Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Book Review


I read The Power of Now two weeks after I read A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle's other book. I'm relatively sure it's not necessary to read them both. They say pretty much the same thing
That being said, I found The Power Of Now to be a much easier format to read. It's written in a question and answer format, based on the most frequent questions Eckhart Tolle had been asked after his lectures. Some of the questions I found rather odd, but many of them spoke to me.
The thing about Eckhart Tolle...either you get him or you don't. I've had friends who literally threw the books down in frustration and called them "a bunch of crap". I fully expected to react that way. Instead, I found myself saying "That is so true. I know. I experienced that myself." It's kind of a mishmash of spiritual ideas from Christianity and Buddhism with the biggest focus on awareness. Lots of talk about quieting the inner voice and paying attention to the present.
Two and a half years ago, my entire life was dominated by that incessant inner voice. A six year relationship had just ended and I found myself endlessly replaying scenarios in my mind: What had I done wrong? How could I have done things differently? Would we still be dating if I had done it that way? More nerve wracking: What about the future I had envisioned? Where was it now? What the hell was I gonna do? How was I gonna live without him? And most disturbing: I don't even know who I am anymore! What is wrong with me? Why am I so broken?
I couldn't sleep. That voice would wake me up at night with the endless questions. I spent the hours between 2 am and 6 am pacing around my apartment trying to shut my brain off. I was soooo tired! But my mind was racing every night. I couldn't sleep, I couldn't focus, I couldn't make a decision about anything. I couldn't live my life; I was just existing.
The solution to this problem came from an unexpected source: a friend asked me to run a marathon with him. And as the mileage increased, a funny thing started to happen: the voice shut up. My mind became quiet. I could breathe a sigh of relief. Eventually, during those periods of silence that opened up around mile 5, I started noticing things: the sun on the water. Ducks diving for food. Leaves changing color on the trees. I started to relax. I became present.
Those periods of silence started coming earlier and earlier in my runs and lasting longer and longer after I finished running. I started sleeping until 3. Then 4. Then 5. I started sleeping through the night. I started feeling like myself again. And I stopped questioning who I was because I knew who I was : I was me. I stopped asking what was wrong with me because I knew what it was: it was nothing. I stopped existing and started living.
Reading this book was a little like looking through a scrapbook of my life during that transformation from complete mess to...well....just kind of messy. Here's the thing, though: I liked this book because I already had the experiences that the book talks about. It rang true for me and I could look back on how far I'd come. But if I had read this book in the midst of my tumultuous period (had I actually been able to READ in that state) I think I would have thrown the book across the room. I don't think I'd have gotten anything out of it. I think everyone may have to find their own way. Maybe for some it can come from reading a book such as this one. For me it had to come from something physical.
In another interesting aside, since running was so transformational for me, its become almost a private, sacred activity. As much as I enjoy reading running blogs like this and this, I can't share my workout goals and experiences in that way. It would be like going to the bathroom with the door open. (Which, on the other hand, I would totally write a post about) Sometimes I don't even post workouts on the workout log sidebar, preferring to write it in my paper journal just for me. I kind of feel like my next step in the process is to transform running from a solitary activity to a more social activity.
So, in the end, I'm not really sure that this book would be of much help to the people who need it the most. I'd wager that it means more to people who don't really need it any more. But what the heck do I know? Maybe it would.

1 comment:

Amanda - RunToTheFinish said...

I had trouble relating to him when he was on oprah so has a result I've stayed away from all his bookds