A New Earth – How to Drop the Ego and Create a Better Life
I’ve just finished reading ‘A New Earth’ by spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle and I have to say it’s one of the most thought provoking books I’ve ever read. Maybe this was due to its timing spanning pre and post birth of our recent family addition baby Huw? As discussed with a friend recently, I found it’s a book you need some headspace to process and I found myself re-reading some parts again.
Here I share some of my reflections and key takeaways:
- Our relationship with ego – Tolle defines ‘ego’ as a dysfunctional relationship with the present moment and shares the best way to disidentify with it is to acknowledge it and be present. I was interested in the different examples of ego that he wrote to look out for including the urge to speak first or tell someone news first. I reflected on the times where I’ve been really eager to answer a question first and give my input, all unknowingly stemming from ego. Being mindful of this and trying to hold back has been an interesting process and allows more gold from those around you to be shared. As I’ve written about before when we’re speaking we’re not learning.
- The body processes thoughts as reality – I’ve heard a lot of wisdom teachers say that we are not our thoughts / emotions and have firsthand experienced the power of this. Interestingly however, Tolle shares whilst we are not our thoughts, our body processes them as reality, having the same physiological response to fear. This made sense to me as I reflected on times I’ve had nightmares with spiders coming down from the ceiling and waking up with the heart pounding and palms sweaty! Or when I thought I’ve seen a snake in the bush. I’ve found through mindfulness practice, the more we can respond versus react the less these instances occur (although we want the fight or flight response to occur if the danger is real!) My dear friend Ros shares some great tips here on how to ditch the deficit that we are wired for.
- Unattachment to possessions – Tolle talks about the Buddhist philosophy of being unattached to possessions and how it can be common practice to get rid of all your belongings. He shares a story ‘The Lost Ring’ of a dying woman and her strong identification with a diamond ring who reacted strongly when she thought it had been stolen by a carer. As Tolle explored this with her and she let go of the identification with things she became liberated and started giving away all of her possessions. He also explores many people’s infatuation with designer goods which I know I went through in my teenage years.
- Parenthood Role or Function? – I found this chapter very topical with a newborn and toddler. Tolle describes how can can get caught up in playing roles whether that be ‘parent’ or ‘worker’ and thus losing our true self. He shares the all important question is “Are you able to fulfill the function of being a parent and fulfill it well, without identifying with that function, that is, without it becoming a role?’. He writes when it becomes too strong an identity and overemphasized it can become excessive and turn into spoiling children , controlling and becoming overprotective.We do not own our children and need to let them learn and explore whilst preventing them from danger. The role of a parent can also then remain long after the needs of those functions has passed with parents not able to let go of being a parent when the child grows into an adult, an egoic motivation. The first step to dissolving this is recognizing this form of ego in yourself or others and acknowledging its the ego and not who you or them really are. Tolle shares not opposing this can help the egoic patterns dissolve and if they don’t accepting them with compassion, without needing to react and personalize it.
A few final snippets of Tolle’s wisdom:
- How can we embrace ‘one with life’ thinking that ‘we are life’ versus ‘my life’
- Think of truth as relative versus absolute with no one truth
- The shift from unconscious to consciousness is awareness and being in the present
Have you read ‘A New Earth’, are on a journey to consciousness or intrigued by this concept? Love to hear any of your insights. It will be one of the few books I keep to revisit in the future.