I recently finished reading “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose” by Eckhart Tolle. It’s an excellent book, and comes highly recommended. The basic idea of the book is that we are not our egos. The ego is a collection of thoughts, feelings, preferences, and aversions that we’ve built up over our lifetimes. It is often unhappy, and seeks nourishment by either playing the victim or acting superior to others. We might see this appearing in ourselves and others in drastic ways, like the spoiled rebellious young celebrity, or the power-grabbing politician, but it can also be very subtle. The ego wants to be special.
Beyond the ego is our true self, which is our soul – pure energy and consciousness. Just by being aware of when our ego is up to its tricks, Tolle says, we are beginning to awaken and to dissipate the negativity that the ego holds on to. Sounds pretty simple, right? Just be aware. As with many valuable practices, it is both simple and amazingly challenging. Sort of like a Zen koan.
Over the past few days I’ve been noticing where my ego shows up and the reactions it has. It might feel annoyed or put out when someone else is upset, even when it has nothing to do with me (“man, I was having fun and now these guys’ bickering is bringing me down”). It feels slighted when it thinks someone isn’t paying attention to me (“she must not really like me, she hardly said a word to me last night”). It wants others to go out of their way to feed its wants and needs, even though they have no idea what those desires might be! I’ve come to the conclusion that my ego is whiny.
Luckily for me, it seems that being present (which is a practice Tolle recommends, and is akin to mindfuless meditation) does work. Just by having the mental observation that “wow, the ego is really caught up in that feeling, huh?” I can let it go, notice what’s going on around me, and enjoy the moment, instead. I can see that what others are doing is about them, not me. At times it feels magickal, like a wand to wave which then dissipates grumpiness. Other times it’s harder to get in that space, and I need to use other tools for getting back to my center. Overall, though, it’s a good feeling to be able to connect with the eternal nature of consciousness, especially when I’m feeling slighted in some way. I can use presence to enjoy the reality of a rainy day, rather than being too busy wishing it was sunny.