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A number of years ago I read "A New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle. It was one of those books that changed me but in truth I cannot remember how. An acquaintance said to me that Eckhart has become too ego - too show-biz, I hope that isn't true but could understand if it is. With all that goes with such fame it must be hard to be grounded. But that doesn't have to detract from the teachings. Recently I suffered some pain, nothing too much - just life, happened across Oprah and Eckhart Ch6, before I knew it I was downloading all 10 of their conversations, downloaded the book, and got the book off my shelf. The clip for each chapter is in the heading. |
What Oprah did was to present a course in which people were supposed to read the chapter week-by-week, and then she would discuss each chapter with Eckhart and answer viewers' questions - standard spirituality format just not mainstream like Oprah. Why not follow this method for yourself?
This page has turned into a personal evaluation, it is not a guide through Tolle's book or the videos. As I got more into it it led me to question myself more than evaluate the teachings, as such it is a valid procedure for me but might well be introspective for someone else. Now it is clear that it is something I needed to do. For doing such the material is very good.
|Chapter 1 - clip|
An easy read. It is wonderful to see everything written so concisely, I am amazed that I have forgotten the details of reading this. It was definitely exhilarating to read it again. The politics, the 1%, are all there, anatta, beyond dogma, all that I have written about have references in this chapter - as it should be. Good stuff.|
On the clip (52.44 mins) "Ego wants to have a better image of itself", so it says I want to be good etc. To be good is not this, but to accept the goodness that comes from awareness, the Path. It's not "I want", it's anatta - no self, being awareness, being good. Thinking positive is not enough, because eventually with the positive comes the negative. Anatta again, no division, no good/bad, just being, just awareness.
On the clip (62.00 -) he discussed acid. Prior to this he described the feelings of suicide that led to the destruction of his ego. Trippers were saying that acid is the same. For Eckhart acid was violence. The sense perceptions fill up the mind so there was no thinking. This is just ego - self. Look at the khandas - perception is a khanda. Heightened perceptions are still khanda, it is still self (ego) - it is not anatta - non-self. The acid trip is still ego, more powerful ego but still ego, still holding to ego. Of course this is only Eckhart's trip. But why will drugs do it for you? This is not Nature, no magic, hard work discipline leads to compassion and insight.
His acid trip was suspension of mental noise but that is not awareness - stillness. You can suspend mental noise by chanting, but that is not insight - it is chanting. When we concentrate 100% on something - NOW, that is not stillness - it is an action conducted "properly". Stillness is beyond, detaching and just being awareness - interesting the difference between samatthi and vipassana. You need the concentration to go beyond into insight.
On the clip (82.39 mins) Oprah said "Make peace with the moment", Eckhart agreed.
End of the first chapter. This was 2008!! I found Oprah talked too much but what was great to see was that someone so influential in the media (Oprah) was actually getting off on the stuff. But even more I liked the snippets that came up when Eckhart answered the questions. It reminded me of something Ajaan Munindo intimated. He didn't know what his dhamma talk was going to be about, he just went with the flow and stuff came to him. That's like when I am writing especially the scifi, the story line I maybe have beforehand, but in the actual writing good stuff comes out - or at least I think so.
Chapter 1 - this was a good thing to do.
|Chapter 2 - clip|
Reading the book (enclosed epub for page numbers):- |
[p24] "Humanity became possessed by thought."
[p24] Experiencing your essential self as prior .... This is the Hindu thing of self, not anatta. I liked it when he used awareness, he never said my awareness, but he does say essential self. Is this a slip, misconception or just a language problem? [p24] "you need to disentangle your sense of I, of Beingness", from all the things it has become mixed up with ...." I thought this was misconception, but how do you say this without talking of I? It could be just language.
[p25] "The recognition of illusion is also its ending. Its survival depends on your mistaking it for reality."
[p29] "I didn't realise yet that thinking without awareness is the main dilemma of human existence."
[p41] "The ego lives through comparison."
I like this mostly - identity is too individual:-
[p53] "You realise your essential identity is formless, as an all-pervasive Presence, of Being prior to all forms, to all identifications." But it soon followed with this that I don't like:-
[p53] "The ultimate truth of who you are is not I am this nor I am that but I Am." This I Am is still higher self - Hindu.
