Many of us spend our lives searching for peace, joy, and fulfillment. We look for it in different ways: through accomplishments, relationships, experiences, and material possessions. The Power of Now proposes that the only way to find true peace and fulfillment is through being solely and intensely present in each moment. The more we live in the Now, the more we are able to connect with our true selves and experience life fully, without extraneous thoughts and speculations clouding our minds and altering our lens of the world.
What will I make for dinner tonight? I should have spoken up during that meeting. I wonder if I’ll get that promotion. I really want that car. I have to remember to buy bread and eggs on the way home. All of these thoughts distract us from experiencing the present moment.
Our endless thoughts often focus on the past or the future. However, we have no control over either — the past is over and the future isn’t here yet — so we are in an endless cycle of wasting our mental and emotional energy on things we can’t control. The only moment we can impact is the present.
When you focus on the past, you feel guilt, regret, resentment, sadness, bitterness, and unforgiveness. You also carry old hurt from your pain-body, the invisible entity of cumulative pain you have experienced in your life. The pain body is like a parasite, feeding on negativity and driving us to think and act in negative ways.
When you focus too much on the future, you create anxiety, tension, stress, and worry. In the full summary, we will explore how to plan for the future while remaining present.
Why are so many of us driving ourselves crazy thinking about things we can’t control, and distracting ourselves from the real moment we are experiencing right now? The inner voice in your head, called the ego, is responsible for this endless internal monologue. The ego is a part of your mind that tries to control your thinking, emotions, and behavior.
Your ego projects a false identity, made up of your membership in groups and communities (such as gender, nationality, profession, and religion) and your past pain and experiences. The ego tells you that your memories, experiences, religion, upbringing, education, career, gender, political beliefs, and nationality make you who you are.
All these aspects of the ego-created identity are based on external forces. If you believe that these external factors — like life experiences, profession, and political affiliation — make you you, then any new experiences, career changes, and challenges to your political beliefs have the potential to shake your identity.
In fact, your ego is distracting you from connecting with your true self or Being. Your Being is a purer energy that lives within you, unaffected by external forces and circumstances.
You can only be your true self when you are present, when your thoughts are not focused on the past, future, or the ego-created false identity. By connecting with your true self through presence, you access inner peace.
You can disconnect from your ego and connect with your true self by observing your thoughts, as if you were a third-party witness to your own mind.
The past only exists in memories and the future only exists in projections, so when you are present, you experience the only moment that is real — Now. Presence is the only antidote to the control of the ego and the pain-body.
Being present does not change your external circumstances. When we face hardships in life, being present allows us to tackle them moment by moment. Added stress from our ego-controlled, worried thoughts only makes the obstacles seem more overwhelming. When we are present, we have more mental capacity to face these challenges.
Life consists of cycles of success and failure; each one is a necessary precedent of the other. When you are present, you must accept the lows as much as the highs as part of the reality of the Now. Why fight a cycle that is inevitable?
If you are wishing that a situation were different in some way, then your thoughts are in the past, future, or some hypothetical scenario — and you are not in the present.
If you are facing a difficult or unpleasant situation, you have three options:
Accepting the present means to acknowledge that it already exists, and that no amount of wishing, complaining, or worrying will change this current moment. You can, however, take one of the first two actions and make steps to change or leave the situation.
Does this seem easier said than done? Presence is a simple concept but is not necessarily an easy practice. Most of us are in the habit of letting our egos run the show, so keeping our focus on the present will be like a muscle you strengthen with time and practice.
We will explore how to put this into practice and be more present in your everyday life. The key is maintaining awareness of both your mind and body.
Your body is a gateway to your mental and emotional state.
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In our fast-paced, high-stress world, nearly everyone is trying to find the source of true peace, joy, and fulfillment. We often look to religion, relationships, career accomplishments, and material possessions.
The Power of Now insists that we can’t find the peace and happiness we seek in anything outside ourselves. Instead, the only way to find true peace and fulfillment is through being present in each moment. The more you live in the Now, the more you are able to connect with your true self and experience life fully. The concept requires you to be solely and intensely present in each moment, by accepting external circumstances that you cannot change and resisting the temptation to dwell on the past and future.
