After flipping through a magazine to pass the time, I noticed an article on the worldwide phenomenon of "self-healing" - "The Power of Now", the name of a self help book authored by "spiritualist" Eckhart Tolle. While I have no claim to refute or confirm his methods validity or usefulness since I have no basis for a scientific, rational study, I do however take offense to his writings as since they are almost direct reproductions of Gestalt Therapy, a method of psychotherapy and individuation formulated by Dr. Fritz Perls in the early 1970s.
After some even very preliminary readings, it seems that Mr. Tolle has merely taken most of the Dr. Perls' Gestalt therapeutic teachings, cloaking them in Christian mysticism so as to appeal to a new "spiritualist" market.
For example, an extract from Mr. Tolle's book reads:
In your everyday life, you can practise [this exercise] by taking any routine activity that normally is only a means to an end and giving it your fullest attention. For example, every time you walk up anti, down the stairs in your house or place of work; pay close attention to every step, every movement, even your breathing. Be totally present. The moment you realise you are not present, you are present. Or when you wash your hands, pay attention to all the sense perceptions: the sound and feel of the water, the movement of your hands, the scent of the soap. Or when you get into the car, after you close the door, pause for a few seconds and observe the flow of your breath.
Similarities can easily be found with Dr. Perls' work, bolded sections that correspond to Mr. Tolle's writings:
(1) Maintain the sense of actuality—the sense that your awareness exists now and here. (2) Try to realize that you are living the experience; acting it, observing it, suffering it, resisting it. (3 ) Attend to and follow up all experiences, the "internal" as well as the "external," the abstract as well as the concrete, those that tend toward the past as well as those that tend toward the future, those that you "wish," those that you "ought," those that simply "are," those that you deliberately produce and those that seem to occur spontaneously. (4) With regard to every experience without exception, verbalize: "Now I am aware that ..."
...walk, talk, or sit down; be aware of the proprioceptive details without in any way interfering with them.
If you keep your attention in the body as much as possible, you will stay in the Now. [...] When you are unoccupied for a few minutes and especially last thing at night and first thing in the morning, "flood" your body with consciousness. Lie flat on your back. Close your eyes. Choose different parts of your body to focus your attention on briefly at first: hands, feet, arms, legs, abdomen, chest, head ... Feel the life energy inside those parts as intensely as you can. Stay with each part for about 15 seconds. Then let your attention run through the body like a wave a few times, from feet to head and back again.
As you sit or lie comfortably, aware of different body-sensations and motions (breathing, clutching, contracting the stomach, etc.), see if you can notice any combinations or structures—things that seem to go together and form a pattern-among the various tensions, aches, and sensations. Notice that frequently you stop breathing and hold your breath. Do any tensions in the arms or fingers or contractions of the stomach and genitals seem to go with this? Or is there a relationship between holding your breath and straining your ears? Or between holding your breath and certain skin sensations? What combinations can you discover?
While Dr. Perls uses the language of science and Mr. Tolle uses non-sensical abstracts such as "life energy", it seems that "The Power of Now" is a religious rehash of field tested, empirical science.
Mr. Tolle even ransacks one of the many psychotheraputic techniques from Dr. Albert Ellis, father of Cognitive Behavior Therapy to comprise one of his many "life-lessons." While Mr. Tolle can refute the claims and brush them off as coincidence (although I doubt that he could do so successfully) its disheartening that so many people would flock towards his spiritualist re-interpretation of already established therapies grounded in science - and let Mr. Tolle get away with it.