In ‘The Power of Now’ Tolle gives us advice about how to free ourselves from our minds, to free ourselves from its tyranny. This is a fundamental step on any path of awakening.
Tolle advises us to become aware of the voice in our heads, that constant commentary which is going on inside us. “The voice comments, speculates, judges, compares, complains, likes, dislikes and so on”. We all know this voice, it is like a group of old acquaintances gossiping and commenting on all the world.
Of course, our internal voice is somewhat of a prima donna, it always needs a bit of drama, a bit of excitement, “Here it often imagines things going wrong and negative outcomes; this is called worry”. The voices in our minds are strongly influenced by our pasts and our culture, usually negatively.
“Many people live with a tormentor in their head that continuously attacks and punishes them and drains them of vital energy. It is the case of untold misery and unhappiness, as well as of disease”.
Time we did something about it and Tolle reassures us that we can. He tells us, “The good news is that you can free yourself from your mind. This is the only true liberation.”
The first step we have learned already – become aware of those voices, separate yourself from them, be a witness to the voices and recognize that you are not those voices. A wise saying and often part of a meditation, used by many Hindus is “Not this, not this”, or, “Neti, neti”, in Sanskrit. We can repeat this to ourselves when we become aware of our failings, our shortcomings and the boundaries we would impose upon ourselves. We are greater than these, the universe is greater than this, we can go beyond these limitations.
Tolle believes that we, humans, are still evolving, he considers, “The predominance of mind is no more than a stage in the evolution of consciousness.” It is time to move on, Tolle exhorts us, as individuals and as a species, “We need to go on to the next stage now as a matter of urgency, otherwise, we shall be destroyed by the mind, which has grown into a monster”
This is where we get scared, change nearly always scares us. Change which requires some effort, and nearly all change does, some discipline is guaranteed to scare us. Just a little perhaps, enough to put it off until tomorrow and again tomorrow. Remember your mind is conspiring against you in this.
Observing our emotions is as important as watching our thoughts. “An emotion”, Tolle tells us, “usually represents an amplified and energized thought pattern, and because of its overpowering energetic charge, it is not easy initially to stay present enough to be able to watch it.” We have all experienced being overpowered by our emotions, usually negative emotions such as anger or fear. “We loose our cool”is a common expression to describe our state when we are overpowered by these emotions.
Tolle believes that all emotions, all negative emotions, are modifications of one original emotion that has its origin in the loss of awareness of who we are. He refers to this original, undifferentiated emotion as ‘pain because we find it so unpleasant and spend most of our life trying to escape from it. Our minds are in the front line of this defense.
Tolle comments, “One of the main tasks of the mind is to fight or remove that emotional pain, which is one of the reasons for its incessant activity, but all it can ever achieve is to cover it up temporarily. In fact, the harder the mind struggles to get rid of pain, the greater the pain”. The mind is, “itself an intrinsic part of the problem”.
There is no escape by this route, we must find another, which brings us back to being present, to recognizing the power of now.