In "A New Earth", Eckhart Tolle defines the ego and describes its powerful impact on human beings, on their attitudes, their actions and their emotions. Through this book, the author helps recognize the ego and transcend the state of ego-consciousness to reach self-awareness, as an attempt to achieve personal happiness, to end suffering and to avoid conflicts between people around the world. Moreover, as follow-up to his first book “The power of Now”, the author clarifies the importance of Presence in accepting one’s reality, reconciling the past, awakening the pain-body, and reaching spiritual peace.
IDEAS I like
One of the most basic mind structures through which the ego comes into existence is identification. The word “identification” is derived from the Latin word idem, meaning “same” and facere, which means “to make.” So when I identify with something, I “make it the same.” The same as what? The same as I. I endow it with a sense of self, and so it becomes part of my “identity.” One of the most basic levels of identification is with things: My toy later becomes my car, my house, my clothes, and so on. I try to find myself in things but never quite make it and end up losing myself in them. That is the fate of the ego.
Paradoxically, what keeps the so called consumer society going is the fact that trying to find yourself through things doesn’t work: The ego satisfaction is short lived and so you keep looking for more, keep buying, keep consuming.
The ego and peace
When you are ill, your energy level is quite low, and the intelligence of the organism may take over and use the remaining energy for the healing of the body, and so there is not enough left for the mind, that is to say, egoic thinking and emotion.
There are many accounts of people who experienced that emerging new dimension of consciousness as a result of tragic loss at some point in their lives. Some lost all of their possessions, others their children or spouse, their social position, reputation, or physical abilities. In some cases, through disaster or war, they lost all of these simultaneously and found themselves with “nothing.” We may call this a limit situation. Whatever they had identified with, whatever gave them their sense of self, had been taken away. Then suddenly and inexplicably, the anguish or intense fear they initially felt gave way to a scared sense of Presence, a deep peace and serenity and complete freedom from fear.
If there is unhappiness in you, first you need to acknowledge that it is there. But don't say, “I'm unhappy.” Unhappiness has nothing to do with who you are. Say: “There is unhappiness in me.” Then investigate it.
The ego and complaining
The ego loves to complain and feel resentful not only about other people but also about situations. What you can do to a person, you can also do to a situation: make it into an enemy. The implication is always: This should not be happening; I don't want to be here; I don't want to be doing this; I'm being treated unfairly. And the ego’s greatest enemy of all is, of course, the present moment, which is to say, life itself.
Complaining is not to be confused with informing someone of a mistake or deficiency so that it can be put right. And to refrain from complaining doesn't necessarily mean putting up with bad quality or behavior. There is no ego in telling the waiter that your soup is cold and needs to be heated up – if you stick to the facts, which are always neutral. “How dare you serve me cold soup...” That's complaining. There is a “me” here that loves to feel personally offended by the cold soup and is going to make the most of it, a “me” that enjoys making someone wrong. The complaining we are talking about is in the service of the ego, not of change. Sometimes it becomes obvious that the ego doesn't really want change so that it can go on complaining.
The power of Now
Only Presence can free you of the ego, and you can only be present Now, not yesterday or tomorrow. Only Presence can undo the past in you and thus transform your state of consciousness.
Being at one with what is doesn't mean you no longer initiate change or become incapable of taking action. But the motivation to take action comes from a deeper level, not from egoic wanting or fearing. Inner alignment with the present moment opens your consciousness and brings it into alignment with the whole, of which the present moment is an integral part.
The ego and control
Whatever behavior the ego manifests, the hidden motivating force is always the same: the need to stand out, be special, be in control; the need for power, for attention, for more. And, of course, the need to feel a sense of separation, that is to say, the need for opposition, enemies.
If you are alert enough, present enough, you may be able to detect a momentary sense of satisfaction within yourself just before imparting the news, even if it is bad news. It is due to the fact that for a brief moment there is, in the eyes of the ego, an imbalance in your favor between you and the other person. For that brief moment, you know more than the other.
