Power of Now – Summary of Chapter 10

This entry marks the end of our study of Ekhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.  He returns to the central them of surrender…

Chapter 10 – The Meaning of Surrender

  • Acceptance of the Now
    • Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life.”
    • Surrender is not the same thing as resignation.  One can surrender to the reality of a situation and still take steps to create a different path.
    • If you find your life situation unsatisfactory or even intolerable, it is only by surrendering first that you can break the unconscious resistance pattern that perpetuates that situation.”
    • Tolle uses the term surrendered action” to describe the process of letting go of judgement while seeking change.
    • The concept of “motivation” is very important in psychology.  Tolle challenges the assumption that acceptance will lead to a lack of motivation.  He observes that we can experience a more effective motivation when we surrender (wme: This is what I would call the difference between motivation via anxiety and motivation via vision).
  • From Mind Energy to Spiritual Energy
    • Letting go of resistance begins with acknowledging the resistance.
    • Be present to resistance as it arises, and notice how Mind seeks to label and judge it.
    • As we acknowledge resistance we become freer to choose our actions rather being reactive.
    • Resistance is weakness and fear masquerading as strength. What the ego sees as weakness is your Being in its purity, innocence, and power. What it sees as strength is weakness.”  ( 1 Corinthians 1:27  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.)
  • Surrender in Personal Relationships
    • It is true that only an unconscious person will try to use or manipulate others, but it is equally true that only an unconscious person can be used and manipulated. If you resist or fight unconscious behavior in others, you become unconscious yourself. But surrender doesn’t mean that you allow yourself to be used by unconscious people. Not at all. It is perfectly possible to say “no” firmly and clearly to a person or to walk away from a situation and be in a state of complete inner nonresistance at the same time.
    • Surrender facilitates meaningful action.  There are times when action is helpful, even called for.  However, when we are acting from a place of surrender, we are not judging or fighting, we are simply acting in response to our values.
    • The ego believes that in your resistance lies your strength, whereas in truth resistance cuts you off from Being, the only place of true power. Resistance is weakness and fear masquerading as strength. What the ego sees as weakness is your Being in its purity, innocence, and power.
  • Transforming Illness into Enlightenment
    • Illness is an unavoidable aspect of life.  It gains power over us to the degree that we allow it to define us in terms of past and future.
    • When we surrender to illness as a part of our reality in the Now, illness can become a part of our enlightenment.
    • Illness is not the problem. You are the problem—as long as the egoic mind is in control. When you are ill or disabled, do not feel that you have failed in some way, do not feel guilty. Do not blame life for treating you unfairly, but do not blame yourself either. All that is resistance. If you have a major illness, use it for enlightenment. Anything “bad” that happens in your life—use it for enlightenment. Withdraw time from the illness. Do not give it any past or future. Let it force you into intense present-moment awareness—and see what happens.
  • When Disaster Strikes
    • For a majority of people, some sort of disaster, or “limit-situation,” is required to break through the hard shell of the ego. (wme: Two paths toward transformation – suffering and intention.)
    • When disaster strikes, the path towards peace requires surrender.
  • Transforming Suffering into Peace
    • The practice of surrender begins with mindful surrender to each moment – saying “yes” to both what is and what isn’t.
    • If we miss that moment of surrender, then we generate suffering through resistance.  This becomes the second opportunity.  We can choose to be present to the suffering without resistance or judgement.
    • Forget about surrender for a moment. When your pain is deep, all talk of surrender will probably seem futile and meaningless anyway. When your pain is deep, you will likely have a strong urge to escape from it rather than surrender to it. You don’t want to feel what you feel. What could be more normal? But there is no escape, no way out. There are many pseudo escapes—work, drink, drugs, anger, projection, suppression, and so on—but they don’t free you from the pain.
    • When there is no way out, there is still always a way through. So don’t turn away from the pain. Face it. Feel it fully. Feel it—don’t think about it! Express it if necessary, but don’t create a script in your mind around it. Give all your attention to the feeling, not to the person, event, or situation that seems to have caused it. Don’t let the mind use the pain to create a victim identity for yourself out of it. Feeling sorry for yourself and telling others your story will keep you stuck in suffering. Since it is impossible to get away from the feeling, the only possibility of change is to move into it; otherwise, nothing will shift.
    • At this point, surrender is happening.
  • The Way of the Cross
    • Tolle asserts that the common understanding of the Way of Cross is misguided.  He says that it is not the suffering that is redemptive, but that suffering creates the opportunity for surrender.
    • The way of the cross is a complete reversal. It means that the worst thing in your life, your cross, turns into the best thing that ever happened to you, by forcing you into surrender, into “death,” forcing you to become as nothing, to become as God—because God, too, is no-thing.
    • At this time, as far as the unconscious majority of humans is concerned, the way of the cross is still the only way. They will only awaken through further suffering, and enlightenment as a collective phenomenon will be predictably preceded by vast upheavals.
  • The Power to Choose
    • Tolle notes that we commonly misuse the word “choose,” as in someone chooses a dysfunctional relational.  He insists that choice requires consciousness, and that our impulse towards suffering is due to a lack of consciousness… to an identification with mind.
    • Choice begins the moment you disidentify from the mind and its conditioned patterns, the moment you become present. Until you reach that point, you are unconscious, spiritually speaking. This means that you are compelled to think, feel, and act in certain ways according to the conditioning of your mind. That is why Jesus said: “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.
    • Nobody chooses dysfunction, conflict, pain. Nobody chooses insanity. They happen because there is not enough presence in you to dissolve the past, not enough light to dispel the darkness. You are not fully here. You have not quite woken up yet. In the meantime, the conditioned mind is running your life.
    • Tolle closes this book with the following exchange with the interviewer:
      • When you surrender to what is and so become fully present, the past ceases to have any power. You do not need it anymore. Presence is the key. The Now is the key.
      • How will I know when I have surrendered?
      • When you no longer need to ask the question.

