The author of one of the hottest-selling spirituality books claims many people’s relationship to time is creating misery in their lives. In The Power of Now (New World Library), Eckhart Tolle advises us that the way to regain psychic health is to live as fully as possible in the present moment. “You cannot be both unhappy and fully present in the Now,” he says. The Now is also the doorway into the divine, the connection point with the great state of calm power that Tolle variously calls the Unmanifest, Presence, and God.
The trouble is that the human mind loves to spoil the party by returning us to the punishing world of what Tolle calls “psychological time”—our internal sense that past and future constitute our identity. He points out that the past and future are not real—just projections of current fears and hopes—but we nonetheless dwell in their illusory realm, endlessly rehashing past errors, endlessly anticipating future goods, and missing the Now entirely. “The power and infinite creative potential that lie concealed in the Now are completely obscured by psychological time,” writes Tolle, “Your life then loses its vibrancy, its freshness, its sense of wonder.”
Tolle’s answer is to respect and use “clock time”—the external, nontoxic time we need to carry on our days—but banish inner, or psychological, time from our lives through a loving cultivation of the present moment. Constantly refreshed and reconnected with the calm power of the Unmanifest, and untormented by inner time, we can experience clock time peacefully.
Tolle, a German-born ex-academic who studied in London and Cambridge, began exploring the spirit after undergoing a spontaneous mystical experience—a dark night of the soul that catapulted him from anxiety and depression into, as he puts it, “a state of uninterrupted deep peace and bliss” that has continued at varying levels of intensity ever since. His plain-spoken blend of mindfulness and mysticism, oriented toward immediate psychic change and unencumbered by any guru trappings, seems to have struck a chord. The Power of Now was a surprise word-of-mouth bestseller in many bookshops, including Banyen Books in Vancouver (where Tolle lives) and Seattle’s East West Bookshop; and it’s turned into something of a grassroots spiritual movement in the four years since its publication, with Tolle study groups springing up from Vancouver to Omaha to Atlanta.