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JosephM

The Power of Now - By Eckhart Tolle

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Anyone interested in a book discussion of  "The Power of Now , A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment" by Eckhart Tolle?

It contains an introduction and 10 Chapters and we could discuss 1 chapter a week over a 10 week period. 

"You are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold. That is how important you are!" 

---Eckhart Tolle

 

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11 hours ago, JosephM said:

Anyone interested in a book discussion of  "The Power of Now , A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment" by Eckhart Tolle?

It contains an introduction and 10 Chapters and we could discuss 1 chapter a week over a 10 week period. 

"You are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold. That is how important you are!" 

---Eckhart Tolle

 

I'll try, but I hope people discuss the book and don't just use it as an excuse to ramble on about their private ideations.  The TNH book topic was very disappointing.

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Fair enough Burl. Would like to get more than just 2 of us to start. Anyone else? The book is a #1 NY Times Best Seller.

Joseph

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Good. We can start with 3 and anyone else is welcome to join. Do you have the book already Paul and Burl? If so Read the intro and Chapter 1 then comment. If not let me know when you are ready. Chapter 1 " You are not your Mind"

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I have the book, so I think I will be in a position to comment as you suggest in a couple of days (maybe sooner).

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Eckhart is not aligned with any particular religion or tradition. In his teaching, he conveys a simple yet profound message with the timeless and uncomplicated clarity of the ancient spiritual masters: there is a way out of suffering and into peace.

The first chapter is pretty clear in that Tolle's method is to repress many important aspects of experience.  This does not sound healthy in the least.  

He writes entirely too quickly and with very few examples.  His statements are not supported or elucidated.  I have a sinking feeling that this is going to be a lot of him trying to induce a temporary sense of well-being by implementing psychological defense mechanisms.

 

 

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I have another 7 pages to go in Chapter 1  before i officially comment but so far i see him saying don't think about what I am saying and try to understand it so much intellectually but .... rather try and be a witness to your own mind and see if what i am saying is true for yourself. I do agree he doesn't seem to be aligned with any one exclusive  religion.

Joseph

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5 hours ago, Burl said:

 

The first chapter is pretty clear in that Tolle's method is to repress many important aspects of experience.  This does not sound healthy in the least.  

 (snip)

 

Burl,

If by repress, you mean .. restrain, prevent, or inhibit , I got the opposite understanding. Clearly his words to me seem to say "be a witness" and "do not judge your thoughts". He doesn't to me seem to be advocating restraining or stopping thoughts but rather stressing that instead we should witnessing them ( rather than identifying with them) which  brings them into the light of consciousness so that we will see they are just conditioning and that their power comes from that conditioning and our being unconscious of what is really happening . In essence he is saying identifying with our thoughts as our true self is giving those thoughts power over us. He proposes that the more we practice witnessing them the less frequently our mind will use us and the more we will use it as a tool rather than the other way around. Hence the Chapter 1 title "You are not your mind" as it is just a very small part of consciousness and who you are on a deeper level. At least that is my take on his words.

Joseph

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3 hours ago, JosephM said:

Burl,

If by repress, you mean .. restrain, prevent, or inhibit , I got the opposite understanding. Clearly his words to me seem to say "be a witness" and "do not judge your thoughts". He doesn't to me seem to be advocating restraining or stopping thoughts but rather stressing that instead we should witnessing them ( rather than identifying with them) which  brings them into the light of consciousness so that we will see they are just conditioning and that their power comes from that conditioning and our being unconscious of what is really happening . In essence he is saying identifying with our thoughts as our true self is giving those thoughts power over us. He proposes that the more we practice witnessing them the less frequently our mind will use us and the more we will use it as a tool rather than the other way around. Hence the Chapter 1 title "You are not your mind" as it is just a very small part of consciousness and who you are on a deeper level. At least that is my take on his words.

Joseph

I'm guessing.  His ideas are so thin at this point I can't get anything more than just a general idea of where he might be going.  When he gets into specific experiences that will help.

He only lists four or five references, which is going to make it difficult to compare and contrast.  Mind involves conscious, subconscious, memory, imagination, learning, sensorium, aspirations, emotions, personality, talents, temperament inter alia.  That's over five references already.

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Chapter 2 is dead wrong and psychologically damaging.  Tolle's insistence on making up his own terms and ignoring everyone else is problematic, but look at this:

Quote

So the pain-body doesn’t want you to observe it directly and see it for what it is. The moment you observe it, feel its energy field within you, and take your attention into it, the identification is broken. A higher dimension of consciousness has come in. I call it presence. You are now the witness or the watcher of the pain-body. This means that it cannot use you anymore by pretending to be you, and it can no longer replenish itself through you. You have found your own innermost strength. You have accessed the power of Now.