Power of Now – Summary of Chapter 9

A consistent theme in all great spiritual traditions is the struggle the human has brain with accepting that there might be something better than happiness….

Chapter 9 – Beyond Happiness and Unhappiness there is Peace

  • The Higher Good Beyond Good and Bad
    • Accepting things as they are is a first step in experiencing peace.
    • Move beyond the dualism of good and bad, and assume that every circumstance, even the painful ones, can move us toward peace.
    • It seems that most people need to experience a great deal of suffering before they will relinquish resistance and accept—before they will forgive. As soon as they do, one of the greatest miracles happens: the awakening of Being-consciousness through what appears as evil, the transmutation of suffering into inner peace.
  • The End of Your Life Drama
    • Most “bad” things in life are created by the ego’s need for control.
    • We can create drama when we battle with other egos, and we can create drama on our own, battling with our own ego.
    • When you live in complete acceptance of what is, that is the end of all drama in your life. Nobody can even have an argument with you, no matter how hard he or she tries.
    • WME – For the conscious person, competing points of view are simply information.
    • Most people are in love with their particular life drama. Their story is their identity. The ego runs their life. They have their whole sense of self invested in it. Even their—usually unsuccessful—search for an answer, a solution, or for healing becomes part of it. What they fear and resist most is the end of their drama. As long as they are their mind, what they fear and resist most is their own awakening. When you live in complete acceptance of what is, that is the end of all drama in your life. Nobody can even have an argument with you, no matter how hard he or she tries. You cannot have an argument with a fully conscious person. An argument implies identification with your mind and a mental position, as well as resistance and reaction to the other person’s position. The result is that the polar opposites become mutually energized. These are the mechanics of unconsciousness. You can still make your point clearly and firmly, but there will be no reactive force behind it, no defense or attack. So it won’t turn into drama. When you are fully conscious, you cease to be in conflict. “No one who is at one with himself can even conceive of conflict,” states A Course in Miracles. This refers not only to conflict with other people but more fundamentally to conflict within you, which ceases when there is no longer any clash between the demands and expectations of your mind and what is.
  • Impermanence and the Cycle of Life
    • Although physical pain can be a reality, all suffering is created by the ego’s resistance to accepting things as they are.
    • There are cycles of up and down in all of life.  It is the ego that defines such things as good and bad.
    • The down cycle is absolutely essential for spiritual realization. You must have failed deeply on some level or experienced some deep loss or pain to be drawn to the spiritual dimension. Or perhaps your very success became empty and meaningless and so turned out to be failure. Failure lies concealed in every success, and success in every failure. In this world, which is to say on the level of form, everybody “fails” sooner or later, of course, and every achievement eventually comes to naught. All forms are impermanent.
    • All the great spiritual traditions speak to the importance of not becoming attached to the cycles of life, and of defining the goodness or badness of life in terms of these cycles.
    • When we begin to move with the cycles of life, we find an “ease” to life.
    • The happiness that is derived from some secondary source is never very deep. It is only a pale reflection of the joy of Being, the vibrant peace that you find within as you enter the state of nonresistance. Being takes you beyond the polar opposites of the mind and frees you from dependency on form. Even if everything were to collapse and crumble all around you, you would still feel a deep inner core of peace. You may not be happy, but you will be at peace.
  • Using and Relinquishing Negativity
    • The ego uses negativity to try and manipulate reality.
    • Tolle says that humans are the only life form on earth that knows negativity, and we use it to pollute our environment.
    • When we sense negativity arising, we can choose to be present and “wake up,” and let go of the mind games.
    • Tolle encourages us to be mindful of the little irritations that crop up in life.  He notes that when we examine these irritations we will discover they are manufactured by the mind, and serve no useful purpose (I would say that some if not many irritations are indeed useful.  They might point to important information about something that needs tending.  For instance, that irritating sound I hear when I drive my car might be signaling a problem with the car that can be repaired.)
    • When you begin to accept what is, then every moment becomes the best possible moment.
  • The Nature of Compassion
    • Some believe that detachment can lead to disconnection from others.  Tolle insists that the opposite is true.  When we are free of expectations, then we become free to move towards others with genuine compassion.
    • True compassion goes beyond empathy or sympathy. It does not happen until sadness merges with joy, the joy of Being beyond form, the joy of eternal life.
  • Toward a Different Order of Reality
    • This is a difficult section to summarize.  Tolle acknowledges that there is deep suffering in the world.  For example, there are large numbers of people who are starving.  He recognizes that it is valuable to address these practical issues, but insists that we will never make headway unless we recognize that the core issue is the general state of unconsciousness  He refers to several spiritual teachers who refer to the salvation of reality as some form of universal consciousness.

