The Power of Now

Thursday, 27 July, 2023 - 4:35 pm

I was just recommended a book to read penned by Eckhard Tolle titled The Power of Now. It is a book on mindfulness. The overwhelming message essentially is that we should focus on the present moment and not constantly ruminate on the past or fret over our future. He opines that the present is the only thing that really matters, as it is the only important slice of time that we have at this moment. While I have not finished the book, the first 70 pages totally resonate with me. The book though is not to be read detached lying on the sofa. Rather, it is a book that needs to be studied and not simply read.

After thinking about it, I realized that Tolle’s teachings on The Power of Now are not something I have never heard before. In fact, I have seen it before a number of times in the ancient writings of the Mishnah and Talmud penned over two millennia ago.

The quote “If Not Now When” is attributed to the great Rabbi Hillel, who was the Chief Justice of the Jewish Supreme Court. Rabbi Hillel is responsible for much of the application of Jewish Law practiced today. He taught us where to place the Mezuzah, how to light the Chanukah candles and he instituted the Matzah sandwich we eat on Passover.

Most people understand the aphorism “If not now” originated by Rabbi Hillel to mean one should not procrastinate. Do not push off doing what needs to be done until another time, but rather do it now! There is no time like the present as they say. Rabbi Hillel was no slouch and was an accomplished human being. Clearly, he was a man of alacrity and got things done.

I believe that Rabbi Hillel is also alluding to the above Power of Now message as well. Simply put, his quip “If not now”, also means if one cannot live in this specific moment, then when will they live? You see, living in the past is not really living as that time has passed and living in the future is not living, as that time has not yet arrived. So, if not NOW, then when?

The Talmud, which follows the Mishnah, is much less cryptic, as no interpretation is necessary. The Talmud asks the following rhetorical question. Why worry?  The Talmud explains why it is rhetorical with this statement: “What is past is past and is present is only present in the time it takes to blink an eye, and the future is unknown.” 

I now have to ask myself the following fundamental question. As a student of Judaism, why did I not internalize the Talmud and Mishnah’s lesson of the Power of Now and waited until I read a non-Jewish book on enlightenment? The lesson to me is all about the timing of readiness. Simply put, I saw the words in the Mishnah and Talmud but I was not emotionally ready or open to apply them to me on a practical level. I simply viewed these beautiful words of wisdom as cliché. The timing of Tolle’s book was impeccable, and I took to the book as a moth to a flame. It was only then that I realized that I have indeed seen this somewhere before.

It is so clear to me that Judaism has already processed and clarified all of life’s issues both positive and negative. The Jewish teachings are so rich and so dense, filled with meaning, purpose and answers. However, we not only have to know where to look, we also have to be ready to internalize the message.

The bottom line is that Power of Now is an extremely important teaching and its benefits are numerous. Here are my top four:

1. It allows one to really live in the present and not base one’s life on something that either happened in the past or base it on something that may or may not happen in the future.

2. Furthermore, even if something did happen in the past, I am not the same person as I was in the past, and therefore did it really happen to my current me?

3. Living in the present will not allow the mind to pester your brain and overwhelm it with intrusive thoughts. You simply will not have the bandwidth to deal with all the mental idiosyncrasies that the mind throws your way. This is not to mean that we should not look back and learn from our mistakes. We need to respect the past but not be hampered by it.

4. Living in the now allows you to appreciate things that we sometimes overlook. A simple budding flower can be overlooked because our mind is flooded with other nonsensical stuff, things that we can do nothing about. 

Go take on the day.

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