by Eckhart Tolle (a summary by Pat Evert)
Chapter One, The Flowering of Human Consciousness
Is humanity ready for a transformation of consciousness, an inner flowering so radical and profound that compared to it the flowering of plants, no matter how beautiful, is only a pale reflection? Can human beings lose the density of their conditioned mind structures and become like crystals or precious stones, so to speak, transparent to the light of consciousness? Can they defy the gravitational pull of materialism and materiality and rise above identification with form that keeps the ego in place and condemns them to imprisonment within their own personality?
The possibility of such a transformation has been the central message of the great wisdom teachings of humankind. The messengers – Buddha, Jesus, and others, were humanity’s early flowers.
There is a ‘madness’ to man’s great intelligence (ego). Yet there is great hope in a new consciousness arising. In our history there has been much division and self-destruction, but this whole system is coming to an end. As always, we need to either evolve or die. A great transformation of consciousness has and is coming. Ego is no more than this: identification with form, which primarily means thought forms. If evil has any reality – it is complete identification with form – physical forms, thought forms, emotional forms. This results in a total unawareness of my connectedness with the whole, my intrinsic oneness with every “other” as well as with the Source. This forgetfulness is original sin, suffering, delusion. “A new heaven” is the emergence of a transformed state of human consciousness, and “a new earth” is its reflection in the physical realm.
Chapter Two, Ego: The Current State of Humanity
The wonder of life and all creation are concealed in the still gap between the perception and interpretation. Intellect without awareness can be insane.
The ego attaches itself with things. It tries to find itself in things but never quite makes it and ends up losing itself in them. When you observe the ego in yourself, you are beginning to go beyond it. Don’t take the ego too seriously. When you detect egoic behavior in yourself, smile. At times you may even laugh. How could humanity have been taken in by this for so long? Above all, know that the ego isn’t personal. It isn’t who you are. If you consider the ego to be your personal problem, that’s just more ego.
In separation the ego has lost its sense of worth. How you are seen by others becomes the mirror that tells you what you are like and who you are. The ego’s sense of self-worth is in most cases bound up with the worth you have in the eyes of others. The ego is unsatisfied, always wanting more. This comes from a sense of incompleteness, “I am not enough.”
Another problem of the ego is that it will take on as its identity its body. It will boast of its strength or beauty, or sulk in its lack of it. An exercise you can do to bridge the world of form and formlessness is to feel the energy field or aliveness of your inner body. Make it a habit to feel the inner body as often as you can. Forgetfulness of Being is the illusion of absolute separation that turns reality into a nightmare. When forms around you die or death approaches, your sense of Being, of I Am, is freed from its entanglement with form: Spirit is released from its imprisonment in matter. You realize your essential identity as formless, as an all-pervasive Presence, of Being prior to all forms, all identifications. You realize your true identity as consciousness itself. That’s the peace of God. The ultimate truth of who you are is not in I am this or I am that, but I Am.
Chapter Three, The Core of Ego
Ego lives on identification and separation. When you live through the mind-made self comprised of thought and emotion that is the ego, your identity is precarious because thought and emotion are by their very nature ephemeral, fleeting. So every ego is continuously struggling for survival, trying to protect and enlarge itself.
Complaining is the ego’s favorite strategy for strengthening itself. Instead of overlooking unconsciousness in others, you make it into their identity. Sometimes the “fault” that you perceive in another isn’t even there. It is a total misinterpretation, a projection by a mind conditioned to see enemies and to make itself right or superior. 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. Awareness and ego cannot coexist. A grievance is a strong negative emotion connected to an event in the sometimes distant past that is being kept alive by compulsive thinking, by retelling the story in the head or out loud of “what someone did to me or us”. Forgiveness happens naturally when you see that it has no purpose other than to strengthen a false sense of self, to keep the ego in place. The seeing is freeing.
