Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now is “a guide to spiritual enlightenment” as the book leads readers on a journey to find peace in the present moment through discovering their true self.
The concepts Tolle describes have nothing to do specifically with sports, but when observed through an athlete’s lens, with sports in mind, many of these ideas can help you improve the mental aspect of performance.
To truly understand and apply these teachings, I recommend you read the book, but do so not merely to relate the book to your athletic performance, because that might limit many of the ideas from having an impact on the more important aspects of your life.
That being said, here are five keys that can be taken from this book, and when understood and practiced properly, they can help you stay engaged to more fully enjoy and take advantage of your training, competition, rehab, etc.
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. There was never a time when your life was not now, nor will there ever be.”
“Short-term memory” is a term frequently tossed around in sports, and Tolle’s explanation of the “Now” is similar but much deeper than just forgetting about the past. Understanding how to access the “Now” and understanding that it is the only opportunity you currently have will help you maximize your next shot, throw, pass, swing, etc., and not let past or future moments affect the one that is in front of you.
Observing the mind
“With the acknowledgment and acceptance of the facts also come a degree of freedom from them…When you know you are not at peace, your knowing creates a still space that surrounds your non peace in a loving and tender embrace and then transmutes your non peace into peace.”
The idea that “you are not your mind” is not easy to understand at first, but it can be useful throughout your training or competition when negative thoughts race through your head. Throughout all sports, whether you are pitching the ball inaccurately or can’t seem to make a shot, negativity and doubt can creep in. But rather than dwelling on and energizing these thoughts, acknowledging and observing the presence of the feelings in your mind will give you a degree of separation and allow you to focus on the present. You no longer are the emotion; you are just the observer who is aware of the negativity trying to encroach on the present.
“Certain things in the past didn’t go the way you wanted them to go. You are still resisting what happened in the past, and now you are resisting what is. The mind always seeks to deny the Now and to escape from it…the more you are able to honor and accept the Now, the more you are free of pain.”
Tolle advises readers to accept every situation as if they had chosen it, not simply to forget the past but understand how it has affected the “Now” and work with your current situation from there.
Fear of Failure
“Any action is often better than no action…If it is a mistake, at least you learn something, in which case it’s no longer a mistake.”
The fear of taking a risk and failing is prevalent among athletes because it is difficult to cope with an unhappy mind projection of the future. Understanding that you can always cope with the present moment no matter how negative it may appear as a future moment will give you the freedom to take chances in your sport and to then succeed or fail and learn.
“‘One day I’ll make it.’ Is your goal taking up so much of your attention that you reduce the present moment to a means to an end?”
As an athlete you know there’s always room for growth and improvement. Having aspirations for something greater is part of life and is especially part of the nature of being a competitor. Your goals only become problematic when they take away from the joy of the process and your everyday life. Being able to stay in the “Now” and appreciate what it is that you’re doing will make your journey to a goal fulfilling.