The Power of Now - Chapter 2
Consciousness: The Way Out of Pain
Question: Nobody's life is entirely free of pain and sorrow. Isn't it a question of learning to live with them rather than trying to avoid them?
Eckhart Tolle: The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life. The pain you create now is always some form of non-acceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. On the level of thought, resistance is some form of judgment. On the emotional level, it is some form of negativity. The intensity of the pain depends upon the degree of resistance to the present moment and this in turn depends on how strongly you are identified with your mind. The mind always seeks to deny the now and escape from it. In other words, the more you are identified with your mind, the more you suffer. Or you may put it like this. The more you are able to honor and accept the now, the more you are free of pain of suffering, and free of the egoic mind. Why does the mind habitually deny or resist the now? Because it cannot function and remain in control without time which is past and future. So it perceives the time as now as threatening. Time and mind are in fact inseparable. Imagine the earth devoid of human life, inhabited only by plants and animals. Would it still have a past and future? Could we still speak of time in any meaningful way? The question what time is it or what's the day today if anybody were there to ask it would be quite meaningless. The oak tree or the eagle would be bemused by such a question. What time they would ask? Well, of course, it's now. The time is now. What else is there? Yes, we need the mind as well as time to function in this world but there come's a point when they take over our lives and this is where dysfunction, pain and sorrow set in. The mind, to ensure it remains in control seeks continuously to cover the present moment with past and future. And so as the vitality and infinite creative potential of being which is insepable from the now becomes covered up by time, your true nature becomes obscured by the mind. An increasingly heavy burden of time has been accumulating in the human mind. All individuals are suffering under this burden. But they also keep adding to it every moment whenever they ignore or deny that precious moment or reduce it to a means to getting to some future moment which only exists in the mind, nowhere in actuality. The accumulation of time in the collective and individual human mind also holds a vast amount of residual pain from the past. If you no longer want to create pain for yourself and others. If you no longer want to add to the residue of past pain that still lives on in you, then don't create any more time. Or at least no more than is necessary to deal with the practical aspect of your life. How to stop creating time? Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the now the primary focus of your life. Whereas before you dwelled in time and paid brief visits to the now, have your dwelling place in the now and pay brief visits to past and future when required to deal with the practical aspects of your life situation. Always say yes to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane than to create inner resistance to something that already is? What could be more insane than to opppose life itself which is now and always now. Surrender to what is. Say yes to life and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.
Question: The present moment is sometimes unacceptable, unpleasant or awful.
Eckhart Tolle: It is as it is. Observe how the mind labels it and how this labeling process is continuously sitting in judgment, creates pain and unhappiness. By watching the mechanics of the mind, you step out of its resistance patterns and you can then allow the present moment to be. This will give you a taste of the state of inner freedom from external conditions. The state of true inner peace. Then see what happens and take action if necessary or possible. Accept and act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.
As long as you are unable to access the power of the now, every emotional pain that you experience leaves behind a residue of pain that lives on in you. It merges with the pain from the past which was already there and becomes lodged in your mind and body. This of course includes the pain you suffered as a child caused by the unconsciousness of the world into which you were born. This accumulated pain is a negative energy field that occupies your body and your mind. If you look on it as an invisible entity in its own right, you are getting quite close to the truth. It's the emotional pain body. It has two modes of being: dormant and active. The pain body may be dormant 90 percent of the time. In a deeply unhappy person though it may be active up to 100 percent of the time. Some people live almost entirely through their pain body while others may experience it only in certain situatons such as intimate relationships or situations linked with past lost or abandonment, physical or emotional hurt and so on. Anything can trigger it, particularly if it resonates with a pain pattern from your past. When it is ready to awaken from its dormant stage, even a thought or an innocent remark made by someone close to you can activate it. Some pain bodies are obnoxious but relatively harmless. For example, like a child who won't stop whining. Others are vicious and destructive monsters, true demons. Some are physically violent. Many more are emotionally violent. Some will attack people around you or close to you while others may attack you their host. Thoughts and feelings you have about your life then become deeply negative and self-destructive. Illnesses and accidents are often created in this way. Some pain bodies drive their hosts to suicide. When you thought you knew a person and then you are suddenly confronted with this alien nasty creature for the first time, you are in for quite a shock. However, it's more important to observe it in yourself than in someone else. Watch out for any sign of unhappiness in yourself in whatever form. It may be the awakening pain body. This can take the form of of irritation, impatience, a somber mood. A desire to hurt, anger, rage, depression. A need to have some drama in your relationship and so on. Catch it the moment it awakens from its dormant state. The pain body wants to survive just like every other entity in existence. It can only survive if it gets you to unconsciously identify with it. It can then rise up, take you over, become you and live through you. It needs to get its food through you. It will feed on any experience that resonates with its own kind of energy. Anything that creates further pain in whatever form, anger, destructiveness, hate, greed, emotional drama, violence and even illness. So the pain body when it has taken you over will create a situation in your life that will reflects back its own energy frequency for it to feed on. Pain can only feed on pain. Pain cannot feed on joy. It finds it quite indigiestible. Once the pain body has taken you over, you want more pain. You become a victim or perpetrator. You want to inflict pain or you want to suffer pain or both. There really isn't much difference between the two. You're not conscious of this of course and you vehemently claim that you do not want the pain. But look closely and you will find that your thinking and behaviour are designed to keep the pain going for yourself and others. If you were truly conscious of it, the pattern would dissolve. For to want more pain is insanity and nobody is consciously insane. The pain body which is a dark shadow cast by the ego is actually afraid of the light of your consciousness. It is afraid of being found out. It's survival depends upon your unconscious identification with it as well as on your unconscious fear of facing the pain that lives in you. But if you don't face it, if you don't bring the light of your consciousness into the pain, you will be forced to relive it again and again. The pain body may seem to you like a dangerous monster that you cannot bear to look at but I assure you that it is an insubstantial phantom that cannot prevail against the power of your presence. Some spiritual teachings state that all pain is ultimately an illusion and this is true. The question is is it true for you. The mere belief doesn't make it true. Do you want to experience pain for the rest of your life and keep saying that it is an illusion. Does that free you from the pain? What we are concerned with here is how you can realize this truth that is make it real in your own experience. So the pain body doesn't want you to observe it directly and see it for what it is. The moment you observe it, feel its energy field within you and take your attention into it, the identification is broken. A higher dimension of consciousness has come in. I call it presence. You are now the witness or the watcher of the pain body. This means that it cannot use you anymore by pretending to be you. And it can no longer replenish itself through you. You have found your own innermost strength. You have accessed the power of now.
