Tolle's book is an important one... a much needed reminder that is too easy to forget. All too often people can pass entire lifetimes 'missing the moment.' One can, like the worst type of junkie, become so comfortable with-and so used to-anxiety, worry, and procrastination that to simply experience tranquility in the present becomes an impossibility. For such people, the simple and inspirational teachings that The Power of Now details can incite a revolution in one's experience of being alive. That being said, though, this book possesses flaws and confusions that must be sifted through using a keen sense of criticism (yes, this too, is an important faculty of the healthy human being).
First of all, becoming present is a practice-not a realization. I'm not sure Tolle makes this clear. Like any 'new thing' the appreciation of the present moment can seem novel and exciting but if one doesn't make it a practice and use discipline to habitualize the practice, then one will have merely another gimmick, a spiritual toy to play with for a while and then put aside. The reason why all the schools of enlightenment require masters and students and instills its practitioners with discipline and a set of methods is because nothing in life comes all at once but must be cultivated with care over a period of time. Because of this truth, I genuinely doubt Tolle's claim that after his midnight awakening he was-all-at-once-transformed, never to require further training or practice. The experience he describes at the beginning of the book might just as well be labeled a psychotic break as a religious experience. Either way, the genuine appreciation of the moment can neither be totally 'on' nor totally 'off.' It is a variable experience that can be developed but will always remain part of the organic experience of being alive. Be wary of those who seem to show no anger, no sadness, no flaw... such people are usually very good actors and nothing more. Spend time with such people, in different types of contexts, to reveal the true human being. No unidimensional personality can exist in reality. We are always part of our context and environment and no matter our training or character can be expected to occasionally fall short of others' expectations.
A guide to enlightenment, then, should teach us that enlightenment is neither a great distance away nor too near. It is thoughtful experience revealed through action and word. I have seen car mechanics who are enlightened beings when they work on cars but atrocious when with their families. I have met novelists who convey all the wisdom in the world through a pen but seem haughty and fractured in normal human conversation. And I have met spiritual 'masters' who secretly creep away to have sex for the sixth time in a day or to check their stocks on the internet. Enlightenment is a myth, and some people treat it like a commodity to purchase or sell. To live well requires the experience of the present-often-but not all the time and in all situations.
Joseph Campbell once expressed the opinion that the type of enlightenment we have become familiar with is unique to a conception of self that was once fairly common in Asia. The type of self most moderns live by, especially we very 'special' Westerners with our love for 'Individuality' and 'Self-Expression,' excludes the possibility of such an experience. Perhaps it is time, then, we drop this idea and redefine what enlightenment should mean now-and to people like us.
Use this book as a pointer and compass, not as a map. The Buddha said it best, Be Lamps Unto Yourselves. I would add-and don't hide from the dark when it comes.