Photograph by Chanel Irvine
The Power of Now
Genre: Psychology and Spirituality
Author: Eckhart Tolle
First published in 1999
The Power of Now. As well as being a most-appealing catchphrase, it is also the name of the most-insightful psychology and spirituality book; the subtitle “A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment” says it all.
In summarising the core principle of Tolle’s work, the book appears simplistic, straightforward and rather intuitive – the principle being that the only thing that is ever real is this moment, right now. But therein lies the book’s brilliance: It is simplistic, straightforward and rather intuitive, and yet it is a principle that we clearly still need to be taught and reminded of daily. As a result, our much-referred-to ‘past’ and ‘future’ are rendered only psychological manifestations of the mind. Essentially, the book endeavours to expose the dangers of the mind, to help us to observe and understand the way we think, and ultimately allow us to change it. The method is consciousness: Being present. Simplistic. Straightforward. Intuitive.
“Most humans are never fully present in the now, because unconsciously they believe that the next moment must be more important than this one. But then you miss your whole life, which is never not now. And that’s a revelation for some people: to realise that your life is only ever now.” – Eckhart Tolle
Personally, I’ve always believed in the power of the mind and the ability to think my way out of a problem. I never considered the idea that my ‘thinking’ itself was the biggest problem of all; a lifelong and species-wide habit that actually and actively inhibits our personal development and satisfaction. This book had been recommended to me countless times over the years – most often by my grandfather, who has read it six times (and counting) – but no one had been able to explain exactly why they were recommending it. I was told: “Just read it.” So in November 2016, when I was more-than-slightly fed up with my over-thinking tendencies, I did.
I absolutely loved how relevant and practical the book was, I kept feeling like it was written specifically for me and all of my petty, and apparently non-existent, problems – ones that are almost always concerned with pain from the past or fear of the future. And yet, Tolle demonstrates that those very times do not exist, and, therefore, that the majority of my ‘problems’ – the time-related problems that no-doubt mirror those of my fellow humans – do not either. As the blurb of the book itself reveals: “In the Now, the present moment, problems do not exist. In the Now, we discover that we are already complete and perfect.”
I understand that many people may be put off by the repetitive and often over-intuitive style of Tolle’s writing, as I would often catch myself thinking: “Have I already read this paragraph?” or “Surely this is idea is too basic to have an entire chapter dedicated to it.” And yet, each time my scepticism was proved weightless. The ideas need to be repeated; there is no other way to enforce their significance and inspire their daily practice and application. And the simple intuition behind his ideas are what make them so universal and necessary. They are simple to understand and thus easy to apply, for everyone.
This book far exceeded any of my expectations, and now I understand that “just read it” wasn’t a cop-out but simply accurate. I used to joke about over-thinking, passing it off as tedious but acceptable. This book has taught me how I can actively and easily simplify my thoughts, and life, instead. This book has made me feel lighter, unburdened by things that used to overwhelm me to the point of tears.
Reading time: It took me approximately five months to read, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it any other way. Tolle even provides “pause” marks within chapters, even after only a paragraph or two, as the reading can be quite dense and often it requires time to properly process and practice the ideas. Reading a few pages per day can be more than enough, attempting to rush through the book won’t speed up its benefits. After all, you can’t expect to change the way you’ve been thinking all these years in only a matter of weeks.
Best suited to: Every human being. If I had more money than the average ‘poor uni student’, I would buy everyone I know a copy of this book. But because I don’t, I think it should be given to each and every person at birth, ready and waiting for them once they have learnt to read.
Rating: 10/10. Just read it.