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on 8 September 2010
This is an awful, awful book. Sorry, there's no other way of putting it. And I can hear people saying already "but it makes me feel better".
Whatever makes you feel in control, I guess. But sometimes things which make us feel better aren't necessarily true or even good for us. Tolle and others like him are squarely in the camp of woo (as the great Randi would say!). They promote a watered down and ultimately meaningless new-age theology. (And of course Oprah loves him.) I expected more, but he sits right in there with Deepak Chopra as a prime example of self-asserted anti-science hokum. I don't usually torture myself with such media excretions.

Tolle is kind of cultish. Worse, he uses scare tactics stating we're all in some kind of race to obliterate the human ego and the "pain-body" before they destroy the earth. The `ticking clock' once again...horse manure. We are our egos. We hold memories of pain for a good reason-to avoid repeating mistakes. That's how we evolved from our ape ancestors. And all his arguments fall down in exactly the same way as every other new-age guru I've ever read with the classic '3 card trick' as a means of argument:

1. "The Higher Level Card" (i.e. sorry, it's just over your head). Sorry, but you're just not clever enough to realise Eckhart is cleverer than you, because you're on a lower (less divine/lower psychic vibration) level.
2. "The Projection Card" (i.e., I know you are, but what am I?). By criticising Eckhart, you are really just criticising yourself, because any problem you see in Eckhart/the world at large is just a projection of a problem in yourself.
3. "The Skillful Means Card" (i.e., it's all your own fault, idiot!). The most potent card of all. It's not abuse; it's not pathetic or ridiculous or wrong; it's a crazy to wise teaching method. So when Eckhart calls you an idiot, it's not because he's an pompous idiot, it's because you have a idiot-complex that you need to evolve past, and he's here to help you see that!

It's just not healthy to read books like this. This dualistic zen-style thinking just doesn't hold water in the real world. Then there's the Eckhart Tolle "walk of death." Allegedly after listening to Tolle's Power of Now tapes repeatedly, Brianna Wilkins walked miles without warm clothing (thinking only of the present moment, I'm sure) in the middle of winter and..."Now," she's dead.

Humans are not broken, they're mostly just confused. We may not know ourselves so well, but we're operating exactly as nature intended. We're greedy, competitive, with a short attention span, seeking instant gratification. But we're also kind, long-suffering, generous, wise, and empathetic-with the two camps always in conflict within each of us. Solutions to human problems will come from realist introspection, critical thinking, rationality and acknowledging of the darkness, e.g. more rationality and less mysticism. We can start that process right here, right now-with our egos and pain-memories intact-not in some future idealised fantasy world. Change won't come overnight but occurs through an evolutionary process. That's what else ticks me off about the Tolle: he dresses it up in the conceit of spirituality, but actually panders to the very ordinary materialistic drive towards the "quick fix," the effortless "new you." Well, you don't get something for nothing. Or much for £10! :)

Apologies if this is ranty - but this was a terrible, self-absorbed, arrogant, pompous book. Avoid
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on 11 January 2010
This is a very original personal development book. It's about this thing called presence, which means - if I'm understanding correctly - the ability to enjoy what is going on around you at this moment, rather than waste your energy on regretting the past or worrying about the future.

That concept looks great, and this book looked just terrific at first. Eventually, though, it got so illogical that I couldn't even finish it.
Please don't get me wrong. I know that personal development books are not to be taken literally. For instance, when you are told to stand and imagine that you have roots that go into the earth, then of course you know that it's physically impossible for you to have roots, but nevertheless such an exercise might serve a useful purpose. I have no problem with that kind of "illogical".
I am not criticising this book because it contains some things that aren't logical or physically possible. I am criticising it because some of its crucial points are so illogical that the book goes beyond useful imagination way down into the realm of nonsense.

The most disturbing statements in this book were the following.

1. Mr. Tolle describes how he reached an enlightened state and spent almost two years sitting on park benches in a state of immense joy. Now, it's wonderful that Mr. Tolle felt happy, but somehow I feel reluctant to pursue a state like that myself. One the one hand, it makes sense to free oneself from the excessive need for possessions, achievements and other people, but just to sit on park benches soaked in happiness about oneself - it would feel good all right, but would you call that human life? In which way is that different from a drug high, except that it doesn't give you hangovers? Or what is the essential difference between Eckhart Tolle sitting on park benches in a state of profound joy, and an autistic child sitting with his eyes and ears closed and humming to himself? Both are happy in their worlds. Why would the latter be considered mentally ill and the former a role model?