Now the talk:-
Not so good this time, I didn't sleep well and kept dozing off. I do remember this 13-year-old kid, and Eckhart saying that young people now are reaching awareness without having to hit bottom (my words) like he did. Is this true? I'd like to believe it but .... yet look at Occupy, the kids there (20s) knew.
I'm trying to watch it again but the sleep hasn't gone. He starts with a token meditation and as this chapter was about ego I began thinking "humble". This usually works well on my ego but it didn't seem to happen. For 6 months I have been affected by the hormones, and discussed them. My ego has attached to my body. In the chapter he spoke about ego and illness but you can see I didn't note it - ego. I tried meditating and centring the mind in the heart but it didn't happen - I am going to try again before I watch.
This reminds me of Gary Zukav's course in "Seat of the soul", and that holiday in Koh Lanta. That course did me a lot of good. This is not the same kind of practical course that was, but engaging in a course is useful. When you have a book like New Earth there is always new stuff to learn. Spirituality is not about new suttas and academic learning, it is about going deeper with the truth - learning with the housewives is still learning if I approach it right - and not let the ego get criticial and superior. I remember seeing this stuff at the time, and I was dismissive - thinking commercialism. I think the housewives paid (Oprah talks of workbooks) but the broadcasts were free. I am going to try the humble again before I listen.
After meditating a short while I started listening but fell asleep again. I had an ego problem. Why wouldn't I? I have only meditated sporadically since July, so what has there been to hold it in check? I've read the book before, done it, so why would I need to read it properly? Ego. Of course I need it to spend time taking in ego issues, everyone does. Ego is always a problem. Ego is something to be aware of continuously, Tolle's approach - awareness then ego drops away. I look for signs of ego and work on it, but I haven't done that for a while. Before the hormones anatta was something that I was studying, hormones threw all that out. It is not that I forgot what I had learnt, I was just dealing with the health, the lack of regulation and routine, and therefore the lack of meditation. I had gone soft. The hormones had taken me off the Path, and it took the dog nuisance and expense to jerk me out of the comfort zone. Ego.
Awareness is compassion, insight and the Path. All take me beyond ego, but it is necessary to keep on top of them so that ego doesn't emerge again. Even if it is ego as comfort.
|Chapter 3 - clip|
Reading the book |
[p57] Egos "live on identification and separation."
This chapter was very difficult to read for a writer or a teacher. Ego is involved in everything you say and do. Even if you are telling the truth then it could be that ego is telling the truth because of superiority. This is the theme of the chapter. Following on from this, in writing and teaching the issue of ego revolves around helping. In the writing/teaching am I trying to help or am I trying to show that I know stuff? Writing and teaching also revolve around learning, am I learning in what I do? These are difficult ego issues to assess.
Mostly in my blogs I am exploring my journey, that is what I am doing with this New Earth course. So where does ego come in? I can feel ego inside my head. It was there this afternoon when I was meditating humble. The ego has consolidated a place through the hormone stuff.
The first ego is "I want to be a teacher", and when someone suggests that I might teach then my ego comes in. When I got blasted at the beach the teacher ego had left me vulnerable and I wasn't circumspect.
Sometimes I repeat points, not hammering home but similar. If a point is made that is enough. Here's what I do. Typically I see someone is too intellectual, I say insight is the way forward, and nothing happens. I repeat. The intellect gets ego, and there is confrontation. Alternatively someone is too intellectual, they use some mechanism in dealing with me to avoid facing that intellectualism, and I get frustrated. That frustration is definitely ego, and I usually withdraw angry and frustrated. But of course continuing when someone is not listening for whatever reason is equally egotistical and likely to cause frustration. Withdrawing is not wrong, the emotions are ego.
What am I doing when I continue to focus on the weakness? Should I use that word? It is an ego word but it is also a true evaluation of the situation. If I focus I am creating confrontation, but isn't that how we learn? But only if they want to learn? On occasions they ask to learn but they don't always mean it, but my teacher ego persists.
Reread chapter 3, is there stuff on ego I've missed?