Question: What happens to the pain body when we become conscious enough to break our identification with it?
Eckhart Tolle: Unconsciousness creates it. Consciuosness transmutes it into itself. Saint Paul expresses this universal principle beautifully. He said everything is shown up by being exposed to the light and whatever is exposed to the light itself becomes light. Just as you cannot fight the darkness, you cannot fight the pain body. Trying to do so would create inner conflict and thus further pain. Watching it is enough. Watching it implies accepting it as part of what is at that moment. The pain body consists of trapped life energy that has split off from yout total energy field and has temporarily become autonomous through the unnatural process of mind identification. It has turned in on itself and has become mind identified with anti-life like an animal trying to devour its own tail. Why do you think our civilization has become so life destructive? But even the life destructive forces are still life energy. When you start to disidentify and become the watcher, the pain body will continue to operate for a while and try to trick you into identifying with it again. Although you are no longer energizing it through identification, it has a certain momentum, like a spinning wheel that will keep turning for a while even when it is no longer being propelled, and this stage it may also create physical aches and pains at different parts of the body, but it won't last. Stay present. Stay conscious. Be the ever alert guardian of your inner space. You need to be present enough to be able to watch the pain body directly and feel its energy. You then cannot control your thinking. The moment your thinking is aligned with the energy of the pain body, you are identified with it and again feeding it with your thoughts. For example, if anger is the predominant energy vibration of the pain body, and you think angry thoughts, dwelling on what you think someone did to you, or what you are going to do to him or her, then you have become unconscious and the pain body has become you. Where there is anger, there is always pain underneath. Or when a dark mood comes over you, and you start getting into a negative mind pattern on thinking how dreadful your life is, your thinking has become aligned with the pain body and you have become unconscious and vulnerable to the pain body's attack. Unconscious, the way I use it here, means to be identified with some mental or emotional pattern. It implies the complete absence of the watcher. Sustained conscious attention severs the link between the pain body and your thought processes and brings about the process of transmutation. It is as if the pain becomes fuel for the flame of your consciousness which then burns more brightly as a result. This is the esoteric meaning of the ancient art of alchemy which is the transmutation of base metal into gold. Of suffering into consciousness. The split within is healed and you become whole again. Your responsibility then is not to create further pain. Let me summarize the process. Focus attention on the feeling inside you. Know it is the pain body. Accept that it is there. Don't think about it. Don't let the feeling turn into thinking. Don't judge or analyze. Don't make an identity for yourself out of it. Stay present and continue to be the observer of what is happening inside you. Become aware not only of emotional pain but also of one who observes, the silent watcher. This is the power of the now, the power of your own conscious presence. Then see what happens.
16:38 (part 2)
For many women, the pain body awakens particularly at the time preceding the menstrual flow. I would talk about this and the details preceding it a little bit further later. Right now, let me first say this. If you are able to stay present at that time and watch how you feel within rather than being taken over by it, it affords an opportunity to for the most powerful spiritual practice and the rapid transmutation of all past pain becomes possible. The process I have just described is profoundly powerful yet simple. It could be taught to a child. And hopefully one day it will be one of the first things children learn in school. Once you've understood the basic principle of being present as the watcher of what happens inside you, and you understand it by experiencing it, you have at your disposal the most potent mode of transformational tool. This is not to deny that you may encounter intense inner resistance to disidentifying with your pain. This will be the case particularly if you have lived closely identified with your emotional pain body for most of your life. And the whole or large part of your sense of self is invested in it. What this means is that you have made an unhappy self out of your pain body and believe this mind made fiction is who you are. In that case, unconscious fear of losing your identity will create strong resistance to any disidentification. In other words, you would rather be in pain, be the pain body, than take a leap into the unknown and risk losing the familiar unhappy self. If this applies to you, observe the resistance within yourself. Observe the attachment to your pain. Be very alert. Observe the peculiar pleasure you derive from being unhappy. Observe the compulsion you have to talk or think about it. The resistance will cease if you make it conscious. You can then take your attention into the pain body, stay present as the witness and so initiate its transmutation. Only you can do this. Nobody can do it for you. But if you are fortunate enough to find someone who is intensely conscious, if you can be with them and join them in the state of presence, that can be helpful and accelerate things. In this way, your own light will quickly grow stronger. When a log that has only just started to burn is placed next to one that is burning fiercely, and after awhile they are separated again, the first log will be burning with much greater intensity. After all, it is the same fire. To be such a fire is one of the functions of the spiritual teacher. Some therapists may also be able to fulfill that function provided they have gone beyond the level of mind and create and sustain a state of intense conscious presence while they are working with you.