The text is written largely in Q&A format, curated from questions Tolle fielded through years of teaching and public speaking. This approach intends to address the questions and confusions readers are likely to have as they read the book.
However, the principles include some very abstract concepts relating to time, the mind, and personal identity. These ideas can be difficult to grasp and can be alienating to some readers (a TIME magazine review notably called it “spiritual mumbo jumbo”), but are unavoidable in examining such inherently abstract concepts as mindfulness and inner peace.
The book does not align specifically with any religion, though it includes many examples of various religions preaching the same principles. Parts of the book are written like a guided meditation, to draw readers into understanding by practice, rather than purely explanations. This approach reinforces the notion that **these principles cannot be...
What is the power of Now? The Now is the present moment — each individual moment in the innumerable sequence of moments that makes up our lives. The power of Now is in experiencing each of these moments with your full and undivided attention, without being distracted by your internal monologue (whether that includes thoughts of your to-do list, replaying an interaction from this morning, or running commentary and analysis of the present). By actively engaging in each moment, you can prevent much of your pain and stress and live in a consistent state of inner peace and fulfillment. We will explain how and why in later chapters.
Sounds easy? Set a timer for five minutes. Until the timer goes off, pay attention each time your thoughts drift to something besides what you are doing in that exact moment.
Staying completely focused on the present is a simple concept, but it is not necessarily easy; most of us have such a strong habit of getting carried away in our thoughts that it will take deliberate effort and practice to stay present.
We give a lot of power and credence to the past and the future. We tend to think the past shaped us, and that the future holds our hope and salvation (or, perhaps, demise).
In reality, the past and future exist only in your mind. The past was Now when it happened, and the future will be Now when it happens. But in this moment, the past consists only of memories, and the future is purely speculation. Take a moment to wrap your head around that.
When we think about the past or the future, it takes away from the present, which is the only true experience.
Much of our unhappiness is caused by putting too much mental energy and attention on the past and future, instead of being present in the Now. **We don’t gain anything from dwelling on the past and future...
It’s possible to learn from the past and plan goals for the future while staying present: The key is not to get so consumed in the past or future that it distracts you from the Now. Use this exercise to assess how you are using time, and how you can avoid dwelling on the past or future.
Describe a mid- to long-term goal you are currently working toward.
Now that we know that there is power in being present, let’s examine what keeps pushing your thoughts away from the Now: It’s that voice inside your head. It can be characterized as the devil or angel on your shoulder. It is the voice that analyzes what’s going on around you, comments on your interactions, dwells on the past, speculates about the future, complains, likes or dislikes things, and makes you question yourself in moments of doubt. This internal voice is the ego.
The ego is a part of your mind that tries to control your thinking and behavior. (Shortform note: This book personifies the ego as a thinking, feeling entity.)
The ego gives you an interpretation of the world, not a true reflection. The only true way to see the world is by being fully present and experiencing the Now, without judging or analyzing it.
(Shortform suggestion: Think of your mind as the screen in a movie theater — it can have rips, wrinkles, and other flaws that distort the movie being projected. Each one of us is watching the movie of life play on our own screens, which all have wear-and-tear from our past experiences, cultural conditioning, and other influences from our ego-created identity.)
Your ego is your “I” or self, how you distinguish yourself from others. The ego creates your identity from your social status; job; possessions; education; appearance; relationships; personal and family history; beliefs; and membership in political, national, racial, and religious groups.
We tend to think that these thoughts and experiences define us, and that our ego is who we are — after all, it’s coming from inside our own head, so who else could it be? But, in fact, the ego is not our true Being. Our true Being is the essence of who we are, separate from our mind and body. We’ll discuss this more later.
In order to connect with your true self, you must stop identifying with your ego. You may resist letting go of this identity because if you are not made up by the contents of your mind, then who are you? But **problems arise when you...