2. The book makes it appear like you ought to live in the present moment without any regard to the past or the future. Quote: "Focus your attention on the Now and tell me what problem you have at this moment. I am not getting any answer because it is impossible to have a problem when your attention is fully in the Now."
This just doesn't make sense. We couldn't function in the world if we didn't learn from our past experiences. Neither can we live without planning for our future. I'll bring one obvious example.
Suppose you live in a rented apartment. You rent is due in two weeks. It means your rent isn't due now. So you shouldn't think about paying your rent now, should you? It follows that there is no reason for you to go to work today. Why on Earth should you work today if your rent is not due today?
In fact, even when you fail to show up at work, and are fired, and in a couple of weeks, your landlord comes asking for the rent money, you still don't have a problem. You can tell him "Relax. The rent money is not a problem. Losing the now is the problem." Not even when he sues you will you have a problem. Even when you lose the case, you won't have a problem. Only after the bailiff has thrown you out of your apartment, and it begins to rain and you won't have a roof over your head, you'll have a problem. But by then it'll be too late to have gone to work that morning several months ago.
Obviously, nobody can lead a normal life like that. If you would take the idea of living in the now literally, you would land in big trouble. And if you think that I am trying to twist Mr. Tolle's meaning, here is a quote from the book:
""But I still have to pay the bills tomorrow, [---]. So how can I ever say that I am free of time?"
Tomorrow's bills are not the problem. [---] Loss of Now is the problem."

3. Mr. Tolle claims that in an enlightened state ("in that state of wholeness") you can easily reach all your goals. That is illogical because he also mentions that being enlightened means loving everything the way it is. So an enlightened person can impossibly have a goal, any goal whatsoever. The word "goal" implies a wish to make something different from what it is now, which is impossible if you love everything the way it is.

4. Mr. Tolle also claims that an enlightened person doesn't have problems. However, he proves himself wrong by repeatedly displaying his outright panic about the ecological state of Earth. Every now and then, no matter what the subject at hand, he would say something about people "raping the planet" and "destroying our beautiful Earth". It spite of his claim to the contrary, it is plain obvious that Mr. Tolle has at least one big problem. In fact, the reason I quit reading the book was because I grew so annoyed with his environmentalist whining.
Mr. Tolle's claim that the Earth's ecological state keeps deteriorating might well be true, but that's not the point. The point is - why would Mr. Tolle feel disturbed about it? Now, I would hate the nature being destroyed, but Mr. Tolle is supposed to be an enlightened person, and an enlightened person is supposed to love everything as it is, remember? So even if Earth was nuked, it shouldn't be a problem for Mr. Tolle - not only because enlightened people don't have problems, but also because a nuked Earth should be just as lovable from an enlightened person's point of view as a non-nuked Earth.
Now, could it be that I am misunderstanding something? Why don't we take a closer look at precisely what Mr. Tolle said about problems:
"A situation that needs to be either dealt with or accepted - yes. Why make it into a problem? Why make anything into a problem? Isn't life challenging enough as it is? What do you need problems for?"
Guess that makes it clear what he really means. You stop using the word "problem" and you no longer have problems. What a genius Mr. Tolle is! Abolish the Criminal Code, and nobody will ever commit a crime, merely some actions will occur. Or you give up using the word "war", and there will never be a war again, just perhaps an occasional international armed conflict.

Now, what if all the above is just misunderstandings? What if that's not what Mr. Tolle actually meant? Well, in that case, why didn't he write what he actually meant?
I wanted to give the author as much benefit of doubt as possible. So I asked some of those questions in a forum. I didn't get as much as one intelligent reply. The bottom line is: I feel entitled to say that I gave my best effort to make this book make sense, and it just wouldn't.

