I generally describe myself as an agnostic Zen atheist Buddhist, but the order of the words doesn’t mean much. 😜
“Now” is Truly All that We Have
I first read this book, and listened to the audiobook, multiple times about 10 years ago, after I’d left Christianity and any idea of a conscious deity. I went through a period of interest in mysticism, coincident with my reading a lot of self-help and so-called “success literature.” Our lives were very stressful at the time, back in early 2008. I’d been married about 2 years, my Charlotte dental practice teetered on the brink of bankruptcy, the Great Recession was in its early months, our older daughter was 13 at the time, and we had a 2yo girl as well. I needed something to help me manage that stress, and “The Power of Now” became that focus.
I was already interested in Zen Buddhism and Taoism, largely through my martial arts training during dental school. The Power of Now seemed to translate those ancient concepts into modern language that struck a powerful chord in me, and it helped me find a place of deep, profound peace within. In fact, I’ve never experienced such lasting peace and calm at any other time of my life, despite the trials we were experiencing. Certainly, Christianity never got me even remotely close to that feeling of peace, calm, happiness, joy, and freedom. That’s not to say that I didn’t get angry or frustrated or unhappy, of course, but this book and the Zen Buddhist-like teachings that Tolle explains helped me get through those difficult years.
A Decade Later, I’d Forgotten
2018 has also been a very stressful year. Trump and his attacks on the very foundations of our democratic republic; the GOP’s revolting capitulation and transformation into a party, not of ideals and principles, but of white supremacy, nationalism, racism, sexism, and the very elitism that Trump supposedly campaigned against; the crazy-steep learning curve associated with new technology at work; spending many more hours working at home on nights and weekends; problems with our website that resulted in a drastic drop in phone calls and new patient flow, which resulted in a steep decrease in revenue and profitability, right when our costs had gone up; unexpected staff turnover in January and the difficulties in finding great replacements that made work even more stressful; a lack of sleep due to sleep apnea; inadequate exercise because of the demands at work…it just seemed to go on and on. My stress levels became progressively worse, I was becoming highly irritable and snappy, to the point that Fara was really worried about me. Heck, I was worried about me. I’d reached a breaking point emotionally, mentally, and physically. Clearly, I had forgotten what I’d learned.
Thankfully, some things changed!
I am Grateful for “Big Pharma”
First, my sleep doctor suggested that I try taking gabapentin to improve my sleep. The CPAP , which I started using some time in May, helped me sleep better, but still not long enough. We hoped the medication would give me more sleep per night, and it has definitely done that. Instead of 5-5.5 hours of sleep per night, now it’s 6.5-7.5 hours. It’s amazing what another 1-2 hours of sleep every night will do to make you feel better! Several people have warned me about the risks of gabapentin, and I am paying close attention to dosage and it’s effects. However, the incredible difference in how I feel has been well worth any risk thus far. With better sleep, I no longer need the 15mg Adderall IR that I was needing in the evening quite frequently before, either.
- limit how late I use the computer, iPhone, or iPad before bed;
- spend time reading a real book before bed each night
- no longer drinking caffeinated beverages after work hours;
- stopped taking the Adderall 15mg, so as to reduce the amount in my system overnight;
- I’m making a greater effort to exercise regularly again (not doing so well at this one);
So after all of those changes didn’t help enough, I chose medication, and I’m very grateful to all the hard-working scientists, researchers, physicians, and business people who helped bring safe medications to market.
Remembering that Now is All That Really Is
Second, I was reminded of this book; maybe Fara mentioned it, or maybe my subconscious prompted it? Who knows? I began listening to it again during the drive to, and then our stay in, North Myrtle Beach the weekend before July 4th. As I listened and drove, that profound sense of peace and calm once again enveloped me. I realized, that I had almost completely lost that sense since early this year. I’ve listened to almost the whole book again, and it’s helped me re-find my center – that place of stillness deep within.
As an agnostic atheist, I do not claim to know that any god does or does not exist; I do claim that I see no evidence adequate to support the claim that “God” exists, so I do not believe. I do not believe that any god belief is necessary for morality or living a good life. And yet, simply accepting that science is the only reliable means we have to know and understand the universe, while unbelievably exciting and wondrous, does not help one deal with the stresses of life as described above. Zen Buddhism, however, with its practices of loving-kindness and mindfulness, along with the Taoist concept of non-attachment to the 10,000 Things, are practices that Eckhart Tolle teaches in his books, and these have helped me tremendously.
Another book/audiobook that I love on the subject is The Miracle of Mindfulness, by Thich Nhat Hanh. I’ll be re-listening to that next.
Tolle Gets a Little Too Mystical for Me Sometimes
There are certainly parts of Tolle’s book that I have to skip over or ignore, like the part when he says that the Earth is a conscious, living entity. Or that science proves that space is nothing. I just ignore those parts, as they aren’t really central to the book’s ideas.
At its core, however, The Power of Now is a modern day version (albeit much wordier) of the Tao Te Ching or the Tripitaka. The lessons that Tolle writes of are not original, nor his own, but he explains them in a way that resonates with me. Not in a religious way, but in a way that helps me be at peace in my own little world.
For that, I am deeply & profoundly grateful.