Question: You mention fear as being part of our basic underlying emotional pain. How does fear arise and why is there so much of it in people's lives? And isn't a certain amount of fear healthy self-protection? If I didn't have the fear of fire, I might put my hand in it and get burned.
Eckhart Tolle: The reason why you don't put your hand in the fire is not because of fear. it's because you know that you'll get burned. You don't need fear to avoid unnecessary danger, just a minimum of intelligence and common sense. For such practical matters, it is useful to apply lessons learned in the past. Now if someone threatened you with fire or with physical violence, you might experience something like fear. This is an instinctive shrinking back from danger but not the psychological condition of fear we are talking about here. The psychological condition of fear is divorced from any concrete and true immediate danger. It comes in many forms: unease, worry, anxiety, nervousness, tension, dread, phobia and so on. This kind of psychological fear is always of something that might happen. Not of something that is happening now. You are in the here and now while your mind is in the future. This creates an anxiety gap. And if you are identified with your mind and have lost touch with the power and simplicity of the now, that anxiety gap will be your constant companion. You can always cope with the present moment, but you cannot cope with something that is only a mind projection. You cannot cope with the future. Moreover, as long as you are identified with your mind, the ego runs your life as I pointed out earlier. Because of its phantom nature, and despite elaborate defense mechanisms, the ego is very vulnerable and insecure and it sees itself as constantly under threat. This by the way is the case even if the ego is outwardly very confident. Now, remember that an emotion is the body's reaction to your mind. What message is the body receiving continuously from the ego, the false mind made self. Danger, I'm under threat. And what is the emotion generated by this continuous message? Fear, of course. Fear seems to have many causes. Fear of loss, fear of failure, fear of being hurt and so on. But utltimately, all fear is the ego's fear of death, of anihilation. To the ego, death is always just around the corner. In this mind identified state, fear of death affects every aspect of your life. For example, even such a seemingly trivial and normal thing such as the compulsive need to be right in an argument and make the other person wrong, defending the mental position with which you have identifiied, is due to fear of death. If you identify with a mental position, then if you are wrong, your mind based sense of self is seriously threatened with anihilation. So you as the ego cannot afford to be wrong. To be wrong is to die. Wars have been fought over this and countless relationships have broken down. Once you have disidentified with your mind, whether you are right or wrong makes no difference to your sense of self at all. So the forceful compulsive and deeply unconscious need to be right which is a form of violence may no longer be there. You can state clearly how you feel or what you think but there will be no aggressiveness or defensiveness about it. Your sense of self is then derived from a deeper and truer place within yourself, not from the mind. Watch out for any kind of defensiveness within yourself. What are you defending? An illusory identity, an image in your mind, a fictitious entity. By making this pattern conscious. By witnessing it, you disidentify from it. In the light of your consciousness, the unconscious pattern will then quickly dissolve. This is the end of all arguments and power games which are so corrosive to relationships. Power over others is weakness disguised as strength. True power is within and it is available to you now. So anyone who is identified with their mind, and therefore disconnected from their true power, their deeper self rooted in being, will have fear as their constant companion. The number of people who have gone beyond mind is as yet extremely small. So you can assume that virtually everyone you meet or know lives in a state of fear. Only the intensity of it varies. It fluctuates between anxiety and dread at one end of the scale and a vague unease and distant sense of threat at the other. Most people become conscious of it only when it takes on one of its more acute forms. Another aspect of the emotional pain that is an intrinsic part of the egoic mind is a deep seated sense of lack or incompleteness, of not being whole. In some people, this is conscious. In others, unconscious. If it is conscious, it manifests as the unsettling and constant feeling of not being worthy or good enough. If it is unconscious, it will only be felt indirectly as an intense craving, wanting and needing. In either case, people will often enter into a compulsive pursuit of ego gratification and things to identify with in order to fill this hole they feel within. So they strive after possessions, money, success, power, recognition, or a special relationship, basically so they can feel better about themselves, feel more complete. But even when they attain all these things, they soon find that the hole is still there. that it is bottomless. Then they are really in trouble because they cannot delude themselves anymore. Well, they can and do but it gets more difficult. As long as the egoic mind is running your life, you cannot truly be at ease. You cannot be at peace or fulfilled except for brief intervals when you obtained what you wanted, when a craving has just been fulfilled. Since the ego is a derived sense of self, it needs to identify with external things. It needs both to be defended and fed constantly. The most common ego identifications have to do with possessions, the work you do, social status and recognition, knowledge and education, physical appearance, special abilities, relationships, personal and family history, belief systems, and often also political and nationalistic, racial and religious and other collective identifications. None of these is you. Do you find this frightening? Or is it a relief to know this. All of these things you will have to relinquish sooner or later. Perhaps you find it as yet hard to believe and I am certainly not asking you to believe that your identity cannot be found in any of those things. You will know the truth of it for yourself. You will know it at the latest when you feel death approaching. Death is a stripping away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to die before you die and find that there is no death.