Complaining can give you a sense of superiority. When you complain, by implication you are right and the person or situation you complain about or react against is wrong. There is nothing that strengthens the ego more than being right. Ego takes everything personally. Emotion arises, defensiveness, perhaps even aggression. Are you defending the truth? No, the truth, needs no defense. The truth does not care about what you or anybody else thinks. The history of Christianity is, of course, a prime example of how the belief that you are in sole possession of the truth, that is to say, right, can corrupt your actions and behavior to the point of insanity. What is it that lies at the root of this insanity? Complete identification with thought and emotion, that is to say, ego. Awareness is the power that is concealed within the present moment. This is why we may also call it Presence. To be more accurate, can I sense the I Am that I Am at this moment? Can I sense my essential identity as consciousness itself? Or am I losing myself in what happens, losing myself in the mind, in the world. Whatever form it takes, the unconscious drive behind ego is to strengthen the image of who I think I am, the phantom self that came into existence when thought – a great blessing as well as a great curse – began to take over and obscured the simple yet profound joy of connectedness with Being, the Source, God. Whatever behavior the ego manifests, the hidden motivating force is always the same: the need to stand out, be special, be in control; the need for power, for attention, for more. And, of course, the need to feel a sense of separation, that is to say, the need for opposition, enemies.
Chapter Four, Role-Playing: The Many Faces of the Ego
An ego that wants something from another – and what ego doesn’t – will usually play some kind of role to get its “needs” met (villain, victim, lover). Whenever you feel superior or inferior, that’s ego in you. Sulking in self pity is a common one. When you are too serious you are identified with a role you are playing. Be aware and awake. The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it. Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking. Suffering has a noble purpose: the evolution of consciousness and the burning up of the ego. The man on the Cross is an archetypal image. He is every man and every woman. As long as you resist suffering, it is a slow process because the resistance creates more ego to burn up. When you accept suffering, however, there is an acceleration of that process which is brought about by the fact that you suffer consciously. In that moment, if you are present, you are not a father or mother. You are the alertness, the stillness, the Presence that is listening, looking, touching, even speaking. You are the Being behind the doing.
Suffering, although largely ego-created, is in the end also ego-destructive. It is the fire in which the ego burns itself up. In essence, you are neither inferior nor superior to anyone. True self-esteem and true humility arise out of that realization. Whenever there is negativity in you, if you can be aware at that moment that there is something in you that takes pleasure in it or believes it has a useful purpose you are becoming aware of the ego directly. The moment this happens, your identity has shifted from ego to awareness. This means the ego is shrinking and awareness is growing. If in the midst of negativity you are able to realize “At this moment I am creating suffering for myself” it will be enough to raise you above the limitations of conditioned egoic states and reactions. You need to be extremely alert and absolutely present to be able to detect background unhappiness. Whenever you do, it is a moment of awakening, of disidentification from the mind.
The ego loves to create resentment and unhappiness and sulk in it. When you recognize it and disassociate with it you can be at peace, one with life. This is not really a “doing,” but an alert “seeing.” In that sense, it is true that there is nothing you can do to become free of the ego. When that shift happens, which is the shift from thinking to awareness, an intelligence far greater than the ego’s cleverness begins to operate in your life. A collective ego manifests the same characteristics as the personal ego, such as the need for conflict and enemies, the need for more, the need to be right against others who are wrong, and so on. Paranoia and schizophrenia are exaggerated forms of ego.
Chapter Five, The Pain-Body
Through complete identification with the mind, a false sense of self – the ego – came into existence. The density of the ego depends on the degree to which you the consciousness – are identified with your mind, with thinking. Thinking is no more than a tiny aspect of the totality of consciousness, the totality of who you are. The physical organism, your body, has its own intelligence, as does the organism of every other life-form. And that intelligence reacts to what your mind is saying, your thoughts. So emotion is the body’s reaction to your mind. The body’s intelligence is, of course, an inseparable part of universal intelligence, one of its countless manifestations. The ego is not only the unobserved mind, the voice in the head which pretends to be you, but also the unobserved emotions that are the body’s reaction to what the voice in the head is saying. The voice of the ego continuously disrupts the body’s natural state of well-being. Almost every human body is under a great deal of strain and stress, not because it is threatened by some external factor but from within the mind.