[p58] "Sometimes the fault that you perceive in another isn't even there. It is a total misinterpretation, a projection by a mind conditioned to see enemies and to make itself right or superior. At other times, the fault may be theirs, but by focusing on it, sometimes to the exclusion of everything else, you amplify it. And what you react to in another, you strengthen in yourself." I create scenarios, seeing more than there is - sometimes. This one is so hard because insight tells you this stuff is going on but then ego sneaks one in. One obvious ego tell-tale is where ego focuses on something extreme. But then things that are going on in this world today are extreme, killing the planet, war for profits; as you become more and more aware of what is happening you open yourself up to ego. So risky, but you have to keep on the edge - true to the Path.
Being safe in the way life is assessed is a legit criticism of institutions. Spiritual teachers also play it safe, but by playing it safe they can avoid the truth. In the Eckhart/Oprah situation there is a clear safety issue. Eckhart discussed his taking LSD, and later Oprah had to make it clear they were not advocating taking it. Could Eckhart talk about companies who are part of the MIC war for profits? Of course you don't have to say these things all the time, but is there compromise? Oprah is wealthy, and Eckhart hasn't promoted sufficiency; sound tactics but still a compromise. Whatever, Oprah does some good with her money; enough? Only she can know.
Awareness and ego cannot exist together. Methodology - meditate on awareness, "fill up" with awareness and the ego will melt away. But ego always tries to regain control, and it changes form - perhaps subtly from the outside but inside sufficiently that it appears unrecognisable. The ego and my health journey have been an issue before, but the way ego has shown with the hormones is not clear. But ego has shown. The way I feel about wanting to tell people about hormones is about being superior, ego asks "why hasn't mb looked into hormones?" But then truth could ask "why hasn't mb looked into hormones?" My point is that ego can become hard to be recognised. Recognition is its exposure and therefore it will gradually melt away so it becomes subtler in its need to survive. "Fill up" with awareness, awareness will help identify ego, and once recognised it will melt away.
Resentment is something I feel with regards to the writing and teaching. The teacher in me wants to be recognised as a teacher, more so when I see others who claim to be teachers and .... I become critical. This is an egoic process. Presenting the teachings is not egoic, that is just part of helping. I have to watch the resentment. There was a period in which I evaluated different teachers (both their personal conduct and the value I saw in their teachings) - see gurus in Zandtao's tagcloud and posts in my old blogs listed in the last 3 paragraphs of Path in About. I didn't see this as ego at the time. Getting different perspectives is a learning process. Pointing out sexual misconduct as an indicator that there might be weaknesses in the teachings is truthful, but was there ego involved? The line between such approaches of learning and truth-telling and egoism is very thin but avoiding such approaches for fear of being egoic is equally egoic. The reader must determine value for themselves, and I must continually watch in me the ego as criticism and resentment.
Ego and the Four Agreements
The ego is what agrees. Let's look into that by seeing what the 5 agreements ask you to do:-
Be impeccable with your word
Don't take anything personally.
Make no assumptions.
Always do the best you can
Be sceptical, but learn to listen.
Think about how each of these agreements affects the ego.
1) Word could be thought, what the voice in the head is saying. Word is more literally what we say. If you are impeccable with both where is the ego?
2) Taking things personally is so obviously ego but examine it a little. If there is an unintentional slight and the ego hits the roof - why? If it is intended to hurt then one has to ask why the person is saying it. If it needs saying then it helps and you make changes - no ego. Learning is what matters so whenever anything happens look for the learning experience. Leave the ego behind and don't get emotional.
3) Assumptions are thoughts, they are not awareness. Thoughts are ego, leave the thoughts behind and make no assumptions.
4) The ego is lazy, rests on its laurels thinking it is superior. Awareness does its best humbly.
5) The ego makes all the agreements through our conditioning. When you start to question you bring awareness to the agreements and they begin to drop away. Awareness is learning, it is the natural state of learning. If the ego is there always chattering away how do we listen? How do we learn?
What grievances do I have?
I have a number of grievances which I like to think of as being grievances that are legitimate - non-egoic, but they do have the potential for being egoic. These grievances are systemic rather than personal, events that have damaged my personal life are issues that make me angry at the time but I deal with them and move on.
I have a grievance that education is not education, and that as a teacher I was always forced to compromise with education because of the system. And the system itself being profits for the 1% at the expense of humanity is a grievance. These are ongoing grievances that cause global suffering, and I work to change them. If you read my blog you might say that my ego has an axe to grind, but I would argue that it is part of awareness to work for humanity and try to create change in both. In itself having these grievances is not ego but had the potential for being egoic, so this is something else I have to watch.