Chapter 3 - Moving Deeply into the Now.
Question: I feel that there is still a great deal I need to learn about the workings of my mind before I can get anywhere near full consciuosness or spiritual enlightenment.
Eckhart Tolle: No You don't. The problems of the mind cannot be solved on the level of the mind. Once you've understood the basic dysfunction, there isn't really much else you need to learn or understand. Studying the complexity of the mind may make you a good psychologist. But doing so won't take you beyond the mind just as the study of madness isn't enough to create sanity. You've already understood the basic mechanics of the unconscious state. Identification with the mind which creates a false sense of self, the ego, as a substitute for your true self rooted in being. You become as a branch cut off from the vine as Jesus puts it. The ego's needs are endless. It feels vulnerable and threatened and so lives in a state of fear and want. Once you know how the basic dysfunction operates, there's no need to explore all its countless manifestations. No need to make it into a complex personal problem. The ego of course loves that. It is always seeking for something to attach itself to in order to uphold and strengthen its illusory sense of self and it will readily attach itself to your problems. This is why for so many people, the large part of their sense of self is intimately connected with their problems. Once this has happened, the last thing they want is to become free of them. That would mean lost of self. There can be a great deal of unconscious ego investment in pain and suffering. So once y ou recognize the root of unconsciousness as identification with the mind, which of course includes the emotions, you step out of it. You become present. When you are present, you can allow the mind to be as it is without getting entangled in it. The mind in itself is not dysfunctional. It is a wonderful tool. Dysfunction sets in when you seek yourself in it and mistake it for who you are. It then becomes the egoic mind and takes over your whole life.
Question: It seems almost impossible to disidentify with the mind. We're all immersed in it. How do you teach a fish to fly?
Eckhart Tolle: Here's the key. End the delusion of time. Time and mind are inseparable. Remove time from the mind and it stops unless you choose to use it. To be identified with your mind is to be trapped in time. The compulsion to live almost exclusively through memory and anticipation is creating an endless preoccupation with past and future and an unwillingness to honor and acknowledge the present moment and allow it to be. The compulsion arises because the past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation and fulfillment in whatever form. Both are illusions.
Question: But without a sense of time, how would we function in this world? There would be no goals to strive toward anymore. I wouldn't even know who I am because my past makes me who I am today. I think time is something very precious and we need to learn to use it wisely rather than waste it.
Eckhart Tolle: 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. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time, past and future, the more you miss the now, the most precious thing there is. Why is this the most precious thing? Firstly, because it is the only thing. It's all there is. The eternal present which is the space in which your whole life unfolds. The one factor that remains constant. Life is now. There was never a time when your life was not now. Nor will there ever be. Secondly, the now is the only point that can take you beyond the limited confines of the mind. It is your only point of access into the timeless and formless realm of being.
Question: Aren't past and future just as real? Sometimes even more real than the present? After all, the past determines who we are as well as how we perceive and behave in the present and our future goals determine what actions we take in the present.
Eckhart Tolle: You haven't yet grasped the essence of what I'm saying because you are trying to understand it mentally. The mind cannot understand this. Only you can. Please just listen. Have you ever experienced, done, thought or felt anything outside the now? Do you think you ever will? Is it possible for anything to happen or be outside the now? The answer is obvious is it not? Nothing ever happened in the past. It happened in the now. Nothing will ever happen in the future. It will happen in the now. What you think of as the past is a memory trace stored in the mind of the former now. When you remember the past, you reactivate a memory trace and you do so now. The future is an imagined now, a projection of the mind. When the future comes, it comes as the now. When you think about the future, you do it now. Past and future obviously have no reality of their own. Just as the moon has no light of its own, but can only reflect the light of the sun, so are past and future only pale reflections of the light, power and reality of the eternal present. Their reality is borrowed from the now. The essence of what I am saying here cannot be understood by the mind. The moment you grasp it, there is a shift in consciousness from mind to being. From time to presence. Suddenly, everything feels alive, radiates energy, emanates being.
In life threatening emergency situations, the shift in consciousness from time to
presence sometimes happens naturally. The personality that sometimes has a past and future momentarily recedes and is replaced by an intense conscious presence, very still but very alert at the same time. Whatever response is needed then arises out of that state of consciousness. The reason why some people love to engage in dangerous activities such as mountain climbing, car racing and so on, whether they may not be aware of it, is that it forces them into the now. That intensely alive state that is free of time, free of problems, free of thinking, free of the burden of the personality. Slipping away from the present moment even for a second may mean death. Unfortunately, they come to depend on a particular activity to be in that state. But you don't need to climb the north face of the Eiger. You can enter that state now.
Since ancient times, spiritual masters of all traditions have pointed to the now as the key to the spiritual dimension. Despite this, it seems to have remained a secret. It is certainly not taught in churches and temples. If you go to a church, you may hear readings from the gospel such as take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Or, nobody who puts his hands to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. Or you might hear the passage about the beautiful flowers that are not anxious about tomorrow but live with ease in the timeless now and are provided for abundantly by God. The depth and radical nature of these teachings are not recognized. No one seems to realize that they are meant to be lived and so bring about a profound inner transformation.