I read his "pain-body" as an interruptive and unpleasant internal dialogue.  Why there is no corresponding "pleasure-body' I don't know, but I personally seem to have both.

Tolle says 'higher dimension of consciousness' but I think he is really advocating the denial of psychological trauma.  When the pain occurred it was certainly in the 'Now'.  It is likely to repeat or have other effects in the 'Now' if simply dismissed.

Negative thoughts need to be opened up and explored, not emotionally stuffed like they are not real.  

The fact that the 'pain-body' is elicited by the 'Now' is completely ignored. 

The fact that Tolle has ignored a hundred years of experience in mental health is disturbing.  I hope he gets to the spiritual part soon, 'cuz his pop psychology is dangerous.

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Wow, you are a fast reader Burl. I can only digest a couple pages a day.

He describes pain as "some form of nonacceptance"  or unconscious resistance to what is.

In my experience, I can relate to that. Buddhism also seems to relate to that. Christianity might also in Jesus words to let not your heart be troubled or  when he said "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,, " and other verses. 

 

Tolle defines the pain-body as past pain and seems to me to be saying it will dissolve if we"watch out for signs of unhappiness in ourselves, in whatever form" irritation, impatience, a somber mood or desire to hurt, anger rage etc. it may take.  He suggests that we be more conscious of what is happening in our body and observe it as best we can and that act of observing or witnessing the thoughts and feelings that accompany it expose it to our light of consciousness which exposes it for what it is rather than allowing it to take over us. This helps to dissolve its effect on us.

It seems to me that physiatrists try to help us do that very thing but not as it is happening but rather after the fact using the past memory. I guess i don't see the harm but i haven't finished reading yet. more later.

Joseph 

 

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Turns out Chapter 2 is short so here is his summary from page 40 which to me is worth practice time. I don't think it is bad advice and as he says try it and see what happens. There is no need to believe , just to test it and see if their is benefit. No harm there.

Joseph

Quote

Focus attention on the feeling inside you. Know that it is the pain-body. Accept that it is there. Don't think about it --- don't let the feeling turn into thinkinking. Don't judge or analyse. Don't make an identity for yourself out of it. 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. This is the power of Now, the power of your own conscious presence. then see what happens.

 

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On 10/20/2018 at 5:02 AM, JosephM said:

Turns out Chapter 2 is short so here is his summary from page 40 which to me is worth practice time. I don't think it is bad advice and as he says try it and see what happens. There is no need to believe , just to test it and see if their is benefit. No harm there.

Joseph

Quote

Focus attention on the feeling inside you. Know that it is the pain-body. Accept that it is there. Don't think about it --- don't let the feeling turn into thinkinking. Don't judge or analyse. Don't make an identity for yourself out of it. 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. This is the power of Now, the power of your own conscious presence. then see what happens.

This seems like a half-measure, half psychologically healthy, but perfectly persuasive to the masses. 

Accepting the feeling and focusing on it is healthy, but our psychological issues are formed by emotions and thoughts, and only focusing on the emotion is a half-measure. Analysing the thinking behind it is also required, and once analysed the feeling can be purely felt. Doing the two together is not advised, but doing the two consecutively works very well. 

Tolle bypasses the thought strand by this device of focusing on the 'one who observes'. It effectively numbs the emotional pain in the mind by splitting it from consciousness, where it remains free to control the person subconsciously, without their awareness. 

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Skype. 

I don't think he is saying ignore the thinking if you read the whole first 2 Chapters. He seems to be saying to witness them as much as you can rather than ignore them. Doing so removes their power over you by reidentification with your deeper self, the observer of thinking. He isn't talking about the thinking we use to solve problems but rather the incessant thoughts that arise from our conditioning. At least that is my take on his words.

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4 hours ago, JosephM said:

Skype. 

I don't think he is saying ignore the thinking if you read the whole first 2 Chapters. He seems to be saying to witness them as much as you can rather than ignore them. Doing so removes their power over you by reidentification with your deeper self, the observer of thinking. He isn't talking about the thinking we use to solve problems but rather the incessant thoughts that arise from our conditioning. At least that is my take on his words.

Exactly the problem.  'Seems to be saying'.  'Don't think he is saying'.  'That is my take on his words'.  

Tolle never makes an attempt to define exactly what he is talking about.  No examples.  No discussion of other theories to compare and contrast.  He is vague, indistinct and apparently undereducated.  It's like he hired a ghost writer to put a book together based on his Oprah ramblings.