Two ducks get into a fight. Afterwards each duck will flap its wings vigorously a few times; thus releasing the surplus energy that built up during the fight. We can learn from this. Some are unable or unwillitng to let go internally of situations, accumulating more and more ‘stuff’ inside, and you get a sense of what life is like for the majority of people on our planet. What a heavy burden of the past we carry around with us in our minds. Because of the human tendency to perpetuate old emotion, almost everyone carries in his or her energy field an accumulation of old emotional pain, which I call “the pain-body.” The remnants of pain left behind by every strong negative emotion that is not fully faced, accepted, and then let go of join together to form an energy field that lives in the very cells of your body. Any emotionally painful experience can be used as food by the pain-body. That’s why it thrives on negative thinking as well as drama in relationships. The pain-body is an addiction to unhappiness. Emotion from the pain-body quickly gains control of your thinking, and once your mind has been taken over by the pain-body, your thinking becomes negative. The voice in your head will be telling sad, anxious, or angry stories about yourself or your life, about other people, about past, future, or imaginary events. The voice will be blaming, accusing, complaining, imagining. If there are other people around, preferably your partner or a close family member, the pain-body will attempt to provoke them – push their buttons, as the expression goes – so it can feed on the ensuing drama. It is like an alternate personality and most everyone has a pain-body. Some people carry dense pain-bodies that are never completely dormant. They may be smiling and making polite conversation, but you do not need to be psychic to sense that seething ball of unhappy emotion in them just underneath the surface, waiting for the next event to react to, the next person to blame or confront, the next thing to be unhappy about. Their pain-bodies can never get enough, and are always hungry. They magnify the ego’s need for enemies.
But things are changing rapidly now. With many people becoming more conscious, the ego is losing its hold on the human mind. Because the ego was never as deeply rooted in woman, it is losing its hold on women more quickly than on men. Spiritual practices that involve the physical body, such as tai chi, qigong, and yoga, are also increasingly being embraced in the Western world. These practices are helpful in weakening the pain-body. You can only go beyond it by taking responsibility for your inner state now. As you blame others, you keep feeding the pain-body with your thoughts and remain trapped in your ego. There is only one perpetrator of evil on the planet: human unconsciousness. That realization is true forgiveness. With forgiveness, your victim identity dissolves, and your true power emerges – the power of Presence. Instead of blaming the darkness, you bring in the light.
Chapter Six, Breaking Free
The beginning of freedom from the pain-body lies first of all in the realization that you have a pain-body. Then, more important, is your ability to stay present enough, alert enough, to notice the pain-body in yourself as a heavy influx of negative emotion when it becomes active. When it is recognized, it can no longer pretend to be you and live and renew itself through you. It is your conscious Presence that breaks the identification with the pain-body. Since you cannot be unhappy without an unhappy story, this was the end of her unhappiness. It was also the beginning of the end of her pain-body. Emotion in itself is not unhappiness. Only emotion plus an unhappy story is unhappiness. While one is having a pain-body attack, there isn’t much you can do except to stay present so that you are not drawn into an emotional reaction. Their pain-body would only feed on it. Let your attitude be one of interest or curiosity rather than one of criticism or condemnation. The pain-body’s unhappiness is always clearly out of proportion to the apparent cause. In other words, it is an overreaction. You are completely trapped in the movement of thought and the accompanying emotion, stepping outside is not possible because you don’t even know that there is an outside. You are trapped in your own movie or dream, trapped in your own hell. It requires a high degree of Presence to avoid reacting when confronted by someone with such an active pain-body. If you are able to stay present, it sometimes happens that your Presence enables the other person to disidentify from his or her own pain-body and thus experience the miracle of a sudden awakening. The thinking mind cannot understand Presence and so will often misinterpret it. It will say that you are uncaring, distant, have no compassion, are not relating. The truth is, you are relating but at a level deeper than thought and emotion. In fact, at that level there is a true coming together, a true joining that goes far beyond relating. In the stillness of Presence, you can sense the formless essence in yourself and in the other as one. Knowing the oneness of yourself and the other is true love, true care, true compassion. Every time you are present when the pain-body arises, some of the pain-body’s negative emotional energy will burn up, as it were, and become transmuted into Presence. The rest of the pain-body will quickly withdraw and wait for a better opportunity to rise again, that is to say, when you are less conscious. When you feel the pain-body, don’t fall into the error of thinking there is something wrong with you. Making yourself into a problem – the ego loves that. The knowing needs to be followed by accepting. Anything else will obscure it again. Accepting means you allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling at that moment. It is part of the is-ness of the Now.