The whole essence of zen consists in walking along the razor's edge of now. To be so utterly, so completely present that no problem, no suffering, nothing that is not who you are in your essence can survive in you. In the now, in the absence of time, all your problems dissolve. Suffering needs time. It cannot survive in the now. The great zen master Ven Zai in order to take his student's attention away from time would often raise his finger and slowly ask what at this moment is lacking? A powerful question that does not require an answer on the level of the mind. It is designed to take your attention deeply into the now. A similar question in the zen tradition is this: if not now, when?
The now is also central to the teaching of sufism, the mystical branch of Islam. Sufis had a saying: "the sufi is the son of time present" and Rumi, the great poet teacher of sufism declares past and future veil God from our sight. Burn up both of them with fire. Master Eckhart, the thirteenth century spiritual teacher summed it all up beautifully: time is what keeps the light from reaching us. There is no greater obstacle to God but time.
Question: A moment ago, when you talked about the eternal present, and the unreality of past and future, I found myself looking at that tree outside the window. I had looked at it a few times before but this time it was different. The external perception had not changed much except that the colors seem brighter and more vibrant. But there was now an added dimension to it. It's hard to explain. I don't know how, but I was aware of something invisible that I felt was the essence of that tree. Its inner spirit, if you like. And somehow I was part of that. I realize now that I hadn't truly seen the tree before. Just a flat and dead image of it. When I look at that tree now, some of that awareness is still present, but I can feel it slipping away. You see, the experience is already receding into the past. Can something like this be ever more than a fleeting glimpse?
Eckhart Tolle: You were free of time for a moment. You moved into the now and therefore perceived the tree without the stream of mind. The awareness of being became part of your perception. With the timeless dimension comes a different kind of knowing. One that does not kill the spirit that lives within every creature and everything. A knowing that does not destroy the sacredness and mystery of life. that contains a deep reverence for all that is. A knowing of which the mind knows nothing. The mind cannot know the tree. It can only know facts or information about the tree. My mind cannot know you, only labels, judgments, facts and opinions about you. Being alone knows directly. There's a place for mind and mind knowledge. It is in the practical realm of day to day living. However, when it takes over all aspects of your life including your relationships with other human beings and with nature, it becomes a monstrous parasite that unchecked may well end up killing all life on the planet and finally itself by killing its host. You have had a glimpse of how the timeless can transform your perceptions. But an experience is not enough no matter how beautiful or profound. What is needed and what we are concerned with is a permanent shift in consciousness. So break the pattern of present moment denial and present moment resistance. Make it your practice to withdraw attention from past and future where they are not needed. Step out of the time dimension as much as possible in every day life. If you find it hard to enter the now directly, start by observing the habitual tendency of your mind to want to escape from the now. You will observe that the future is usually imagined as either better or worse than the present. If the imagined future is better, it gives you hope of pleasurable anticipation. If it is worse, it creates anxiety. Both are illusory. Through self-observation, more presence comes into your life automatically. The moment you realize you are not present, you are present. Whenever you are able to observe your mind, you are no longer trapped in it. Another factor has come in, something that is not of the mind. The witnessing presence. Be present as the watcher of your mind, of your thoughts and you emotions as well as your reactions in varying situations. Be at least as interested in your reactions as to the situation or persons that causes you to react. Notice also how often your attention is in the past or future. Don't judge or analyze what you observe. Watch the thought, feel the emotion, observe the reaction. Don't make a personal problem out of them. You will then feel something more powerful than any of those things you observe. The still observing presence itself behind the content of your mind, the silent watcher.
Intense presence is needed when certain situations trigger a strong reaction or emotional charge such as when your self image is threatened, a challenge comes into your life that triggers fear, things go wrong or when an emotional conflict from the past is brought up. In those instances, the tendency is for you to become unconscious. A reaction or emotion takes you over. You become it. You act it out. You justify, make light, attack, defend. Except it isn't you. It's the reactive pattern, the mind in its habitual survival mode. Identification with the mind gives it more energy. Observation of the mind withdraws energy from it. Identification with the mind creates more time. Observation of the mind opens up the dimension of the timeless. The energy that is withdrawn from the mind turns into presence. Once you can feel what it means to become present, it becomes much easier to simply choose to step out of the time dimension whenever time is not needed for practical purposes and move more deeply into the now. This does not impair your ability to use time, past or future when you need to refer to it for practical matters. Nor does it impair your ability to use your mind. In fact it enhances it. If you do you use your mind, you'll be sharper, more focused. Learn to use time in the practical aspects of your life. We may call this clock time. But immediately return to present moment awareness when those practical matters have been dealt with. In this way, there will be no build up of psychological time which is identification with the past and continuous compulsive projection into the future. Clock time is not just making an appointment or planning a trip. It includes learning from the past so you don't repeat the same mistakes over and over. Setting goals and working towards them. Predicting the future by means of patterns and laws, physical, mathematical and so on. Learn from the past in taking appropriate action on the basis of our predictions. But even here within the sphere of practical living where we cannot do without reference to past and future, the present moment remains the essential factor. Any lesson from the past becomes relevant and is applied now. Any planning as well as working towards achieving a particular goal is done now. The enlightened person's main focus of attention is always the now. But they're periphally still aware of time. In other words, they continue to use clock time but are free of psychological time. Be alert as you practice this so you do not unwittingly transform clock time to psychological time. For example, if you made a mistake in the past, you can learn from it now, you are using clock time. On the other hand, if you dwell on it mentally and self-criticism, remorse or guilt come up, then you are making the mistake into me or mine. You make it part of your sense of self and it has become psychological time which is always linked to a false sense of identity. Non-forgiveness necessarily implies a heavy burden of psychological time. If you set yourself a goal and work towards it, you are using clock time. You are aware of where you want to go, but you honor and give your fullest attention to the step you are taking at this moment. If you then become excessively focused on the goal perhaps because you are seeking happiness or fulfillment or a more complete sense of self in it, the now is no longer honored. It becomes reduced to a mere stepping stone to the future with no intrinsic value. Clock time then turns into psychological time. Your life's journey is no longer an adventure, just an obsessive need to arrive, attain, to make it. You no longer see or smell the flowers by the wayside either nor are you aware of the beauty and miracle of life that unfolds all around you when you are present in the now.