If you are disappointed with this book, you might want to check out "Quantum Consciousness". Also, "The Gift of Your Compulsions" contains some very interesting exercises that might help you enhance your presence (never mind the somewhat misleading title).
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on 14 August 2010
This book gets a lot of 5 star reviews, which is quite a disturbing (and also laughable) thought. It's shallow and self-serving and I would have thought that anyone with an A-level in pyschology would see through without breaking a sweat. John Lennon summed it up in '...life is what happens when you're busy making other plans...'. There was no need for dear little Eckhart to stretch into a twisty-turney multi-chapter insomnia cure.
The big problem is that happiness and truth are not mutually inclusive. That's just a fact. Just because something makes you happy, doesn't make it true! But (as I hear the 'but if I'm not doing anyone else any harm and it makes me feel better...' argument coming out of the well-worn woodwork) being delusional (believing in something that makes you feel good that doesn't have a shred of evidence to back it up) can at best a) lead you deluded life choices or worse, b) there is the Eckhart Tolle "walk of death." which is quite well publicised (although I can't vouch for it's truth personally!). After listening to Tolle's Power of Now tapes repeatedly, Brianna Wilkins walked miles without warm clothing (thinking only of the present moment, I'm sure) in the middle of winter and..."Now," she's dead. I find that quite worrying. Does Tolle have anything new or fresh to say? Not really. It all hinges on belief and private feelings. Meditations and mantras that are only a behavioural genetic strand away from basic cognitive behavioural therapy your (real) doc would rightly recommend for depression (Co-incidentally - if you're thinking of buying this as you're going through a bad period in your life, don't!!! buy 'overcoming depression' by dr.paul gilbert instead).
Personally (and this is purely my opinion) I'm willing to wait until studies of DNA and gene expression catch up to functional brain research. I'm willing to wait until human cognitive processes are mapped, simulated, and duplicated on synthetic hardware. Then and only then will we be able to say anything definitive about the question of consciousness. Until then Tolle knows no more than us - he's just imposing his views to the vunerable in the worst possible way. Intellectual giants such as Kurzweil, Pinker, Ridley, Dawkins, Dennett, Minsky, Buss, Alper and others are much closer to useful knowledge about this subject than Tolle.
Maybe I find Tolle a little disturbing and kind of 'cultish'. I tried to put that to one side when reading the book (and be in the moment ;)). To my mind he appeared to be using almost scare tactics - as if we're all in some kind of race to obliterate the human ego and the "pain-body" before they destroy the earth. We hold memories of pain for a good reason-to avoid repeating mistakes. That's a good thing. It's what moved us on from our ape ancestry and continues our evolution. Meditation works, yes. But it's nothing to do with consciousness or spirituality - it's a chemical change in the brain. To think otherwise is no different to considering an aircraft takes off as magical spirits lift it from the ground. Back to school guys.
For me the book fell v.short of anything substantial. Yes I do 'get it'. No, there's nothing new. There was no need for Eckhart to dress it up in the dress of intellectual snobbery to boost his bank balance. Save your money. Go elsewhere and leave this spiritual bandwagon for othersOvercoming Depression: A guide to recovery with a complete self-help programme.
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on 11 October 2011
I bought this after it was mentioned in a review in psychologies magazine. It sounded like the answer to my prayers! Having lived for most my life under the harsh reign of my anxious, un-checked mind, this book promised to be a simple and powerful tool. I am happy to say that I have not been disappointed! This book is very easy to read and work with, and I have been pretty much anxious-free since I picked it up. I can't say it's easy, a life-time habit of thought pattern is hard to let go, especially when interacting with others. But with practise I can see the benefits will be priceless. To be mindful is the key to happiness, and although this has been taught since the beginning, it has become slightly accessorised with the tastes of various enlightened souls. Tolle's book is as simple and unfettered as it gets - it agrees with the essence of all our world religions but pulls back the heavy curtains to reveal the one truth that we all need to be. Once this has been accomplished everything else just falls into place!
Since I began reading this book my life has dramatically improved. I no longer require alcohol to socialise or relax, I see the beauty in everything and this gives me an endless supply of joy. My relationships are so calm and easy, my creativity has sky-rocketed and I feel relaxed and happy all the time. No sleepless nights or churning stomach. I will be buying this book for all my loved-ones because I want them to experience life like this too.
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on 14 April 2010
The bit that really, really annoyed me is the "pause" symbol (a long sloping S)that he uses after virtually every paragraph. Early on in the book he lets you know that this pause symbol is to let you know that you "may want to stop reading for a moment, become still, and appreciate the truth of what has just been said."

I have never read such a pompous book, where it tells you which passages you should sit still and think about. If it was that good - surely you would pause and reflect ALL BY YOURSELF without it having been pointed out to you that you had just received such wisdom. Funny - not even religious texts such as Bible or Qur'an do that. After a couple of chapters I couldn't bear it any more and stopped reading.

I too had read rave reviews - but this is hokey rubbish at it's worst. Save your money - buy ANYTHING else, a movie, some music, a novel - something that might actually enrich your life.
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on 14 March 2017
Being a Yoga and Tai Chi teacher for 20 years l am constantly having to remind my students that living in the now or the present moment is neither a yogic or Buddhist idea and should be left at the door with their shoes. The Buddha says in the Dhammapada, "Let go of your attachment to the past, the PRESENT and the future, and be free" verse 348.

I find it quite disturbing how these new - age concepts like the law of attraction and the power of now hijack subtle and sophisticated Eastern philosophies and dumb them down to one dimensional cardboard cut-outs.

