by Bryan Rice on August 2, 2011.
Chapter 3 of Eckhart Tolle’s best seller book “A New Earth” focused a great deal on the egoic mind, unconsciousness, reactivity, and holding grievances as they relate to delusional thinking.
He made a point of saying that most people are “possessed” by their minds – by an “incessant stream of involuntary and compulsive thinking.” Many of us if we were completely honest would affirm this to be true. Buddhists and eastern spiritual seekers call this the “monkey mind”. Chatter. Chatter. Chatter. If a person is not aware of this they will mistake the “thinker” to be who they are. This being the egoic mind, egoic because there is a “sense of “I” (ego) in all our thoughts, memories, reactions, and emotions. This Tolle said, is “unconsciousness” in a spiritual sense.
It is important to point out that thinking is conditioned by the past and many other factors. Again, honest introspection would show us that we identify with persistent thoughts, emotions, and reactive patterns. When we say “I” we mean the ego, not our real self. Furthermore, this I, says Tolle, “consists of thoughts and emotions – a bundle of memories that people identify with as ‘me and my story’ “. The false “I” also personally identifies with possessions, opinions, external appearances, long standing resentments, or even concepts of oneself as “better than or not as good as others – as a success or failure”. Egos survive on separation.
Thoughts and emotions are nothing more than fleeting information and energy, as Deepak Chopra might say. Most unenlightened people live through their mind-made self. So, if every ego strives to survive, to “protect and enlarge itself”, others will be seen as enemies.
Now we can begin to see the structure of personal and collective egos. One egoic pattern, rather on one side of the scale, the ego consists of the compulsive habit of “fault finding” and complaining about others, and at the other end of the spectrum are the seeds to physical violence between individuals and warfare between nations. The basic component at work is that, when a person criticizes (condemns) another, it makes them feel bigger and superior.
Complaining and resentment as a topic was a big part of this chapter. Engaging in this kind of behavior is a strategy of the ego to strengthen itself, it is part of the “mind-made story”. Some egos can’t find anything better to do than to survive on complaining. This happens many times, out of unconscious and habitual neural grooves that are formed in the brain. We love to apply labels to people, to name call, egos need to be right, to triumph. Lower consciousness causes a person to shout, scream, and resort to physical violence.
Resentment as an emotion is linked to complaining. It gives energy to the ego. Resentment really means to feel “bitter, indignant, aggrieved, of offended”. What becomes problematic, is that rather than overlooking another’s unconsciousness, our egos make it their identity. We misinterpret through projection and we strengthen in ourselves what we react to in another.
How does a person go beyond reactivity? Well, Tolle says that non-reaction to the ego in others is one of the most effective ways to go beyond the ego in oneself and also “dissolving the collective ego”. Moreso, one can “only be in a state of non-reaction if they recognize the ego or product of collective dysfunction in another”. More importantly, refraining from reacting to someone else’s ego, creates the potential to bring out the “sanity” in others – the unconditioned consciousness.
The greatest protection to falling into unconsciousness and acting out negative emotions is to be “conscious”. Continuing with the idea of non-reaction, it is not weakness in any way” to not – react. Tolle says it is strength. Non-reaction is equated with forgiveness – “of looking through another’s ego to see their essence”.
When we peel away to the core of the ego we see that it resents situations, not just people. The ego gets more energy by making enemies. Voices underlying egoic mind-made thinking, for example are “This should not be happening”, or “I don’t want to be here,” and “I don’t want to be doing this,” also “I’m being treated unfairly”.
A very important point to make note of from this chapter it that the ego’s greatest enemy is the present moment. We must remain neutral if we are to feel any sense of peace. The little “me” enjoys making someone wrong. The ego does NOT want to change. It would be content to go on complaining. To reiterate, the ego is a conditioned mind pattern. But, you are NOT the ego voice, rather you are the one who is AWARE of it. “You are the awareness that is aware of the voice”. Once you become aware of the ego inside you, it becomes just an old, conditioned mind pattern. Since the ego equates to unawareness, awareness and the ego cannot co-exist. Therefore, once noticed, the ego is weakened.
A big section in chapter 3 was subtitled “Reactivity and Grievances.” It talked about how people become addicted to being angry and upset, in the same way someone becomes addicted to a drug. Many people says Tolle, are “just waiting to find something else to react against, to feel annoyed or disturbed about”. No doubt, this is toxic. Such feelings are strengthened through continuous reactivity.
The way the planet is effected by not only individual egos, but the collective ego, is that collective grievances are potentially dangerous and can lead to cycles of violence between nations.
Tolle defines a grievance as “a strong negative emotion connected to an event in the sometimes distant past that is being kept alive by compulsive thinking – by re-telling the story in the head or out loud of ‘what someone did to me’ (or us)”. Furthermore, to show the effects of grievances he went on to point out that they contaminate other areas of people’s lives. For one, it creates negative emotional energy. Secondly, it distorts perception of people or events in the present. Also, it negatively influences behavior and speech, and it keeps you in the grip of the ego.
By forgiving enemies and keeping our grievances in check, we can target one of the many egoic structures of the mind. In essence, grievances are baggage of old thought and emotion and by focusing on something from the past, we cannot exist in the “Present”.
Other sections of the chapter dealt with the temptations of wanting or needing to be right and make another wrong, thereby strengthening your false sense of I (enhancing the false self by making it morally superior to others). Another section talked about how we defend ego illusions by taking everything personally and over-identifying with the mind and a mental position. Basically what was said in that section was that every ego is a master of selective perception and distorted interpretation and that again, only through awareness and NOT thinking can a person differentiate between fact and opinion.
Under the section “Truth: Relative or Absolute”, the distinction between defending insane points of view of misperceived notions of having possession of “absolute truth” has led in history, to such things as torturing and burning people who held different opinions. The Catholic Church was one such institution that used the notion of “absolute truth” to justify violence. Tolle made a strong point: “Absolute Truth is NOT found in doctrines, ideologies, sets of rules, and stories (made up of thought)”. Thought can point to truth he said, but never be the truth. The major trap of religion is for one to claim that “my” religion is the only true one. This only creates illusory thinking and division and conflict with people.
All these things mentioned point to why we need to help create “A New Earth” or a “New World Order”. We in essence are each, potential saviors. If we would only transcend the ego, by undoing it, we could live in the power of our True Presence. In the Now. Not in the past, not in hurts, not in grievance, not in negativity, not through defending what we perceive to be absolute truth when it is really relativism, not by separating ourselves from others in an “us” versus “them” mentality, and not through underlying dysfunction or mental illness. The reason the planet is caught in an insane spiral of perpetration and retribution, action and reaction is because collectively and individually, we don’t go to the root, or the core of the problem. It is the complete identification with thought and emotion that is leading to the destruction of earth. This is the old way, the non-evolved way. Our greed, our selfishness, our exploitation, cruelty, and violence all act as a time bomb that could destroy us all. Once we recognize that war is a mindset and that we can’t fight unconsciousness with unconsciousness, by making ourselves right and others wrong, we can peel away at the ego and see it for what it is: the insanity of the human mind. Through awareness and the presence of our Being, or through the I Am Presence found in each of us, we can exchange reactivity for forgiveness and compassion. It is only through radical honesty that we can in fact create “A New Earth”.