What’s the best spirituality book of our time? If you asked most spiritually-minded readers to come up with a short list, The Power of Now, A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle would probably be on it.
First published in 1997, The Power of Now has sold over 3 million copies, helped by a big push from Oprah Winfrey who has promoted the book in online webinars, on her TV show and most recently in a series of podcasts in which each chapter of the book was discussed at length.
Reading or listening to Tolle, he comes across as someone who has figured out the inner workings of life and his words ring true. As one book critic put it, Tolle “puts us in touch with the deepest source of our being,” revealing who we are at our core and how we can settle into this truest version of ourselves.
One interesting thing about Tolle: He has written only a handful of books, none since a picture book in 2009. It’s as if he said all he had to say in The Power of Now, with his follow-up books being riffs on his central themes. One such book is Stillness Speaks: Whispers of Now in which he distilled the key thoughts from The Power of Now into a series of short chapters.
For the time-constrained, I’ve taken Stillness Speaks and gone a step further. I identified what I believe are the two most important themes from that book, and edited them down to a series of bullet points. What’s left is the essence of Tolle’s teachings on how being still can help us realize the power of being in the now. (Recommendation: read slowly to let the words sink in.)
Eckhart Tolle On Being Still
- When you lose touch with your inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world.
- Whenever there is some silence around you—listen to it. Pay attention to it. Listening to silence awakens the dimension of silence within yourself, because it is only through stillness that you can be aware of silence.
- Look at a tree, a flower, a plant. Let your awareness rest upon it. How still they are, how deeply rooted in Being. Allow nature to teach you stillness.
- When you look at a tree and perceive its stillness, you become still yourself. You connect with it at a very deep level. You feel a oneness with whatever you perceive in and through stillness.
- Stillness is helpful, but you don’t need it in order to find stillness. Even when there is noise, you can be aware of the stillness underneath the noise, of the space in which the noise arises.
- Pay attention to the gap—the gap between two thoughts, the brief silence between words in a conversation, the gap between the in-breath and out-breath.
- Wisdom comes with the ability to be still. Just look and just listen. No more is needed. Being still, looking, and listening activates the non-conceptual intelligence within you. Let stillness direct your words and actions.
Eckhart Tolle on Living in the Now
- Recognize that there is a voice in your head that pretends to be you and never stops speaking. When you recognize that voice, you realize that who you are is not the voice—the thinker—but the one who is aware of it.
- Who is it that sees? Who is it that is aware? I Am. “I” is not the voice in your head. This is the deeper “I” that has nothing to do with past and future. It lives in the Now.
- This one moment—Now—is the only thing you can never escape from, the one constant factor in your life. No matter what happens, no matter how much your life changes, one thing is certain: it’s always Now.
- Since there is no escape from the Now, why not welcome it, become friendly with it?
- To have your attention in the Now is not a denial of what is needed in your life. It is recognizing what is primary. Then you can deal with what is secondary with great ease. When the Now is the foundation and primary focus of your life, then your life unfolds with ease.
- When you say “yes” to what is, you become aligned with the power and intelligence of Life itself. Only then can you become an agent for positive change in the world.
- When you step into the Now, you step out of the content of your mind. The incessant stream of thinking slows down. Thoughts don’t absorb all your attention any more, don’t draw you in totally. You begin to realize how much vaster and deeper you are than your thoughts.
- You are not your thoughts, emotions, sense perceptions, and experiences. You are not the content of your life. You are Life. You are the space in which all things happen. You are consciousness. You are the Now.
- Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.