This book is typical of the Western mind, trying to put time in a box called the now and telling you, "stay in that box, it's a good place". The Buddha, Yoga, Advaita, the Tao and others on the other hand urge us to throw the box into the river, and go with the natural flow of time.

There are times to project into the past, times to project into the future and times to focus in the present, which is inseparably linked to both - the key is to develop the mindful skill in knowing what is appropriate and when.

The Now seems to have hijacked the mentality of mainstream culture l think because it's the ugly twin to instant gratification. A truly awful book.
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on 7 January 2012
I've read this book 3-4 times in English and in German. On my first reading I would have given the book 5 stars: it seemed to give all the answers to achieving happiness.

However, as I put into practice the instructions I find that I do not get the effects that are talked about: dissolution of the future and the past and therefore liberation from pain/madness.

Of course others will say that I am just not present enough... not doing it correctly... but I wonder how enlightened they are or how much they have just "bought" this argument and are defending it with their ego?

For example, there have been things that make me really angry/depressed/frustrated/create lots of mind chatter... and as I start to observe those thought patterns and emotions within myself without judging them I actually find that the negativity is magnified. Then after a short period of time I revert to simply being negative without observing. So of course I am not doing it right... but who is? Who is able to take a real knock in their life and just by observing their own reactions to it dissolve the negativity? I doubt the 5 star reviewers in this book can... if they have reached these jesus like heights then please let me know (as long as you don't have mad staring eyes)!

I found that the questions being asked (the book is written in a question and answer form) were the wrong ones... Let me loose and I would ask the difficult questions.

I have been seeking for a while now and I have not found... maybe this book brought me closer. Certainly I take evreything what the author says very seriously and the argument is very convincing, but the sustained practice of what is preached I think is beyond 99.99% of the population... in fact the author says as much when he talks of a cataclysmic event in someone's life being the most common route to enlightenment or the experience that we have just before death. Maybe that is true... I guess if that was the central thesis then not so many copies would be sold...
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VINE VOICETOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 March 2009
Is how the first 60-70 pages of this book can be summed up. Not bad advice, just a bit perplexing that he takes so many words to say it, and that so many millions apparently consider this a revelation.

It's difficult to be entirely negative about a book that appears to have positively affected so many lives, so I've tried very hard to keep an open mind... but all I can manage is a sort of head-scratching sense of bewilderment - what is all the fuss about?

I agree with the sentiments of the beginning of the book entirely (although I'm sure the total believers will say that, if I don't feel 'transformed' then I can't have understood it properly) - and in fact have often found myself saying similar things to people who have a general life-malaise or sense of depression not linked to a particular problem that they can take action to try to fix: life is short, and you don't want to get to your old age and look back on a life of unhappiness. So try to find pleasure and happiness in every moment that you can now; take action to create the life that you want now, learn from the past but don't obsess, and accept the things you cannot change and move on.

The above is all very good advice - I just don't see that it is all that earth shattering.

By about page 80 or 90, I realised that this is just another book about A Course in Miracles (ACIM). For ACIM to be a useful philosophy to you, you have to believe in an eternal consciousness/God of which you are part. The vast majority of Americans do, which is probably why this book is so popular. If you don't however, then the book is just going to become a disappointing mish mash of new age gobbledegook that doesn't really answer anything satisfactorily. And I haven't even touched upon the inconsistencies littered throughout.

On the other hand, the fact remains that many many people found this very helpful, a revelation in fact. For which I can only conclude, if it helps you, do it.
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on 23 April 2016
I first read this book last summer, and if you'd have asked me what I thought of it then, I'd have given it 5 stars. I fell for all of the mumbo jumbo, though I didn't put it into practice. But, when I started rereading it the other day, I realised the destructive potential of this book, and the ideology that rests behind it.

Simply put, Eckhart Tolle advocates living in 'the Now', which is his repetitive term for the present. This is perhaps the only good idea of the book. Unfortunately, Tolle steals absolutely everything beautiful about living in the now with the rest of the book.

Firstly, he teaches us to disconnect from our thoughts and emotions, and our 'egoic' sense of self. However, he doesn't actually term how we should do this. In proper mindfulness (something which I ascribe to), it is taught not to physically disconnect yourself from thoughts and emotions, but to accept that they are part of you, and to feel them and enjoy them as part of life. This is beautiful. Tolle, however, seems to be of the opinion that thoughts are awful. You want to be in the state of 'no mind', he repeats regularly. If I was constantly in the state of 'no mind', how would I remember my girlfriend's birthday, or what time I had to get up in the work in the morning, and so on? How would I remember to be compassionate to other people? How would I decode and tackle different situations? Clearly, this idea of 'no mind' is completely ridiculous. One can accept that they have some thoughts that they have no control over, and that negative/intrusive thoughts may not reflect reality, but to get rid of them is simply a ludicrous and potentially damaging idea. If someone walks around constantly trying to clear their mind of thoughts, then they're not concentrating on the Now are they? They just get more lost in a losing battle with their own minds.