Power of Now – Summary of Chapter 8

Chapter 8 – Enlightened Relationships

A great deal of the suffering we inflict upon ourselves involves relationships.  Our culture constantly bombards us with the message that we are entitled to great relationships (especially romantic ones), and that we can never be happy without them.  It’s no surprise, then, that Tolle pushes us to consider how we allow relationships to pull us away from Now, and toward ruminating over the past and the future.

  • Enter the Now from Wherever You Are
    • People think of relationships as one of those future experiences that will “save” them – especially romantic relationships.
    • “True salvation” is a state of freedom from a sense of insufficiency and fear.  Tolle reminds us that there is nothing we can achieve or experience that will get us closer to this freedom than we already are.
  • Love/Hate Relationships
    • “Unless and until you access the consciousness frequency of presence, all relationships, and particularly intimate relationships, are deeply flawed and ultimately dysfunctional.”
    • Tolle observes that the mind creates a love/hate cycle with all relationships.  This cycle creates a sense of drama, and aliveness, that can become addictive (wme: We come to despise those whom we’ve assumed would heal us.).
    • Tolle asserts that this cycle has nothing to do with “True Love,” which arises from beyond the mind.
    • Romantic love is actually much more like addiction. (Rohr: Addiction is misplaced spiritual energy.)
  • Addiction and the Search for Wholeness
    • “The reason why the romantic love relationship is such an intense and universally sought-after experience is that it seems to offer liberation from a deep-seated state of fear, need, lack, and incompleteness that is part of the human condition in its unredeemed and unenlightened state.”
    • Tolle expresses a perspective in sync with marriage therapists: We are drawn to a person based on our wounds, and are ultimately disillusioned by the other’s failure to heal those wounds.
    • “Every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain. Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain. Whatever the substance you are addicted to—alcohol, food, legal or illegal drugs, or a person—you are using something or somebody to cover up your pain. That is why, after the initial euphoria has passed, there is so much unhappiness, so much pain in intimate relationships. They do not cause pain and unhappiness. They bring out the pain and unhappiness that is already in you. Every addiction does that. Every addiction reaches a point where it does not work for you anymore, and then you feel the pain more intensely than ever.”
    • One of the more sinister lies the Mind can accept is that our spiritual path depends on another person.
    • However, there can be great power in a couple agreeing that the relationship will be a part of their spiritual practice.
  • From Addictive to Enlightened Relationships
    • Relationships activate the pain-body when we are disillusioned.
    • To “heal” we must dis-identify with Mind and connect with Now.
  • Relationships as Spiritual Practice
    • “If you stop investing it with “selfness,” the mind loses its compulsive quality, which basically is the compulsion to judge, and so to resist what is, which creates conflict, drama, and new pain. In fact, the moment that judgment stops through acceptance of what is, you are free of the mind. You have made room for love, for joy, for peace. First you stop judging yourself; then you stop judging your partner. The greatest catalyst for change in a relationship is complete acceptance of your partner as he or she is, without needing to judge or change them in any way.”
    • “If your partner is still identified with the mind and the pain-body while you are already free, this will represent a major challenge—not to you but to your partner. It is not easy to live with an enlightened person, or rather it is so easy that the ego finds it extremely threatening. Remember that the ego needs problems, conflict, and “enemies” to strengthen the sense of separateness on which its identity depends. The unenlightened partner’s mind will be deeply frustrated because its fixed positions are not resisted, which means they will become shaky and weak, and there is even the “danger” that they may collapse altogether, resulting in loss of self. The pain-body is demanding feedback and not getting it. The need for argument, drama, and conflict is not being met. But beware: Some people who are unresponsive, withdrawn, insensitive, or cut off from their feelings may think and try to convince others that they are enlightened, or at least that there is “nothing wrong” with them and everything wrong with their partner. Men tend to do that more than women.”
  • Why Women are Closer to Enlightenment
    • Tolle echos Rohr’s contention that women are naturally closer to enlightenment than men because they naturally live closer to their bodies.
    • “As a general rule, the major obstacle for men tends to be the thinking mind, and the major obstacle for women the pain-body, although in certain individual cases the opposite may be true, and in others the two factors may be equal.”
  • Dissolving the Collective Female Pain-Body
    • Tolle asserts that the female pain-body has a collective element due to the subjugation of women across time.  This is another element of human history that Rohr insists place women further down the spiritual path than men.
    • Tolle invites women to consider the degree to which they have identified with their pain-body.  He says that the degree to which she is identified will reflect the degree to which she resists letting go of the pain.
    • “So do not use the pain-body to give you an identity. Use it for enlightenment instead. Transmute it into consciousness. One of the best times for this is during menses.” (Have you read The Red Tent ?)
  • Give Up the Relationship with Yourself
    • Being does not contain the elements of male and female.  Therefore, when we are able to connect with Being in the Now, we develop the capacity to rise above the need for the opposite sex to fulfill us.  Being contains all we need.
    • “If you cannot be at ease with yourself when you are alone, you will seek a relationship to cover up your unease. You can be sure that the unease will then reappear in some other form within the relationship, and you will probably hold your partner responsible for it.”

