This entry is the first of an occasional series of reflections on Eckhart Tolle's 1999 book, The Power of Now, which I have found to be the most helpful “how-to” guide for applying the principles of classic works of scripture such as The Bible, the Koran, the Upanishads, etc. After reading through the book several times across the past couple of months, I have intentionally practiced some of Tolle's tools and suggestions and find that I am gradually becoming more engaged in the present moment and less stressed about the future.
In the book's introduction, Tolle includes the following assertions, among others:
I cannot tell you any spiritual truth that deep within you do not know already. All I can do is remind you of what you have forgotten.
In essence there is and always has been only one spiritual teaching, although it comes in many forms. Some of these forms, such as the ancient religions, have become so overlaid with extraneous matter that their spiritual essence has become almost completely obscured by it.
Particularly for those readers who are followers of these religions or teachings…I say to them: there is no need to go elsewhere for the truth. Let me show you how to go more deeply into what you already have.
I think this last point is quite salient, since many followers of specific religions–particularly, Christians–are uncomfortable with Tolle's works. As I (an ordained, conservative seminary-educated person) have discovered, there need not be any deep-seeded incongruity between your particular religious faith and the practices that Tolle sets forth. The author does not call for anyone to abandon their faith; just the opposite, as the words in italics above indicate. The biggest stumbling block one faces is clinging to the belief that their way to God is the only way, and using their favorite scriptures to make a circular argument of such a claim. (This error is perpetuated by institutionalized thinking and the illusionary security of jobs, power, products and property, wrapped up in such us-and-them mindsets; the need to promote a “brand” of belief. We have much more in common as spiritual beings compared to what might divide us, but are often blinded to this by our fear and our need to protect our own turf.)
What Tolle advocates is taking your faith to a much deeper level, to where it becomes far more fulfilling and transforming for each moment. Just considering Christianity, for example, many believers I know are just as stressed out and worrisome as those who do not embrace this particular faith–myself having been included. Tolle's teachings remind us of “what we have forgotten,” and help believers to more fully embrace that observation made by St. Paul: our true identity is “Christ within, the hope of glory.” Made in the image of God, we possess the life of God already. True peace and freedom come from recognizing all of the false selves we construct as substitutes for that life, when all we simply must do is surrender or yield to what is already there.
When, at any point, your need to be “right” about your particular faith's advantages supersedes your ability to be still and at peace, it's time to step out of your comfort zone and give Tolle's suggestions a try. You might be perfectly at peace right now, and I celebrate that with you. Most people I run into are not. For them, this book is a real find.