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Disconnecting from your ego is the only way to access presence, your true self, and inner peace. Use this exercise to practice being present.
For the next 10 minutes, try to stay entirely focused on being present in what you’re doing. When other thoughts arise, take note of them.
What were the thoughts that started popping in your head?
The ego’s power is not confined to our minds. The thoughts and fears the ego produces lead to outward reactions.
The ego creates thoughts and thought patterns. Those repeated thoughts produce emotions. Emotions are your body’s physical reactions to your thoughts.
(Shortform example: Your spouse or roommate didn’t wash the dishes, even though she said she would. You can’t help but notice that they are piling up in the sink and you’re out of clean forks. You think about how you’re about to make dinner, and how that will add even more dishes to the mound. You think about the unwashed dishes and her unkept promise, and you begin to get angry, causing your heart to beat faster and your muscles to tense up. Your anger then brings up thoughts about other chores she has neglected, and how it feels like you are always stuck doing dishes. This makes you even angrier, creating a vicious cycle.)
Research shows that strong emotions can affect your body’s biochemistry. (Shortform note: Scientific research shows that every cell in the body has receptors (or keyholes) for the neuropeptides (or keys), like endorphins, that the brain sends out. Emotions are the biochemical interactions of different keys fitting into the keyholes.)
Like thoughts, emotions are a product of the ego that distract you from the present, keep you disconnected from your true Being, and pull you further from inner peace and happiness.
Every emotion you experience is part of an alternating cycle of positive and negative emotions. Positive emotions can’t last forever and inevitably fade, as do negative emotions. This is because emotions result from thoughts, which are constantly changing and influenced by external circumstances. As long as you identify with your mind and ride the wave of your thoughts and emotions, you are subject to the highs and lows of these emotional cycles.
Pleasure is a temporary feeling of happiness that comes from something outside yourself (e.g....
Emotions are your body’s physical reactions to your thoughts, both positive and negative. Use this exercise to help recognize the causes and effects of your emotions.
Think of a recent situation when one external factor (e.g. work, a relationship, an event) caused you to have either a positive reaction that eventually became negative, or vice versa. Describe what happened and how it made you feel.
The emotional pain-body is the invisible entity of pain that accumulates through your life. This starts with painful experiences from childhood, and every experience that brings you emotional pain is added to the collection.
As an accumulation of emotions, the pain-body is ultimately a product of the ego that prevents you from being present and feeling inner peace.
The pain-body is a mass of negative energy that can occupy your body and mind. It is like a parasite, living in you and feeding on you physically, mentally, and emotionally. But the pain-body only has as much power as you give it; the pain-body feeds on the negative energy that is created when you get swept up in the emotions it produces and identify with the pain-body.
Events, conversations, and thoughts can trigger the pain-body, especially if it hits a nerve with a familiar pain pattern from the past. When your pain-body is triggered, it can cause you to be irritated, impatient, somber, angry, depressed, or antagonistic.
When the pain-body is in control, you become a victim or a perpetrator, either inflicting pain on others or yourself. This feeds negative energy back into the pain-body and strengthens its power, creating a vicious cycle.
This seems nonsensical — why would you feed into your pain-body? Who would want pain? But when you look at your patterns of thoughts and behaviors, you may recognize this.
Not all pain-bodies are created equal. Some people have lived through...
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Pain is part of the human experience, and every person has a pain-body; it can be triggered by thoughts or actions, and then both spews and feeds on negative energy. In this exercise, you will reflect on your individual pain-body.
What’s a painful experience from your past that is part of your pain-body? This is an emotional scar that gets triggered easily by other events, and then consumes your thoughts and emotions.
The power of Now is the power of being present. Presence is the only way to feel peace and true fulfillment. We’ve explored how not being present makes us unhappy and unfulfilled, and how our ego uses thoughts and emotions to prevent us from being present. Now that we’ve identified the problem, we’re going to talk about how you can become more present, and how it will impact your life.