He claims to have taken his stage name from Meister Eckhart.  I wonder if has studied Eckhart or if he chose that appelation jstbto attract the cachet of the great Christian mystic.

Perhaps Tolle is just lazy.  We will see.

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Burl,

Granted his teachings doesn't discuss other theories to compare. Rather he seems to me to present practical  things we can try and test for ourselves. I happen to prefer that. If one tries what he is advocating and it doesn't work or seem to provide any benefit then i can understand your negativity concerning his writings. For me i have found nothing yet that he has said that i have not experienced as a benefit for myself. That's just my opinion and personal experience. I'm not basing my opinion on his sales of over 5 million copies or just that i have heard of many people who claim to benefit from his teachings. All one can ask  is to read it with an open mind and try his practical advice and see if their is any benefit. Conditioned thinking might resist doing so.

Joseph

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50 minutes ago, JosephM said:

Burl,

Granted his teachings doesn't discuss other theories to compare. Rather he seems to me to present practical  things we can try and test for ourselves. I happen to prefer that. If one tries what he is advocating and it doesn't work or seem to provide any benefit then i can understand your negativity concerning his writings. For me i have found nothing yet that he has said that i have not experienced as a benefit for myself. That's just my opinion and personal experience. I'm not basing my opinion on his sales of over 5 million copies or just that i have heard of many people who claim to benefit from his teachings. All one can ask  is to read it with an open mind and try his practical advice and see if their is any benefit. Conditioned thinking might resist doing so.

Joseph

The problem with that is near term benefits can have long term consequences, and that sacrifices made today are sometimes necessary for much greater benefits later on.  I will get to Chapter 3 this week.

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1 hour ago, JosephM said:

... Rather he seems to me to present practical  things we can try and test for ourselves. I happen to prefer that. If one tries what he is advocating and it doesn't work or seem to provide any benefit then i can understand your negativity concerning his writings. For me i have found nothing yet that he has said that i have not experienced as a benefit for myself.

After reading the first two chapters, that's about where I sit.  He is suggesting methods and behaviours that are pretty common in psychological practice such as calming the mind, observing one's thoughts, relaxing in the moment, etc.  I see these as practical and useful.  I think there is some supportive psychological science to demonstrate that calming the mind, meditating, observing one's thoughts has a beneficial practical application to mental health.  And I see similarities in what he is espousing to NLP - neuro linguistic programming.

Where I don't see him supporting his argument (at this point) is his concept that we are not the mind, even whilst he wants us to use our mind to separate 'ourselves' from our mind.  So I can't help but think this separation from mind/ego is just a mental construct he is using his mind to develop.  Clearly our minds do run away with all sorts of feelings, emotions and thoughts that we feel not in control of, but I suspect that we simply don't understand how the mind works well enough to understand how that occurs.  

For me, some bold statements such as 'there is clearly an intelligence at work that is far greater than the mind' needs a bit more support - maybe he'll try to provide some later.

In Chapter 2 he seems to make a big deal about how we measure time and suggests time wouldn't exist if it wasn't for us.  This sounds a bit gobbledy gook for me - time exists whether we're here or not.  Whether the animals or trees think about time is another matter, but I'm pretty confident that even if we weren't here time will still exist, it just might not be measured the way we do.  Yet even the animals seem to have a concept of time - they know when it is time to migrate, they know where they have found water in food in the past and so they return to it.  Time still occurs whether we measure it or not.  A past, present and future always exists in physicality, but I don't think so in consciousness (i.e. if you're not born yet or if you have died).

His concept of NOW being the only time we have doesn't make sense to me either.  We have a past which we call on to make decisions about what we may do in the future.  We call on that experience every day to survive.  I agree that silencing the mind and focusing on the now can be beneficial, but if that's all we did we wouldn't survive.  So I'm not sure how he can have it both ways - say that NOW is all we have but then rely on the past to experience our future.

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Quote

  Clearly our minds do run away with all sorts of feelings, emotions and thoughts that we feel not in control of, but I suspect that we simply don't understand how the mind works well enough to understand how that occurs.  

There is a malignant process of cascading where a simple negative thought leads to a predictable series of continually more anxiety provoking thoughts which rapidly becomes unbearable.  The trick here is to first identify and learn every step in the cascade.  Then one teaches the client to identify the cascade as it occurs and use a process called 'thought stopping' and internally yelling "NO!" When the cascade is recognized.  Once the cascade is destroyed the client can explore the truth surrounding the original troublesome thought through therapy and/or repentance.

