Pandemic Misery and The Power of Now

I can’t believe I am only now reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I probably heard Oprah championing it growing up but I never paid attention to any spirituality teaching. This book would have been way more helpful had I read it at the start of my 20s. Like many things in life I chose to learn things the hard way. If you haven’t read it, do so because it is sort of an underpinning of all “new agey” wisdom that we see today. There is nothing revolutionary about the book, it’s literally just a reframing of concepts like wisdom, enlightenment, and spiritual being, wrapped up in a Westernized viewpoint. But the book moves beyond individual self-improvement toward how we apply our suffering to the world.

The biggest wow for me was reframing past, present, and future into simply Time. Time is our enemy so to speak, we try so desperately to escape it when we’re young and then when we’re older, we race again to do things before it’s “too late.” The problem is that we continually relate ourselves to people, places, and events which do not exist or have already happened. Meaning we don’t live in the Now, in the moment, ever. If only we’d always center in the present, we wouldn’t be flying off the handle every time we opened the news feed.

“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.”

Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

The pandemic is a great example of testing the limits for me. The fear of catching COVID was definitely real and we didn’t have certainty over it. That’s fine, each moment I was just worried about what to do to keep myself and others safe. The moment lockdowns lifted and we knew enough about COVID to just be careful, that gave plenty of time to think about way more things than just washing your hands. I realized I hadn’t built much of a community in DC and revisited all the failed relationships in the past six years. It made me feel demoralized and bereft. I was alone by my own doing, so I thought. Then my mind wandered to the future and just played through the misery of waiting another year before life could return.

It was a bleak picture, and yet all I was doing was hanging out in my apartment, having nice home-cooked meals, and watching endless amounts of Netflix and YouTube.

While it’s not fair to judge oneself for feeling sad given that this is literally a threat to all of humanity on our doorsteps, deliberating on your life while you can’t do anything about it, can be harmful.

Tolle also points out the things we do where loss of Now manifests, and this was very helpful to see where I could improve in my life. Complaining is a reflection of victimhood and resentment for me, it really is a backhand way to ask for help. Instead he suggests to speak out and take action. I engaged in covid information sharing early on and it felt purposeful and contributing to others.

Another aspect was accepting where you physically are. I have for years now been saying I wanted to move to San Diego and have been living with one foot out the door. I still don’t have clarity over this (which will be a future blog post) but it shows that I’ve avoided or neglected things about my actual home for some time. A friend said you can have it both ways, even as they were preparing to leave DC, they were still doing home improvements and planning local trips. Enjoy your present place, make it a home, even if you know you will not be there for long.

Where I think I would have at least made the grade with Tolle is enjoying a nice croissant with coffee or tea in an outdoor cafe. I was doing this years before visiting Paris and seeing how ubiquitous outdoor sitting and watching was. Thankfully DC’s mild weather made for a lot of this, and it was a luxurious treat in a tumultuous year.

Stay tuned for more posts on The Power of Now.