It’s been a while since I’ve written. Things have been busy with my doctoral program, being fortunate enough to study the scientific underpinnings of mindfulness, this elusive yet tangible thing many people strive for. While I do love to read, reading for leisure is something that happens less and less for me now (thank you Netflix); however, when I do make time, I pick up Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, a book that while not long, takes quite some time to get through given the profound simplicity of Tolle’s writing. Tolle structures the book in a Q&A format, and one section tonight really resonated with me. The question posed to him is the following:
“I have been practicing meditation, I have been to workshops, I have read many books on spirituality, I try to be in a state of nonresistance — but if you ask me whether I found true and lasting inner peace, my honest answer would have to be “no.” Why haven’t I found it? What else can I do?” (p. 193).
To this, Tolle responds essentially by saying don’t seek outside of you through workshops and books to meet this state of inner peace (don’t worry: the irony of him saying this in a book, his book, isn’t lost on me); rather accept the lack of inner peace as is and through this acceptance, this restlessness will be transformed into peace. This stood out for me because it’s something I wrestle with. I too practice regularly and read on the topic. I’m attending a silent retreat over the summer and the lab I’m studying in at McGill is the McGill Mindfulness Research Lab! One would think with so much exposure it just seep in via osmosis. One of the tenants of mindfulness is non-striving, something easier said than done. However, it can be done by simply not doing anything. Let me explain.
As Tolle writes, people are attached to their drama, it males up who they are (this is something I hope to write about at a future date). This is true no matter who you are: the disgruntled partner who got into a bad fight with their significant other, too afraid to let that anger go, the person who feels worthless because the failed at a task, the list goes on. This is not to say those emotions aren’t real; they very much are. However, how one handles them is the essence of what Tolle (and psychologists) try to get to. These stories can be part of you, but not define you. As Tolle remarks, one may not be happy with a current situation, but they can be at peace with it through acceptance of the present moment.
I will close by saying this isn’t easy, it takes practice. We’re all so wrapped up in superficial details of our busy lives (myself included) it can be hard to simply be. Through acceptance of your daily stresses, pleasures, desires, etc., Tolle claims true inner peace can be found. I would end by saying “I look forward to day when I can find this,” but that would still be seeking from the outside, striving. For now, I will simply sit with the discomfort of this easy yet difficult concept, and just be.
Tolle, E. (1999). The power of now: A guide to spiritual enlightenment. Namaste Publishing; Vancouver, BC.