I’m sure many of you will have heard of or read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. Drawing on several, mainly eastern, philosophical approaches Tolle asserts that negative emotions arise from our failure to live our lives in the present moment and from our habit of overly identifying with the ego. But what if your now seems to be a bit of a challenge. Right now, the world of 2021 isn’t any better than 2020, and many people that I’ve been speaking to are suffering from ‘Covid-Fatigue’.
It is an inescapable truth of our existence that everything happens now. In fact, there are only three things that are ever present in our lives. You exist, everything happens now, and change is constant. Upon this changing tableaux of our lives, we humans have invented the idea of time and imposed it upon reality, so that we can create a coherent narrative for our existence. But time is an illusion, everything happens now. We measure change and call it time. So, it is change that is ever present in our lives, not time. And now is all there is. This is why the various traditions that Tolle draws on impel us to live in the present moment. If we spend our time re-living things from the past or imagining a future we do not prefer, then we feel negative emotions. If we live in the past or the future the ever-present moments of our lives pass us by, unnoticed and unlived.
All well and good, but as I said above what if your now seems rather unpleasant? Today we are apparently no further on through this grim pandemic. Our normal social lives are infringed yet again, work is one continuous zoom session, and once more we share the stress of home schooling with our children. And all of this is happening in a cold dreary January. If we return to Tolle’s ideas, the judgement of this now being wearing or unpleasant is still rooted in our inability to live in the now. We are judging this now by imagining another now that we would prefer, or by remembering one that we experienced before, which in our mind, was better. Even an assessment of the weather being cold and dreary comes from comparing the current weather with other months we have previously experienced or imagined. Yes, usually the weather in July is warmer and brighter, but we aren’t in July, we are in January.
Even if we think that our now is unpleasant, Tolle asks us to simply re-examine our relationship to this now. Take a fresh look at it, find the pleasures in this now. Let go of the judgement of January or February 2021. You can do this by letting go of making comparisons of your experience of this now to other ones, past or future. There is still positivity, fun, gratitude, and newness for you to discover in this now. Allow yourself the time to find it. Fall in love with now. This means that you still take action in your life. This idea of falling in love with now isn’t passive, it’s still an active participation. As you may have noticed one of the paradoxes of time is that if you spend more time in the now, time seems to pass more quickly than if you spend now in the past or the future.
So how does goal setting fit into this? Surely having goals is about setting up an expectation of what you are going to do or have in the future. It is, and the real purpose of goals is to motivate you to take action in the present. The purpose of having goals is not necessarily that you achieve them, though you often will, it is more about helping you to fully engage with your life. So still have goals for the years ahead, take action, live in the now, re-examine your relationship to the now, fall in love with it again.
“If you are not living this moment, you are not really living.” Eckhart Tolle