This is my summarized interpretation of the book The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle.
Enlightenment is: the enduring enjoyment of existence. The only obstacle to this serene state is the thinking-mechanism of the mind and its unremitting rumination. The thinking-mechanism just blathers on about life, shouting its constant commentary and criticisms while predicting dire doom. The thinking-mechanism is the terrorizer within, the source of all your problems.
You must strive to disassociate with this fiend. Those are no longer your thoughts, they’re just concoctions of conjecture floating by, worthless byproducts of the creative mind. As thoughts are no longer invited into your mental abode, a silence develops within that space. And the more often you shut the door on these unwelcome solicitations, the more this silence grows into serenity.
As the space between thoughts increases, your degree of consciousness increases. You’re currently driven by an unconscious addiction to the thinking-mechanism, a problem that won’t end without intervention. Thoughts are not who you are, they’re a diversion from who you are, resulting in an existential dissatisfaction.
Your true self exists in this moment only — that’s it. Your consciousness is simply trying to experience existence, but the thinking-mechanism is polluting the process and preventing this from happening. Your goal is to allow the consciousness to experience life without intrusive thoughts getting in the way (allowing you to enjoy existence).
Thoughts paint dour pictures of a woebegone past and a pessimistic future, slandering the actual experience of existence. Silencing these thoughts will drastically improve your experience.
Existence is happening right-now. Memories from the past or projections into the future aren’t actually happening when they’re envisioned in the mind — they’re concoctions of the thinking-mechanism. Staying in the present is the doorway to enlightenment — it’s the middle-way that must be maintained while abstaining from past and future musings that act as exits.
Just noticing that you’re not present, brings you into the present. Observe thoughts, feelings, and your reactions. Experience them, but don’t get lost to them. The primary object of attention should be right-now. Right-now is all there is, it’s the only reality you can actually engage with. By definition, the past no longer exists and the future hasn’t happened.
If you’re counting on circumstances in the future to make you happy, you’re doing it wrong. The condition of your consciousness right-now is what forges the future. So the way in which you improve your future is by improving your present, and the way to improve your present is to increase your awareness of it.
If you can’t enjoy right-now, you won’t be able to enjoy the future, no matter what the circumstances. The feeling of unfulfillment will follow you wherever you go. Waiting is a poor practice, avoid it — appreciate right-now instead. If you’re acknowledging the present, you won’t need to wait, you’ll have the greatness that’s in this moment.
Presence isn’t something you can think about, it’s the opposite of thinking, it’s the state of full-awareness of right-now. Be a predator whose prey is thoughts. When thoughts are allowed to flow freely, they’ll take you on a reckless ride downstream into unconsciousness. Keep your focus on right-now and you can’t get lost in thought.
How can you experience existence from an unconscious state? Obviously the ideal way to experience existence is from a conscious state while fully aware of what’s happening in front of you. If you’re too busy thinking about perceived problems, concocted pasts, and speculated futures, how can you appreciate actual life? Focus on experiencing; skip the commentary.
One method for increasing consciousness is by transfering focus away from the mind and into the body.
Here’s some practice: Focus on your fingers and notice the sensation, a slight pressure or tingling or just the feeling that they’re there. Then move up the arms and into the head then the chest and around the body all the way down to your feet. Feel the sensation individually and then as a whole, pervading the entire body — focus on this sensation.
While going about your normal activities, maintain some awareness of the aliveness/energy feeling pervading the entire body. Focus on the task at hand but widen your scope to include the sensation within the body as well. And when not doing anything in particular, instead of getting lost in thought, focus on that aliveness/energy feeling within.
Whenever you start losing yourself to an alleged problem, go into the body. By focusing on an inner sensation, your focus leaves the thinking-mechanism of the mind. Focus on a single part of the body, feel it, notice the sensation, it’s there and you’re aware of it. Do this for every part of your body. Once you’ve gone through them one by one, start at the bottom and move up the body like a scanner, from toes to head and back down again. Then, concentrate on the sensation of the entire inner body at once — focus and feel it. If focusing within the body is tough, start with breathing. Observe the breath: in… out… in… out….
