Monday, April 19, 2010

The Power of THEN

I joined a new book group last night that will be reading and discussing Echart Tolle's best seller, "The Power of Now." I started this book once before and I disagreed with a lot of what it said. This is typical of me... I'm a huge devil's advocate. It's one of my communication faults that can be particularly annoying in group discussion. I've decided it might be better to discuss the things I take issue with out here on a blog. They say blogs are better when they're controversial anyway. I'll take a chapter a week and tell you what I liked and what I didn't like.

In the first chapter, "You Are Not in Your Mind," Tolle describes concepts such as enlightenment, the state of Being, freeing yourself from your mind, and explains emotions.

What I agreed with

I agreed with Tolle's description of consciousness; this ability to "observe the thinker."

"The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, that thought is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence."

I think being aware of our thoughts and letting go of fruitless negative thoughts is a skill that's worth learning. I also agree that we are much more than our thoughts. And that sometimes our thinking and analyzing takes us away from the present which should be relished. We need to learn to enjoy and savor what is happening in our world right now.

"The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly." I agree with this statement completely.

What I disagreed with

Though Tolle states "that the mind is a superb instrument if used rightly" he follows that up by telling us that our thinking is vastly negative and will bring us nothing but pain. Even our pleasurable thoughts he claims are simply the "short-lived pleasure side of the continually alternating pain/pleasure cycle."

One of the paragraphs I most disagree with is this:

"The very thing that gives you pleasure today will give you pain tomorrow, or it will leave you, so its absence will give you pain. And what is often referred to as love may be pleasurable and exciting for awhile, but its an addictive clinging, an extremely needy condition that can turn into the opposite at the flick of a switch."

I agree that we feel sad when we lose something that we once loved. We grieve that loss. Some people get angry. Those are painful emotions. I don't think the solution is to not think about the past. I think the solution is to know that the love and beautiful things we had in the past are still with us. In fact, we need to keep them with us. We need to look at our photos of past pleasures and know that those memories will be with us forever. No one can take those away. We need to know that those people that once were in our lives will always be in our lives for how they influenced us positively. We need to learn from our past and recognize what mistakes we may have made and figure out ways to grow.

I don't think the key to pain is to only live in the now and to let go of our past. I think the key is to understand ourselves and our thoughts -- both the negative ones and the positive ones. Don't let your mind dwell on regrets or worry or anger about things are out of your control. But don't cut your mind off from memories.

If someone you love dies, there is no denying that you will grieve and it is sad and painful. It is the hardest emotion ever. But should we no longer think of that person so that we don't have pain? Instead, I want to hold the most beautiful parts of them with me and pass those on to others. I want to remember the essence of that person...the traits I admired...and keep part of their spirit within me.

Let your memories serve to remind you of the love you have in your life. Even if it was in the past, keep it with you in the present.


arnie said...

Who you are goes much deeper than your thoughts. Living only in the world of thought and believing that our thoughts are who we are deprives us of discovering a deeper mind and who we truly are. We are not our thoughts. We do not need to agree or disagree or to maintain a point of view. As we begin to discover in the depth of silence who we truly are there is no longer a need to agree or disagree but a more pleasant state where we are free from the endless turnings of the thinking mind. Having read Eckhart for many years I would suggest you read it or preferably listen to it without agreeing or disagreeing. To just let it filter into your deeper consciousness and allow your true self to emerge and bring a deeper joy to your life. Our defending our point of view blocks a deeper love and consciousness from coming through. At least that is the way I see it. Enjoy your adventure with Eckhart. It can work magic if you let it.

Yvette said...

Yay! Thank you, Arnie, for leaving a comment! I really appreciate that!

First, let me say that my reply (and post) is meant in no way to disrespect you, Tolle, or anyone that believes in "The Power of Now."
I certainly believe there is a lot of truth to appreciating and living in the "now" and not allowing negative thinking to crowd our psyche.

