Probably the single greatest book
I own. Written by Eckhart Tolle
, it is esentially a guide to finding happiness
and spiritual enlightenment
in the modern world. Eckhart's story is explained early in the book. At the age of 29, he had for years suffered from depression
, falling into a miserable life that he could no longer bear. He awoke one night in a state of dread
, realizing that he could no longer life with himself. After asking the question "I cannot live with myself, but who is the I and who is myself?" he had a moment of spiritual awakening
. According to the story, he fell into a deep unconsciousness
and awoke the next morning with a love of life and an inner peace that has lasted to this day.
Ok, now this may be a bit far fetched, but stranger things have happened. For many years he spent time giving seminars and helping people to discover what he's found. This book is a product of those experiences, it is written in a question and answer format with questions he has recieved during his seminars. The basic premise of the book is to live fully in the now. He explains that that past and the future do not exist, all we have is now. Most of our unhappiness is caused by our anxiety and fear over the past and future, and by living fully in the present we can attain an inner peace and hapiness that we all desire.
He goes on to explain how modern society has caused us to identify our sense of self with the egoic mind, which needs suffering and anxiety to validate itself. This identification with the ego is the primary cause of suffering in our world. By observing our egoic mind rather than letting it define us, we can learn to use it as a tool of our existance rather than to define our existance. He also stresses repeatedly that we cannot find happiness through external things such as possesions, relationships, and goals. These things all provide temporary fulfillment that will not last, and one day they will be gone leaving us alone. He talks about realationships extensively.
That's the basic idea of the book. Now let me try to explain why I think it is so powerful. When I first read this book, I was constantly thinking how much sense it all makes. It feels right on a level that the mind cannot justify, that is the best I can explain it. In addition, it really fit in with modern psychology and at the time I was looking for some way to integrate the ideas of psychology and spirituality.
At the time I read it, I was going through a very rough time with my anxiety disorder. I had gone through a period where I felt like I didn't have a real purpose for my life, I felt I was just drifting without going anywhere. In an effort to try and cure some of my depression and anxiety, I began reading up on what psychology had to say.
Well, psychology tells me that my problems are caused by a chemical imbalance in my brain which can be fixed through therapy and/or medication. For a while, this perked me up and I made a list of problems that I wanted to work on. However, one night I lay in bed and the thought hit me, if I can learn to change my thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, then who am I really? This lack of identity led me into a dark period of depression. Then I read this book.
Now I'm not going to claim this book fixed everything. However, it did offer me a different way to look at life, a way that I used to know without ever thinking about it. Even if you don't buy into the spirituality aspects of the book, which I am still somewhat undecided about, there is some really good advice here for making the most of your life. It gave me an alternative way to look at myself and my problems, a way that would allow me to accept things as they are and be happy with life as it is now. It is not easy to live, but once you plant the seed it is bound to have an impact on your life.
One last point, this book is nothing new, but it is written in a concise and clear manner that makes it easy to digest the information presented. Almost all of the ideas presented are consistent with the ideals of all major religions and belief systems in the world. Tolle explains this, and through the book you can really see how even two different belief systems, such as Christianity and Buddhism are really based on the same ideas with different terminology. It really opened my eyes to spirituality. Basically, the best way I can put it is that it confirmed what I had believed ever since I started to question Christianity, that God is not a being, God is being.
I think everyone can get something out of this book. Even if you don't buy it all, there is so much good advice here to alter the way you percieve yourself and life that it is bound to make an impact. As Tolle frequently says, he cannot tell you anything you do not already know, he can only help you to realize the truth within you.