ISBN: 9780452289963 READ: September 2020
A book I am truly greatful to the author for writing. This piece has shaped the way I look at life issues in a way that no other has. I am glad I read this book at my age so I can work on living how Echkart describes (without Ego) throughout the rest of my life. It is pefectly paired with the podcast by Oprah and Echhart where they break down each chapter in the book even further. I will be reading this one again.
I didn’t take my own notes on this book. Here are great notes from Calvin Rosser
Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle is a master of exploring difficult spiritual and philosophical topics like the ego, presence, and consciousness. In this enlightening and uplighting guide, he explores how we can all loosen the toxic grip of the ego and enter a fulfilling state of full presence. Pair this with the Power of Now to go deep on the subject.
The disease of compulsive thinking
“Most people are still completely identified with the incessant stream of mind, of compulsive thinking, most of it repetitive and pointless.”
Most of us are completely identified with our mind – our thoughts, sensations, and emotions. We constantly revisit unproductive thought loops and live in our heads. We rarely enter the present moment and experience the abundant life that’s right in front of us.
The Ego State
“The ego identifies with having, but its satisfaction in having is a relatively shallow and short-lived one. Concealed within it remains a deep-seated sense of dissatisfaction, of incompleteness, of ‘not enough.’ ‘I don’t have enough yet,’ by which the ego really means, ‘I am not enough yet.”
The ego is never satisfied. It will continue to reset the bar, constantly needing more. Any satisfaction will be short-lived and quickly be accompanied by a feeling of inadequacy that will plague even the most successful of people.
“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.”
When you are absorbed by the ego, you will constantly seek more things on your path to fulfillment. You will falsely believe that what you strive for will fulfill the lack you feel within, but in reality, you will just continue to feel hollow.
Dangers of beauty
“If you don’t equate the body with who you are, when beauty fades, vigor diminishes, or the body becomes incapacitated, this will not affect your sense of worth or identity in any way.”
If you build any part of your self worth on how your body looks, you are setting yourself up for a miserable future. Beauty inevitably fades, and when it does, the bedrock of your identity will also fade if it’s tied to your beauty. It’s better to align yourself with values that can exist throughout life, such as compassion, growth, and kindness.
Complaining and the ego
“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. Being right is identification with mental position – a perspective, an opinion, a judgment, a story. For you to be right, of course, you need someone else to be wrong, and so the ego loves to make wrong in order to be right. In other words: You need to make others wrong in order to get a stronger sense of who you are.”
Your ego loves to be right. It loves to be better than others. When you’re prettier, smarter, or more successful than others, your ego is happy. When you complain, you’re implying that your perspective about how the situation should be is right. And for that to be true, someone else, or nature itself, has to be wrong. So your ego loves to make others or a situation “wrong.”
How to combat the ego
“All that is required to become free of the ego is to be aware of it, since awareness and ego are incompatible. Awareness is the power that is concealed within the present moment…The ultimate purpose of human existence…is to bring that power into this world.”
Living in the present moment is the antidote to being consumed by the ego. The ego exists in time, in the past and the future. It does not exist in the present moment. It can’t. Because the ego is tied to thoughts, stories, and events that exist in time. So cultivating your awareness, your present, is how you combat the ego.
Do you feel superior or inferior?
“Whenever you feel superior or inferior to anyone, that’s the ego in you.”
Observe those times when you feel better or worse than someone. When you get lost in the world of comparison, that’s your ego speaking. You’re losing yourself to some story about how you or others should or should not be. It’s a relative comparison that’s bound to end up in suffering and disappointment.
Being a victim
“A very common role is the one of victim, and the form of attention it seeks is sympathy or pity or others’ interest in my problems, “me and my story.” Seeing oneself as a victim is an element in many egoic patterns, such as complaining, being offended, outraged, and so on.”
The ego plays many roles, and one of the most common roles is that of the victim. Being a victim in the egoic sense means that you want others to be interested in you and your problems. It can take many forms, including complaining or being outraged. The common thread is that you want people to be interested and wrapped up in your story.
Do small things both you?
“What matters to you is not necessarily what you say or believe, but what your actions and reactions reveal as important and serious to you…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.”
If you say or believe that you can weather big storms, take a candid look at your actions and responses to different situations. Have you let a small event bother you? Have you gotten unreasonably frustrated or upset by something that you wouldn’t expect to phase you? If so, it doesn’t matter that you think you’re indestructible. On a subconscious level, you will feel that you are on par with the “small” nature of being bothered by minor events.
