Every minute you spend thinking about the past or the future is causing you suffering and pain. Neither of these are real. The only things that's real is the present and helping yourself stay in the present is the key to unlocking peacefulness and joy in your life.
The book is basically a covert book about Buddhism, with some sprinkles of mysticism and Christianity references to make it appeal to a wider audience.
Published in 1997, the book exploded when Oprah recommended it in O magazine in 2000. It has sold over 5 million copies. You likely have it on your shelf but haven't gotten all the way through. It's got over 42,000 4.5 star reviews on Amazon and just this week it was in the top 20 books sold on Amazon 😮.
Fun fact: When Paris Hilton was incarcerated for a month in 2007, she brought a copy of The Power of Now to jail. Other celebrity fans include: Kobe Bryant, Jim Carrey, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Top 4 Takeaways:
If you cannot be free from your mind whenever you want, to turn off thinking about the past or future when you want, then you are a slave to it. Compulsive thinking is an addiction. And like any addiction it's wreaking havoc in your life and causing pain.
To the ego, the present moment is not important. It is obsessed with the past and the future. It makes you a victim of the past and anxious about the future. It resists being in the present moment. This is how all of our pain and suffering is created, by our mind's insistence on time travel.
I've actually started to think of my ego as Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino – a character from the popular MTV reality show, The Jersey Shore. If you can make the things your ego tells you sound like someone other than yourself, you're one step closer to being aware when it's trying to negatively influence you.
If you can learn to stay in the present, you can free yourself from all that pain and suffering. The easiest way to do this is to take focus away from where the mind wants to go and pay close attention to the body. You can focus on your breathing, observe what's happening around you, and even think about the emotions you're feeling in the 3rd person -> as if you are observing it.
A great test of whether you are present: Ask yourself – is there joy, ease and lightness in what I'm doing right now? If not, your mind is likely causing stress by thinking about the past or future.
Potential life impact: 9
Fun to read: 4
Likely to recommend it to others: 2
Amazing conversations that it can start: 4
Total score: 4.75
I've never highlighted a book more and at the same time been completely unable to discuss it with others. Most of my conversations have been like, "so, The Power of Now…" and then they say, "yea, really powerful stuff" and that's pretty much it.
To be clear, it's been really impactful for me personally. I love the test question mentioned in #4 above and I love what's it's done for my marriage. It's allowed me to keep from getting sucked into silly arguments that would have previously turned into a thing. I am able to be present enough to see that it doesn't really matter if I'm right. That's the ego afraid for its own survival.
With that said, I believe that this book is an advanced reader. I wouldn't recommend as one of the first books for someone just getting into this work. And I'm on the hunt for a book that explains the same concepts in a better way.
Other quotes I loved:
"Most humans are never fully present in the now, because unconsciously they believe that the next moment must be more important than this one. But then you miss your whole life."
"Nothing has happened in the past; it happened in the Now. Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now."
"The present moment is all you have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life."
"What a caterpillar calls the end of the world, we call a butterfly."
“I have lived with several Zen masters -- all of them cats.”
“Any action is often better than no action, especially if you have been stuck in an unhappy situation for a long time. If it is a mistake, at least you learn something, in which case it's no longer a mistake. If you remain stuck, you learn nothing.”
“All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry - all forms of fear - are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.”
“It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living.”
“…the past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation, of fulfillment in whatever form. Both are illusions.”
“Don't look for peace. Don't look for any other state than the one you are in now; otherwise, you will set up inner conflict and unconscious resistance. Forgive yourself for not being at peace. The moment you completely accept your non-peace, your non-peace becomes transmuted into peace. Anything you accept fully will get you there, will take you into peace. This is the miracle of surrender”
“Watch any plant or animal and let it teach you acceptance of what is, surrender to the Now. Let it teach you Being. Let it teach you integrity — which means to be one, to be yourself, to be real. Let it teach you how to live and how to die, and how not to make living and dying into a problem.”
“Once you have identified with some form of negativity, you do not want to let it go, and on a deeply unconscious level, you do not want positive change. It would threaten your identity as a depressed, angry or hard-done by person. You will then ignore, deny or sabotage the positive in your life. This is a common phenomenon. It is also insane.”
“Accept — then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.”
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