THE POWER OF NOW by Eckhart Tolle
If we always accept the way things are, we are not going to make any effort to improve them. It seems to me that what progress is all about, both in our personal lives and collectively, is not to accept the limitations of the present, but to strive to go beyond them and create something better. If we hadn’t done this, we would still be living in caves. How do you reconcile surrender with changing things and getting things done?
To some people, surrender may have negative connotations, implying defeat, giving up, failing to rise to the challenges of life, becoming lethargic, and so on. True surrender, however, is something entirely different. It does not mean to passively put up with whatever situation you find yourself in and do nothing about it. Nor does it mean to cease making plans or initiating positive action.
Surrender is the simple, but profound, wisdom of yielding to, rather than opposing, the ow of life. The only place where you can experience the flow of life is the Now, so to surrender is to accept the present moment unconditionally and without reservation. It is to relinquish inner resistance to what is. Inner resistance is to say “no” to what is, through mental judgment and emotional negativity. It becomesparticularly pronounced when things “go wrong,” which means there is a gap between the demands or rigid expectations of your mind and what is. That is the pain gap. If you have lived long enough, you will know that things “go wrong” quite often. It is precisely at those times that surrender needs to be practised if you want to eliminate pain and sorrow from your life.
Acceptance of what is immediately frees you from mind identification and thus reconnects you with Being. Resistance is the mind. Surrender is a purely inner phenomenon. It does not mean that, on the outer level, you cannot take action and change the situation. In fact, it is not the overall situation that you need to accept when you surrender, but just the tiny segment called the Now.
For example, if you were stuck in the mud somewhere, you wouldn’t say, “Okay, I resign myself to being stuck in the mud.” Resignation is not surrender. You don’t need to accept an undesirable or unpleasant life situation. Nor do you need to deceive yourself and say there is nothing wrong with being stuck in the mud. No. You recognize fully that you want to get out of it. You then narrow your attention down to the present moment without mentally labelling it in any way. This means there is no judgment of the Now. Therefore, there is no resistance, no emotional negativity. You accept the “isness” of this moment. Then you take action and do all that you can to get out of the mud.
Let me give you a visual analogy to illustrate the point I am making. You are walking along a path at night, surrounded by a thick fog. But you have a powerful ashlight that cuts through the fog and creates a narrow, clear space in front of you. The fog is your life situation, which includes past and future; the ashlight is your conscious presence; the clear space is the Now.
Non-surrender hardens your psychological form, the shell of the ego, and so creates a strong sense of separateness. The world around you and people, in particular, come to be perceived as threatening. The unconscious compulsion to destroy others through judgment arises, as does the need to compete and dominate. Even nature becomes your enemy and your perceptions and interpretations are governed by fear.
There is something within you that remains unaffected by the transient circumstances that make up your life situation, and only through surrender do you have access to it. It is your life, your very Being, which exists eternally in the timeless realm of the present. Finding this life is “the one thing that is needed” that Jesus talked about.
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). Visit www.eckharttolle.com.