Question: I can see the supreme importance of the now but I can't go along with you when you say that time is a complete illusion.
Eckhart Tolle: When I say time is an illusion, my intention is not to make a philosophical statement. I'm just reminding you of a simple fact. A fact so obvious that you may find it hard to grasp and may even find it meaningless. But once fully realized, it can cut like a sword through all the mind created layers of complexity and problems. Let me say it again. The present moment is all you ever have. There's never a time when your life is not this moment. Is this not a fact? You will not have any doubt that psychological time is a mental disease if you look at its collective manifestations. They occur in the form of ideology such as communism, socialism or nationalism or rigid religious belief systems which operate under the implicit assumption that the highest good lies in the future and therefore the end justifies the means. The end is an idea. A point in the mind projected future when salvation in whatever form, happiness, fulfillment, equality, liberation, and so on will be attained. Not infrequently, the means of getting there are the enslavement, torture, and murder of people in the present. For example, it is estimated that as many as 50 million people were murdered to further the cause of communism, to bring about a better world, in russia, china and other countries. This is a chilling example of how belief in a future heaven creates a present hell. Can there be any doubt that psychological time is a serious and dangerous mental illness? How does this mind pattern operate in your life. Are you always trying to get somewhere other than where you are. Is most of your doing just a means to an end. Is fulfillment always just around the corner or confined to shortlived pleasures such as sex, food, drink, drugs, or thrills and excitement. Are you always focused on becoming, achieving and attaining? Or alternatively, chasing some new thrill or pleasure? Do you believe that if you acquire more things, you will become more fulfilled, good enough or psychologically complete. Are you waiting for a man or woman to give meaning to your life? In the normal mind identified or unenlightened state of consciousness, the power and infinitely creative potential lied concealed in the now are completely obscured by psychological time. Your life then loses its vibrancy, its freshness, its sense of wonder. The old patterns of thought, emotions, behaviour, reaction and desire are acted out in endless repeat performances, a script in your mind that gives you an identity of sorts, but distorts and covers up the reality of the now. The mind then creates an obsession with the future as an escape from the unsatisfactory present.
Question: But the belief that the future will be better than the present is not always an illusion. The present can be dreadful and things can get better in the future and often they do.
Eckhart Tolle: Usually, the future is a replica of the past. Superficial changes are possible, but real transformation is rare and depends upon whether you can become present enough to dissolve the past by accessing the power of the now. What you perceive as future is an intrinsic part of the state of consciuosness now. If your mind carries a heavy burden of past, you will experience more of the same. The past perpetuates itself through lack of presence. The quality of your consciousness at this moment is what shapes the future which of course can only be experienced as the now. You may win 10 million dollars, but that kind of change is no more than skin deep. You would simply continue to act out the same condition patterns in more luxurious surroundings. Humans have learned to split the atom. Instead of killing 10 or 20 people with a wooden club, one person can now kill a million just by pushing a button. Is that real change? If it's the quality of your consciousness at this moment that determines the future, then what is it that determines the quality of your consciousness? Your degree of presence. So the only place where true change can occur and where the past can bd dissolved is the now.
All negativity is caused by an accumulation psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry, all forms of fear, are caused by too much future and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentmetns, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past and not enough presence. Most people find it difficult to believe that a state of consciousness totally free of all negativity is possible. And yet, this is the liberated state toward which all spiritual teachings point. It is the promise of salvation, no tin an illusory future, but right here and now. You may find it hard to recognize that time is the cause of your suffering or your problems. You believe that they are caused by specific situations in your life. And seen from a conventional viewpoint, this is true. But until you have dealt with the basic problem making dysfunction of the mind, it's attachment to past and future and denial of the now. problems are actually interchangeable. If all your problems or perceived causes of suffering and unhappiness were miraculously removed for you today, but you had not become more present, mor conscious, you would soon find yourself with a similar set of problems or causes for suffering, like a shadow that follows you wherever you go. Ultimately, there is only one problem: the timebound mind itself.
Question: I can't believe that I can ever reach a point where I am completely free of my problems.
Eckhart Tolle: You're right, you can never reach that point because you are at that point now. There's no salvation in time. You cannot be free in the future. Presence is the key to freedom. So you can only be free now.