There are also ongoing grievances of a personal nature, in my case my father. Without going into details and trying to be detached not to take sides, I had an ongoing grievance with the way he was. Because it was ongoing I found it difficult to forgive. In such a relationship there has to have been ego involved, maybe ego as in love for my mother, maybe ego as in anger at the way he treated me, I tried hard at the time but it was so difficult. How I responded to him will also have created conflict and increased ego, although in the later years I always tried to observe if there was ego present. Now that he is dead, it is in the past.
This points to the way people treat you ongoing as being the potential for ego. Therefore awareness is essential, as is your Path, typically but not exclusively the 5 Agreements.
[p65] "Every ego confuses opinions and viewpoints with facts. Furthermore, it cannot tell the differences between an event and its reaction to that event. Every ego is a master of selective perception and distorted interpretation. Only through awareness not through thinking can you differentiate between fact and opinion. Only through awareness are you able to see: There is the situation and here is the anger I feel about it, and then realize there are other ways of approaching the situation, other ways of seeing it and dealing with it." - recent beach debacle with intellectual ego.
[p71] "The particular egoic patterns that you react to most strongly in others and misperceive as their identity tend to be the same patterns that are also in you, but that you are unable or unwilling to detect within yourself." Does that mean intellectualism in me? It was certainly true when younger, now - don't think so. I used to adhere to dogma, now I don't. I get angry at intellectual ego because I have one; this is something to watch for.
[p71] "Their greed. Their need for power and control?" My enemies have this - the 1%. This is true. Am I angry with them? Sometimes, because my compassion comes out to the suffering. But not always, because it is beyond their control - it is their egos that they are not aware of. Sometimes my ego wants people to believe me, and change themselves in the way I suggest (as Eckhart does), and it brings frustration when I am egoic. I want power and control of my life, when I follow the Path I have it. Ego comes in when I am angry with the 1%, not always. be careful when the 1% make me angry.
Listening to the talk:-
He mentioned "bringing about change" as a non-egoic justification for complaint. That needs considering.
[26.47] Can we just say that "hurt feelings are ego"? Simplistically I think yes, but when you consider dependent arising this is not the case. The distinction here is subtle but worth considering. We are not pure awareness, we are the khandas as well. In our emotion body emotion arises. In itself having the emotion is not a particular problem, but if we start to cling to the emotion, such as my anger around the dog-bike scenario, then it becomes ego. The danger of saying hurt emotions is ego is that people will then try to suppress the emotions, and this is wrong; if they arise they need to let them go. Once we develop the practice of letting go the emotions then they will arise less and less. In pure awareness the emotions will not arise, but for people without 100% awareness, such as me, holding onto emotions is what needs to be avoided.
On a different type of avoidance there was a very interesting question by Tim in Sicily [32.20]. It was also interesting to see the avoidance in the answer. "Protect yourself from the deeply unconscious" became an assumption for Tim as a retired soldier, don't you have to fight them? Do his actions bring humanity closer or further away from collective enlightenment? Can you still fight and maintain awareness? Very good questions. Being a US soldier there was quite clearly assumptions that US wars were just, Eckhart didn't question that. He did say that "once awakened it is unlikely that you will become part of violence" [35.40].
He avoided the dilemmas of the questions by talking about people who awaken during war, the ego broke down in conflict. People being free in prison. Suffering is the teacher - the methodology of teaching. "War will never happen when a certain number of people have entered the awakened state". But he avoids the question that the 1% engineer wars for profit, how fundamental is this egoic reality that he avoids? OK this is criticism, ego? And of course I don't know what restrictions were placed on him, and how much this avoidance is a strategy? An important point on this avoidance - it is not a major issue. What is happening with this "worldwide web event" raises consciousness. My ego is definitely envious, I do wish that people had asked me to do stuff like this on a much smaller stage. Envy is there, Eckhart's avoidance is there, my criticism is there but I hope with limited ego. But it is not division, what he is doing is great.
|Chapter 4 - clip|
Reading the book. |
It is becoming clearer to me that I am giving off an ego in relationships that revolve around the Path. When I was younger I was often quite aggressive about the teachings to the extent that one friend used to call me a "right f---er". It was an insult but also a back-handed compliment - I annoyed him because he said I was usually right. I suspect the ego issue is connected with that.