Chapter Seven, Finding Who You Truly Are
Knowing yourself is to be rooted in Being, instead of lost in your mind. What are the things that upset and disturb me? If small things have the power to disturb you, then who you think you are is exactly that: small. That will be your unconscious belief. Ultimately all things are small things because all things are transient. Something is obviously much more important to you now than the inner peace that a moment ago you said was all you wanted, and you’re not an immortal spirit anymore either. How you react to people and situations, especially when challenges arise, is the best indicator of how deeply you know yourself. Instead of looking “through” the ego in others, you are looking “at” the ego. Who is looking at the ego? The ego in you. Nobody can tell you who you are. It would just be another concept, so it would not change you. Who you are requires no belief. Acknowledging the good that is already in your life is the foundation for all abundance.
Whatever you think the world is withholding from you, you are withholding from the world. You are withholding it because deep down you think you are small and that you have nothing to give. Outflow determines inflow. Whatever you think the world is withholding from you, you already have, but unless you allow it to flow out, you won’t even know that you have it. This includes abundance. Ask yourself often: “What can I give here; how can I be of service to this person, this situation?” Nothing you can know about you is you. Going beyond ego is stepping out of content. Knowing yourself is being yourself, and being yourself is ceasing to identify with content.
The wise man, instead of judging what is, he accepts it and so enters into conscious alignment with the higher order. He knows that often it is impossible for the mind to understand what place or purpose a seemingly random event has in the tapestry of the whole. When I don’t mind what happens, what does that imply? It implies that internally I am in alignment with what happens. The Master responds to falsehood and truth, bad news and good news, in exactly the same way: “Is that so?” He allows the form of the moment, good or bad, to be as it is and so does not become a participant in human drama. To him there is only this moment, and this moment is as it is. Events are not personalized. He is nobody’s victim. He is so completely at one with what happens that what happens has no power over him anymore. Only if you resist what happens are you at the mercy of what happens, and the world will determine your happiness and unhappiness.
The stronger the ego, the more time takes over your life. Almost every thought you think is then concerned with past or future, and your sense of self depends on the past for your identity and on the future for its fulfillment. Fear, anxiety, expectation, regret, guilt, anger are the dysfunctions of the time-bound state of consciousness.
There are three ways in which the ego will treat the present moment: as a means to an end, as an obstacle, or as an enemy. A vital question to ask yourself frequently is: What is my relationship with the present moment? So instead of adding time to yourself, remove time. The elimination of psychological time from your consciousness is the elimination of ego. It is the only true spiritual practice.
Whenever a habitual no to life turns into a yes, whenever you allow this moment to be as it is, you dissolve time as well as ego. The more reactive you are, the more entangled you become with form. The more identified with form, the stronger the ego. Nonresistance is the key to the greatest power in the universe. Through it, consciousness (spirit) is freed from its imprisonment in form. To awaken within the dream is our purpose now. When we are awake within the dream, the ego-created earth-drama comes to an end and a more benign and wondrous dream arises. This is the new earth. The surrendered state of consciousness opens up the vertical dimension in your life, the dimension of depth. Something will then come forth from that dimension into this world, something of infinite value that otherwise would have remained unmanifested. Accept the present moment and find the perfection that is deeper than any form and untouched by time. The joy of Being, which is the only true happiness, can not come to you through any form, possession, achievement, person, or event – through anything that happens. That joy cannot come to you – ever. It emanates from the formless dimension within you, from consciousness itself and thus is one with who you are. A powerful spiritual practice is consciously to allow the diminishment of ego when it happens without attempting to restore it. I recommend that you experiment with this from time to time. For example, when someone criticizes you, blames you, or calls you names, instead of immediately retaliating or defending yourself – do nothing. Allow the self-image to remain diminished and become alert to what that feels like deep inside you. For a few seconds, it may feel uncomfortable, as if you had shrunk in size. Then you may sense an inner spaciousness that feels intensely alive. You haven’t been diminished at all. In fact, you have expanded. You may then come to an amazing realization: When you are seemingly diminished in some way and remain in absolute non-reaction, not just externally but also internally, you realize that nothing real has been diminished, that through becoming “less,” you become more. There are two parts to creation matter and space (spirit), “the world,” and “the kingdom of heaven or eternal life.”
