“In the Now, in the absence of time, all your problems disappear.”
I decided to discuss this quote, because I know what Eckhart means here, but am afraid many won’t understand it because of poor wording (it is one of his many quotes that can be easily misunderstood, even though his teachings are very basic). In this blog, I will talk about the possible misunderstanding of the quote, its true meaning and I will give my opinion and insights regarding “The Power of Now”. Luckily, Eckhart’s teachings weren’t new at all to me when I first stumbled upon him, so I will be tackling this topic in my own words and insight, rather than sticking to Eckhart’s (sometimes too complicated) explanations.
“Right now, I could be suffering from intense physical or emotional pain. By thinking about nice things in the past or future, I can escape the pain (at least somewhat). If I would believe the past and future didn’t exist, I would be suffering more intensely, because all I would have is the present moment in which the intense pain exists.”
You can experience pain in the present moment, but no matter how strong it is, there is always a place of silence, peace and happiness within. Being in the ‘now’ in this sense means letting things be as they are, including the pain. It’s resistance against the pain in the present that makes the pain more intense. By letting everything be, you can (although this may take a ton of practice) experience the silence, peace and happiness that always reside within. The more you allow this silence, peace and happiness to be and the less you focus on pain, thoughts and emotions (all other than the here described inner, eternal bliss), the less the pain will be experienced as pain, for the bliss within can make you happy regardless of the suffering you face.
Focusing on the past or future with a fear of what may happen is not beneficial, but if you recall a moment of inner bliss in the past or you can imagine it existing in the future, you can use that as a tool to actually experience the ever-existing bliss within in the present moment. However, by imagining a situation in which you experience bliss, you risk losing that feeling the second you realize things in the present or future are/could be different than you desire. This is why the ultimate goal is to experience the inner bliss independent of anything, anyone and any time. The bliss simply is. But if you require the past or future to experience that bliss for now, then that isn’t a problem at all.
Does this topic require or even deserve a book?
Ultimately, Eckhart uses language to convey a very simple concept. It can be explained in a few sentences, but it requires experience to fully understand. One might logically comprehend what Eckhart talks about, but that doesn’t mean one will therefore automatically find this state of bliss. Therefore, simply reading about or listening to his teachings is insufficient; true understanding requires experience (which you may very well have already) through the absence of resisting emotions and the absence of thinking (a.k.a being). Awareness without judgment (both emotional and logical) is the key to the required experience. The absence of resistance to anything or anyone that is experienced is in one sentence the “Power of Now”, because it is then that the ever-present bliss residing within you (ultimately, this bliss is the “Power of Now” and not the present moment) can be experienced fully.
Does it require an entire book to understand? No, but the book might help tackle the many questions you might have on this topic. But the “Power of Now” is not something that must be logically understood; it’s something that must be experienced, so reading on it may not be the right thing to do. Experience with observing (without judgment and any further thoughts or emotions) your feelings and thoughts is what you need. It is then that you can come to a logical conclusion that most feelings and thoughts do not ultimately lead to happiness and do therefore not deserve your attention (a.k.a interaction with them). Joy, happiness and peace that aren’t attached to anything or anyone are ultimately feelings that you want to enjoy… and luckily, they are always there; just be and those feelings will be as well.
Naturally, I speak about Eckhart’s teachings as I understand them and he may not actually mean the exact same things. I doubt he does mean something else, though. In any case, his teachings are not new at all, but they are still ‘lost’ teachings, even though many do read about the art of simply ‘being’. I have heard different opinions on him and his teachings (he’s called lazy, wise, unoriginal, a spiritual guru, a thief etc.), but he did manage to make the art of ‘being’/happiness a popular topic again. This art is the most important one in life and yet the least mastered one, because few are taught to live without judgment and attachment and the future and past are seemingly necessary tools in our society. Therefore, I embrace Eckhart. He may not be original, but he does help transform lives and he tirelessly helps people understand the art of ‘being’/no-thought/happiness or ‘the power of now’ as Eckhart calls it.
Forget about Eckhart
Of course, this is not about Eckhart; it is about being happy. And we all wish to happy, don’t we? Mastering the art of happiness does not mean eliminating all suffering. Pain will arise, but it does not have to take over your life. Pain is not an enemy that has to be fought, neither something that you should focus on. It is something you will encounter and have to accept. If you let it be, it is much easier to go to that inner place of bliss that resides within all of us, so that even if the pain persists (both physical and emotional pain may fade or even completely disappear by letting it be and not focusing on it), you can still experience bliss. It may sound unbelievable, but there have been (non-masochistic) people who went through incredible suffering and yet were optimistic and truly happy. It would be amazing if all could experience that ever-present more often. So I’m glad that the art of happiness is a popular topic again. Maybe one day it will be taught in (primary) schools, so that happiness will be much more common and suffering will be much less prominent.