Am I usually right? I like to think that I am. If I don't know I readily ask, if I think I know I say so but am always willing to learn. Personally I think this is quite sound, but of course I don't know how it comes across. I have sensed in the past an issue where I create discomfort with the truth. When younger I spoke the truth without consideration but as I got older I realised that the truth hurts, and started being more careful when saying the truth - especially if the person doesn't want to hear it. By the truth I do not mean truths about daily life but truth in its relation to the Path. But sometimes just being with people made them feel uncomfortable concerning the Path.
Recently I have found that relationships formed because of the Path have broken down, the beach debacle was a particularly bad example. For years as a classroom teacher and HOD I did not have issues because roles were clearly defined, and I believe I didn't abuse the power. But I had ego issues the other way where I would not respect hierarchical power. My issue was always education whereas for the admin the issue was often their ego. With regards to people I have met on the Path there is a problem. Relationships have broken down to such an extent that I consider that my approach is divisive - that I have a divisive ego; because we have become divided my ego must be dividing. My problem is I don't know what is causing it and how to get rid of it. The result of interactions on the Path is division so the problem has to be my ego. I have started a meditative solution of harmony, I will have to see of that works.
As I am not a monk with a Buddha-defined hierarchy, when I meet people on the Path there is no pre-defined hierarchy - it is a free-for-all. In most cases people begin approaching me as a teacher, but when I try to teach them there is an ego problem. Not immediately but over a period of time. In the end there becomes division. I have already discussed my desire to be a teacher, and therefore I have a need to be more circumspect but the problem is more than that. And I don't know what it is.
Is my ego divisive? Of course it is, it is an ego. But there is an aspect of ego that I haven't met in New Earth (so far I presume), and that is "beating yourself up"; I have been through a period of beating myself up prior to starting this New Earth course. What happens when the ego beats yourself up? It isolates itself, it creates this separate entity which is beaten up, separate and isolated against the world. I was feeling like that because I let the dog incident drag me down (see ch2 of The Argo Chronicles"). It was a good thing to do because it made me take stock of my ego, and stop it spreading.
Let's be clear there was some basis to the self-criticisms but what I failed to do is place them in the context of the relationships themselves because of course relationships have two sides. The way I described the ego conflicts with people on the Path was reflecting on myself only, but it must be made clear that there were two egos concerned. It is almost laughable to be discussing ego amongst those on the Path, but the fact is the ego does not go away just because you are on the Path. You will read stuff that implies once on the Path everything is perfect - well as far as I am concerned that is bollox (but that is just my opinion). The Path opens up a vista of happiness but you are still part of daily life, and in daily life you are surrounded by egos creating disharmony, perhaps worse - as happened - personal vindictiveness. By following the Path you can help the ego fall away, but does it ever completely go? In my case, no. Perhaps there are perfect beings but I have never met them, for someone to be no-self - have no ego, they have to be perfect.
Ego has a particular characteristic for those on the Path - spiritual superiority, Eckhart described this as spiritually better than someone else. There is also another characteristic of spiritual people, they usually have to defend themselves against others - although this may be lessened for those in cloisters. Often the spiritual ego becomes fortress ego of defence, especially if the Path takes people into a recognition of the need for social awareness as part of their overall awareness. To stand up for what is right in society places yourself under attack. This leaves yourself vulnerable to forming an ego about it because you are under attack. But it is part of awareness to understand the world we live in, so ultimately such a standing up should not be avoided. The more one is prepared to speak the truth about society the more one is vulnerable the more one defends, and the more ego gets a foothold. And if it gets a foothold ego will defend often by attacking.
At the same time people on the Path are knowledgeable, sometimes their ego doesn't accept being open to questioning. If someone is on the Path they have learnt stuff, and the stuff they have learnt makes others seek their counsel. Such a role of "expert" leaves one open to being arrogant - ego. In my own case people have sought my help, and I know that at times I have been arrogant. It is something I have to watch out for. And there is an aspect of this arrogance that for some might be difficult, they are not used to being questioned. Teachers by their very knowledge leave themselves vulnerable through questioning. When it comes to the Path, if you have knowledge then you do it. Therefore your life is effectively open to scrutiny. This is why I like Brad Warner. He says he is a zen priest but he appears not to attach importance to it. He admits weakness, and allows his weakness to be questioned. Personally I think all teachers should do this but in doing this you leave yourself vulnerable. Sometimes rather than being open to the questioning the ego sets up a fortress. Awareness doesn't need a fortress but ego does. Unless we are perfect that fortress is needed. I have discussed already Eckhart's avoidance of certain issues - especially with regards to social awareness; I repeat that there are many factors I don't know with regards to Eckhart and this New Earth teaching programme, and this avoidance might well be because of those factors. So on the Path there is also a vulnerability, and this has potential for the fortress ego.