Remember that meditation is the practice of not-thinking. And this practice shouldn’t be limited to the duration of each session. While outside of meditation, continue guarding against the thinking-mechanism of the mind and continue feeling the inner sensation of the body.
You want to develop a connection to a deeper you. There are a few methods for maintaining this connection. One is through an awareness of the energetic-sensation within the body. Another method is by literally focusing on right-now — through the conscious experience of everyday activities. Another method is through the purposeful suppression of thought — maintaining gaps between mental commentary. And another method is by surrendering to life and whatever it is you’re resisting.
Then once this connection is well-established, it becomes a portal for love to flow through — this is the bliss and elation that comes with living in the now.
Satisfaction with life is a state that’s achievable right-now. Waiting for a particular circumstance or condition to occur only takes you further away from fulfillment. If you chase external modes of satisfaction, you’ll remain on a perpetual treadmill of dissatisfaction. Satisfaction is an internal state, a state without fear or lack, a state without worry or neediness, a state unencumbered by negative thought.
You’ll know you’re not enlightened if you’re not radiating love and joy — or if you quickly lose composure when tested by life’s obstacles. And the best use of these obstacles is as reminders and opportunities to enter right-now — as beacons to become aware and witness, to surrender to life unfolding.
From a broader perspective, situations and circumstances cannot be considered good or bad — they just are. And your goal, is to attain this perspective. To be at peace, you forgive and you accept every moment. You let the past dissipate to allow the present to flow in unhindered.
If you consciously accept everything as it is, the drama ends, there’s literally nothing to fight against. Drama is caused by resistance, and if you don’t resist, there’s no conflict. Let life happen, practice acceptance, watch without judgement or opposition as you go up and down and all around.
The thinking-mechanism of the mind believes that complaints can force the world into compliance. In other words, it can get what it wants through criticism — by pointing out everything wrong with the world, sharp and undesirable edges will be chipped away. But this is an incorrect assumption of the mind — a more effective path is to avoid negativity.
The only valid use for negativity is as a reminder to become present. Just like an alarm, irritation can serve to jar you awake. You cannot solve your dissatisfaction with life by pouting and complaining, by resisting it. You must allow situations and circumstances to pass right through you. With this power of transparency, you cannot be ensnared.
Should you approach the experience of existence distrustfully, constantly on-guard, waiting for the doom-hammer to fall, belligerently opposing everything that comes your way? Or, should you willingly allow the experience to unfold before you, surrendering yourself to existence?
Surrendering to the experience of existence is not the same thing as giving up. Surrendering in this context essentially means approaching life with a good attitude — with acceptance and appreciation. You can do what you want as long as it comes from a positive place whereas you’ll want to avoid acting out of fear or anger from a bad attitude.
Whenever you notice that you’re in an unpleasant situation, you can use the power of surrender to turn things around. Essentially, you’re saying, “I’m okay with this! Let’s do it!” And with that attitude adjustment, everything from that moment forward improves — you’ve positively altered your future.
Your choice is this: resist life with a bad attitude or surrender to it by maintaining a good attitude. When you interact with the world while maintaining a bad attitude, you’re going to have a bad time as you denigrate and disparage everything in your path, you’re going to attack and defend as you navigate an imagined minefield.
Of course the world looks horrible when you have a horrible outlook. But have an awesome outlook, and the world seems suddenly better. There is no problem “out there” — your lack of consciousness is the problem. The thinking-mechanism of the mind is taking you on a wild ride through the rapids — and consciousness allows you to rise above this self-induced turbulence.
The thinking-mechanism of the mind is the origin of your resistance and bad-attitude. Surrendering, i.e. adopting a positive attitude of absolute acceptance, removes the authority of the mind, stripping it of its self-appointed leadership position. You can continue suffering until you can’t stand it any longer, or you can consciously choose to remain present from here on out.
Executive Summary: To enjoy life, disregard your thoughts.