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Several years ago, I stumbled into the world of personal development. Having just gotten out of a long term relationship and still licking my wounds, I decided I was tired of allowing my heart to be shattered. So, I decided to do something about it. I started researching, and I then discovered life coaches.
Up to now, it’s been a long, enlightening journey of self-improvement and self-discovery. I’ve been a knowledge junkie, always on the hunt for more information to consume. I frequently watch seminars and listen to coaches on YouTube. I’ll watch a coach who will reference another coach, so I will look them up.
Some coaches often recommend books to read, so I seek them out. Although I love to write, I have never been much of a book reader, but I can handle audio books. Recently, I listened to an audio book called The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle, and I absolutely loved it. I could not stop listening to it until it was finished, and it was eye-opening for me.
The main message of the book relates to that of my last article Inner Peace: The Power of Forgiveness, but of course, the book is much deeper and more comprehensive than my teeny little article.
After my first time through the book, what I took from Eckhart Tolle’s message is that we should be present to the moment, or in other words, our focus should be on the here and now. He calls this being in your conscious, as opposed to being in your unconscious. Time is a manmade concept, and it is not real. The past has already happened, and the future has not happened, so neither actually exists. What is, simply is. All we really have is right here, right now, in this moment, so the sooner we can bring ourselves out of the past and stop stressing about the future, the sooner we can concentrate our focus on the only thing we really have: the now.
With this concept, he puts different topics and life circumstances into perspective. There are some things that really stood out for me.
Be Conscious of Your Thoughts
To be conscious is to be self-aware; to be present. In the book, Eckhart Tolle writes about a particular thought he had in his early twenties: “I cannot live with myself anymore.” He then brought himself to analyze that thought. Who is “I”? Who is “myself”? It is as if he is not one person but two people: the “I” and the “self.” This moment of realization was his defining moment of self-awareness or consciousness. A little weird, I know. It was for me at first, too.
When we are in our conscious, we are fully aware and observant of our thoughts. Conversely, if we are in our unconscious, we allow ourselves to feel pain, anger, fear, sadness, etc. We fall victim to our emotions. The moment we stop to observe our thoughts rather than be controlled by them, we can come out of our unconscious and into our conscious, being fully self-aware, and thereby allowing ourselves to heal and be at peace.
Learning to be conscious and present to the moment helps us put life’s circumstances into perspective.
The Illusion of Fear
What is fear? Why do we fear? What kinds of things are we as human beings typically fearful of? We fear that we might get hurt, that we might lose someone or something, that we might fail, and so on. What do all of these things have in common? They are all events that have not happened yet. They are all things that might happen. While your physical body is here in the now, your mind is in the future, an imaginary place that has not happened, that you have no control over, and is therefore merely a projection of your mind, not reality. As a result, your thoughts may manifest into emotion, and that emotion is fear.
One might argue that we require fear for survival, which is a fair argument, but is fear actually an aid or a hindrance?
Eckhart Tolle addresses this using the common analogy of a child touching a hot stove. After having been burned the first time the child touches the stove, does the child now actually fear the stove? No, the child simply has the knowledge and experience to know that the stove is hot and will burn.
Another example is a scenario where you are in immediate physical danger. If you were face-to-face with a person threatening you with a knife, would your mind be concerned with the past or future? Probably not. All that would matter in that very moment is whatever it would take to ensure your survival. That is an extreme instance of being present and one which I have experienced personally. What role would fear play in this scenario? Would it cause you to think more or less clearly? Would it cause you to panic and freeze, or would it encourage you to take proper action? Would you be full of crippling fear or intense focus?
When an athlete is present and fully focused on his task at hand, he is more likely to succeed. When riding a dirt bike, if a Motocross racer has an ounce of fear in him as he approaches a big jump, it may cause him to hold back and possibly get hurt rather than committing and clearing the jump. His mind would be too caught up in what might happen and not would not be focused enough on what he has control of in the moment.
The idea is that being present allows us to be more focused on what we have control over now and to act more effectively and efficiently. It’s similar to what a good friend of mine used to tell me: don’t stress over something you have no control over. If our minds are stuck in the past or the future, neither of which we have control over, then we are preventing ourselves from performing at our full potential right now.
Eckhart Tolle describes emotional pain as the resistance to accept what is. Something happens that we do not like, and we dwell, we fight it, we refuse to let it go, and we deny reality. We attach ourselves to an outcome that doesn’t come to fruition, and it results in our suffering. Therefore, pain is essentially self-inflicted.
When we learn to detach ourselves from the past and the future and learn to focus on the present moment, we give our minds room to enjoy life and, most importantly, to have gratitude. As Tony Robbins says, gratitude is the solution for anger and fear, and you can’t be both angry and grateful simultaneously.
The keys to being present are acceptance and surrender. Rather than resisting reality, surrender to it, be grateful for it, and know that it is just another opportunity for us to learn, grow, and become the best, strongest version of ourselves.