I believe that when we reflect on our lives we can all find a moment when we’ve questioned ourselves and our existence. Our very being becomes engulfed with streams of confusion and in some cases panic. Nothing seems clear, there are no road signs ahead and doubters surface all around us. We don’t know what to do for a job, we can’t find someone to love or love us, or our life just seems like a monotonous push.
For me this happened in 2008. Basically, nothing was working for me. I had a severe career crisis and had lost my identity amongst the corporate buzz that swept my generation. I could decorate my bedroom with rejection letters and came to the conclusion that my so-called education provided me with more confusion than self-knowledge. The more I toiled, the more disconnected I became with the world. My self-esteem experienced lows unseen before and my family ran out of consoling words. They all looked at me with a desperate love, praying for the perfect job to arrive and thus awaken my comatose happiness. It never came.
Then a book was handed to me (I had been given several) that changed everything. A relatively small book with an unassuming blue cover. It felt 3rd hand and looked like it had travelled the world helping desperate people. I can’t remember who gave it to me and what was said but I do remember reading the title and feeling a curious current run through my body… The Power of Now.
I took it, said I’d have a look and remembered the unsuccessful reading I’d encountered and then I placed it with the others. I thought it was another gimmick that would disappoint me and leave me a rung lower on my esteem ladder.
Eventually, with my negative outlook, I started reading the book. I noticed some pages had a small ‘S’ shape and didn’t quite know what that meant (I never read the intros of books). Later, I would learn that the ‘S’ stood for a pause so as to take in what I’d just read. What can I say? The book just made sense. It took me out of my ‘ problems’ and into a new world where all assumptions were up for debate. Money, security, possessions and even family. I became addicted to it and grasped the key principles that still shape my life today.
Prior to the book I used this word as a slur on someone for being self-centred. The word had no effect on me and I even thought that to be successful you needed an alpha male ego that crushed others. The Power of Now changed that completely. It insightfully linked the negative voice in my head to the ego. I realised that my decisions were based on my inner voice and that it basically ruled over my being. The problem was the ego made me scared of failure, humiliation and being left out.
It’s almost primal. Our social evolution reveals that being within groups is necessary for our safety. Exclusion from one would normally result in death. I realised that my fear of non-social acceptance was similar to the fear of death. What a burden to carry for such a young philosopher! Thankfully, Echart Tolle demonstrated that there is another you living outside of the negative voice. You are not the voice in your head, it’s your ego. And you are not your ego.
Getting away from your ego
It was then a case of getting away from ego. How? Why? When? I was lost! Tolle writes about being in the now. That means to be in every moment without thinking about the past or the future.
For example look at a flower. Focus on the smallest details from the blended colours to the unique placement of each petal. Analyse the tips, see how the wind affects the movement. Feel your heartbeat and an inner feeling of peace. Then realise you are experiencing the power of now. You begin to notice sounds that are normally drowned out by the shit-stirring voice in your head. You hear birds, distant people or simply silence. This process took me about 10 seconds and it was the happiest I’d been in years. After that the ego spoke to me and said, “What are doing? You’re weird. What if someone sees you? You should be working.” The ego was desperate to intervene and pull me back to the state of anxiety. To quieten it, I simply started the process again.
Using the now
Now that I could separate myself from the ego, I concentrated on living more in the now. I took time to draw natural objects (with very little talent) and began to see the natural beauty in life. Tolle states that when you are in the now you are more open to creativity. Well I was smart enough to know that the solution to my problem would have to be a creative one, so with good faith I stayed with the now. I felt happier and much lighter than ever. There was a certain disbelief that I had become a spiritual being but it felt so natural that denying it would have been wrong. Of course there were moments of failure where after a phone conversation with a friend, my ego kicked in. However I had the remedy that could prevent that familiar spiral into depression – I had the now. Within a year I decided to take time for me because it was clear I needed it. I asked my parents what I liked doing as a child, before society had the chance to pollute my mind, and basically did it! Drawing, tennis and travelling. It had no direct link to my problem but I didn’t care! It was time to find myself. The year was full of insights and inspirations and eventually led me to the solution that I’m still benefiting from today. I learned a language, volunteered at local schools and even climbed a mountain. I had managed to quieten my ego (you can’t kill it) and let my true self guide me to my life’s path and purpose.
The funny thing
This always makes me smile. Once I had found my path and chosen public service as my purpose, the corporate world came calling. I had opportunities to join the world I once craved and I even sat through interviews. I knew I didn’t want the jobs but was hoping to prove something to myself. During one interview I answered questions exactly how I wanted to. I didn’t think about the company or impression I wanted to give, I didn’t care! I spoke about Alexander the Great and Braveheart to questions regarding money and management. It was almost tongue in cheek once I knew the job wasn’t for me. The next day they offered me the job…typical! It was then I realised why I was rejected so often in the past. I was always trying to be someone else and they always saw through that. I declined their offer and continued on my road.
The book is full of so many wonderful insights that blogging about will not do it justice. The open mindedness of spiritually led me onto philosophy and the rest is history.
I’ve never been so grateful to the person that gave me this book! And I wish I could remember who it was! Sometimes in my spiritual moments, I think that discovering this book was some kind of evidence of a higher presence pushing me towards my purpose. Or maybe I just got lucky.
I highly recommend reading this book. You can find it here The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment if you live in the UK or Europe and here The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment if you’re in the USA.
As always thanks for reading.
The Young Philosopher BCN