Lack and abundance
“If the thought of lack – whether it be money, recognition, or love – has become part of who you think you are, you will always experience lack. Rather than acknowledge the good that is already in your life, all you see is lack. Acknowledging the good that is already in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”
Do you have a scarcity mindset or an abundance mindset? The difference is critical. If you think of the “lack” in your life across any domain, you’re laying the foundation for a scarcity mindset. When you think in terms of abundance, you see the good in your life. You feel gratitude for both what you do have and what you don’t have. Abundance is empowering; scarcity is disempowering.
The collective disease of unhappiness
“Unhappiness or negativity is a disease on our planet. What pollution is on the outer level negativity on the inner. It is everywhere, not just in places where people don’t have enough, but even more so where they have more than enough. Is that surprising? No. The affluent world is even more deeply identified with form, more lost in content, more trapped in ego.”
Negativity is pollution for the soul. Yet, millions of people live in affluence and still spread their unhappiness and negativity far and wide. They’re completely trapped with the unfulfilling, egoic identification with form and fail to realize how toxic their attitude is.
Nothing real has been diminished
“When you are seemingly diminished in some way and remain in absolute nonreaction, not just externally but also internally, you realize that nothing real has been diminished, that through becoming ‘less,’ you become more.”
Did the words of a friend hurt? Did the actions of a partner sting? When you learn to not take things so personally and remain in nonreaction to what happens, you begin to realize that you don’t need to sit in a hole of negativity for weeks. In simply changing your attitude, you can find peace and diminish the pain in your life.
This, too, shall pass
“This, too, shall pass. What is it about these simple words that makes them so powerful?…They have a deeper purpose: to make you aware of the fleetingness of every situation, which is due to the transience of all forms – good and bad. When you become aware of the transience of all forms, your attachment to them lessons, and you disidentify from them to some extent.”
When you realize that all emotions, achievements, and thoughts will pass, you become less attached to everything in your life. From the awareness that everything in life is transient, you begin to lighten your step. You suffer less. You appreciate more.
Inner vs. outer purpose
“Your inner purpose is to awaken.”
“I am not saying here that helping others, caring for your children, or striving for excellence in whatever field are not worthwhile things to do…but outer purpose alone is always relative, unstable, and impermanent.”
“Whenever you become anxious or stressed, outer purpose has taken over, and you lost sight of your inner purpose. You have forgotten that your state of consciousness is primary, all else secondary.”
Your inner purpose is to become more conscious. It’s to live in the present moment. Your outer purpose is that which you strive for. It could be helping others, caring for your kids, or being the CEO of a billion-dollar company.
Your inner purpose is primary; your outer purpose is secondary. When you focus on your outer purpose – no matter how noble it may be – you won’t find enduring peace and fulfillment since all forms of outer purpose are unstable, relative, and impermanent.
But when you approach your outer purpose with full awareness, you will not only feel more joy in the journey, but you will accelerate your path to what you hope to achieve.
Getting comfortable with uncertainty
“When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life. It means fear is no longer a dominant factor in what you do and no longer prevents you from taking action to initiate change.”
Does the fear of uncertainty drive your decisions? Are you uncomfortable with ambiguity? If so, your life may be driven by fear. You may not be able to take actions that will initiate the change that you need in your life. Learning to get comfortable with uncertainty is one of the most empowering attitudes you can cultivate in life. In doing so, you’ll be able to overcome your fears.
Don’t wait for old age or tragedy to begin your path
Time and time again, I’ve observed that the people who are most “awake” are those who have experienced tragedy, loss, or a personal health crisis. The proximity and tangible nature of our impermanence seem to awaken the spirit to the precarious nature of our existence.
But you don’t have to wait for this moment to happen. You can begin down the path at any time that you wish. It’s a decision you need to make.
You can only lose something you have
“You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.”
Whether it’s the stuff that fills your apartment, a relationship, or something else, don’t hold too closely to what you have. Any day, these things can be taken away from you, and if you’re holding on too tight you might be devastated. Instead, orient yourself to working on what you are. For example, live compassionately and honestly. Your compassion and kindness cannot be taken away from you. They are a part of what you are.
Stress is toxic
“Stress always diminishes both the quality and effectiveness of what you do under its influence. There is also a strong link between stress and negative emotions, such as anxiety and anger. It is toxic to the body and is now becoming recognized as one of the main causes of the so-called degenerative diseases such as cancer and heart disease.”
Are you stressed out? Do you feel consistent anxiety and anger? If so, the quality of your work, no matter how much you care about it, will suffer. Quality is produced when acceptance, enjoyment, and enthusiasm are brought to your work. Stress erodes quality, both of what you do and your body.