Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Power of Now

Last December I had been practicing intuitive eating for five months. My focus was 100% on the food, and as a result I was struggling. I have been posting on a thread called Conscious Eating/Conscious Living almost since the beginning of my journey. I didn’t understand why the thread founders decided to call it that. I thought it would have made more sense to call it Intuitive Eating. I didn’t get why they used the word conscious, and I really didn’t get the concept of conscious living. What did that mean, and how was it relevant to intuitive eating?

Then the answer to my question literally fell into my lap. My husband and I moved into our new house at the end of last November. We had a heck of a time getting telephone and internet service. I won’t go into the details, but the phone company was giving us the run around. I spent at least an hour a day talking to various phone company employees, but no one was able to help us. I became very angry over the whole situation. I would rant and rave to anyone who would listen.

This dragged on for about two weeks when The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle arrived in the mail. I was participating in an online secret gift exchange, and my secret person had sent it to me. No doubt it had something to do with all of the angry posts I had posted on the message board about my phone company dealings. I had no idea what this book was about, but I decided to read it anyway. I have never liked to read, but I had no other way to pass the time since we didn’t have phone or internet service. The satellite dish hadn’t been installed yet either, so TV wasn’t an option. That book was literally the only thing around to help me pass the time, so I read it.

I was instantly mesmerized. I read it in two days. Then I rushed out and bought the audio version. I proceeded to listen to it about six more times over the next couple of months. The Power of Now says nothing about conscious eating, but I finally got it. I understood why that thread is called Conscious Eating/Conscious Living. I understood that conscious living is really what this is all about. Conscious eating is just one aspect of conscious living.

This all started to hit me when I got to the part of the book in which Tolle writes about how nothing exists outside of the now. Here is an excerpt.

“Have you ever experienced, done, thought, or felt anything outside the Now? Do you think you ever will? Is it possible for anything to happen or be outside the Now? The answer is obvious, is it not?

Nothing ever happened in the past; it happened in the Now.

Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now.

What you think of as the past is a memory trace, stored in the mind, of a former Now. When you remember the past, you reactivate a memory trace – and you do so now. The future is an imagined Now, a projection of the mind. When the future comes, it comes as the Now. When you think about the future, you do it now. Past and future obviously have no reality of their own. Just as the moon has no lights of its own, but can only reflect the light of the sun, so are past and future only pale reflections of the light, power, and reality of the eternal present. Their reality is ‘borrowed’ from the Now”

If you have ever studied Buddhism or other such teachings, this excerpt probably won’t be as shocking to you as it was to me. But I had never heard anything like this before. I have since heard and read a lot of stuff about being present in the moment. Was I living under a rock before? I think the truth is that I wasn’t ready for that message yet. And the second I was, all of these events unfolded in perfect sequence to bring it to me. Amazing!

I realized that my problems with the phone company weren’t important. I was letting this outside drama interfere with my life. My life is what is happening right now. It has nothing to do with what the phone company failed to do in the past or may or may not do in the future. All that was a distraction from the Now, which is the only thing that really matters. The Now is the true essence of life.

And living in the now is also the key to intuitive eating. By living in the now, by living consciously, I am able to eat consciously. By being present in the moment, I feel my emotions as they come up. In the past, an uncomfortable feeling would often have me running to the fridge. Usually I wouldn’t even realize that was why I was eating. But when I am living consciously, I am conscious of what I am doing. I can’t run from my emotions anymore because I know they are there. I know exactly what I am doing.

So this is why I say that there is no conscious eating without conscious living.


Gemma said...

That excerpt rang a slightly different bell with me. I think one of the things IE has shown me is that I can't put my life on hold until I'm thin. I used to think I'll do my hair when I'm thin, I'll take care of myself when I'm thin, I'll like myself when I'm thin. It's true that all we have is the Now - why wait?

It is very powerful though - an excellent reminder that we need to live in the moment, not in the shadow of past failings or expected glories.

Tree Lover said...

Excellent point. Living in the moment is so important for a great number of reasons. It's really the only way to have a meaningful life.

Deb said...

WOW I'm so glad you posted about Eckhart Tolle and the Power of Now! My husband introduced me to this book and its awesome! We rented a few of his DVD's from netflix and they are great! Tolle seems to live by what he speaks. I so much agree with what Gemma is saying .. we wait til we get to X # on the scale or fit into X size jeans but the NOW is what is important. In the DVDs Tolle talks about the beauty of flowers and of traffic jams .. they are both beautiful because if you accept them as the 'now' then they are beautiful. He says it much better than I could but thanks so much for the reminder. It's so easy for us to get lost in the everyday living of 'life' and to forget about enjoying the 'now'.

Bliss Chick said...

I have never read or seen any works by Eckhart Tolle yet (I guess I should!), but when I was depressed in high school I one day realised that I couldn't wait until graduation and the freedom to move out on my own to come (and who's to say that, that alone would cease my sadness), I had to learn to be in the present. I started reading Buddhist books with the same message of the power of now. It really helped me get through that rough time.

Jen said...

There's so much truth to this. And I echo Gemma's thoughts. I have often spent so much of my life thinking about what happened in the past or what was going to happen later, that I was letting NOW pass me by. And becoming aware of this takes every bit as much effort as being mindful when you're eating. No doubt, you're spot on when you say these things are related! I'm excited that you've discovered such a connection and look forward to hearing how becoming more present changes your life. :-)

Tiana said...

I have kind of the same mentality as Gemma and Jen. I will get on with my life when I'm thin, and when every single other aspect of my life is in order. I'll really take the time to enjoy things when X happens. Until then, I will stew over every crappy hand I've been dealt and I'll pine for a future I can't have.

I just don't know how to really live in the present. I tell myself, "Self, you have to live in the now. Enjoy your life. It's so short." But it doesn't stick. Maybe my "now" is broken.

Tree Lover said...

Deb - It never occured to me that there might be an Eckhart Tolle dvd available to rent. It's now first in my Blockbuster queue. Thanks for the tip!

Bliss Chick - Buddhism has the same message as The Power of Now. Eckhart Tolle even quotes a number of Buddhist text throughout the book. It's nice to hear that learning to live in the present was helpful to you, too.

Jen - Yes, they are definitely related!

Tiana - If you struggle with living in the now, I highly recommend this book. Tolle goes much further than just writing about the importance of living in the now. He writes about how you can actually do it.

Cathy said...

Keep up the good work.