Power of Now – Summary of Chapter 7

Chapter 7 – Portals into the Unmanifested

In this chapter Tolle invites us to consider different ways of connecting to the “unmanifested” presence of the Now that we carry with us at all times.  He notes that there are times with this energy can break through unexpectedly, but there are also ways for us to nurture these portals.  After the last class I had conversations with a couple of people who’d discovered a portal of their own.

One person is a woman who’s children are grown, and who has suffered tremendous loss and heartache.  However, one day she was asked to keep a two-year-old boy for a friend.  She told me that being with this little boy… pulling out children’s books that had been packed a way… finding her kids old toys… had opened her up to a kind of simplicity and purity she had not felt for years.

The other person is a retired man who has taken up the art of crafting violins.  He recently completed his first instrument, and listening to him describing the focus and joy that filled him in this work allowed me to experience a taste of this portal with him.

Tolle points us in the direction of these experiences, but if you have discovered a portal he doesn’t mention, please pass it on!

Here’s an outline of Chapter 7, Portals into the Unmanifested

  • Going Deeply Into the Body
    • Tolle recommends we practice being present to inner energy for 10-15 minutes at a time.
    • He encourages us to move past the awareness of body to the an awareness of energy.
  • The Source of Chi
    • Tolle offers an explanation of Chi as the flow of energy from the Unmanifested to manifested form.
    • He says that as we develop the discipline to take attention away from the external world and experience the inner energy, we open the flow of Chi.
  • Dreamless Sleep
    • Tolle asserts that we enter the Unmanifested during sleep, but that it is not liberating until we enter it consciously.
  • Other Portals
    • Conscious awareness of the Now is the main portal.
    • Cessation of thinking is another portal.
    • Surrender – letting go of resistance to what is – is a portal.
  • Silence
    • Tolle identifies silence as a particularly important portal since all of our manifested experience is shaped by the interplay of sound and silence.
    • He recommends that we pay particular attention to the silence between sound.
  • Space
    • Tolle also asserts that space is similar to silence since space is the emptiness among the atoms of form.
    • We can “study” that which is manifested.  We can only be present to space.
    • You cannot think and be aware of space—or of silence, for that matter. By becoming aware of the empty space around you, you simultaneously become aware of the space of no-mind, of pure consciousness: the Unmanifested. This is how the contemplation of space can become a portal for you.
  • The True Nature of Space and Time
    • Tolle offers thoughts on the nature of space and time.
    • Hence, the ultimate purpose of the world lies not within the world but in transcendence of the world. Just as you would not be conscious of space if there were no objects in space, the world is needed for the Unmanifested to be realized. You may have heard the Buddhist saying: “If there were no illusion, there would be no enlightenment.” It is through the world and ultimately through you that the Unmanifested knows itself. You are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold. That is how important you are.
  • Conscious Death
    • Apart from dreamless sleep, which I mentioned already, there is one other involuntary portal. It opens up briefly at the time of physical death. Even if you have missed all the other opportunities for spiritual realization during your lifetime, one last portal will open up for you immediately after the body has died.
    • I’m reminded of Rohr’s contention that all people make peace with death.  Unfortunately many only do so a few seconds before they die.  The younger we are when we make peace with death, the more years of rich living we have.

Our study of Chapter 8, Enlightened Relationships, coming up on October 27, should be particular interesting.  Tolle will be inviting us to consider how the power of Now can shape, or reshape, our relationships with the people to whom we are closest.  You can register for the class here: Power of Now Study.

Power of Now – Summary of Chapter 6

May all that is Sacred within you, encourage you to let go, and forgive.  May you grasp the Grace that is all around you, not so you let others or yourself off the hook, but so that you may take another step towards the freedom that awaits you.

Here’s a summary of my opening thoughts on the this chapter, and an experience I led the group through

  • Tolle’s greatest contributions are his simple observations (i.e., Over-identification with mind invites suffering).  As with many gifted observers, he also has a need to explain why things are the way they are.  This is where he begins to walk into the trap that he has so wisely warned us of.  I understand this, but I find myself wanting him to show more awareness of it… Perhaps he does, but I’ve missed it.
  • Body is our closest connection to animal life.
    • Animals live instinctively and reactively
    • The more we befriend our bodies, the more we are able to live intentionally
    • Virtually all religions have some strain that is very anti-body.
      • The body is seen as dangerous and in need of severe control.
      • The tool of choice is repression, rather than transformation.
  • Tolle underlines the importance of present attention to Body
    • I would add the important ingredient of curiosity
  • My guess is that those who overcome addictive impulses most successfully are those who are willing to be curious about sabotaging behavior.
    • If you have impulses that are clearly self-destructive, plain old willpower and accountability are important.
    • However, a person who never gets around the curiosity angle, and listens to Body, is not likely to get too far down the transformation road.
  • This evening I want to invite you to explore what Tolle presents as a key body issue, forgiveness, in three stages.
    • First, we will engage an 8 minute relaxation exercise from TolleTV.
    • Second, we will reflect on a key paragraph in Chapter 6.
    • Third, I will lead a meditative exercise related to forgiveness
      • If I ask you to forgive someone in your past or present, who comes to mind?
        • Imagine this person.
        • Be aware of your feelings… Mad, Sad, Glad, Afraid
        • What would it cost you to forgive?
        • How might it serve you to forgive?
      • If I ask you to forgive yourself, what situation or issue comes to mind?
        • How do you finish this sentence, “It is time for me to forgive myself for…”
        • Be aware of your feelings… Mad, Sad, Glad, Afraid
        • What would it cost you to forgive yourself?
        • How might it serve you to forgive yourself?
      • Closing affirmation: May all that is Sacred within you, encourage you to let go, and forgive.  May you grasp the Grace that is all around you, not so you let others or yourself off the hook, but so that you may take another step towards the freedom that awaits you.

