'When you surrender to what is and so become fully present, the past ceases to have any power. You do not need it anymore. Presence is the key. The Now is the key.’
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment (1997)
Eckhart Tolle
In Summary

To set yourself free from the endless cycle of self-imposed suffering, you must embrace the present moment, for only by living fully in the Now will you overcome your false self, sustained by its past pains and future worries, and embrace your true identity – an identity established in peace and fully conscious of its unity with Being.


Shaken from his tranquil slumber, the young Ulrich Tölle crumbled beneath yet another bout of existential dread. The burden of existence seemed too much for him, and a deep ‘loathing of the world’, including his own life, shackled him with misery and despair. Yet such occurrences were not infrequent; the young German had struggled with anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts for most of his 29 years. However, this night, the dread of his own being weighed as never before. In the pangs of self-hatred, he began to wonder whether the thing he hated was, in fact, just a husk to be shed. If he couldn’t live with himself, then perhaps there must be two of him – only one being his true identity. Perhaps the self he hated so much wasn’t him at all.

This discovery transformed the young Ulrich, who would eventually adopt not only a new vision of life but a new name to accompany his radical conversion. Now called Eckhart, his revelation would bloom into The Power of Now, a book that has succeeded in generating over three million sales in North America alone, being translated into 33 languages and becoming a favourite of celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey. His innumerable readers have been inspired by his words, which claim to offer more than mere fleeting happiness but real, lasting peace and a freedom from the world of suffering.


Tolle does not pretend to be a teacher. Rather, his work acts as a reminder – a reminder of knowledge we all seem to know yet actively suppress. He writes, ‘I cannot tell you any spiritual truth that deep within you don't know already. All I can do is remind you of what you have forgotten.’ Within us, we all create a false self, one dominated by anxiety, worry, past pain and fear. While what Tolle calls ‘the mind’ is useful for everyday life such as planning and reasoning, it becomes problematic when dominated by anxiety, worry, past pain and fear – creating a false self with which we identify. This cuts us off from our true self, which is consciousness united to Being. What does he mean by ‘Being’? While it surpasses the capacity of the mind (the false self) to fully define, Being can still be felt and experienced. It is ‘the eternal, ever-present One Life beyond the myriad forms of life that are subject to birth and death’, yet even these words are mere signposts, pointing us towards the rediscovery of our true identity. To accomplish this, we must raise our state of consciousness by accepting the present moment in all its fullness, both good and bad.

The book proceeds through a series of questions and answers. This allows Tolle to easily communicate what would have otherwise been a complex redefining of familiar terms. Words such as consciousness, Being, mind, time and presence are assigned new meaning, revealing the world in a way that transcends what the egoic mind is able to see. To become enlightened yourself, you must begin by recognising the mind for what it is. You must ‘watch the thinker’, witnessing your mind and your inability to stop thinking, which will, in effect, separate you from your thoughts. This simple act brings a higher level of consciousness to your life and enables you to dwell wholly in the present, accepting and residing in what is real. The past and the future are no longer part of this reality, thereby eliminating our identity with the mind and its ability to deceive and oppress us.

Why does the mind create suffering? Like all things, it acts to preserve itself, so it generates fears and negative emotions to draw you into the belief that it represents your true reality. In summoning the future, it promises you fulfilment. The next relationship, the next job, the next success – all these are illusory hopes for a true sense of identity. When we fail to achieve them, and even when we do succeed, they reveal themselves to be false idols. Likewise, past grievances become another place to ground our identity by providing us with a sense of safety and familiarity. Examples might be the man who always seems to seek abusive relationships, believing he is deserving of nothing better, or the alcoholic who merely accepts her addictions as inevitable. This is, for Tolle, insanity.

While no one would actively choose suffering, insofar as we live in a state of unconsciousness we remain trapped. Freedom comes only in accepting the Now, surrendering to it and finding yourself connected to Being, consciousness and bliss. Certain physical pains and negative emotions may still arise; they just no longer control you. When you recognise that these feelings do not belong to your true self but are instead merely products of the mind, true compassion and peace become possible. Specifically: compassion comes from a realisation that others trapped in unconsciousness, as you once were, are not free. Peace comes from an acceptance of all that is, and when embodied within, enables you to become a conduit of peace for others. As such, we become the 'light of the world', bringing hope of spiritual evolution to all we encounter.


What Tolle hopes to offer is nothing less than salvation – here and now. While his novel terminology can be slightly daunting at first, the style and rhythmic nature of his writing allows the reader to slowly step into the waters of higher consciousness. Simultaneously, the narrative is genuinely personal, providing practical tips at every stage in a manner that is both simple yet provocatively deep. Tolle also draws appreciably on various religious thinkers, from both East and West, bringing forth their shared wisdom on the nature of the human condition.

Further Reading By This Author

Tolle has published five full-length books, one children’s book, and even a graphic novel. Follow-up works to The Power of Now include Practicing the Power of Now and A New Earth.

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