July 20, 2013

Putting the Present to Practice

Now that the dust has settled after reading Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now, I thought I’d do a little follow-up post.  It is only natural for inspiration to wane after time, for us to forget the lessons we learned and to revert to old habits, but for whatever reason, this book has continued to improve my approach and my perspective on life.  Here are a few of the big takeaways that continue to have moved me:


 “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.” – Eckhart Tolle

I used to worry about time a lot, especially with things like life and mortality, the past and future, by anticipating and worrying about imagined future events that were completely beyond my control.  This was exhausting.  I thought that I needed to worry about the future, as if that would help prevent the things I worried about (death, catastrophic events, awkward social interactions) from happening.  It was only until I read this book that I realized that this kind of incessant worrying is completely counterproductive and unnecessary. 

Now I try not to focus on mind time, to worry less about things that are out of my control, and to not think too much about the future.  This is not to say that I don’t consider chronological time, which involves putting events on my calendar and requires some modicum of planning, but the obsession, the worry, the anxiety about the kinds of things that are completely beyond my control has been reduced drastically.  And I have to say, I feel a huge weight lifted off me.  Life really is so much more enjoyable this way, the way that it should be. 

 Worry pretends to be useful but serves no actual purpose.” – Eckhart Tolle

Overthinking is another issue I've always grappled with.  I am an INFJ, a Pisces, and an English major, meaning that I have all the personality traits of an overthinker.  All I did in college and grad school was read books, analyze them, and then write about them.  I used to think that being an overthinker was a good thing.  It was only when I realized that it’s actually being that is the key to enlightenment -- the opposite of thinking -- a light bulb went off.  Just the other day I was reading an interview with Singer Janelle Monae who said that “[R&B singer] Erykah Badu once told me, ‘Stay out of your mind.’  Whenever I’m anxious about something, I remember those words to anchor myself and not overthink the moment.”  It's comforting to know that some of my favorite artists struggle with this too.
Thinking too much zaps our energy stores (leaving less for things like creativity!), when all we have is the now, this very moment.  If we’re in our heads the whole time we’re missing out on experiencing the richness of our lives right in front of us.  Though I might be inherently prone to overthinking, I’ve learned that when I step outside my head and actually think less I’m a much happier and more content person.
Acceptance and Surrender
         “Sometimes surrender means giving up trying.” – Eckhart Tolle

So much of my life has been focused on striving, improving, and becoming that I often fail to realize that it’s okay to just accept where I’m at and be for a bit.  The cliché really is true: you have to just stop and smell those roses from time to time.  While lots of things can be achieved by being so future focused, it's easy to lose sight of basking in the glow of life as it is now.  Accepting and surrendering, that is, just letting go to whatever state you're in and not resisting where your world is at the moment, is a completely new concept for me, but it is incredibly freeing and invigorating.

Friday night I came home after work and dinner with a friend and was exhausted from a long week, so instead of resisting the urge to do nothing, I accepted it and surrendered to where I was.  I stripped out of my work clothes in the kitchen (don't judge:  you know how hot it's been!) and laid down on the floor and watched the sunset.  It sounds strange, but it was my own way of accepting and surrendering in the moment, and it was perfect.

"If you are present, the painbody cannot feed anymore on your personal thoughts, or on other people's reactions." - Eckhart Tolle

Eckhart Tolle writes about this thing called the “Painbody,” which he describes as the “emotional aspect of egoic consciousness.”  (This article explains it really well.)   Painbody can be likened to an addiction to unhappiness.  While I am not fundamentally a negative person, the concept has made me more aware of how easy it is to grasp onto the negative, to latch onto thoughts that fuel negativity and dysfunction in relationships.  While we don’t like feeling pain, we are also somehow drawn to it, kind of like masochism.  By realizing the kind of actions that fuel the painbody, I have been working on my awareness of it within me, which has made me conscious of when it tries to rear its ugly head. 


PamRD said...

Wonderful lessons, Sarah - thanks for sharing your perspective, which is wonderful to read after living a very busy week of worrying, planning, and trying to fit everything in to what little downtime we have!

Sarah Woehler Michaud said...

Thank you, Pam! I'm glad you enjoyed it. It can be a struggle to maintain the perfect balance when life gets crazy. I hope the coming weeks aren't as busy as this past one was. :-)