May 27, 2013

The Power of Now: Who knew being present could feel so good?

I’m reticent to say a particular book has changed my life to avoid sounding overly dramatic and impressionable, but let’s just be honest here: The Power of Now blew my effing mind away. 

I have read other books that have transformed my thinking:  The War of Art, The Power of Habit, The Secret, and The Four Agreements.  And while I don’t want to discount their value, particularly since they all likewise had lasting impressions on me, The Power of Now took things to the next level for me.

With a Buddhist bent, though with no particular religious affiliation, the book deals with such themes as time (past, present, future), the true self, peace vs. pleasure, and consciousness vs. unconsciousness.  As someone who often grapples with worrying and sometimes anxiety, particularly about the unknown future, Eckhart Tolle’s words spoke to me in an extremely profound way, in a way that I’ve never heard them before – or perhaps have been open to hearing them before.  “You can always cope with the Now, but you can never cope with the future – nor do you have to.  The answer, the strength, the right action or the resource will be there when you need it, before, not after,” Tolle writes. 
While I pride myself on being a pretty good communicator (I thank my Moms for that one), I find myself in my head a lot – thinking, processing, analyzing.  (Maybe it's my INFJ/Piscean combination, who knows.)  Only until reading Pema Chodron’s teachings and then reading this book, did I realize how counterproductive that is, how unnecessary that constant thinking, processing, and analyzing actually IS to making good decisions and attaining the best, most meaningful life possible, which is what we're all striving toward, right?  While Pema Chodron’s words in her beautiful simplicity made complete sense to me, I wasn’t quite sure how to DO it, how to even begin stepping outside my mind.  Tolle put it this way:   

You are cut off from Being as long as your mind takes up all your attention.  When this happens – and it happens continuously for most people – you are not in your body. . . .  To become conscious of Being, you need to reclaim consciousness from the mind. . . . It will free vast amounts of consciousness that previously have been trapped in useless and compulsive thinking.  A very effective way of doing this is simply to take the focus of your attention away from thinking and direct it into the body, where Being can be felt in the first instance as the invisible energy field that gives life to what you perceive as the physical body. 

Since reading this one little paragraph have I been able to reduce my overthinking, by focusing what is going on at the given moment.  Here I am typing on this keyboard/sipping my tea/my legs are extended and crossed at my ankles/a cold draft is hitting my calves.  In other words, I am in the complete present – not feeling bad about some stupid comment I made to a coworker the other day, not regretting the ice cream I had last night, not worrying about making sure I work out today.  I am completely and utterly in the present, because that’s all there is – not the past, not the future, but the present. 

Even in our present lives, though, there are circumstances or situations that make us unhappy or dissatisfied.  These may be where we live, our jobs, friendships or relationships, certain addictive behaviors, and even our daily routines.  Tolle suggests that “[w]herever you are, be there totally”, but “[i]f you find you’re here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally.”  Being in the present is the knowing you have the power to change the situation and that the situation does not have power over you.   That is such a freeing concept to me:  the idea that we are as much in control of our life situation as we are our life destiny.

There’s so much more, but as with everything it's much better experienced firsthand.  Just read the book, and if you're as taken by it as I was, they even have The Power of Now Inspiration Cards!  (Totally worth it, in my humble opinion.)  I may not have it all figured out, but so long as I have the tools I’m at least partway there, right?  That's what I tell myself anyway.


Brandon said...

Great post! However, it seems that you have confused Eckhart Tolle with J.R.R. Tolkien.

Sarah Woehler Michaud said...

OMG, you're right! It's fixed now. Thanks for pointing that out!

Mindfulness meditation and de-stress said...

The power of now is certainly meaningful. It is an asset to live in the moment without retracing the past or projecting the mind into the future. We can all learn to become more present if we are more mindful online or offline. Mindfulness teaches us a way out of compulsive thinking about time through meditation and awareness.

De-stress not distress said...

There is only now. The future and past do not really exist. They are simply abstracts. Only the now moment is for real. We need to learn this if we are to reduce stress in life. Particularly with all those electronic gadgets. The more we can detach and do this - the better our mental health potentially becomes. That is the meaning of having a mindful lunch.