Do you ever wonder when you're going to be happy? Do you feel like you live in a constant state of wanting things to be better, waiting for the day when you have less stress and find some peace? Do you often find yourself thinking that you will worry less and be happier when [fill in the blank] happens?
I will continue to recommend Stop Thinking, Start Living as a must-read, but A New Earth: Create A Better Life by Eckhardt Tolle (you may know him as the author of The Power of Now) is the newest must-have self-help book to sit on my bookshelf.
Tolle explains that the root of all our suffering comes from a lack of awareness of the fact that the person we know to be 'I' is split into two parts – consciousness and the ego. The ego is that part of your brain that you 'hear' all the time. The thinking part. It spends its time getting attached to things, not just material things, but any kind of form. It likes to be right (and for others to be wrong). And it's also a big fan of drama and storytelling. It is – essentially – our identity, our personality.
Its purpose is to survive, no matter what, so it attaches to whatever it can. For example, if you decided to rid yourself of the ego and attachment by renouncing all possessions, the ego would look for something else, say attachment to anti-consumerism. How many people do you know who have tried to search for greater meaning through something and then become unbearable with the steadfastness with which they attach to it?
Understanding the idea of consciousness versus ego is not an easy one – for the very fact that we are so strongly identified with our ego. But Tolle does an amazing job of making it all so clear, through examples and approaching the concept in many different ways until you find your perspective slowly shifting.
I believe (myself included) that most of us experience a background unhappiness without realizing that we are creating this ourselves. The ego makes assumptions – unexamined thoughts that are then confused with reality. As Tolle himself says, "Listen to people’s stories and they could all be entitled 'Why I Cannot Be at Peace Now.'"
And how to be at peace now? We’ve all heard it before, but by making peace with the present moment. The problem is that people don't really believe this will work. They live for the future, they live in the past, and they are skeptical that if they just focused on what they were doing right now, at this very moment, that nothing would change, nothing would get better.
Read the whole book, I say. Because it will tell you again and again in different ways, effectively drumming it into your head so you can finally start putting it into practice:
To the ego, the present moment is, at best, only useful as a means to an end. It gets you to some future moment that is considered more important, even though the future never comes except as the present moment and is therefore never more than a thought in your head. In other words, you are never fully here because you are always busy trying to get elsewhere.
And the best part? You don’t really have to do that much to make peace with the present. All that is required is a subtle shift in consciousness; an acknowledgement that maybe there is a different way. And it might just get you that one step closer to peace.P.S. I clearly thought this book was fantastic. However, I will caution that there is a chapter on the 'Pain-Body' which I thought was a little out there (and I am pretty liberal when I read these books). You'll know when you get to it. I suppose I am not sure I agree with his assessment of collective pain-bodies, particularly the bit about women.