How to Find the Real You So You Can Create Real Change
Many of 2020’s key issues, from the pandemic to the climate emergency to the Black Lives Matter movement, have underlined just how broken many of our systems really are. Financial gain, power, and convenience are being prioritized ahead of the planet and its people. However, in this knowledge there is also hope. As Eckhart Tolle puts it in A New Earth, “Awareness is the greatest agent for change.”
A New Earth
A New Earth
- 12 min reading time
- audio version available
Tolle is a leading voice in modern spirituality, a New York Times bestselling author, and firm favorite of Oprah Winfrey. After suffering from serious depression all his life, he had a deep spiritual awakening or “inner transformation,” aged 29, which prompted him to share his teachings.
His first book, The Power of Now, became a huge hit after Oprah recommended it to her audience and has since sold millions of copies and been translated into over 30 languages worldwide. A New Earth, published in 2005, seems all the more relevant 15 years later.
The Human Condition
Most ancient religions have their own way to describe the systemic dysfunction of human life. The word maya in Hinduism describes a type of collective mental illness. In Buddhism, the word dukkha describes the mind’s natural state as one of misery and suffering. The Christian concept of sin when translated from its original ancient Greek, means ‘to miss the mark,’ so to sin is to miss the point of living.
Though most religions aim to cure us of this malady, none have yet succeeded in doing so. In fact, the original intent of many religions — for people to live kindly, humbly in unity — has often been the cause of the madness they seek to cure. Think of all the violence that has been inflicted in the name of religion that continues today. And if we look at the last century, we see that despite unprecedented progress, we have wreaked havoc on our planet. Clearly, we’re still missing the point.
Escaping the Ego
Ego is the root of these destructive human tendencies, according to Tolle. By identifying with our ego, we get consumed in our own thoughts and feelings and the desire to connect with external things. We live in a society that currently feeds on ego, and human value and identity is measured in accomplishments, status, and material possessions. This, according to Tolle, needs to stop.
Ego confuses knowing ourselves with knowing about ourselves. Letting go of ego means realizing that the self, the I that feels and thinks, is not who we really are, but instead an image we construct. The true self, the real ‘I’, is the one who can stand outside this stream of consciousness and recognize the reality.
The Head of the Matter
We’ve all been there. Something happens that offends, annoys or hurts you and in that moment you feel the related pain. Rather than leaving it there, you think it over and over, analyzing and worrying, letting it drag you down. It’s this ego-driven over-thinking about the past and the future that causes suffering. By collecting these negative situations and emotions, we prevent ourselves from enjoying life.
Seeking Your Purpose
No amount of money, stuff, status, or any other checkbox can bring us fulfilment or contentment unless we have a true purpose in life. Tolle argues that for most of us, our inner purpose is to be present in the moment, to change our consciousness so that we can separate thought from awareness. Being aware of this inner purpose is the most important part. Outer purposes, like career building or making money, are not always under your control and can therefore change and let you down.
Say you pride yourself on your job and identify as the best trader in the stock market — it’s just who you are. Then the economy crashes and suddenly you’re not the best at your job, and in fact, you don’t have a job at all. Who are you then? By remembering that the external world doesn’t define you but your internal purpose, you protect yourself from injury to your ego.
It isn’t external actions that define you, but the inner purpose they come from. Charity work, for example, may seem selfless and noble externally, but if it comes from a place of inner selfishness, then it’s motivated by ego and won’t bring contentment.
Accept and Enjoy
So what’s the trick? How can you reduce the stress and pressure of daily life? How can we find peace and maybe even a sense of enlightenment? The two main elements are acceptance and enjoyment of life as it is in the moment. Easily said, right? But how can you put it into practice? How can you enjoy everything?
The first step, says Tolle, is having the willingness to do whatever needs to be done at any given time, and do it peacefully. This is acceptance. Even when a task isn’t particularly enjoyable, a chore like doing the dishes or filing your taxes, the aim is to be able to accept the task and be at peace with it.
Of course, it isn’t always easy. Tolle advises that if you can’t enjoy, or even accept, the activity then you should stop. He reasons that if you continue without the will to or joy in doing so then you surrender the only thing you can truly control in life, your state of mind. It is you alone who can control the way you deal with whatever it is life has to throw at you.
Once you gain awareness of your true self, a sense of enlightenment, then you will rid yourself of want or desire, and the motivation for your actions will always be pure enjoyment.
Freedom to Heal
Tolle says it’s by finding our inner purpose and achieving a form of enlightenment that we can change not just our own lives but the world we share. Without want, desire or greed, there is no need for violence or destruction. Once we release ourselves from our ego we are free from the negative, self-sustaining cycle that we have for so long been trapped in. Only then can we start to act from a place of joy, to improve the situation for not only the people who live on Earth, but for the Earth itself.