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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


Book Review: The Power of Now by Eckart Tolle

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment - Eckhart Tolle

You can get the main benefit of this book just by reading its title.

This came highly recommended from a few people I know, and of course its received a lot of acclaim from people I don't know. So I was looking forward to the spiritual insight it would provide. The most important nuggets I took away from it were:

1) How important it is to stay present, how the "now" is the ONLY reality and should be experienced as such, no matter what it brings you; and
2) The idea of the "pain body," which I'd never come across before, and which I always picture now as a little black gremlin trying to pull me down from transcendence when I have a headache.

There are substantial spiritual insights in this book, and many that bear studying more deeply and practicing often. Indeed, bringing myself back to the present is something I've used to good effect to transcend anxiety, and that's a good tool to have in your belt. Some of the ideas were new, and many were just very good reminders. So I think, overall, a lot of good can come from reading this book.

Still, I wasn't particularly thrilled with the "tone" of it, which felt a little "superior" to me. The question-and-answer format seems to emphasize that -- Eckhart Tolle is always the one with the "right" answer. This may have been especially grating on the audiobook version, because the readers for the questions sounded puerile even though many of the questions themselves were insightful and valid. I also think that Tolle goes overboard in bending Jesus' teachings to support his spiritual philosophy. There is certainly evidence that Jesus was on board with the idea of being "fully present" -- his admonition that worrying wouldn't add a day to your life; his insistence that Mary chose "the better part" by being full present with him as he spoke rather than busying herself with work; his rebuke of Judas when Judas criticized the woman who used fine ointment on Jesus rather than selling it for the poor. Tolle uses appropriate scripture to back up his philosophy, but he also uses parables that really have to be stretched to apply, and in doing so, he stretches his own crediblity as well.

I was totally ready to pass this book on when I was done, which kind of disappointed me. I'd expected more than that.