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6 hours ago, Burl said:

There is a malignant process of cascading where a simple negative thought leads to a predictable series of continually more anxiety provoking thoughts which rapidly becomes unbearable.  The trick here is to first identify and learn every step in the cascade.  Then one teaches the client to identify the cascade as it occurs and use a process called 'thought stopping' and internally yelling "NO!" When the cascade is recognized.  Once the cascade is destroyed the client can explore the truth surrounding the original troublesome thought through therapy and/or repentance.

How or why does a simple negative thought lead to a predictable series of continually more anxiety provoking thoughts which rapidly becomes unbearable, is more what I am suggesting we do not properly understand of the mind.  We know it happens that way, but what makes it happen that way and why?  Why should we have to use the trick of identifying and learning every step in the cascade?  Tolle seems to suggest this process is not really 'us', whereas I suspect it is us but we just don't understand our brains well enough to understand how it works to produce these issues in the first place.

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2 hours ago, PaulS said:

How or why does a simple negative thought lead to a predictable series of continually more anxiety provoking thoughts which rapidly becomes unbearable, is more what I am suggesting we do not properly understand of the mind.  We know it happens that way, but what makes it happen that way and why?  Why should we have to use the trick of identifying and learning every step in the cascade?  Tolle seems to suggest this process is not really 'us', whereas I suspect it is us but we just don't understand our brains well enough to understand how it works to produce these issues in the first place.

It is a pathological development.  Unresolved issues can develop into cascades through practice, and little worries can grow into big ones that can even resemble phobias or compulsions.  It is abnomal, and Tolle has not discussed it but the root cause is a small unresolved issue that becomes elaborated.  The phenomena is well known and understood by therapists but differs a bit with every individual.

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12 hours ago, PaulS said:

(snip)

His concept of NOW being the only time we have doesn't make sense to me either.  We have a past which we call on to make decisions about what we may do in the future.  We call on that experience every day to survive.  I agree that silencing the mind and focusing on the now can be beneficial, but if that's all we did we wouldn't survive.  So I'm not sure how he can have it both ways - say that NOW is all we have but then rely on the past to experience our future.

I don't think he is saying there is no past or future per se. I believe he is saying that only NOW exists and to live almost exclusively through memory (past) or anticipation (the non-existent future) " creates an endless preoccupation with past and future and an unwillingness to acknowledge the present moment and allow it to be." He says the past gives us an identity and the future holds the promise of fulfillment which he speaks of as an illusion. To me the future is always hypothetical and has no real existence.  He speaks of " the eternal present as the space within which your whole life unfolds." The past happened in the NOW and the future will happen in the NOW.  It is okay to consider the past but you must do it in the NOW. When you think about the future you do it NOW. Its hard to grasp mentally but there is a subtle but important difference when you allow your mind to live in the past or non-existent future versus being present in the NOW and reflecting in the past or planning for the future NOW. Observing your mind and thoughts i believe will reveal the difference.

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11 hours ago, Burl said:

It is a pathological development.  Unresolved issues can develop into cascades through practice, and little worries can grow into big ones that can even resemble phobias or compulsions.  It is abnomal, and Tolle has not discussed it but the root cause is a small unresolved issue that becomes elaborated.  The phenomena is well known and understood by therapists but differs a bit with every individual.

The phenomena of this occurring is known, however I disagree that it is understood.  What is not understood, I would suggest, is how the brain does these things.  How does the brain develop a negative thought instead of a positive one?  How does one brain take a simple negative thought and progress it to a predictable series of continually more anxiety provoking thoughts which rapidly becomes unbearable?  When you say it is 'abnormal', what is abnormal?  The process of thinking and if so, why?  What is the abnormality - chemical, physical wiring, something else?  We know it happens but why and what makes it happen is less understood is what I am saying.

 

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6 minutes ago, PaulS said:

The phenomena of this occurring is known, however I disagree that it is understood.  What is not understood, I would suggest, is how the brain does these things.  How does the brain develop a negative thought instead of a positive one?  How does one brain take a simple negative thought and progress it to a predictable series of continually more anxiety provoking thoughts which rapidly becomes unbearable?  When you say it is 'abnormal', what is abnormal?  The process of thinking and if so, why?  What is the abnormality - chemical, physical wiring, something else?  We know it happens but why and what makes it happen is less understood is what I am saying.

 

Paul, I am a trained and experienced psychologist.  Abnormal is clinically defined as causing problems in daily life.  Thought cascades are a common problem and are as easily treatable as changing a flat tire.

I do not know what thoughts are made of.  Good luck on that one.

 

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