A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

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Although A New Earth was first published in 2005 – republished in 2016 – its message is timeless. It is the sort of book that, once read from cover to cover, can be frequently dipped into as we start to question who we really are and why we behave the way we do. It provides insight into the nature of humanity and offers a way of looking at the challenges we face – both in our personal and working lives – from another perspective.

The first third of the book goes into great detail about the role the ego plays in our lives. We often relate the word ego to self-importance and superiority. We say that someone has a ‘big ego’ because they think a lot of themselves but we all have an ego which plays a vital role on how we behave and how we see ourselves in the world.

This book is about rising to new levels of consciousness and understanding how we can participate in the unfolding of our personal awakening.

An essential part of awakening is the recognition of the unawakened you, the ego as it thinks, speaks, and acts, as well as the recognition of the collectively conditioned mental processes that perpetuate the unawakened state.”

Eckhart Tolle explains that the unconscious ego strengthens itself and guides our behaviour in many ways. He says that, “the ego isn’t wrong, it’s just unconscious” and he provides an in-depth understanding of the mechanisms the ego uses to strengthen its sense of self.

We may tell lies or cheat in order to boost our standing amongst others; we will argue day and night to prove ourselves right in a discussion; we are influenced by status, money and possessions – the lack of which can cause great suffering.

“when ‘my’ toy breaks or is taken away, intense suffering arises. Not because of any intrinsic value that the toy has – the child will soon lose interest in it, and it will be replaced by other toys, other objects – but because of the thought of ‘mine’. The toy became part of the child’s developing sense of self, of I.”

Role-play – subtle or blatant – is another way in which our ever-demanding ego meets its needs. It demands attention, or contrives to make others think we are more interesting, exciting or wealthy than we are. I found this a very interesting section and realised that we play different roles for different people. It is easier to witness this in others than ourselves. We need to be very alert to our thoughts and actions to catch ourselves in role-play.

The middle section of A New Earth provides insight into what Eckhart Tolle refers to as the ‘pain body’ and it shows how and why we react to current events depending on past experiences. We all have a ‘story’ that makes us who we are. Our past often defines who we are today.

The remnants of pain left behind by every strong negative emotion that is not fully faced, accepted, and then let go join together to form an energy field that lives in the very cells of your body. It consists not just of childhood pain, but also painful emotions that were added to it later in adolescence and during your adult life, much of it created by the voice of the ego.”

Our ‘pain body’ can be triggered at any time and produce strong emotions that may not always be appropriate to the current situation. Abandonment in childhood can produce a volley of emotions if a partner is late home or uncontactable. Someone raising their voice in anger may replicate emotions experienced in the past when a raised voice may have been accompanied by physical violence. This unconscious reaction is triggered from past events and the book explains how to break free from the constraints of the ‘pain body’.

In the last section Tolle provides guidance on how to use the understanding – gained in the previous chapters about the motives and actions of the ego and the role of the pain body – to move forward in personal growth and awakening and ‘finding who you truly are’.

By understanding the mechanisms the ego uses to enhance its identity there is the opportunity to free ourselves from conditioning of the past, allowing us to live in the present moment in peace. This, of course, does not mean being free of challenges and difficult situations but more how to let go of the need to make everything about ‘me’ and ‘mine’.

By paying careful attention to your own behaviour, and to that of those around you, it is possible to see the ego at work. The ego is good in terms of moving us forward. Ambition, motivation, the desire to help others all comes from the ego but it is important to stay alert, to stay present, to observe when the ego is serving you well and when it is creating suffering.

A New Earth is a truly enlightening book which provides new depths of understanding each time it is read. It is a book to keep close to hand and read whenever you feel circumstances are causing pain and suffering. It offers a new perspective on life.

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