Chapter Eight, The Discovery of Inner Space
The recognition that “this, too will pass” brings detachment and with detachment another dimension comes into your life, inner space. Through detachment, as well as non-judgment and inner nonresistance, you gain access to that dimension. When you are no longer totally identified with forms, consciousness – who you are becomes freed from its imprisonment in form. This freedom is the arising of inner space. When the dimension of space is lost or rather not known, the things of the world assume an absolute importance, a seriousness and heaviness that in truth they do not have. Television will release you from the constant thoughts of ego, but it will replace them with those of collective thought. Presence is a state of inner spaciousness. This is most people’s reality: As soon as something is perceived, it is named, interpreted, compared with something else, liked, disliked, or called good or bad by the phantom self, the ego. They are imprisoned in thought forms, in object consciousness.
You do not awaken spiritually until the compulsive and unconscious naming ceases, or at least you become aware of it and thus are able to observe it as it happens. It is through this constant naming that the ego remains in place as the unobserved mind. Whenever it ceases and even when you just become aware of it, there is inner space, and you are not possessed by the mind anymore. Being aware of your breathing takes attention away from thinking and creates space. It is one way of generating consciousness. Although the fullness of consciousness is already there as the unmanifested, we are here to bring consciousness into this dimension. Breathing isn’t really something that you do but something that you witness as it happens. Breathing happens by itself. The intelligence within the body is doing it. All you have to do is watch it happening. There is no strain or effort involved. Also, notice the brief cessation of the breath, particularly the still point at the end of the out-breath, before you start breathing in again. You are not falling below thinking, but rising above it. And if you look more closely, you will find that those two things – coming fully into the present moment and ceasing thinking without loss of consciousness – are actually one and the same: the arising of space consciousness. When you notice the compulsive need arising in you, stop and take three conscious breaths. This generates awareness. Then for a few minutes be aware of the compulsive urge itself as an energy field inside you. Consciously feel that need, but don’t make it into a problem. Take two or three conscious breaths. The spirit is observing the ego. Now see if you can detect a subtle sense of aliveness that pervades your entire inner body. Can you feel your body from within, so to speak? Sense briefly specific parts of your body. Feel your hands, then your arms, feet, and legs. Can you feel your abdomen, chest, neck and head? What about your lips? Is there life in them? Your inner body is not solid but spacious. It is not your physical form but the life that animates the physical form. It is the intelligence that created and sustains the body. The physical body, which we perceive and think of as form, but 99.99% of which is actually empty space (spirit, life). As much as possible in everyday life, use awareness of the inner body to create space.
Chapter Nine, Your Inner Purpose
Your inner purpose is to awaken. It is as simple as that. You share that purpose with every other person on the planet – because it is the purpose of humanity. Awareness takes over from thinking. Instead of being in charge or your life, thinking becomes the servant of awareness. Awareness is conscious connection with universal intelligence. Another word for it is Presence: consciousness without thought. The initiation of the awakening process is an act of grace. You cannot make it happen nor can you prepare yourself for it or accumulate credits toward it.
“I want to know the mind of God,” Einstein said. “The rest are details.” What is the mind of God? Consciousness. The sapling doesn’t want anything because it is at one with the totality, and the totality acts through it. We could say that the totality – Life – wants the sapling to become a tree, but the sapling doesn’t see itself as separate from life and so wants nothing for itself. It is one with what Life wants. That’s why it isn’t worried or stressed. And if it has to die prematurely, it dies with ease. It is as surrendered in death as it is in life. It senses, no matter how obscurely, its rootedness in Being, the formless and eternal one Life. The essence of who you are is consciousness. When consciousness (you) becomes completely identified with thinking and thus forgets its essential nature, it loses itself in thought. When it becomes identified with mental-emotional formations such as wanting and fearing – the primary motivating forces of the ego – it loses itself in those formations.
