I’ve read many books in my lifetime, but there are only a handful that are ‘stand outs’ that I will happily return to again and again.
One of these is ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle which has lived by my bed for several years now. Its simple message, that by living in the present moment all of our problems drop away, is not one that inspires everyone who first reads the book. If you are wedded to thinking, then it’s a message you won’t ‘get’ at first, and you might consider it misguided or irrelevant to everyday life.
Maybe though, like me, you will come to appreciate that the present moment is all we have, because it’s all there ever is. If you aren’t here now, where are you?
Of course, there are times when it’s much easier to be present than others. Sitting here on the balcony looking out over the Adriatic in the warm sunshine with beach sounds rising up from the happy people below, this moment is one crying out to be noticed.
But even here – or perhaps especially here – other thoughts soon come sliding in. The warmth, the peace and the gentle lapping of the sea are the perfect cocktail for contemplation. As the mind slows down, the endless loop of thought continues to unwind. There’s a small boat in the harbour, picking up passengers. I didn’t see it arrive even though it’s directly in my field of view. I must have been somewhere else.
Staying fully present is hard work.
It’s not that I don’t value thought. Creative thinking is the root of all human progress, and clearly we need it to function.
But most thought isn’t creative, it’s reactive, and if you’re like me you’ve probably had the experience of drowning in thought – your head so full and busy that you feel as though a fuse will blow.
When you feel that way too, try switching your attention to the present. Bring your focus to the Now. Listen, see, touch, feel the moment. Be here totally. Let yourself experience your own life.
If you were to ask me, I would say that, compared to presence, thought is a poor substitute.