It is not the formless attention which is Presence that the ego seeks, but attention in some form, such as recognition, praise, admiration, or just to be noticed in some way, to have its existence acknowledged.
Ego in parenthood
Parents then cannot let go of being a parent even when the child grows into an adult. They can't let go of the need to be needed by their child.…. If their desire to control or influence the actions of their adult child is thwarted – as it usually is – they will start to criticize or show their disapproval, or try to make the child feel guilty, all in an unconscious attempt to preserve their role, their identity.
If you have young children, give them help, guidance, and protection to the best of your ability, but even more important, give them space – space to be. They come into this world through you, but they are not “yours.”
At times, you may also have to allow them to suffer. Suffering may come to them out of the blue or it may come as the consequence of their own mistakes.… Suffering has a noble purpose: the evolution of consciousness and the burning up of the ego.
You become most powerful in whatever you do if the action is performed for its own sake rather than as a means to protect, enhance, or conform to your role identity.
The past lives in you as memories, but memories in themselves are not a problem. In fact, it is through memory that we learn from the past and from past mistakes. It is only when memories, that is to say, thoughts about the past, take you over completely that they turn into a burden, turn problematic, and become part of your sense of self. Your personality, which is conditioned by the past, then becomes your prison. Your memories are invested with a sense of self, and your story becomes who you perceive yourself to be. This “little me” is an illusion that obscures your true identity as timeless and formless Presence.
It is not so much that you cannot stop your train of negative thoughts, but that you don't want to. This is because the pain-body at that time is living through you, pretending to be you. And to the pain-body, pain is pleasure.
Pain-bodies love intimate relationships and families because that is where they get most of their food. It is hard to resist another person's pain body that is determined to draw you into a reaction. Instinctively it knows your weakest, most vulnerable points. If it doesn't succeed the first time, it will try again and again. It is raw emotion looking for more emotion. The other person's pain-body wants to awaken yours so that both pain-bodies can mutually energize each other.
You don't just marry your wife or husband, you also marry her or his pain-body – and your spouse marries yours.
Almost every woman has her share in the collective female pain-body, which tends to become activated particularly just prior to the time of menstruation. At that time many women become overwhelmed by intense negative emotion.
The media impact
If you were not familiar with our contemporary civilization, if you had come here from another age or another planet, one of the things that would amaze you is that millions of people love and pay money to watch humans kill and inflict pain on each other and call it “entertainment.”
The pain-body can only feed on films in which violence is portrayed as normal or even desirable human behavior, or that glorify violence with the sole purpose of generating negative emotion in the viewer and so become a “fix” for the pain-addicted pain-body.
So when watching television, the tendency is for you to fall below thought, not rise above it. Television has this in common with alcohol and certain other drugs. While it provides some relief from your mind, you again pay a high price: loss of consciousness.
Excessive TV watching and those programs in particular are largely responsible for attention deficit disorder, a mental dysfunction now affecting millions of children worldwide.
Inner purpose and outer purpose
Your life has an inner purpose and an outer purpose. Inner purpose concerns Being and is primary. Outer purpose concerns doing and is secondary.… . Your inner purpose is an essential part of the purpose of the whole, the universe and its emerging intelligence. Your outer purpose can change over time. It varies greatly from person to person.
Enjoyment, Enthousiasm and acceptance
Whatever you cannot enjoy doing, you can at least accept that this is what you have to do. Acceptance means: For now, this is what this situation, this moment, requires me to do, and so I do it willingly.
The “waiting to start living” syndrome is one of the most common delusions of the unconscious state. Expansion and positive change on the outer level is much more likely to come into your life if you can enjoy what you are doing already, instead of waiting for some change so that you can start enjoying what you do.
The word enthousiazein means “to be possessed by a god.” With enthusiasm you will find that you don't have to do it all by yourself. In fact, there is nothing of significance that you can do by yourself.
