I’ve been putting off writing this review for some time, just in case I don’t do justice to the book. You’d probably find better written and more useful reviews of this book elsewhere in the net. But to those who know me and find me influential enough, this review is written for you.
If you are suffering from midlife crisis, depression or just feeling bored with life, read the book. (If not, you are probably not ready and may just fall asleep within the first paragraph, like I did a few years back.) Don’t expect the book to give you an answer to your life’s purpose, but it’ll open your eyes and perhaps change your perception on how you view your circumstances. The book is for your spiritual growth. ‘How “spiritual” you are has nothing to do with what you believe but everything to do with your state of consciousness and in turn determines how you act in the world and interact with others.’
I started out listening to the audio book before I read the book. Thus, you can say I read the book twice. Yet, I still had to re-read certain paragraphs and sentences a few times before I understand what was the author is trying to convey. Sometimes I failed and just left it as such.
In the beginning of the book, you learn about the dysfunctional world and how most of us go about doing things ‘unconsciously’. (Like the time you drove to work and wondered how you got there because your mind is so preoccupied?) Who am I is a questioned posed and erroneously, we identify ourselves by our ego. My ego, the unconscious self, not I, determines who I am. My ego identifies myself with my body image, my status, my job, my religion or even my role as a parent and is never satisfied. For some people, carrying a branded bag or wearing a Rolex defines them, but who are they when they lose these stuff? Ego is no more an identification with form. The quicker you are in attaching verbal or mental labels to things, people or situations, the more shallow and lifeless your reality becomes. The ego tends to equate having with Being. I have therefore I am, The more I have, the more I am. The ego sense of self-worth is in most cases bound up with the worth you have in the eyes of others. Yet there are people who have renounced all possessions but have a bigger ego than some millionaires. If you take away one kind of identification, the ego will quickly find another.
On religion, Tolle says ‘religious movements are basically collective egoic entities as rigidly identified with their mental positions as the followers of any political ideology that is closed to any alternative interpretation of reality.’ And so, religions, to a large extent, became divisive rather than unifying force. On heaven, he says that we need to understand that ‘heaven is not a location but refers to the inner realm of consciousness.’
There are many ways to be more ‘conscious’. Start by Being, instead of doing. Be aware of the thoughts in your head, the stillness that comes and space that opens up once you are aware of it. Be alert of your actions that is not that of the ego. Complaining, comparing, resentment or even simple satisfaction of being the first to know of a gossip are all forms of egoic action.
Not forgetting to mention is the painbody that needs feeding regularly by violence and drama and emotions. That’s why we love to watch action movies filled with violence, long-winded Korean or Taiwanese dramas spiced by feuds and revenge. Each time you feel wronged or angered, know that it is your painbody and not you, then let it go. The painbody feeds on old emotion, memories and even future yet to happen events to strengthen its identity. Know that ‘whenever you are upset about an event, a person, or a situation, the real cause is not the event, the person or situation but a loss of true perspective that only space can provide.’
He cites simple zen monk stories as examples. The Zen monk with sweaty palms while waiting for the governor; the monk who carried a woman across a river and was chided by his companion five hours later; the monk who was accused of fathering a child. Just to balance the religious aspect in the book, Tolle also quotes numerously from Jesus and the Bible, and some from Islam and Hindu.
He speaks about being present. Presence is consciousness without thought; a state of inner spaciousness. Your life has an inner purpose and an outer purpose. Inner purpose concerns Being and is primary. Outer purpose concerns doing and is secondary. You can make a conscious choice to be present rather than in useless thinking. How? By giving your fullest attention to the people you meet; or to your task at hand. At the back chapter, he answers in details some doubts about success and goals while aligning with the presence.
He tells us that there are three ways in which consciousness can flow into what you do. The modalities of awakened doing are acceptance, enjoyment and enthusiasm. Each one represents a certain vibrational frequency of consciousness. If you are not in the three states, you will find that you are creating suffering for yourself and others.
Acceptance : Whatever you cannot enjoy doing, accept that you have to do it.
Enjoyment: The peace that comes with surrendered action turns to a sence of aliveness when you actually enjoy what you are doing. enjoyment will replace wanting as the motivating power behind people’s actions. You will enjoy any activity in which you are fully present, any activity that is not just a means to an end.
enthusiasm: There is deep enjoyment to what you do plus the added element of a goal or a vision that you work towards. Even though you have a goal, what you are doing i the present moment needs to remain the focal point of your attention. Make sure your vision or goal is not an inflated image of yourself and therefore a concealed form of ego.
To summarize: ego, thoughts, painbody, doing, forms are all in the unconscious self. Awakening is the realization of Presence by Being (not doing), formless (instead of form) and inner space.
Are you ready to be awakened?