The Mind is Its Own Place: Lessons from Tolle’s Power of Now

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” - John Milton

Negative situations trigger our negative emotions.  Negative emotions put us in a dark place.  However, there is a way of living that allows us to feel calm and peaceful regardless of what’s happening around us.  The way to do it is to be a good observer.  Be a good observer of your mind and be a good observer of the so-called bad situations.  When it comes to the subject of mind and situation observing, it’s difficult not to mention Eckhart Tolle, an amazing teacher on mindfulness.   Let’s now take a look at some of the best lessons from his book, The Power of Now.  


1) Most of Your Thoughts are Just Reactions or Random Thoughts

“You are not your mind.” - Eckhart Tolle

It is very easy and intuitive to think that you are your thoughts and you are your mind.  Eckhart Tolle teaches that we are not out of our minds and our thoughts are not completely controlled by ourselves.  A lot of the thoughts are just knee jerk reactions of what happens surrounding us.  Back in the days when human beings needed to keep themselves safe from wild animals, we needed those knee jerk reactions.  We needed to be overly cautious to keep ourselves alive.  But now we no longer live in that era.  We still have those knee jerk reactions because our mind just doesn’t happen to have evolved enough.  Also, there are times when those reactions are still very useful in today’s world.  It’s just that we have to be aware of those reactions.  If you feel scared, sad, or jealous when you know you shouldn’t be feeling that way, know that this is just a reaction, observe it and don’t blame yourself.  It’s even better if you can ask yourself objectively and calmly why you have this feeling?  There can be some hidden root cause that you can observe.  


2) There’s a Thinker You and an Observer You

“Stay present, and continue to be the observer of what is happening inside you. Become aware not only of the emotional pain but also of "the one who observes," the silent watcher.” - Eckhart Tolle

While our minds are having all those thoughts, if we can observe what we are thinking, we can create space between ourselves and our thoughts.  Is the “observer you” the actual you?  Or if the “thinker you” the actual you?  It’s probably better to consider the “observer you” the actual you.  A probably even more realistic way to think is that both the “observer you” and the “thinker you” are parts of you.  The first step towards mindfulness is to be aware that there are two “you’s”.  


3) Being Able to Observe Your Thoughts Changes Everything 

“You are not your thoughts.” - Eckhart Tolle

Having known that there’s an “observer you” and a “thinker you”, you should try to be aware of your “thinker you” as much as possible.  Try to see your thoughts and emotions coming in and out in an objective and calm way.  Say “Hi” to them but don’t let them guide your actions or reactions.  


4) Every Situation Will Eventually End

“This too shall pass.” - Eckhart Tolle

Thinking about your past.  Is there anything bad that lasts forever?  Everything, good or bad, will eventually be gone.  Just by understanding this thoroughly should be able to make you stay calmer when you encounter obstacles.  There are pains in life that we can hardly make ourselves go through without emotions, but knowing that “this too shall pass” can likely ease the pain.  


5) Everything Happens Is Neutral, Don’t Give Meaning to It

“There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” - Eckhart Tolle

If you get fired by your boss and you don’t have any savings, it’s bad on the surface.  But now you got the opportunity to work on something that probably suits you more, isn’t it now a good thing that you have lost your job?  Who knows?  The fact is that you have lost your job and you need money.  Don’t attach feelings to facts.  Just think about where you are at, where you want to be, and what you need to do to get you there.  


6) Don’t Complain

“To complain is always non-acceptance of what is.” - Eckhart Tolle

We often complain when people treat us differently from what we expected.  We expect our people to agree with us but they argue.  We expect people to help us but they choose to ignore.  Although the situation is neutral but the difference between the expectation and the reality makes us angry and complain.  The moment we complain, whether the complaint is an actual verbal one or just a long face, we let our emotions control us and become victims.  


7) There Are Only 3 Ways to Approach a Negative Situation

“When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change the situation, or accept it. All else is madness.” - Eckhart Tolle

Eckhart Tolle is a rational person that thinks in a very clear and logical way.  When there’s a negative situation, there are really three options you can choose:

  1. Leave the situation
  2. Change the situation
  3. Accept the situation

Which exact option depends both on the situation and the type of person you are.  

Let’s imagine that, one morning, you are going to get a cup of tea in a cafe and your goal is to have a productive day.  You are waiting in a line and, suddenly, someone cut in line, the worst thing you can do is to argue angrily, because that’s letting the person who cut in line make you a victim.  Remember, your goal is to have a productive day and making yourself angry in the morning can almost guarantee that you are not going to have one.  Yes, you can tell the person to go to the back of the line if you are the type of person that can do it without being angry (change the situation).  You can just accept that someone cut in line without getting angry (accept the situation).  You can also go to the cafe next door (leave the situation).   Isn’t it stupid to leave the cafe because someone cut in line?  No, if you know your priority is to have a productive day and you are the type of person that doesn't mind doing this.  At the end of the day, it also depends on the situation, the type of person you are and your priority at the moment.  


8) The Present Moment Is All You Have

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the ‘now’ the primary focus of your life.” - Eckhart Tolle

Think about it, we don’t really have anything.  Anything we have now, we won’t have it forever.  All we have at any moment is that specific moment.  Goals and plans are important but they are there only to guide you decide what to do in a specific moment.  Know your goals.  Know your plans.  Focus on now.  


9) When Life Is Frightening, Focus on the Current Moment

“Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.” - Eckhart Tolle

It’s unlikely that we can avoid encountering things that we can hardly bear.  At such a moment, the most beneficial thing that we can do is to focus on now.  The situation can be quite threatening if you think about it as a giant problem, but if you focus on what is actually happening at this single moment, it’s really not as bad.  For example, being in a serious debt can be scary, but the appropriate action at this single moment is to get a job and there’s nothing too scary about this.  Know the situation and just do the best thing you can do at the specific moment.  At the end of the day, doing the best is the best that you can do.  


10) Ask Yourself The “Observer” Question to Get Yourself Back to the Present Moment

“Try a little experiment. Close your eyes and say to yourself: “I wonder what my next thought is going to be.” Then become very alert and wait for the next thought. Be like a cat watching a mouse hole. What thought is going to come out of the mouse hole?” - Eckhart Tolle

Try to ask yourself “what’s my next thought” and observe your thinking.  You can feel the mind sort of stop wandering around.  You are not focusing on now.  You are in the present.  You are mindful.  

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