Your suggestion to "listen without agreeing or disagreeing" seems to fit into the basic philosophy of "being"... but what fun is that! ;-)

Seriously, I think there are times when just "being" and not questioning or "thinking" is appropriate. However, we have great minds that should be used. Perhaps when we're waiting in a dentist office or doing a mundane task or exercise. At those times, I'd much rather let my mind wander and "think"...preferably positive and productive thoughts.

Similarly, I think there is a time to simply "listen" and a time to "analyze" (or agree / disagree). I'm choosing to use the blog as a time to do that analysis.

I know so many people think so highly of this book and it's philosophies... I just can't understand why they would agree that all our past thinking leads to pain. I think Tolle is half-way there in advising us not to allow negative thoughts creep in. But I so strongly disagree with his suggestion that all our past loves and happiness will only lead to painful thoughts. I get much comfort from happy thoughts of my past and would never want to give those up.

arnie said...

Hi Yvette,
It was fun chatting with you at the meeting. I felt no disrespect in what you said.I thought it was an honest blog of how you are responding. I don't believe in Eckhart Tolle, but I have discovered for myself great wealth in the teachings. It is not about belief but realization.
There is a lot of fun in being if you allow yourself to go deep enough. It is not denying fun to be present. As a matter of fact when we are not stuck in our head and our thoughts it is a lot more fun, and alot more passionate. It is ok occasionally to think of the joys we have had in the past. It is just to spend most of our life in the present and to feel the depth that the present has to offer. WE mostly live our lives in the world of thinking and that deprives us of a deeper more fulfilling life, touching a deeper consciousness than just a thought based consciousness. I agree it is important to question and not just accept what others say, but to also realize there are great limits in the thinking mind .It generates pain by projecting fearful situations and problems into the so called future, or, in our head thinking about the past. There is tremendous life right here in this moment that we are missing because we are stuck in our thoughts. Our senses come more alive when we are in the moment and not spinning around in our head. If you go to youtube and search " power of now" you can listen to the entire book for free. I would suggest listening to feel the depth of this man's consciousness. I feel it comes through more genuinely when you listen. It is free on youtube but you have to listen to it in 10 minute segments, following the links. If you give it a chance I know you will find great wealth in it. It is geared to bypass the thinking mind and go much deeper where great joy lives and fear is minimal.

Rob said...

I don't know if I can keep track of all the points here though I'll try to add a bit. I don't think Tolle's trying to say that our thoughts and thoughts of the past as Yvette discusses always lead to pain. I've found the problem is when we identify ourselves with those thoughts. They can be happy thoughts or sad thoughts of the past or extend into anticipation and angst about the future (very debilitating for many of us going through change). In either case, if we're not the observer in the present watching those thoughts, but are wrapped up in the story, then we are missing our current life. For myself, I had a momentous experience on a plane flight about a month ago, where I realized that I'm really not my memories or I don't need to identify with them. The memories are all still there, there's simply no "charge" in the "memory field" (sorry, I am an electrical engineer!). I'm now preparing for comments about becoming unemotional about tremendous events of the past ;-) , marriage, births, deaths, the perfect martini, etc. Well, it turns out if I approach the present with curiosity and acceptance, then it's got all the feeling and emotion I could ever ask for. In fact, since I've given up reviewing "fond memories", I've had so many amazing and vivid experiences that it's hard to keep track.

So, this brings up a problem and particularly for discussing in text. I don't find this practice to be easy to explain or relate or even think about. I simply find that it works for me and is akin to a rebirth. It took ripping apart many old habits and thought patterns. I'm convinced all the losses I've gone through set the stage for that. The main vehicle for me was not Tolle, but meditation/mindfulness/Buddhism. Again, the basic concepts seem pretty straightforward, though putting them into practice and working through the details when the rubber hits the road is very tough.

Do I want to keep using my mind and think? Absolutely! It's amazing at analyzing, comparing, weighing risks, learning lessons from experience. Do I want to question the things I learn? Yes, indeed. Are these things me? Not in my new experience. They are a subset of a much larger Being. That Being is getting easier to tap into and it provides inherent joy, compassion, acceptance and equanimity. Connection to others and to this life is innate in that Being and what more could I want than that?

I'd hope this helped a little. I agree with Arnie to give it a chance and see what adventure arises.