There is a strange phenomenon going on in modern publishing. Most books get fewer readers than a decent-sized blog. They are forced to linger in near-obscurity, aside from a vocal and passionate niche audience. Other books, like The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, become monster hits, read by millions of people, and discussed repeatedly on national television. I try to remain mindful of this enormous chasm between “bestseller” and “everyone else”, and this is why I go out of my way to feature lesser-known books as often as I can. This also helps explain why you can find so many “Tolle haters” out there. A quick Google search will reveal many who claim the same points have already been made (they have) by better authors (this is true) in better books (this is also true). That said, it seems to me we have been rehashing the same handful of “original” ideas since Gutenberg’s marvelous invention all those years ago (you know- that marvelous printing press — which the Chinese invented over a thousand years before that).
This is to say: find me an original idea- I double-dog dare you.
Another reason Tolle gets a lot of hate is because he has become a prophet in the Church of Oprah, along with a host of other woo-mongers. This guilt-by-association notwithstanding, it certainly explains why just about everyone you meet has already read (or at least heard about) this book. I’ll let ABC news try to explain:
So what can we learn from Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now? People love to judge each other based on the books they read (or don’t read). And I learned a few things from the inside of the book too:
1. You are more than yourself
In some of my previous articles I’ve already discussed the power of mindfulness, however, as we delve deeper into the philosophy of psudeo-Buddhism, I am slowly coming to realize that I have created one hell of an ideological paradox for myself. Consider this: “3 Things” was originally conceived and created as a “self improvement” blog. I have selected books based on the assumption that they can help me to improve myself. I read these books, then write an article (in the first person) all about what I have learned, and how it applies to my life.
The word I’m looking for? Egomania.
So the paradox is this: most of the spiritual “touchy feely” books are offering the same general advice- get over yourself. Meanwhile, the other books I’m reading are about how to build an awesome beach body, become an effective leader and achieve financial independence. I suppose the end-game is obvious: Arnold Schwarzenegger (circa 1990) sipping Mai Tais on the beach, sitting on a pile of money, deep in meditation, somehow having transcended beyond the desire to acknowledge how great he is.
This is something I’ve been struggling with, something addressed at length by Tolle. I find myself caught between conflicting world views. When I find myself squatting a pile of weight, it seems obvious to me that I am the person wholly responsible for this action. When I find myself at work, cooperating and getting the job done, I can’t help but acknowledge I am just a tiny piece in a larger machine. When deep in meditation, it sometimes feels like I don’t even exist at all.
You are more than the sum of your parts. And beyond this ego, and this inner desire, there is strength and confidence and a divine light and power. Or so I’m told.
2. Stop searching for that which you already have
In keeping with the theme of paradoxes, here’s another annoying contradiction I’m dealing with: the desire for more. A common theme in many of these self-improvement books, something discussed thoroughly in The Power of Now, is the idea of searching beyond yourself for that which you already have. However, the main goal behind my recent “self improvement” kick has been to bring myself to the “next level”.
I want to grow my business. I want to grow my biceps. I want to grow my leadership skills. I want to take all that I already have, and push for even more. Meanwhile, Tolle and his Buddhist cronies have already promised me that this is the path to self-destruction. We have another paradox.
The key here is to find balance between the legitimate and worthy goal of bettering ourselves, with the necessity of self-satisfaction. Mindless greed and self-loathing will only feed the great American disease, however, I don’t believe Tolle’s “enlightened worldview” should be used as an excuse to sit on your butt all day either.
As you can tell, I’m still a tad conflicted on this one.
3. Nothing exists beyond the now
Spending our life in the past is futile. Despite the best intentions of Marty McFly and Doc Brown, the past is gone, and there is no way to change that which has already happened. Likewise, the future is, at best, a wild speculation. None of us really knows what the future is going to look like, and I’m starting to think those hover-boards were simply special effects.
The only thing we have any power over is now- right now. Right now I am writing this article. Sure, I have future goals and dreams, but unless I work on this article, right now, that future I’m dreaming of will remain only a dream. Promising yourself you’ll start working out next week isn’t going to help you get stronger. Starting a diet tomorrow isn’t going to help you lose weight. Telling yourself that someday you’ll launch that business you’ve been thinking about isn’t going to result in financial independence. The solution? Now.
Offering yourself excuses and self-pity for the tragedies of your past is also lame and self-defeating. These past tragedies, as terrible as they might be, cannot be altered- not even through the power of 80′s pop culture. And remember: your excuses, no matter how well crafted, are designed to prevent yourself from growing. Let’s say you are able to convince yourself that you really can’t accomplish a given task. What have you accomplished here, aside from shooting yourself in the foot?
Everything we are, and everything we might be, is the manifestation of our free will.
Our free will is the manifestation of choice.
Choice is the manifestation of now.
Want to read the book? Want to support your friends at 3 Things I Learned? You can do both at once when you order “The Power of Now” via Amazon.com. Got no money for books? Get it at your local library instead.
Looking for more books on spirituality? Check out “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” by Donald Miller or “Buddhism Without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening” by Stephen Batchelor. This article included references to Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Carrey, Oprah, the great american disease and hopefully that will impress the nice folks at Google.
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