Right now, I’m reading a book called “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle, I’m only about a quarter of the way in, but so far I’m really enjoying the perspective he gives. I enjoy “self-help” books and particularly ones that are a bit more religious but I go in waves of the type of books I like to read. I figured I might start adding some book thoughts and take-aways to my blog about what I’m learning from the books I read so you can benefit from it as well. So far, the writer has mostly talked about the ego and everything that makes up our ego. How it latches on to possessions, title, money, lifestyles, physical appearance and forms what we think is our identity. How ego satisfaction is short-lived and always wants more. If you are trying to find yourself or your “identity” in things then you will never be satisfied– you will keep consuming, keep buying. If we aren’t aware of our ego then it can easily lead to us feeling superior to others for what we have, the experiences we’ve had, how strong we are, how much we know, etc.
I’m not posting about this because I think everyone needs an ego check but just to share with you some things I’ve found interesting so far in the book. We all have our take-aways from what we read, see, or experience but here are some of mine for you to contemplate. If you’ve read this book or read the quotes and want to share your thoughts on it, I’d love to hear about it!
“Many people don’t realize until they are on their deathbed and everything external falls away that no thing ever had anything to do with who they are. In the proximity of death, the whole concept of ownership stands revealed as ultimately meaningless. In the last moments of their life, they then also realize that while they were looking throughout their lives for a more complete sense of self, what they were really looking for, their Being, had actually always already been there, but had been largely obscured by their identification with things, which ultimately means identification with their mind.”
I think about this a lot actually. Sure, having a nice house and the best gym outfit is great but is that what I’m going to think about when I’m about to die? Probably not, I assume I’m going to think about what I did with my life that was fulfilling and with purpose. Did I maintain good relationships with the people that are closest to me? Was I a genuinely caring person or did I burn a lot of bridges in my life? Did I fulfill my dreams and see all the places I wanted to see? Did I help people? What do you think you would think about in that moment?
“Renunciation of possessions, however, will not automatically free you of the ego. It will attempt to ensure its survival by finding something else to identify with, for example, a mental image of yourself as someone who has transcended all interest in material possessions and is therefore superior, is more spiritual than others.”
“If you take away one kind of identification the ego will quickly find another.”
This is interesting because this trap is so easy to fall into. Trying to be a better person by giving to the poor, volunteering, or whatever it may be but then having this feeling of being superior to those that don’t. That somehow we are better than others because we did something we thought was selfless or humble. The book talks about being aware of your ego and I think that is one of the best things we can do. We are all human and our thoughts can get the best of us sometimes, but being aware of those thoughts and trying to redirect them is a really good start.
“Complaining is one of the ego’s favorite strategies for strengthening itself. Every complaint is a little story the mind makes up that you completely believe in. Whether you complain aloud or only in thought makes no difference. Some egos that perhaps don’t have much else to identify with easily survive on complaining alone. When you are in the grip of such an ego, complaining, especially about other people, is habitual and, of course, unconscious, which means you don’t know what you’re doing. Applying negative mental labels to people, either to their face or more commonly when you speak about them to others or even just think about them, is often part of this pattern. Name-calling is the crudest form of such labeling and of the ego’s need to be right and triumph over others: “jerk, bastard, bitch” — all definitive pronouncements that you can’t argue with.”
I see this a lot working in the fitness industry and I’ll admit to catching myself doing this quite often. Anytime you get a large group of people together we will always feed off of each other. If there is a lot of “ego” in those groups then name calling, judgments, and gossiping are going to be some of the main topic in conversation. This leads me into the next quote about non-reaction or just staying out of it.
“Non-reaction is not a weakness but strength. Another word for non-reaction is forgiveness. To forgive is to overlook, or rather to look through. You look through the ego to the sanity that is in every human being as his or her essence.”
I witnessed a perfect example of this just the other day. A person overheard another person say something about him/her behind their back to one of their friends and they practiced non-reaction. They later expressed that they didn’t want to involve themselves in that because they try to stay away from negativity in their life. This person realized immediately that the other person was simply feeding their ego to make themselves feel better or to look cool around their friends. If only we were all that good at practicing non-reaction or forgiveness!
“The thought forms of “me” and “mine”, of “more than,” of “I want,” “I need,” “I must have,” and of “not enough” pertain not to content but to the structure of the ego. The content is interchangeable. As long as you don’t recognize those thought forms within yourself, as long as they remain unconscious, you will believe in what they say; you will be condemned to acting out those unconscious thoughts, condemned to seeking and not finding– because when those thought forms operate, no possession, place, person, or condition will ever satisfy you. No content will satisfy you, as long as the egoic structure remains in place. No matter what you have or get, you won’t be happy. You will always be looking for something else that promises greater fulfillment, that promises to make your incomplete sense of self complete and fill that sense of lack you feel within.”
This quote is similar to what I touched on earlier. Becoming aware of your ego and knowing that things won’t satisfy you. So what can we all take away from that?! Stop being such a douche and be nice to people and I will too! Along with other things.