“I have little use for the past and rarely think about it; however, I would briefly like to tell you how I came to be a spiritual teacher…”
So begins Eckhart Tolle’s masterpiece, The Power of Now.
I discovered The Power of Now about ten years ago. I know because I vividly remember the first time I read it—in my old bedroom in my old house. The ideas inside were so foreign, so revolutionary, and so obviously true, that as soon as I finished it, I turned back to page one and started again.
I re-read The Power of Now, or listen to Eckhart read it on Audible, at least twice a year. I do this because, like most of us, I get lost in the weeds of everyday living. I do it because I need the reminder.
But this sentence—the opening of the book—has always stuck in my craw: “I have little use for the past and rarely think about it…”
Why? And how?
What’s Your Story?
In Selling with Stories, I wrote about a brief conversation I had long ago with legendary Baltimore news anchor Sally Thorner. “What’s your story?” she asked. I didn’t have a proper answer.
Maybe I didn’t have a story at the time, but I certainly have one now. A child of a life-long alcoholic, I married at 21 (and divorced at 24) emotionally abusive Husband Number One. I started my own business and made it work for 15 years, suffering countless fools along the way. I met the wonderful Husband Number Two and had an amazing little boy. I am a rape survivor. I am a cancer survivor. Fibromyalgia. Infertility. Codependency. Heartbreak. And on and on and on.
And yet Eckhart insists, “I have little use for the past and rarely think about it…”
How dare he?
Who are you?
It’s not an easy question to answer.
Here’s a hint:
you are not your past
Here’s another hint:
you are not your future either
The Meaning of Life
I am a huge fan of tattoo art, and I often entertained the idea of getting inked. But I never did. I think it was because I’d never been able to think of any word or any thing I would want permanently affixed to my body.
Who are we kidding? Of course it’s a word. Words are my jam.
About five years ago, as chemotherapy wound down and my own survival began to reassert itself as a reasonable expectation, I considered the question anew. I thought and thought. And finally, I settled on the word:
“Yes,” I thought, “this must be what life is all about. What else could it all mean? Why else would I suffer so many blows, one after the other, like waves in a storm?”
It seemed so clear. The purpose of life was to endure life. And I did. I just kept going—taking care of my people, holding the world together. Adrift, but floating nevertheless.
I held this word in my heart for a long time. I turned it over, examining it from every direction. I poked it and prodded it. I had to be sure.
One morning, I woke with a start.
Endure? Is that really what you want your life to be about?
I never got that tattoo.
Who are you?
You are who you are, not who you have been. All you are, all you will ever be, is who you are in this moment.
This is why Eckhart has little use for his past. Who he was bears no resemblance to who he is right now.
No one can tell you who you are. You must discover it for yourself. But remember, your story does not define you. Forget the past. If you don’t like who you are, change it. You can be born again in the present moment. You can be who you were meant to be.
You are always one decision away from being your best and truest self.