This self-improvement lark is becoming a bit stressful.
I can just about manage the four mile round trip to the bookstore to buy the materials for my transformation, but it’s putting what they contain into action that is proving more difficult.
The major stress is deciding which books are going to be the most helpful. My non-drinking lifestyle now means that I can happily pass the “You’re a pisshead, nobody likes you” rows; I am never tempted to stop at the “Madonna’s into it so you can’t afford it” section; and I automatically reject any book written by a man sporting a full-grown beard in his bio pic.
I am a big advocate of the adage “A man with a beard is a man with a secret”, and although I think that all men have secrets, it is my experience that men with beards have bigger ones than most – or, at the very least, they are better at hiding them. Probably because of their disguise.
I made a semi-exception in the case of the latest addition to my ever-expanding shelves of rejuvenation print matter in the case of Eckhart Tolle, but only because his books come highly recommended by the Oprah Winfrey Book Club.
Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have gone near him; his beard lies in a half-crescent at the bottom of his face, as if he was caught mid-shaving when the doorbell rang and forgot to return to the bathroom mirror.
His basic premise is that we spend too much time dwelling on the past and the future and miss the joy of living in the present. Quite why it takes him 236 pages to say that is anybody’s guess, and nothing contained therein really gives any indication as to quite how difficult his idea is to implement.
I manage quite all right when I go out for a walk. The streets around my apartment block in Beverly Hills are particularly beautiful as the sun goes down, and when I go for my evening stroll, I can really feel as if I am in a presence of nature. NOW.
Alas, the arrival of dusk then reminds me that everything fades, and I’m back to square one – worrying about losing the moment, when I’ve only just started to experience it.
But I am nothing if not persistent in my Californian optimism these days and looked to other ways in which I might put The Bearded One’s ideas to good use.
I thought that with my dwindling finances, the chapter headed “Mind Strategies for Avoiding the Now” might prove particularly useful.
“Tomorrow’s bills are not the problem,” states Mr Eckhart. If I make them so, I am apparently holding on to a “core delusion” and turning a “mere situation, event or emotion” into a personal problem, which is the real cause of the suffering. Not the fact that I can't afford two boxes of $5.99 muffins at Whole Foods.
I tried it out with my bank manager, who is curious to know when my overdraft might be paid back.
Right, the thing is, I explained: what we have here is not a problem, it is a mere situation, and if you were to free yourself from yours, and the bank’s imprisonment in psychological time, you would start to see my debt in a different way. In fact, you would begin to see it as something in which to be joyous, because it is of the moment, the now; in losing the Now, you are losing your essential loss of Being, which is a common problem the egoic mind faces when it takes over from presence being your dominant state. Okay?
He said I still have to pay back my overdraft.
Mr Eckhart also says that waiting is just a “state of mind” and that if you find yourself doing it, you should just “snap out of it”. Given the distances everyone has to travel in LA, just to pop in for a cup of tea, that’s an awful lot of snapping, and to be honest I’m finding the snapping more stressful than the waiting.
When my friend turned up late for tea this week (I have taken to having English tea, which I never did in the UK), I had been drumming my fingers next to the muffin tray for nearly an hour.
“Sorry to have kept you waiting,” she said, when she finally arrived.
I did what the book recommends and replied: “That’s all right, I wasn’t waiting. I was just standing here enjoying myself – in joy in my self.”
Well, that’s what I thought, but the words didn’t come out that way. They came out more along the lines of: yes, you bloody well have kept me waiting, and I’m sick of it. It’s what everyone does in this damned town, and I’m tired of everyone making an excuse about the traffic, when they’ve damn well lived here for long enough to know that it’s going to be bad, and that’s why they should have set off earlier . . . “ Happy just waiting in the joy of myself? Bollocks to that.
I’m giving up on The Power of Now halfway through, as it has just denounced modern art, architecture, music and literature as being devoid of “inner essence” and beauty. That’s a fairly broad statement, so I’ve decided that my NOW could be better spent in exploring things other than books whose inner essence wouldn't fill up one side of a postage stamp.
I am already regretting having bought his follow-up book, A New Earth, which promises an “Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose”. I’m just not optimistic. My bank manager’s life’s purpose seems to be to get me to pay back my overdraft; my life’s purpose is not to do so.
You see what I mean? Stress, stress, stress. Sometimes I wonder whether all this enlightenment stuff is just leading me in a new kind of darkness. But I’m already too far gone on the journey to turn back.
I’ve already forgotten what it used to be like to be me.