“The single most vital step on your journey toward enlightenment is this: learn to dis-identify from your mind.” ~Eckhart Tolle
For as long as I can remember I have been perusing the self-help/improvement section of the library and book stores to add to my wealth of knowledge about enlightenment and the human condition. One of the most popular books in this nook of the store is The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. I read it years ago, but for some reason I was called to it again. Moreover, with school back in session, my morning and evening commutes from work have extended about 5-10 minutes, leaving me plenty of time to soak in Eckhart’s teachings.
I have been moved by this book once again and have already found myself in several life situations that enabled me to use The Power of Now teachings to bring more peace into my life and raise my level of consciousness in understanding how the mind doesn’t always serve to help us.
My first takeaway from this book is the power of not resisting anything. Your mind is interpreting your current situation continually, assessing if it’s what you want and judging it to be bad or good. As an example, there have been many times I have sat on North 71 driving home, staring up at the electronic time board to tell me how long it is to the next highway, only to find that is was going to be 10 minutes more than I originally thought. Without stopping to consider that I have no control over this, I easily get ticked off and endlessly wonder why we didn’t choose to live closer to downtown. The anger can sometimes overtake me and make an overall pleasant day seem completely terrible.
Lesson learned from Tolle: “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.”
Moreover, I have learned to stop my mind from judging the current circumstances and have instead fully accepted them and made every effort to enjoy my drive and learn. Hence, listening to this wonderful book and letting go of all the stress of a long day. I choose to cruise down the highway, frequently in the slower lane because I don’t want to play the lane swap game and can turn my mind off more while I easily drive behind the person in front of me.
My Second takeaway is to be more aware of the joy of simply living. This is a journey I have been navigating toward, but the teachings of this book have brought it to light more profoundly. What I have learned is that typically your present moment is rather neutral; you’re eating, typing an email or talking with your spouse—the normal stuff. Yet, you’re thinking about how maddening a coworker is, how excited you are to move into your dream home, what you should pack for a trip etc. When you are always in the future or in the past, you can’t truly feel what you are experiencing. The importance of enjoying a shower, savoring a little piece of dessert, hugging your spouse, taking a walk is all meant to bring us joy. However, when we look at life as simply a checklist of activities, means to ends, we cannot derive joy from them.
Often at work I find myself going through the motions to get to the end of a project or the day. Answer these emails, talk to this person, make this power point presentation, etc. Last week I took the time to give all of these activities more presence and heart than I have in a long time. In a conversation with a coworker, I really listened and took in all of her body language and words. I was able to bring out the crux of what she really wanted to discuss much more quickly than normal, with employees I serve. She wrote me a note following our conversation about how much she appreciated just being heard and that she hadn’t ever had someone from HR sit with her for that long to just get to know her. It was an awesome feeling, instead of going through the motions we both took time to invest in a relationship and experience.
My third takeaway from the book regards relationships. Tolle gets very deep into this subject matter, sharing how much we as a species have to learn about ourselves through relationships.
He states that “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. That immediately takes you beyond ego.”
As I have been on the journey of a long term relationship coming upon eighteen years, I can truly say that this is one of the most important lessons in great relationships. Until you are willing to let go of what you believe “perfection” is and what you think someone should be doing, you will never experience love as it was meant to fulfill the human spirit.
In the end, this book’s message is: “the single most vital step on your journey toward enlightenment is this: learn to dis-identify from your mind.” What Tolle is trying to warn us all of is to not let the incessant chatter in your mind take advantage of you. You are not your thoughts, past, judgments or future state, you are an essence that is connected to what is happening right NOW. All you can change and experience in the NOW. We all know this in our hearts, but what will we do right NOW to release ourselves from the bondage of our relentless mind and ego?