Section by section summary of Chapter 6.

  • Being is Your Deepest Self
    • The physical body can be a point of connection with Being.
    • Connection with the body can help us overcome the “sin” of self-inflicted suffering.
  • Look Beyond the Words
    • Tolle acknowledges how mind can over-react to words like “sin,” and invites the reader to look beyond the word symbol to the reality under-girding the symbol.
  • Finding Your Invisible and Indestructible Reality
    • Mind can overtake virtually all awareness.
    • One way of moving past Mind is to simply attend to the body.
  • Connecting with the Inner Body
    • Tolle invites the reader to stop for a few moments and pay attention to the sensations present in the body.
  • Transformation Through the Body
    • Our bodies are our closest connection to animal life.  Human bodies serve exactly the same functions for us as animal bodies serve for animals.
    • Tolle surmises that our need to see ourselves as different from animals led to a theology of body denial.
    • Tolle says, “The fact is that no one has ever become enlightened through denying or fighting the body or through an out-of-body experience.” (He would certainly get arguments on this point.)
    • He key point, though, is “Transformation is through the body, not away from it”
  • Sermon on the Body
    • “Do not fight against the body, for in doing so you are fighting against your own reality. You are your body. The body that you can see and touch is only a thin illusory veil. Underneath it lies the invisible inner body, the doorway into Being, into Life Unmanifested. Through the inner body, you are inseparably connected to this unmanifested One Life—birthless, deathless, eternally present. Through the inner body, you are forever one with God.”
  • Have Deep Roots Within
    • Tolle encourages us to develop and maintain body awareness.
    • Tolle recommends we use moments of waiting (i.e., standing in line) to practice body awareness.  These are moments in which the mind typically offers irritation and impatience.
  • Before You Enter the Body, Forgive
    • Tolle seems to be saying that the body offer us clues regarding grievances we are carrying. So, he turns to some discussion of forgiveness.
    • Forgiveness is to relinquish your grievance and so to let go of grief. It happens naturally once you realize that your grievance serves no purpose except to strengthen a false sense of self. Forgiveness is to offer no resistance to life—to allow life to live through you. The alternatives are pain and suffering, a greatly restricted flow of life energy, and in many cases physical disease.  The moment you truly forgive, you have reclaimed your power from the mind. Non-forgiveness is the very nature of the mind, just as the mind-made false self, the ego, cannot survive without strife and conflict. The mind cannot forgive. Only you can. You become present, you enter your body, you feel the vibrant peace and stillness that emanate from Being. That is why Jesus said: Before you enter the temple, forgive.
    • Tolle is equating temple with body.
  • Your Link with the Unmanifested
    • Tolle gets a bit more esoteric in this section.
    • He says that the Unmanifested is the same as Being.
  • Slowing Down the Aging Process
    • Tolle says that the inner body does not age, and that our connection with it will slow down the physical aging process.
  • Strengthening the Immune System
    • Tolle sides with many approaches to holistic approaches in asserting that the lower stress that a connection to Being brings can strengthen the immune system.
  • Let Breath Take You into the Body
    • Tolle affirms the benefits of conscious breathing.
  • Creative Use of Mind
    • Connection with Being via the body enhances creativity.
  • The Art of Listening
    • Listening to Body elevates the capacity to listen to others.

Power of Now – Summary of Chapter 5

Well, I just realized I did not post a summary from Chapter 5, so this post will be immediately followed by the post for Chapter 6

Chapter 5 – The State of Presence

Tolle is moving more and more toward philosophical and psychological underpinnings for his perspective.  He says that the wider the time gap between perception and thought, the more depth there is to you as a human being, which is to say the more conscious you are.  I would add a third element: reaction.  In immature persons, there is virtually no time gag from perception, thought, and reaction.  As we mature, we create more space in this cycle.

  • Immature
    • Perception: That person just cut me off in traffic.
    • Thought: The person is an idiot.
    • Reaction: I offer him the universal hand signal of ill will.
  • Mature
    • Perception: That person cut me off in traffic
    • Thought: Driving can be stressful and unpredictable.  I wonder how often I cut people off when I’m not paying attention.
    • Reaction: A quick prayer for all my fellow travelers, and gratitude for the patience I seem to be developing.

