ECKHART: That's a continuous refocusing on what really matters-what matters most in anybody's life, which is the present moment. People don't realize that now is all there ever is; there is no past or future except as memory or anticipation in your mind.
OPRAH: But that's what throws me: In The Power of Now, you say nothing ever happened in the past. But there has to be a past, because there are all our memories, all these ways we have defined ourselves.
ECKHART: Nobody can argue with the fact that there is such a thing as time. We used time to meet here-otherwise it would have been difficult.
OPRAH: Right. We agreed on this time, and we are here, because this is now.
ECKHART: Yes. So time is something that we cannot do without. We could even say time is what dominates this entire life that we experience here, the surface level of reality. It's completely dominated by time, which is the past and future in the continuous stream. People look to time in expectation that it will eventually make them happy, but you cannot find true happiness by looking toward the future. It's been said there are two ways of being unhappy: One is not getting what you want, and the other is getting what you want. If you think this, that, or the other thing will make you happy, when you get what you wanted, you will again be focusing on the next moment-never being in this moment, which is all we have.
OPRAH: That's another thing that changed me when I read The Power of Now: You wrote that all our stress is based on thinking about what happened in the past or what should be happening in the future, and that, no matter what crisis is going on in your life, if you're able to take a deep breath and look at what is happening now, in this moment, you're okay.
ECKHART: That's right. Many people identify their sense of self with the problems they have, or think they have. As a reality test, I ask people, "What problem do you have at this moment? Not in an hour or tomorrow, but what problem do you have now?" Sometimes they'll suddenly wake up when they hear that question, because they realize that at that moment, they don't have a problem.
OPRAH: Maybe at that moment, during a lecture with you-but what if you're in a dangerous situation in the present moment? That's a problem! What then?
ECKHART: If danger arises in the present moment, there may be an emotion. There may even be pain. But that's a challenge, not a problem. For a problem to exist, you need time and repetitive mind activity. In a dangerous situation, you don't have time to turn it into a problem. So when people ask how they can get over their problems, I suggest that they go into the present moment and see what the problem is now. They always have to admit, "Well, right now I don't actually have a problem." Even people serving life sentences in prison have written to me to say, "I understood your message, and I have become free." They're free inside.