“Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your here-and-now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally.”~ eckhart tolle, The Power of Now
The last couple of months, I have been doing a great deal of reading. Not everything has been focused on Stoicism or business, in fact some of the books have been Sci-Fi novels, and I’m even about to finish the whole Harry Potter series in the next few days.
But I’ve also been slowly crawling my way through Eckhart Tolle’s “the Power of Now,” usually whenever I’m needing something a little more introspective and personally challenging. And for me, challenging it has been.
If you couldn’t deduce from the title, the book is heavily focused on “living in the present.” While the concepts in the book are nothing new, the presentation is a modernization of buddhist ideas with a flavoring of christianity to create a modern zen for the modern mind. Over the last 30 years, it has been a very successful book, selling over 3 million copies in 30 languages, even being recommended by Oprah.
Personally, it has been teaching me how little I truly “live in the present” (I kinda hate that saying, but it is the easiest way to capture the concept), but I’ll save that topic for a later writing.
I don’t fully identify with everything I’ve read in “The Power of Now”, but one thing I have really appreciated has been the simplicity with which much of the fourth chapter’s strategies are on staying present. A simple example is the quote atop this reflection. It truly and simply captures the only 3 solutions one has when one decides to take responsibility for their own life and do something.
The operative words there are “take responsibility,” in that they underline the consequence of action. If no action is taken, misery and negativity will continue to be endured in an undesirable situation.
Have you ever felt like you were stuck in an intolerable situation? Ever felt hopeless or powerless to make the type of impact you know you’re capable of? Ever just hate the situation you’ve found yourself in?
Well your options are quite simple. You either do something about it, or you don’t. If you don’t, then you will continue to be a victim of your circumstances, you’ll continue to be unhappy, and you won’t be in control of your own being and, subsequently, life.
If you do decide to do something about it, however, you have 3 simple options, according to Tolle: “remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally.”
The passage goes further into detail about those three options and various related strategies (so I recommend the book if you’re looking for more on the topic), but the very next thing after this quote is just as important:
“If you take any action – leaving or changing your situation – drop the negativity first, if at all possible. Action arising out of insight into what is required is more effective than action arising out of negativity.”
Negativity can be a powerful motivator of action in itself, but if it is the key ingredient, it will come at the expense of growth.
I think this is a powerful lesson that everyone can benefit from, and I am grateful to have it to meditate on this week. I encourage you to do the same.