Tami Simon: Your teaching about "the power of now" seems so simple. Is that really our primary spiritual task – to fully engage the present moment?
Eckhart Tolle: Identification with thoughts and the emotions that go with those thoughts creates a false mind-made sense of self, conditioned by the past: the "little me" and its story. This false self is never happy or fulfilled for long. Its normal state is one of unease, fear, insufficiency, and nonfulfillment. It says it looks for happiness, and yet it continuously creates conflict and unhappiness. In fact, it needs conflict and "enemies" to sustain the sense of separateness that ensures its continued survival. Look at all the conflict between tribes, nations, and religions. They need their enemies, because they provide the sense of separateness on which their collective egoic identity depends. The false self lives mainly through memory and anticipation. Past and future are its main preoccupation. The present moment, at best, is a means to an end, a stepping stone to the future, because the future promises fulfillment, the future promises salvation in one form or another. The only problem is the future never comes. Life is always now. Whatever happens, whatever you experience, feel, think, do - it's always now. It's all there is. And if you continuously miss the now – resist it, dislike it, try to get away from it, reduce it to a means to an end, then you miss the essence of your life, and you are stuck in a dream world of images, concepts, labels, interpretations, judgments – the conditioned content of your mind that you take to be "yourself." And so you are disconnected from the fullness of life that is the "suchness" of this moment. When you are out of alignment with what is, you are out of alignment with life. You are struggling to reach a point in the future where there is greater security, aliveness, abundance, love, joy … unaware that those things make up the essence of who you are already. All that is required of you to have access to that essence is to make the present moment into your friend. And you may realize that most of your life you made the present moment into an enemy. You didn't say "yes" to it, didn't embrace it. You were out of alignment with the now, and so life became a struggle. It seemed so normal, because everyone around you lived in the same way. The amazing thing is: Life, the great intelligence that pervades the entire cosmos, becomes supportive when you say "yes" to it. Where is life? Here. Now. The "isness" of this moment. The now seems so small at first, a little segment between past and future, and yet all of life's power is concealed within it. When there is spiritual awakening, you awaken into the fullness, the aliveness, and also the sacredness of now. You were absent, asleep, and now you are present, awake. The secret of awakening is to unconditionally accept this moment as it is. Some people do it because they can no longer stand the suffering that comes with nonacceptance of the isness of this moment. They are almost forced into awakening. Others have suffered enough and are ready to voluntarily embrace the now. When you become present in this way, the judgments, labels, and concepts of your mind are no longer all that important, as a greater intelligence is now operating in and through you. And yet the mind can then be used very effectively and creatively when needed.
Now the question may arise: Would there be anything left to strive for when you are so present in the now? Wouldn't you become passive in that state? Many meaningless activities may fall away, but the state of presence is the only state in which creative energy is available to you. When your fulfillment and sense of self are no longer dependent on the future outcome, joy flows into whatever you do. You do what you do because the action itself is fulfilling. Whatever you do or create in that state is of high quality. This is because it is not a means to and end, and so a loving care flows into your doing.