Some of you may remember a book that was circulating several years ago entitled “The Power of Now” by Eckhardt Tolle, a German “spiritual teacher.” In this book, Tolle provides a clever repackaging of certain Buddhist teachings regarding holding the mind in the present moment.
The book sold millions of copies and was featured on Oprah, and many other modern talk and radio shows. Tolle would go on to tour the world as a sought-after speaker, and he has written several follow-up books. He remains a very popular public personality.
It is interesting (and concerning) how these kinds of teachers and their messages become “all the rave” and spread like wildfire, and eventually come to be accepted as Gospel truth. While critics do indeed arise, the public tends to go with the sweep of popularity, and the teachings become “mainstream.”
I want to encourage all of you to always retain a certain amount of healthy skepticism that is not afraid to weigh and measure ANY concept that is presented to you (even my own). I am not concerned with who said it, or what system contains it. You were created with the capacity to REASON, and you are absolutely free to QUESTION.
A recent event in my own life has caused me to bring the doctrine of “The Power of Now” into question. It was about a week before Christmas when I attended a theater production of “A Christmas Carol.” Fortunately, the producer and actor stressed Ebenezer Scrooge’s exclamation after having endured the three visitations. Scrooge says, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all three shall strive within me.”
I had never quite registered these words before as I did on this day, and I began to think about what an Integrated Psychology ought to have to say about the “now” aspect of mindfulness.
Many would define mindfulness as exactly what has been discussed thus far; that being the exclusion of all but what is “here and now.” However, my experiences with mindfulness both personally and professionally cause me to see it rather differently, and modern research in neuroscience and physics support what I am about to share.
What is needed regarding perspectives on mindfulness and “The Power of Now” is exactly that: perspective. “All or nothing” and/or “black and white” thinking do not capture the deeper nuances of mind-full-ness (emphasis my own). That said, I am also not advocating for having our minds filled and racing either. Here is the perspective I encourage:
“Learn wisely from the PAST. Live fully in the PRESENT. Hope earnestly for the FUTURE.”
This integrated approach to mindfulness does not force one into a mindset that arbitrarily (and delusionally) excludes the realities of the past and future, but instead brings perspective to what it means to be “here and now” within the context of a space-time continuum where past, present, and future may actually exist simultaneously (per modern physics).
All of this said, I do indeed continue to encourage my Clients and Patients to practice mindfulness in a way that emphasizes the present moment, but to not do so in a way that denies any importance at all to past and future. Another saying can be added here for emphasis:
“The past has passed, the future is forthcoming, the present is now.”
Therefore let us:
– Honor the “past that has passed” by remembering the positive memories
created and the lessons learned from the challenges.
– Honor the “future that is forthcoming” by positively intending for the good
that we can indeed create.
– Honor the “present that is now” by truly being here, now, centered,
focused, invested, peaceful, and joyful.
We can indeed welcome the “Spirits of Christmas” to remain in our hearts “all year long,” as we acknowledge and allow the “past, present, and future” to inform our best thoughts, words, and deeds.
To limit ourselves by exclusively focusing on just one (to the detriment of the others) is to risk depression (past), anxiety (future), and delusion (present).
May our lives be lives FULLY lived, with the perspective afforded by a complete (integrated) philosophy that honors past, present, and future.