Secondly, disconnecting from the emotions is also a dreadful idea. If one disconnects from the emotions, then how are they meant to feel love, and awe, and pride, and joy? At the end of the day, like it or lump it, 'love and joy' does not come from your 'spirit'. Here's the science: they are made by hormones that are created by your glands and organs, that affect different parts of your body in different ways. Example given: foxes have emotions. I doubt they're particularly 'spiritual' animals, and I also doubt that they have different ways of communicating philosophy in fox talk. They don't think words either, but they do remember to have children, and to eat and drink, and to sleep. This is because their emotions tell them to.

So I would completely counter Tolle by saying that you should always listen to your emotions. You should open up to them and accept them as part of you. That doesn't mean you should act on them, for example taking out anger on someone else. But always listen to them. Why do I feel anger? Why do I feel fear? And then: should I go with this emotion, or should I let it go? Your emotions are trying to tell you something, they're trying to improve your life and help you to exist. You can think about them in the wrong way with your mind, but fear wants to keep you alive. Attraction wants you to have children. Joy wants you to feel rewarded. Emotions are sending you messages. Don't block them out: listen to them.

The final problem that I have with this work is that we should all be passive. If somebody does wrong on the planet, for example if Putin dropped two nuclear bombs on the United Kingdom tomorrow, then we should approach them with a passive mindset, and try to get them to right their wrongs by helping them to find their 'inner spirit'. What a ridiculous idea this is. If Putin dropped two bombs on the United Kingdom tomorrow, then he should be reprimanded! He should be viewed as a criminal! It seems that Tolle has got the wrong end of the 'non-judgement' stick. To me, 'non-judgement' means viewing the situation in the truthful way that it is, and then finding an assertive, and not a passive, way to deal with said situation. By doing this, we improve people's lives, and don't take a ridiculous, indifferent, uncaring attitude to everything that exists around us.

In conclusion, the world would be a pretty boring place if we sold our minds, our egos, our emotions, our assertiveness, our positive actions, our will to change the world. We would probably walk around like a bunch of accepting cyborgs. "Oh, you spilled your drink on me. Don't worry, I've accepted that that is now in the past. Let us continue with our conversation while I focus on living in the moment." Or maybe Emperor Eckhart would like that, as he sits in his big mansion eating caviar, berating his servants who, of course, simply accept, passively, that that is there life situation. Wake up people. Life is proactive, not reactive, and if you want to live in the Now, then do it by going out and doing something, and not falling behind your own insecurities.

And yes, my emotions are telling me frustration. Yes, I went with them. Eckhart: get over it.
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on 15 June 2017
I am enjoying this. My irritation is that there doesn't seem to be a 'let's get real - money does count' moment. I mean if it really didn't count then all his books would be either free or break-even with a humble salary going to him; however, that's not the case. From what I've read he's accumulated $15m which he doesn't use. So he's hoarding, stalling, waiting. Secondly in terms of living in the present - now - when did plan (a future activity) to write this book. In terms of letting go of the past, the q&a in the book are from his past - so he's been retaining the past to use. He's not let go. I believe in spirituality. I don't necessarily think he's disingenuous, however; I do believe he himself is not living his own words. Why is it that most gurus started off as flat broke? Why is it that they found enlightenment - enjoy the present only - and yet their own activities indicate by definition that they still live in the realities of this world - money is needed. Why don't they offer the people who seek out their guidance a frank discussion about the fact that it wasn't purely altruism that motivated them to see enlightenment, it was the fact that after a while they began to enjoy the fruits of their speeches. Although he makes it clear he doesn't think / remember too much about his suicidal days, I would say that given his ability to recall just enough to grip the interest hook in people who are suffering, that he remembers just enough. So I wonder when these gurus who tour the world with other people's money (money they earn from working jobs they're told by these gurus are not fulfilling their life) will actually acknowledge one day that real suffering in this world is caused by people who don't accept the fact that you need to work. I genuinely wonder sometimes. Mr Tolle thank you for your book, I believe you owe a whole lot of humility to the good folk who give up their own money to fund your enlightenment. I'm not saying you're disengenuous I am simply asking whether you're aware of how perhaps your $15m could be invested into DBT programs which could help the homeless and help the world see equanimity. I am pleased that self-help programmes of many kinds are now donation based rather than RRP priced.
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