Here’s a section by section summary of Chapter 5

  • It’s Not What You Think it Is
    • You cannot “think” your way to presence.
    • Presence in anchored in body awareness.
  • The Esoteric Meaning of “Waiting”
    • Waiting, in the sense that Jesus described, is not about focusing on some future situation that you expect, or hope, will unfold.
    • Waiting, in the Now sense, is being fully present to each moment.
    • Tolle asserts that Jesus’s parable’s about waiting were NOT about the end of historical time, but rather about the end of psychological time.
  • Beauty Arises in the Stillness of Your Presence
    • Satori is the Zen word that refers to those flashes of Presence which are not in themselves transformative, but provide a flash of insight regarding the experience of Presence.
    • Satori moments are flashes of “no mind.”
    • The wider the time gap between perception and thought, the more depth there is to you as a human being, which is to say the more conscious you are.
    • A mind dominated culture produces ugliness.
  • Realizing Pure Consciousness
    • Tolle offers his philosophy of Being and consciousness.
    • Being is the eternal home of “God,” and is our home as well.
    • Consciousness seems to naturally create “forms” which create the world.
    • We become attached to these forms, and lose awareness of the Being behind them (Plato’s Cave?)
    • When we are able to then reconnect to Being, the “world” ends.
  • Christ: The Reality of Your Divine Presence
    • Tolle asserts that “Christ” is synonymous with “Presence.”
    • To connect with Christ is to connect with Presence.
    • The “second coming” of Christ is a transformation of human consciousness, a shift from time to presence, from thinking to pure consciousness, not the arrival of some man or woman.

The Power of Now – Chapter 4 – Mind Strategies for Avoiding the Now

Chapter 4 – Mind Strategies for Avoiding the Now

Loss of Now: The Core Delusion

  • In some rare cases, this shift in consciousness happens dramatically and radically, once and for all.  When it does, it usually come about through total surrender in the midst of intense suffering.  Most people, however, have to work at it.
  • See Trails, Snakes and Cabins
  • Knowing you are not present is a great success because this knowing is a form of presence.

Ordinary Unconsciousness and Deep Unconsciousness

  • [Ordinary unconsciousness] is most people’s normal state.  In that state, you are run by the egoic mind, and you are unaware of Being.  It is a state not acute pain or unhappiness but of an almost continuous low level of unease, discontent, boredom, or nervousness — a kind of background static.
  • We use “idols” (wme’s word) to distract ourselves from this background noise.
  • The pain of deep unconsciousness appears when things go wrong, and the ego cannot not manage the pain through it’s typical idolatries.
  • In ordinary unconsciousness, habitual resistance to or denial of what is creates the unease and discontent that most people accept as normal living.
  • The best indicator of your level of consciousness is how you deal with life’s challenges when they come.
    • Do you become more intensely conscious, or
    • Do you ramp up your avoidance strategies?
  • It is essentially that we bring more consciousness to everyday life so that we can be prepared to deal with the challenges (Eades: Its what we do when we feel good that determines how we handle life when we feel rotten.)

What are they Seeking?

  • We are all caught up in a collective resistance to the Now.
  • We do not know what we are seeking collectively or individually.

Dissolving Ordinary Unconsciousness

  • The first step in dissolving ordinary unconsciousness is to make it conscious.
  • Monitor the state of your Being.

Freedom from Unhappiness

  • Consider why you do things that generate unhappiness.
    • ACT theory suggests that we choose to do some “unhappy” things because they reflect our values, and this is positive because it adds meaning to life.
    • However, if we are caught up in unhappy choices mindlessly, then we begin to experience ourselves as victims.
    • Either stop doing what you are doing, speak to the person concerned and express fully what you feel, or drop the negativity that your mind has created around the situation and that serves no purpose whatsoever except to strengthen a false sense of self.
    • Are you polluting the world or cleaning up the mess?
    • Are you defending your right to be unconscious, your right to suffer?  Don’t worry: Nobody is going to take that away from you.  Once you realize that a certain kind of food makes you sick, would you carry on eating that food and keep asserting that it is okay to be sick?

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.
  • Stress is caused by being “here” but wanting to be “there,” or being present but wanting to be in the future.  It’s a split that tears you apart inside.
  • 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.
  • A few mind strategies that disrupt the Now
    • I’m worried about the future.
    • One day I’ll make it.
    • I need to wait for something to happen.
    • I must work to improve my life.
    • What I have is not good enough.

The Inner Purpose of Your Life’s Journey

  • [The] inner purpose concerns a deepening of your Being in the vertical dimension of the timeless Now.
  • Eades: The world’s great religious traditions say this is characterized by sacrificial love.

The Past Cannot Survive in Your Presence

  • Tolle believes it is a mistake to pursue the unconscious past.
  • The unconscious past is a bottomless pit.
  • Attention to Now will reveal as much of the past as is helpful and relevant.
  • It is not necessary to make sense of the past to live fully in the now.

