close attention to your senses and your surroundings. There’s no time for the daydreaming or remembering that usually distracts us in life as the state of actively waiting requires you to be permanently alert so as not to miss the vital moment.
Lesson #7. Living In The Present Can Improve Your Relationship But Can Also Be Hard For Your Partner.
As you are no longer totally dependent on your mind, able to live in the present moment, your daily routine will change.
Your relationships may encounter problems as it’s very difficult for a non-present person to be with someone who is living fully in the present. Their ego, which feeds itself on problems and still controls them, will feel threatened by you, the partner who is now calm, peaceful, and present. This will cause the non-present person’s ego to create problems with them issuing insults, referring to past incidents, and disrupting the peace over trivial issues so that you, their partner, are pulled out of the present moment.
However, when done properly, living in the present can also improve relationships as you’ll be at peace, no longer judging your partner, criticizing them, or trying to change them instead, you see them as their own person.
To your non-present partner, it can seem like you’re a totally new person when you’re living in the present. And whilst it can test your relationship, it can also offer much positive change for the both of you.
Lesson #8. Being Present Does Not Mean Painful Feelings Will Vanish Entirely
Although most pain is self-created, some sad and painful feelings are unavoidable, even when you’re fully present in the moment, whether this is due to the death of a loved one or being around others who are still controlled by their ego. Don’t suppress or ignore the painful feelings when they arise, instead, accept them.
If someone close to you dies, it’s natural to mourn them and feel sad - let this happen, don’t feel ashamed or guilty about how you’re feeling. However, you also need to accept that this event has happened and that you cannot change it so that you don’t fall into the trap of needless suffering.
Lesson #9. Living In The Now Does Not Mean Living a Passive Life
Accepting the present is an inner feeling that gives insight and does not mean that you’re not mindful of or not willing to change the things that trouble you. If you find yourself lost in the woods, you don’t say to yourself ‘aha, I always wanted to be lost!’ Instead, you remain calm and find your way out.
Living in the now can provide you with new ways to solve problems and new forms of strength and determination making you much more effective as a person since you no longer waste your inner resources creating problems that aren’t there. In fact, you no longer see problems, just situations that you solve one by one.
Because you’re able to stay in the present, it’s easier for you to see what’s wrong at any given moment rather than getting lost in the past or future. By being in the now, you have the strength to change your life.
The Power of Now Chapters
Chapter One - You are not Your Mind
Chapter Two - Consciousness: The Way Out of Pain
Chapter Three - Moving Deeply into the Now
Chapter Four - Mind Strategies for Avoiding the Now
Chapter Five - The State of Presence
Chapter Six - The Inner Body
Chapter Seven - Portals into the Unmanifested
Chapter Eight - Enlightened Relationships
Chapter Nine - Beyond Happiness and Unhappiness There Is Peace
Chapter Ten - The Meaning of Surrender
Best Quotes from The Power of Now
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.”
“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.”
“I have lived with several Zen masters -- all of them cats.”
“Love is not selective, just as the light of the sun is not selective. It does not make one person special. It is not exclusive. Exclusivity is not the love of God but the "love" of ego. However, the intensity with which true love is felt can vary. There may be one person who reflects your love back to you more clearly and more intensely than others, and if that person feels the same toward you, it can be said that you are in a love relationship with him or her. The bond that connects you with that person is the same bond that connects you with the person sitting next to you on a bus, or with a bird, a tree, a flower. Only the degree of intensity with which it is felt differs.”
“Any action is often better than no action, especially if you have been stuck in an unhappy situation for a long time. If it is a mistake, at least you learn something, in which case it's no longer a mistake. If you remain stuck, you learn nothing.”
“All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry - all forms of fear - are caused by too much future, and of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.”
“It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living.”
“If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place. Primary reality is within; secondary reality without.”
“...the past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation, of fulfillment in whatever form. Both are illusions.”
“See if you can catch yourself complaining, in either speech or thought, about a situation you find yourself in, what other people do or say, your surroundings, your life situation, even the weather. To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.”
“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 the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love - even the most simple action.”
“If your mind carries a heavy burden of the past, you will experience more of the same. The past perpetuates itself through a lack of presence. The quality of your consciousness at this moment is what shapes the future.”
― Eckhart Tolle - The Power of Now
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Editor and Founder
Tal Gur is a location independent entrepreneur, author, and impact investor. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His most recent book and bestseller, The Art of Fully Living - 1 Man, 10 Years, 100 Life Goals Around the World, has set the stage for his new mission: elevating the next generation of leaders to their true potential.