A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose is a follow-up to Eckhart Tolle‘s first book and bestseller, The Power of Now. This book was first published in 2005, and in 2008 Oprah Winfrey selected it for her book club, which was followed by a 10-week live online classes hosted by both Tolle and Winfrey. Winfrey’s endorsement of Tolle’s work has largely contributed to the fantastic number of 5 million copies sold in the North America by 2009.
The book gets its title from a Bible verse referring to the rising of “a new heaven and a new earth,” where, in Tolle’s perception, the “heaven” is the awakened state that will bring about “a new earth” in the outer world, the world of form.
Unlike “The Power of Now”, written in a form of dialogue, this book is a long essay that examines the ideas exposed in his first book in much more detail. Tolle explains how ego is our principal barrier to the awakened state: the “I” infinitely minimizes who we truly are by making us identify ourselves with our mind, our accumulated possessions, our social roles, and so on. The only way to diminish ego, as he already explained in his earlier books, is by seeking the fullness of life in the present moment – focus on the Now is focus on Being rather than Doing, on presence rather than form.
Tolle sees this sense of identity created by identifying ourselves with our mind as the cause of unnecessary human conflict, and the solution to this conflict is a direct experience of the sublime, the infinite – the Now.
- Chapter 1: The Flowering of Human Consciousness. “Earth, 114 million years ago, one morning just after sunrise: The first flower ever to appear on the planet opens up to receive the rays of the sun … this momentous event heralds an evolutionary transformation in the life of plants” – Tolle uses this evocation to paint the transformation in human consciousness that is about to occur; we are now witnessing a global spiritual awakening, which was announced by Buddha and Jesus. But ego interferes with the rising consciousness, so it’s important to recognize it and to understand its basic mechanics.
- Chapter 2: Ego: The Current State of Humanity. Many people strongly identify with the “I”, which is what Einstein called “an optical illusion of consciousness.” Ego is conditioned by the past, through content and structure, where the things people identify themselves with represent the content, while compulsion to identify with it is structural. Only, trying to find oneself in things is futile, and it never ends; that’s what keeps the consumerism going – the addictive nature of identifying with things, and the feeling of ownership that provides the ego with a sense of permanency.
- Chapter 3: The Core of Ego. A person who is unaware of the presence of the egoic mind mistakenly believes that their ego is who they are. That’s why it’s important to get to know ego, so Tolle gives its core traits: some egos live on complaints alone, to which resentment is closely associated, strengthening the ego even further; sometimes resentment turns to anger, and a long standing resentment becomes a grievance; ego feels superior by making itself “right”, and making others “wrong”; ego is constantly on the defense of an illusion, so when you want peace, the ego wants drama. When we become aware of our true selves, we realize that peace takes priority over being right.
- Chapter 4: Role-playing: The Many Faces of the Ego. The ego constantly seek gratification from others, playing roles to receive attention or psychic energy. The roles that ego plays include: villain (negative attention is better than no attention at all), victim (obsessing with the victimhood) and lover (roles we play to initiate romantic relationships). Tolle also distingushes pre-defined roles (for example, the role of “adult”, where one is serious and loses spontaneity), and temporary roles (our job title, for example). People don’t interact with other human beings, but it’s the roles that interact between themselves. He then examines happiness as a role vs. true happiness, and the role of parent.
- Chapter 5: The Pain-Body. This chapter deals with another dimension of ego – emotion. Emotion is how the body reacts to thought, and when one identifies with their thoughts and emotions, they become ego. The stress most people deal with is caused by the internal mind, not by the external factors, because negative emotions are toxic to the body. When negative emotions are not identified in the moment they arise, they leave pain, and this “pain-body” exists in both individuals and collectives. The pain-body feeds on negative thoughts and drama.
- Chapter 6: Breaking Free. The first step towards overcoming your pain-body is to recognize it. The next one is to be present enough to recognize it. This identification of what our pain-body is results in separating our true self from it, and as soon as this separation occurs, pain-body is unable to overcome.
- Chapter 7: Finding Who You Truly Are. In this chapter Tolle explains the importance of knowing ourselves – when we are in touch with our true Being, we recognize the goal of peace, and we stop seeing any given person or situation as an enemy. There are no “good” and “bad” experiences – this perception is a result of an excessive reliance on thought. He uses the words of two spiritual teachers to illustrate how we should react to the situations in our life: “I don’t mind what happens,” (Krishnamurti, spiritual teacher) and “Is that so?” (Zen Master Hakuin); in other words, let it be, and non-resistance is key.
- Chapter 8: The Discovery of Inner Space. This physical body is just an illusion. The science lets us see inside a cell which is made of atoms, and deep beneath each atom, there is a space. Our body consists of the space beneath the atoms, we are that space, and the only reason we have a body is because the space cannot be manifested and tangible without it. By isolating the ego and knowing that we are not the ego, we create a space between ego and consciousness; by providing gaps between thoughts, even if just seconds long, we create inner space. That we can achieve by being aware of breathing as often as possible – it takes our attention away from our thoughts. Those unaware of the liveness within them seek substitutes in forms of drugs, alcohol, sensory over-stimulation, or the most common substitute – an intimate relationship.
- Chapter 9: Your Inner Purpose. The inner purpose of life is to be awakened, and we all share it – it is the purpose of human kind; the outer purpose can vary. Awakening is when outer and inner purpose are aligned with each other. Awakening cannot be forced, and it’s a transformation that is the most significant thing that can happen to a human being.
- Chpter 10: A New Earth. Tolle has promising news for us at the end of the book: by being awakened, we build a new earth. We are witnessing and experiencing the evolution of our consciousness, where we can now create form without becoming identified with it. The “awakened doing” has three modalities: acceptance, enjoyment, enthusiasm, and all actions should be combined with at least one of these modalities, or the ego has taken over. “A new species is arising on the planet, it is arising now and you are it.”
I love this book. Tolle describes ancient truths and applies them to life in the 21st century in a way that is inspiring and comforting. I took away from this book three simple, yet profound ideas. First and foremost, Tolle believes that we are all connected to each other and that everything we do matters and has an impact on our world. His second idea lies in the power of listening: he suggests that if we can quiet our egos long enough to truly listen, it is possible to feel a sacredness and inner harmony where everything has its perfect place. And lastly, the author speaks of the power of awareness. The moment you notice a pattern of behavior that is no longer working for you, you are a success.
Tolle is an enlightened man and even more impressive is when he said he didn’t want to be, or become a guru. This made me respect his mind even more. He is a gifted intellect and is doing a great service for humanity by this text.
If one wants more than a self help book, tired of Zen lyrics that seem to dissipate after reading them and wants a breath of fresh air to challenge your cynicism in the current state of humanity this book will satisfy. This book is soul food.
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