Meeting 3 – Chapter 3 – Moving Deeply into the Now

Thanks again to the group for providing stimulating conversation.  We focused on one particular idea that came from this chapter:

We are obessessed with the past because we believe it defines us.
We are obsessed with the future because we believe it will redeem us.
Both are illusions.

Core Points

  1. Distinguish between psychological time and clock time.
  2. Psychological time is obsessed with memory and anticipation.
  3. Clock time makes use of past and future in order to make the best use of Now.

Chapter Summary

  1. Don’t seek yourself in the mind.
    1. The ego’s needs are endless.
    2. My thoughts
      1. Once the ego’s basic need for security is met.
      2. It then turns it’s attention obsessions with belonging, love, and power.
  2. End the delusion of time.
    1. Stop living through memory and anticipation.
    2. “[The] past gives you an identity, and the future holds the promise of salvation.”
  3. Nothing exists outside the Now.
  4. The Key to the spiritual dimension.
    1. Emergencies, or other intense situations, focus most people on Now.
  5. Accessing the power of Now
    1. Withdraw energy from past and future whenever you become away that they have no practical value in the moment.
    2. Develop your “witnessing presence” (Authentic Self).
    3. Identification with the mind gives it energy.  Observation of the mind withdraws energy.
  6. Letting go of psychological time (by using “clock time”)
    1. If you recall a mistake from the past and correct yourself in the present, you are using “clock time.”
    2. If you recall a mistake and become caught up in shame or fear, you have lost the Now.
  7. The insanity of psychological time.
    1. Many political movements have used violence to move toward some perceived, ideal end.
    2. I would say we use great violence on ourselves in order to achieve such ends (judgement versus curiosity).
  8. Negativity and suffering have their roots in time.
    1. “Usually the future is a replication of the past…. real transformation is rare and depends upon [your ability] to dissolve the past by accessing the power of the Now.”
    2. “All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and a denial of the present”
    3. You cannot achieve presence to Now because you are already there.
  9. Finding the life underneath your life situation.
    1. Your life situation is the result of all that has happened to you.
    2. Your life is occurring at this moment.
    3. Again, the discipline needed is mindfulness.
  10. All problems are illusions of the mind.
    1. You cannot have a problem in the now.  Problems are all mind made.
    2. the Now (Authentic Self) always receives the moment as information.  (A fireman does this naturally…)
    3. In a true emergency, time stops.
  11. A quantum leap in the evolution of consciousness.
    1. Tolle believes there is a creation-wide evolution of consciousness occurring.
  12. The joy of Being.
    1. Living in the Now is characterized by joy, ease, and lightness.
    2. Be present to the current action rather than the goal of the action.
    3. In the Now, you can pursue goals with the illusionary burden of expectation.
    4. “Being free of psychological time, you no longer pursue your goals with grim determination, driven by fear, anger, discontent, or the need to become someone.”
    5. “When this is your state of Being, how can you not succeed?  You have succeeded already.”

Power of Now – Class 2 Summary

Thanks to all who attended this challenging discussion.  We experienced together how difficult it can be for the mind (small self) to wrap itself around the possibility that we create much more of our pain than is necessary.


Meeting 2 – Chapter 2: Consciousness: The Way Out of Pain

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout
Would not take the garbage out!
She’d scour the pots and scrape the pans,
Candy the yams and spice the hams,
And though her daddy would scream and shout,
She simply would not take the garbage out.
And so it piled up to the ceilings:
Coffee grounds, potato peelings,
Brown bananas, rotten peas,
Chunks of sour cottage cheese.
It filled the can, it covered the floor,
It cracked the window and blocked the door
With bacon rinds and chicken bones,
Drippy ends of ice cream cones,
Prune pits, peach pits, orange peel,
Gloppy glumps of cold oatmeal,
Pizza crusts and withered greens,
Soggy beans and tangerines,
Crusts of black burned buttered toast,
Gristly bits of beefy roasts. . .
The garbage rolled on down the hall,
It raised the roof, it broke the wall. . .
Greasy napkins, cookie crumbs,
Globs of gooey bubble gum,
Cellophane from green baloney,
Rubbery blubbery macaroni,
Peanut butter, caked and dry,
Curdled milk and crusts of pie,
Moldy melons, dried-up mustard,
Eggshells mixed with lemon custard,
Cold french fried and rancid meat,
Yellow lumps of Cream of Wheat.
At last the garbage reached so high
That it finally touched the sky.
And all the neighbors moved away,
And none of her friends would come to play.
And finally Sarah Cynthia Stout said,
“OK, I’ll take the garbage out!”
But then, of course, it was too late. . .
The garbage reached across the state,
From New York to the Golden Gate.
And there, in the garbage she did hate,
Poor Sarah met an awful fate,
That I cannot now relate
Because the hour is much too late.
But children, remember Sarah Stout
And always take the garbage out!
Shel Silverstein, 1974

Review of Chapter One: You are not your Mind

Main points

  • If you buy in to your mind’s perception of reality, then you are doomed.
  • Behind the chattering mind lies pure consciousness.
  • You have the ability to put your mind in to neutral, and allow pure consciousness to emerge.
  • Emotion, which is a product of the mind, adds to the fog which obscures consciousness.

