THE POWER OF NOW by Eckhart Tolle
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.
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.
But I still have to pay the bills tomorrow, and I am still going to grow old and die just like everybody else. So how can I ever say that I am free of time?
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 into a personal problem and into suffering. Loss of Now is loss of Being.
To be free of time is to be free of the psychological need of the past for your identity, and the 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 dramatically and radically, once and for all, usually through total surrender in the midst of intense suffering. Most people, however, have to work at it.
When you have had your first few 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.
Then with increasing frequency, you choose to have the focus of your consciousness in the present moment rather than in the past or future, and whenever you realize that you had lost the Now, you are able to stay in it not just 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 the 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: ordinary unconsciousness and deep unconsciousness.
As you probably know, in sleep you constantly move between the phases of dreamless sleep and the dream state. Similarly, in wakefulness most people only shift between ordinary unconsciousness and deep unconsciousness. What I call ordinary unconsciousness means being identified with your thought processes, emotions, and reactions. It is most people’s normal state.
In that state, you are run by the egoic mind and you are unaware of Being. It is a state of an almost continuous low level of unease, discontent, boredom or nervousness, a kind of background static. You may not realize this because it is so much a part of “normal” living, just as you are not aware of the hum of an air conditioner until it stops. When it suddenly does stop, there is a sense of relief.
Many people use alcohol, drugs, sex, food, work, television, or even shopping as anaesthetics in an unconscious attempt to remove the basic unease. The unease of ordinary unconsciousness turns into the pain of deep unconsciousness, a state when things “go wrong,” when the ego is threatened or there is a major challenge, threat, loss, or conflict in a relationship. It is an intensified version of ordinary unconsciousness, different from it not in kind, but in degree.
Adapted from The Power of Now, copyright 1999 by Eckhart Tolle. Reprinted with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA, 800-972-6657 (ext. 52).