6 Things I Learned From Eckhart Tolle
1. Us vs. Them
The mind-set "We are right and they are wrong" is particularly deeply entrenched in those parts of the world where conflict between two nations, races, tribes, religions, or ideologies is long-standing, extreme and endemic. (This is a spot-on description of the current political climate in America).
Both are equally incapable of seeing that another perspective, another story, may exist and also be valid. Israeli writer Y. Halevi speaks of the possibility of "accommodating a competing narrative," but in many parts of the world, people are not yet able or willing to do that.
2. War is a Mind-set
All action that comes out of such a mind-set will either strengthen the enemy, the perceived evil, or, if the war is won, will create a new enemy, a new evil equal to and often worse than the one that was defeated. There is a deep interrelatedness between your state of consciousness and external reality. When you are in the grip of the mind-set such as "war," your perceptions become extremely selective as well as distorted. In other words, you will see only what you want to see and then misinterpret it.
3. Ego and Fame
The well-known phenomenon of "name-dropping," the casual mention of who you know, is part of the ego's strategy of gaining a superior identity in the eyes of others and therefore in its own eyes through association with someone "important." The bane of being famous in this world is that who you are becomes totally obscured by a collective mental image. Most people you meet want to enhance their identity - the mental image of who they are- through association with you.
The absurd overvaluation of fame is just one of the many manifestations of egoic madness in our world. Some famous people fall into the same error and identify with the collective fiction, the image people and the media have created of them, and they actually see themselves as superior to ordinary mortals (don't you know who I am?!). As a result, they become more and more alienated from themselves and others, more and more unhappy, more and more dependent on their continuing popularity. Surrounded only by people who feed their inflated self-image, they become incapable of genuine relationships.
4. Letting Go of Self Definitions
As tribal cultures developed, certain functions began to be allotted to certain people: ruler, priest or priestess, warrior, farmer, merchant, craftsman, laborer, and so on. A class system developed. Your function, which in most cases you were born into, determined your identity, determined who you were in the eyes of others, as well as in your own eyes. Your function became a role, but it wasn't recognized as a role: it was who you were, or thought you were. Only rare beings at the time, such as the Buddha or Jesus, saw the ultimate irrelevance of caste or social class, recognized it as identification with form and saw that such identification with the conditioned and the temporal obscured the light of the unconditioned and eternal that shines in each human being.
5. Pre-Established Roles
Of course, different people fulfill different functions in the world. It cannot be otherwise. As far as intellectual or physical abilities are concerned - knowledge, skills, talents, and energy levels - humans differ widely. What really matters is not what function you fulfill in this world, but whether you identify with your function to such an extent that it take you over and becomes a role that you play. When you play roles, you are unconscious. When you are completely identified with a role, you are mistaking a pattern of behavior with who you are, and you take yourself VERY seriously. You also automatically assign roles to others that correspond to yours. For example, when you meet a CEO who is totally identified with their role, to them, an entry level worker making 1/355th of what they're making is not a human being with a family to support, but just a number on their payroll.
Social structures and hierarchies cause human interactions to become inauthentic, dehumanizing, and alienating. The functions people have in hierarchical organizations, such as the military, the church, a government institution, or large corporation, easily lend themselves to becoming role identities. Authentic human interactions become impossible when you lose yourself in a role.
Examples of pre-established roles we could call social archetypes:
* The tough macho male
* The female seductress
* The nonconformist artist or performer
* The universal role of adult - when you play this role, you take yourself and life very seriously. Spontaneity, lightheartedness, and joy are not part of that role.
6. Don't seek happiness
If you seek it, you won't find it, because seeking is the antithesis of happiness. Happiness is ever elusive, but freedom from unhappiness is attainable now, by facing what is rather than making up stories about it. Unhappiness covers up your natural state of well-being and inner peace, the source of true happiness.