Chapter Two

  • Core idea: You can eliminate pain by remaining conscious of the Now.
  • Main points
    • You can let go of past emotional pain.
    • The physical body carries memories of pain which the mind (ss) identifies with.
    • The ss believes that you ARE your pain, so if you let go of your pain, you’ll no longer exist.
    • Instinct fear and psychological fear are not the same.
    • The ss does not trust the wholeness of the AS, so it continually draws us towards victimhood.

Deeper Points

  • Create No More Pain in the Present
    • Emotional pain that we feel is the result of the mind not being Present.
      • Past: guilt, regret, bitterness
      • Future: stress and anxiety
    • My comment: He comes close to suggesting that the AS does not experience pain
      • I’m curious about what he would say about grief and “righteous anger”
      • Still is still a distraction from his main point, that the Now is infected by the past and present.
  • Past Pain: Dissolving the Pain-Body
    • Our bodies, which includes our brains, carry the memory of pain.
    • The degree to which that pain continues to shape us is determined by how we choose to be present to the Now.
    • Developing awareness with the ss pain-body
      • Watch the emotions in your body.
      • Feel them.
      • Don’t label or judge what you feel.
      • Allow the emotions to be there.
  • Ego Identification with the Pain-Body
    • The ss, or ego, believes that you are your pain.
    • The ss wants you to identify pain with Self
      • I am a victim of abuse.
      • I grew up in an abusive home.
  • The Origin of Fear
    • Instinctive fear and psychological fear
      • Instinctive fear, which is real fear, is a response to an actual threat.
      • Psychological fear is fear of things that may happen in the future.
      • (I would add that spiritual fear is anxiety over non-being)
    • Stress and anxiety are psychological fears.
    • Mindfulness of emotion helps a person let go of anxiety.
  • The Ego’s Search for Wholeness
    • the ss struggles to acknowledge the wholeness of the AS
    • the ss says, “I can’t be okay until…”
    • the AS says, “I am becoming more whole.”

Task: Becoming a Witness

  • “Sustained conscious attention severs the link between the pain-body and your thought processes and brings about the process of transmutation.”
  • Tolle notes that being the presence of a highly conscious person also fosters this process.
  • fostering conversation between your ss and your AS
  • developing curiosity rather than judgment.

Power of Now – Class 1 Summary

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Introduction to the Enneagram,  Thursday, April 21,  5:30 to 7:00.  If you would like to attend, please email me at wmeades@gmail.com Cost will be $10 if we can get at least 20 people who want to attend.

Power of Now – Class 1 Summary

Thanks so much to all of you who came to our first meeting last Thursday evening (3/31).  Here’s a summary of what we covered, along with some suggestions for other resources.   Please post your comments, questions, and suggestions below.

Tolle begins his book by asking us to own a single core concept: “You are not your mind.” Or, to put it another way, “You are not your thoughts.”

Tolle then makes 4 sub-points

  • If you buy in to your mind’s perception of reality, then you are doomed.
  • Behind the chattering mind lies pure consciousness.
  • You have the ability to put your mind in to neutral, and allow pure consciousness to emerge.
  • Emotion, which is a product of the mind, adds to the fog which obscures consciousness.

My comments on this were:

  • These are statements of faith, not statements of fact.
  • My definition of faith is simply Living as if something is true even though it cannot be proven true.
  • Tolle’s assertions, though unprovable, are well grounded in the world’s great spiritual traditions.
  • Just like with any faith system, it will only be meaningful if you can make two commitments:
    • I will live as if these things are true.
    • I will practice the disciplines that have been effective in helping others incarnate this faith.

I then asked the question: Why is this so hard to live in to?

  • To paraphrase E.O. Wilson, The brain is a machine designed for survival, not for understanding.
    • Your brain defines a good day according to one simple question, “Am I still alive?”
    • Your brain has a very crude warning system to supposedly help you achieve this goal of staying alive: Anxiety
  • Our friends, the neuroscientists, have helped us understand how our brains develop and function.
  • The tripartite brain
    • reptilian – the most primitive part of the brain, most associated with survival.
    • limbic – the source of emotion and attachment.
    • neocortex – the source of rational thought.
      • Tolle is making the point that the neocortex, our greatest tool as human beings, ends up being our greatest challenge.
      • I suggest that this is due to the ways in which we experience and respond to anxiety.

How do we Start?

  • Your first responsibility is to become acquainted with your small self mind chatter, through mindfulness
  • One of the first chatterings I’d like you to pay attention to is critical judgment.
    • Immature people are judgmental… Mature people are curious
  • Your second responsibility is to become more familiar with the nature of your small self chatter.
    • Everyone’s chatter is unique, yet there seem to be universal patterns of chatter.
    • The Enneagram is a helpful tool for understanding the nature of your anxiety and how it is likely to be expressed in your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

I explained my use of the terms small self and Authentic Self.  These terms were coined by Burt Burleson, and correspond to Tolle’s description of the chattering mind versus the centered connection to Being.  I recommend that you read The Authentic Self for a fuller understanding of Burt’s concepts.

I also would like to recommend the following books for those who would like to read ideas very similar to Tolle’s but within a more distinctly religious context:

Next class currently scheduled for 4/28.