Question: I don't see how I can be free now. As it happens, I am extremely unhappy with my life at the moment. This is a fact and I would be deluding myself if I tried to convince myself that all is well when it definitely isn't. To me, the present moment is very unhappy. It's not liberating at all. What keeps me going is the hope of possibility of some improvement in the future.
Eckhart Tolle: You think that your attention is in the present moment when it's actually taken up completely by time. You cannot be both unhappy and be fully present in the now. What you refer to as your life should more accurately be called your life situation. It is psychological time: past and future. Certain things in the past didn't go the way you wanted them to go. You are still resisting what happened in the past and now you are resisting what is. Hope is what keeps you going. But hope keeps you focused on the future and this continued focus perpetuates a denial of the now and therefore your unhappiness.
Question: It's true that my present life situation is the result of situations that happened in the past. But, it is still my present situation, and being stuck in that is what makes me unhappy.
Eckhart Tolle: Forget about your life situation for a while and pay attention to your life.
Question: What's the difference?
Eckhart Tolle: Your life situation exists in time. Your life is now. Your life situation is mind stuff. Your life is real. Find the narrow gate that leads to life. It is called the now. Narrow your life down to this moment. Your life situation may be full of problems. Most life situations are. But find out if you have any problem at this moment. Not tomorrow or in ten minutes, but now. Do you have a problem now? When you are full of problems, there is no room for anything new to enter, no room for a solution. So, whenever you can, make some room. Create some space so that you can find the life underneath your life situation. Use your senses fully. Be where you are. Look around. Just look. Don't interpret. See the light. shapes, colors, textures. Be aware of the silent presence of each thing. Be aware of the space that allows everything to be. Listen to the sounds. Don't judge them. Listen to the silence underneath the sounds. Touch something, anything, and feel and acknowledge its being. Observe the rhythm of your breathing. Feel the air flowing in and out. Feel the life energy inside your body. Allow everything to be within and without. Allow the isness of all things. Move deeply into the now. You are leaving behind the deadening world of mental abstraction, of time. You are getting out of the insane mind that is draining you of life energy. Just as it is slowly poisoning and destroying the earth, you're awakening out of the dream of time into the present.
Question: It feels as if a heavy burden has been lifted, a sense of lightness. I feel clear, but my problems are still waiting for me, aren't they? They haven't been solved. Am I not just temporarily evading them?
Eckhart Tolle: If you found yourself in paradise, it wouldn't be long before your mind would say yes but. Ultimately, this is not about solving your problems. It's about realizing that there are no problems, only situations. To be dealth with now, or to be left alone and accepted as part of the isness of the present moment until they change or can be dealt with. Problems are mind made and need time to survive. They cannot survive in the actuality of the now. Focus your attention on the now and tell me what problem you have at this moment.
I am not getting any answer because it is impossible to have any problem when your attention is fully in the now. A situation that needs to either be dealt with or accepted yes. Why make it into a problem? Why make anything into a problem? Isn't life challenging enough as it is? What do you need problems for? The mind unconsciously loves problems because they give you an identity of sorts. This is normal and it is insane. Problem means that you are dwelling on a situation mentally without there being a true intention or possibllity of taking action now. And that you are unconsciously making it part of your sense of self. You become so overwhelmed by you life situation, that you lose your sense of life, of being. Or you are carrying in your mind the insane burden of a hundred things that you will or may have to do in the future instead of focusing your attention on the one thing that you can do now. When you create a problem, you create pain. All it takes is a simple choice, a simple decision. No matter what happens, I will create no more pain for myself. I will create no more problems. Although it is a simple choice, it is also very radical. You won't make that choice unless you are truly fed up with suffering. Unless you have truly had enough. And you won't be able to go through with it unless you access the power of the now. If you create normal pain for yourself, then you create normal pain for others. You also no longer contaminate the beautiful earth, your inner space, and the collective inner psyche with the negativity of problem making. If you have ever been in a life or death emergency situation, you will know that it wasn't a problem. The mind didn't have time to fool around and make it into a problem. In a true emergency, the mind stops. You become totally present in the now and something infinitely more powerful takes over. This is why there are many reports of ordinary people suddenly becoming capable of incredibly courageous deeds. In any emergency, either you survive or you don't. Either way, it is not a problem. Some people get angry when they hear me say that problems are illusions. I'm threatening to take away their sense of who they are. They have invested much time in a false sense of self. For many years, they have unconsciously defined their whole identity in terms of their problems or their suffering. Who would they be without it. A great deal of what people say, think or do is actually motivated by fear which of course is always linked with having your focus on the future and being out of touch with the now. As there are no problems in the now, there is no fear either. Should a situation arise that you need to deal with now, action will be clear and decisive if it arises out of present moment awareness. It is also more likely to be effective. It will not be a reaction coming from the past conditioning of your mind but an intuitive response to the situation. In other instances, when the time bound mind would have reacted, you will find it more effective to do nothing, just stay centered in the now.
(Tape 3) (entitled: Power of Now 3)
Question: I have had glimpses of this state of freedom from mind and time that you describe. But past and future are so overwhelmingly strong that I cannot keep them out for long.