Being present does not change your external circumstances. In fact, life consists of cycles of success and failure; each one is a necessary precedent of the other. These cycles can last from a few hours to years, and are part of the inevitable impermanence of everything in life. (There are also cycles of highs and lows when it comes to your physical energy, productivity, and creativity.)
When you are present, you must accept the lows as much as the highs as part of the reality of the Now. Why fight a cycle that is inevitable?
Much of the pain you experience is self-inflicted because you’re not accepting the reality of the present moment. The circumstances of your life — your “life situation” — can be unpleasant, but begrudging them does nothing to change the situation. When you resist the Now you are only creating negativity and unhappiness for yourself.
When you feel resistance and negativity build in you, observe it. Put your attention on it, acknowledge it, and then drop it.
Highs and lows are inevitable in life, and you must accept both to remain present and be at peace. Use this exercise to work toward accepting something undesirable situation in your life.
Describe something in your current life situation that you are unhappy or dissatisfied with.
We have discussed how important and beneficial it is to be present — but easier said than done. Presence will inevitably take practice (this is why meditation is called a practice), and it will be like a muscle you can strengthen over time. The keys to this practice will be maintaining awareness of both your mind and body.
Presence does not mean never using your mind, but rather using it deliberately. Your mind is a tool; use it productively for specific tasks, then put it to rest.
Pay attention to your thoughts: How often do you think about the past, future, or something that is not helping you with the task at hand? Are you in control of your thoughts, or are they taking you on a ride?
Many of us spend unnecessary time and energy in repetitive and unproductive thoughts that can actually do more harm than good. The mind becomes dangerous when it stops being a tool that we use, and instead has control over us, as we discussed earlier.
When you use our mind only for practical purposes, instead of leaving it running all day, it will be sharper and more focused when you need it.
If you stay present in the Now and face a situation that needs immediate action, you will be able to act with clarity and awareness.
We are most creative when we are present. Artists tend to talk about creative processes characterized by ideas flowing through them, not painstaking sessions...
Being present impacts your inner state first and foremost. That affects your behavior and, inevitably, how you interact with people around you.
If you are acting on your ego’s influence — largely based on fear and the impulses of your pain-body — you are not reacting to the world as it actually is, but rather to your ego’s perception of it. When you are present and connected with your true self, you can be free of these influences and react genuinely to a clear-eyed view of the world and people around you.
You can only truly see and connect with other people through being present. When you are not present, you will make judgments of other people and confuse their words and behaviors with who they are. This creates a dynamic in which your ego is only seeing and responding to other egos, not their true selves. When you are present, you will be able to recognize that what you see is only a screen (the ego), behind which lies the person’s true Being.
The nature of the ego will often cause you to then perceive people as potential threats — not necessarily to your safety, but to your sense of supposed identity. Compassion entails seeing that there is a connection between yourself and all living things.
From your ego’s perspective, your body and superficial associations (e.g. religion, nationality, profession, and other aspects of your ego-created identity) all attest to how different and unique you are from others. But when you are present and understand that your true Being is deeper than your ego-created identity, you can recognize the life energy inside not only yourself but also in all living things.
It’s important to also recognize that the physical bodies of all living things will inevitably die and rot. All thoughts will die with the body, but your divine presence and...
As you practice being present, you will become present throughout a greater part of the day. Eventually, you may near enlightenment, which is being perpetually present. When you are enlightened you can rise above thought, using your mind in a focused and effective way,without being controlled by it or addicted to it.
Enlightenment is not something you strive to achieve: You do not reach enlightenment by gaining anything, only by stripping away the ego’s unnecessary thoughts and negative energy. Enlightenment comes only through being in the Now and keeping the ego at bay.
Presence and enlightenment bring inner peace — which is unaffected by external factors — even when it cannot bring happiness. You can be unhappy but still at peace.
If you don’t come to presence and enlightenment by choice, you may find it through suffering, when you have nowhere else to turn but inward. Enlightenment through suffering is also called the way of the cross, and can come in cases of chronic illness or extreme circumstances like imprisonment.
This may not heal you or make you happy through the pain, but it can bring you inner peace. (Shortform note: A scientific study found that...