Chapter Ten, A New Earth
The outer purpose of the universe is to create form and experience the interaction of forms – the play, the dream, the drama, or whatever you choose to call it. Its inner purpose is to awaken to its formless essence. Then comes the reconciliation of outer and inner purpose: to bring that essence – consciousness – into the world of form and thereby transform the world. The coming into manifestation of the world as well as its return to the unmanifested – its expansion and contraction – are two universal movements that we could call the outgoing and the return home. And so is our life cycle. The return movement in a person’s life, the weakening or dissolution of form, whether through old age, illness, disability, loss, or some kind of personal tragedy, carries great potential for spiritual awakening – the disidentification of consciousness from form.
Ultimately, nothing happens that is not meant to happen, which is to say, nothing happens that is not part of the greater whole and its purpose. What is lost on the level of form is gained on the level of essence. On the new earth, old age will be universally recognized and highly valued as a time for the flowering of consciousness. As the new consciousness is beginning to emerge on the planet an increasing number of people no longer need to be shaken to have an awakening. They embrace the awakening process voluntarily even while still engaged in the outward cycle of growth and expansion. It is not we who create, but universal intelligence that creates through us. We don’t identify with what we create and so don’t lose ourselves in what we do. The only actions that do not cause opposing reactions are those that are aimed at the good of all. They are inclusive, not exclusive. They join; they don’t separate. They are not for “my” country but for all of humanity, not for “my” religion but the emergence of consciousness in all human beings, not for “my” species but for all sentient beings and all of nature.
Consciousness is already conscious. It is the unmanifested, the eternal. The universe, however, is only gradually becoming conscious. Consciousness itself is timeless and therefore does not evolve. On our planet, the human ego represents the final stage of universal sleep, the identification of consciousness with form. It was a necessary stage in the evolution of consciousness. The human brain is a highly differentiated form through which consciousness enters this dimension. It contains approximately one hundred billion nerve cells (called neurons), about the same number as there are stars in our galaxy, which could be seen as a macrocosmic brain. The brain does not create consciousness, but consciousness created the brain, the most complex physical form on earth, for its expression. You cannot lose consciousness because it is, in essence, who you are. You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are. Awakened doing is the alignment of your outer purpose- what you do – with your inner purpose – awakening and staying awake.
The modalities of awakened doing are acceptance, enjoyment, and enthusiasm. Each one represents a certain vibrational frequency of consciousness. You need to be vigilant to make sure that one of them operates whenever you are engaged in doing anything at all – from the most simple task to the most complex. If you are not in the state of either acceptance, enjoyment, or enthusiasm, look closely and you will find that you are creating suffering for yourself and others. Whatever you cannot enjoy doing, you can at least accept that this is what you have to do. Acceptance means: For now, this is what this situation, this moment, requires me to do, and so I do it willingly. If you can neither enjoy or bring acceptance to what you do – stop. Otherwise, you are not taking responsibility for the only thing you can really take responsibility for, which also happens to be one thing that really matters: your state of consciousness.
You will enjoy any activity in which you are fully present, any activity that is not just a means to an end. It isn’t the action you perform that you really enjoy, but the deep sense of aliveness that flows into it. That aliveness is one with who you are. This means that when you enjoy doing something, you are really experiencing the joy of Being in its dynamic aspect.
Enthusiasm means there is deep enjoyment in what you do plus the added element of a goal or a vision that you work toward. The word enthusiasm comes from ancient Greek – en and theos meaning God. And the related word enthousiazein means “to be possessed by a god.” With enthusiasm you will find that you don’t have to do it all by yourself. In fact, there is nothing of significance that you can do by yourself. Sustained enthusiasm brings into existence a wave of creative energy, and all you have to do then is “ride the wave.” It is based on inclusion, not exclusion, of others. It does not need to use and manipulate people, because it is the power of creation itself and so does not need to take energy from some secondary source. The ego’s wanting always tries to take from something or someone; enthusiasm gives out of its own abundance. Enthusiasm and ego cannot coexist. The function of some is to anchor the frequency of the new consciousness on this planet. I call them the frequency-holders. They endow the seemingly insignificant with profound meaning. Their task is to bring spacious stillness into this world by being absolutely Present in whatever they do.