Self-Help for Graduate Students Part 5: The Power of Now

Publishing Info: Tolle, Eckhart. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. Novato, CA: New World Library, 1999.

Time Investment: 200 pages of clear, but at times wince-inducing prose.

I felt a lot of skepticism about this book initially, but a good friend really wanted me to read it. And I actually ended up recommending it to a few non-Future Doctor friends, because I think there’s a lot of useful things in it. It would be easy in graduate school (as in many other areas of life) to constantly feel anxious about the future–contemplating the likelihood of graduating and getting a good job is enough to send most of us away from our work and toward our various vices. At its best, this book offers a variety of tools for self-calming (besides basic deep breathing, which has never worked well for me).

I cringed, rolled my eyes, and groaned through much of the New Age-y philosophy, especially when Tolle blames human problems on brains. I don’t really want to think of my brain as the enemy when writing my dissertation. But if anxiety ever interferes with your work, keeping an open mind through this book might be worthwhile.

For example, I tend to run a few paces back from The Future Mister Doctor Jones when we jog together. Even if we’re running the same speed, I typically have to really struggle to run next to him. After reading The Power of Now I decided to try and focus on the present. I realized that I had been pysching myself out before, thinking, I can’t keep up this pace. I changed my thinking and told myself, I keep up Now, I keep up Now–and what can I say, dear reader. It worked. I felt exhausted but terrific at the end of the run.

One of the things I most appreciated about The Power of Now is the reminder that nothing in the future–not a degree, not a job, not a book–will make us happier, more fulfilled people. Learning to be happy on the journey (oops–the New Age speak is creeping in! Better wrap this up!) is a much better plan.

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