Eckhart Tolle: The time bound mode of consciousness is deeply imbedded in the human psyche. But what we are doing here is part of a profound transformation that is taking place in the collective consciousness of the planet and beyond. The awakening of consciousness from the dream of matter, form, and separation. The ending of time. We are breaking mind patterns that have dominated human life for eons. Mind patterns that have created unimaginable suffering on a vast scale. I'm not using the word evil. It is more helpful to call it unconsciousness or insanity .
Question: This breaking up of the old mode of consciousness or rather unconsciousness, is it something we have to do or will it happen anyway? I mean is this change inevitable?
Eckhart Tolle: That's a question of perspective. The doing and the happening is in fact a single process. Because you are one with the totality of consciousness, you cannot separate the two. But there's no absolute guarantee that humans will make it. The process isn't inevitable or automatic. Your cooperation is an essential part of it. However you look at it, it is a quantum leap in the evolution of consciousness as well as our only chance of survival as a race. To alert you that you have allowed yourself to be taken over by psychological time, you can use a simple criterion. Ask yourself is there joy, ease, and lightness in what I'm doing? If there isn't, then time is covering up the present moment and life is perceived as a burden or struggle. If there is no joy, ease or lightness in what you are doing, it doesn't not necessarily mean that you have to change what you are doing. It may be sufficient to change the how. How is always more important than what. See if you can give much more attention to the doing than to the result that you want to achieve through it. Give your fullest attention to whatever the moment presents. This implies that you also completely accept what is because you cannot give your full attention to something and at the same time resist it. As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When act out of present moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care and love, even the most simple action.
So do not be concerned with the fruit of your action. Just give attention to the action itself. The fruit will come of its own accord. This is a powerful spiritual practice. In the bagavagida, one of the most oldest and most beautiful spiritual teachings in existence, non attachment to the fruit of your action is called karma yoga. It is described as the path of consecrated action. When the compulsive striving away from the now ceases, the joy of being flows into everything you do. The moment your attention turns to the now, you feel a presence, a stillness, a peace. You no longer depend on the future for fulfillment and satisfaction. You don't look to it for salvation. Therefore, you are not attached to the results. Neither failure or success has the power to change your inner state of being. You have found the life underneath your life situation. In the absence of psychological time, your sense of self is derived from being, not from your personal past. Therefore, the psychological need of becoming to become anything other than who you are already is no longer there. In the world, on the level of your life situation, you may indeed become wealthy, knowledgeable, successful, free of this or that. But in the deeper dimension of being, you are complete and whole now.
Question: In that state of wholeness, would we still be able or willing to pursue external goals?
Yet on a deeper level you are already complete. And when you realize that there's a playful joyous energy behind what you do. Being free of psychological time, you no longer pursue your goals with grim determination driven by fear, anger, discontent or the need to become someone. Nor need you remain inactive by fear of failure which to the ego is loss of self. When your deeper sense of self is derived from being. When you are free of becoming as a psychological need, neither your happiness nor your sense of self depends upon the outcome and so there's freedom from fear. You don't seek permanency where it cannot be found: In the world of form, of gain and loss, of birth and death. You don't demand that situations, conditions, places of people should make you happy and then suffer when they don't live up to your expectations. Everything is honored, but nothing matters. Forms are born and die, yet you are aware of the eternal underneath the form. You know that nothing real can be threatened. When this is your state of being, how can you not succeed? You have succeeded already.
Chapter 4 - Mind strategies for avoiding the Now.
Question: Even if I completely accept that ultimately time is an illusion, what difference is that going to make in my life? I still have to live in a world that is completely dominated by time.
Eckhart Tolle: Intellectual agreement is just another belief and won't make much difference to your life. To realize this truth, you need to live it. When every cell of your body is so present that it feels vibrant with life, and when you can feel that life every moment as the joy of being, then it can be said that you are free of time.
Question: But I still have to pay the bills tomorrow and I'm still going to grow and die just like everybody else. So how can I ever say that I'm free of time.
Eckhart Tolle: Tomorrow's bills are not the problem. The dissolution of the physical body is not a problem. Loss of now is the problem or rather the core delusion that turns a mere situation, event or emotion into a personal problem and suffering. Loss of now is loss of being. To be free of time is to be free of psychological need of past for your identity and future for your fulfillment. It represents the most profound transformation of consciousness that you can imagine. In some rare cases, this shift in consciousness happens automatically and dramatically once and for all. When it does, it usually comes about through total surrender in the midst of intense suffering. Most people however have to work at it. When you've had your first glimpses of the timeless state of consciousness, you begin to move back and forth between the dimensions of time and presence. First you become aware of just how rarely your attention is truly in the now. But to know that you are not present is a great success. That knowing is presence. Even if initially it only lasts for a couple of seconds of clock time before it is lost again. Then with increasing frequency, you choose to have the focus of your consciousness in the present moment rather than in past or future. And whenever you realize you have lost the now, you are able stay in it not only for a couple of seconds but for longer periods as perceived from the external perspective of clock time. So before you are firmly established in this state of presence which is to say before you are fully conscious, you shift back and forth for a while between consciousness and unconsciousness, between the state of presence and the state of mind identification. You lose the now and you return to it again and again. Eventually, presence becomes your predominant state. For most people, presence is experienced either never at all or only accidentally and briefly on rare occasions without being recognized for what it is. Most humans alternate not between consciousness and unconsciousness, but only between different levels of unconsciousness.