IDEAS I don’t agree with
Religion and truth
All religions are equally false and equally true, depending on how you use them. You can use them in the service of the ego, or you can use them in the service of the Truth. If you believe only your religion is the Truth, you are using it in the service of the ego. Used in such a way, religion becomes ideology and creates an illusory sense of superiority as well as division and conflict between people. In the service of the Truth, religious teachings represent signposts or maps left behind by awakened humans to assist you in spiritual awakening, that is to say, in becoming free of identification with form.
I think one embraces a religion because he believes it is the Truth, otherwise why wouldn’t he choose another one? However, to adopt a religion doesn’t mean to hate people from other religions. On the contrary, one has to respect others’ choice and treat them with sympathy, love and tolerance because he must understand that for those people their religion is the Truth.
War is a mindset
War is a mindset, and all action that comes out of such a mindset will either strengthen the enemy, the perceived evil, or, if the war is won, will create a new enemy, a new evil equal to and often worse than the one that was defeated.
I agree with the author that war is evil, but the problem is that sometimes, we don’t choose to be in war. When a country decides to invade another country, expulse its people and plunder its wealth just because it’s stronger, it becomes legitimate for people of the invaded country to defend themselves and their families even with violence. It is human!
Other cultures and religions, such as Judaism, Islam, and even Buddhism, also suppressed the female dimension, although in a less violent way. Women's status was reduced to being child bearers and men's property.
That is not true. As a Muslim, I believe that Islam grants women all their rights, preserves their dignity and aims at ensuring a happy life for them. Unfortunately, some Muslims don’t apply Islam rules and thus distort the image of Islam. I think it is necessary to distinguish between a religion and the attitudes of people who adopt it, because sometimes the gap between the two is huge.
Conflicts in the middle east
In some nations, for example, in the Middle East, the collective pain-body is so acute that a significant part of the population finds itself forced to act it out in an endless and insane cycle of perpetration and retribution through which the pain-body renews itself continuously.…Prolonged violent conflict in the Middle East are all painful episodes in human history dominated by extreme collective paranoia.
It’s not always true. Palestinians don’t fight because they are paranoiac; they fight to defend themselves, to protect their families and to bring back their stolen country. Anyway, I don’t know why the author mentions repeatedly the example of the Middle East as if the whole world is safe except this area. Wars are everywhere today and the world is no shortage of examples.
With forgiveness, your victim identity dissolves, and your true power emerges – the power of Presence. Instead of blaming the darkness, you bring in the light.
You forgive when you are allowed to forgive, not when you are forced to. You forgive when you are in a position of strength not a position of weakness. It’s not human to ask someone who suffers injustice to forgive until we give him back his right, otherwise, his forgiveness will be considered as subservience.
All over the book, the author takes examples, tells stories and cites quotes from different religions (Judaism, Christianism, Buddhism, Hinduism), but he strangely takes nothing from Islam, except when he wants to give some negative examples related to violence or women abuse. Knowing that the Islamic heritage is a rich source of Wisdom and is full of stories about peace, tolerance and serenity, I really don’t understand why the author ignores it completely!
The author tells the story of the Zen Master Hakuin who kept saying “Is that so?” when he was accused by making a teenager pregnant and then when he was asked to take care of the born baby, until he lost his reputation. The author calls this “The power of non-resistance”. But why one has to suffer injustice and lose his reputation when he can defend himself? I think I would rather call this “Passivity”. I don’t say that one has to defend himself to satisfy his ego, but one could “hold the stick from the middle” as we say in Arabic, he can defend himself for the purpose of realizing Justice, he just has to provide evidence for his innocence, and only when he can’t prove it, at that moment, he can accept the situation, but he must fight first.
(Photos credit: Person Looking In A Mirror, Hands Of Young Muslim Woman Praying For God, Boss Complaining, Now Time Shows At The Moment And Earlier, Man Pushing Button Showing Controlling, Father Holding Child Hand, The Desperate Anxiety, TV Monitor, Planning Ladder Means Break Free And Aspirations, Crowd Of Friends Jumping On Blue Sky Background via FreeDigitalPhotos.net)