I, me, mine. It starts early for us humans, huh? Like by age two? The terrible twos, right? My dolly, my truck, my Lego! Let go my Lego!
What about letting go of my ego? In A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, that’s precisely the solution recommended to reduce – even eliminate – human suffering.
But how? How do we let go of that very thing – the ego – by which we so strongly identify ourselves? Without an ego, who am I?
Well, according to Tolle, a good starting point is recognizing the craziness of holding on too tight, identifying too much, with the ego. Reviewing humanity’s various ancient religions and spiritual traditions, Tolle sees two core insights on which they agree, saying, “The words they write to describe those insights differ, yet they all point to a twofold fundamental truth. The first part of this truth is the realization that the ‘normal’ state of most human beings contains a strong element of what we might call dysfunction or even madness.”
What’s that? You find it insulting to be called dysfunctional? Mad? Take a day, an hour, or even a few minutes to study some of the myriad thoughts your mind produces. When I do? There are so darn many negative, judgmental, comparative thoughts I’m appalled. And I wonder, Do I even like me?
For example, while enjoying Oprah Winfrey’s excellent discussion of A New Earth, chapter by chapter, with Tolle on Super Soul Conversations, the podcast, I caught me comparing me to Oprah. A teacher noticed her in grade school, made a big deal about how much she loved to read, how hard she worked on her book report. This stayed with Oprah, this love of reading, the rewards of hard work. Instead of being happy for Oprah and leaving it at that, my mind said, “Well, Rita. You’ve always loved to read, maybe you just didn’t work hard enough, huh? You’re certainly no Oprah.”
Really?! No, I am not Oprah! I am Rita. But even that misses a deeper truth. The word “Rita” is just two syllables, a name chosen by my parents a long time ago. Can a name begin to describe me? Can the things I’ve thought or done over the years describe me? Should we reduce ourselves down to the mere sounds of a particular language – or even several – and the continuous mind chatter thereby produced?
A big “aha” moment for me listening to Oprah’s podcast? Tolle pointed out that we are so much more than our thoughts. Phew. This makes me feel I can relax.
Most of us are unconscious to our thought patterns, believe our thoughts are us. Despite incredible technological advancements man has made, consider for a moment the negative results of our collective thoughts over the course of the 20th century. Driven by greed, fear and the desire for power? More than 100 million people died a violent death: through wars, internal conflicts of nations, mass exterminations and genocides. Oh my goodness.
Writes Tolle, “If the history of humanity were the clinical case history of a single human being, the diagnosis would have to be: chronic paranoid delusions, a pathological propensity to commit murder and acts of extreme violence and cruelty against his perceived ‘enemies’ – his own unconsciousness projected outward. Criminally insane, with a few brief lucid intervals.”
Wow. Pretty scary when you look at it this way, isn’t it? And the violence is not limited to other human beings. In our constant pursuit of more, more, more, we inflict continuous violence on the planet, putting us in this precarious position with climate change and threats of extinction to various species.
This is all pretty depressing, but . . . take heart! There is a way out. As above, Tolle pointed to a “twofold fundamental truth”. Through the realization of our collective “madness” arises a second insight: “the good news of the possibility of a radical transformation of human consciousness.”
I’m down. You? In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter who is right about anything?
I, personally, can drive myself crazy listening to what people say, then fantasizing about changing their minds. One example is Steve King – not the author, but the Republican senator from Iowa. Told that his history of racist remarks were “dehumanizing”, he responded: “If we presume that every culture is equal and has an equal amount to contribute to our civilization, then we’re devaluing the contributions of the people who laid the foundation for America, and that’s our Founding Fathers.”
Wait a sec! Didn’t many of the Founding Fathers (50% from my research) have slaves who helped build America? Then there’s the persnickedy issue of Indigenous peoples having to give up land rights all over the continent. Although most were born in America, the background of the Founding Fathers is British Isles, so maybe the US should only recognize Americans with British heritage as the acceptable “culture”?!
Remarks like King’s make me ashamed to be white and of British heritage.
Discussing King’s comments on CNN recently, hosts Don Lemon and Kamau Bell ignored their egos and laughed their heads off. Lemon said King doesn’t “know he’s being racist” and Bell thanked King for “giving us a working definition of white supremacy”.
Tolle points out that anytime you see yourself as greater or lesser than? That’s the ego chirping. And when you label? You limit, diminish. A great way to start a reconnection with the essence of your being? Go for a walk in nature and don’t name anything. Just breathe.
You can’t change the way anyone else’s mind chirps at them, but you can change the way your own does. In doing so, you bring peace and compassion to a troubled planet.
Most people’s thoughts operate involuntarily, like breathing, like digestion, like circulation. The ticket to a happier, more fulfilling life? Get real friendly with the current moment, observe your thought patterns, keep an open mind, and chuck the ego at the door as much as possible.