So people on the Path have additional ego stuff to deal with - the arrogant ego, the spiritually-competing ego, and the fortress ego especially for those who open themselves up to social awareness. As the Path opens up for people certain egos drop away and other egos form, this is only Natural. To decide that my ego is the cause of the divisions is also ego - my self-importance. I cannot take personally any ego issues with other people, the attacks are their business - their ego. I must examine my own conduct and see whether there is ego in what I have done. To say the ego is divisive is almost a tautology, its very existence means that aspects of unity have broken down. Reflecting on the source of that breakdown is a learning process, but in that reflection one has to be careful because the ego likes to beat ourselves up.
All of this thinking can be mental proliferations unless there is some strategy for improvement. Reflecting on where ego occurs is the beginning but moving on from there what do we do? Meditation is of course the answer - and awareness or presence in Eckhart's words. In meditation we can promote an attitude of harmony. Recognising ego for what it is will help it fall away but what do we do with egos we are not aware of? Keep reflecting but try to be awareness - be harmony. In meditation we have the insight to see ego and reflect on it, we also have the opportunity to promote the harmony. This will not prevent egos from battling against each other - pissing contests - even spiritual pissing contests, but it will increase the likelihood that your own ego will not be contributing as much to the battle.
Meditation brings insight about ego and produces harmony.
One final point on ego on a personal level. For 6 months I have been indulging hormone deficiencies. The ego says I have hormone problems, and I have been healing these hormone problems. But I have allowed those problems to dominate my life. With particular illness that can't be helped, when I lose sleep it can't be helped. The process is ongoing healing, the glands have been damaged and the foods need to do their job. But why has it affected my meditation so much? Because I let it. Nature, awareness is in charge. Nature and awareness can tell the hormones what to do. Meditation is above the hormones. the hormones can regulate the body but meditation - Nature - regulates the hormones. I let the hormones ego have too much control, that has to end. Hormones will always be there and will always have the potential to affect my health, but in general they have to now be under the control of meditation. Hormone-ego has to drop away.
I had forgotten to keep awareness of ego prominent. One reason for this forgetfulness was anatta - anatta is no self, I had forgotten ego because I was using the word self. I was not being incorrect but self is a much less pejorative word, but of course they mean the same in the way Eckhart uses ego and the way self is defined by anatta. Well more or less as I pointed out earlier Eckhart talks of the awareness as I AM, anatta does not. Anatta says that using I as I AM is also self - ego.
I want to push this I AM distinction here because it helps with some understanding. To get into this we need some dogma, and that reminds me that dogma also reduces clarity because it is not hard-hitting. The dogma is the 5 khandhas:-
sankara mental proliferations
Why do these matter when considering ego? Ego arises when we become attached to the khandas (as explained by dependent origination). The khandas are natural and explain why there is no need for self. When I say my body as opposed to body there is ego - rupa; more specifically when I say my hormones as opposed to hormones I have opened up ego. For 6 months I have said that my hormones are giving me trouble and have become attached to them as a problem. There has been much good involved in coming to terms with the hormones but it has gone too far - ego. Once I recognised there was a problem I needed to deal with it. Hormones are regulators so with their failure I needed to make food and lifestyle decisions to heal the glands. These were the Mediterranean diet (40% carbs, 20% protein, 40% fats), changing my daily lifestyle to fit in with the way the body is regulated, and following certain meditations that helped the chakras because the chakras and the glands are situated in the same place. But remember the glands are part of the body, the body heals itself if fed properly so that is the end of the hormones. Of course it wasn't, because ego got involved and indulged the hormone problems - attached to rupa. And as a result I forgot the Path - life's purpose, meditation was not central enough to my life. Meditation needs to be in control, and it wasn't.
The khandas arise naturally and fall away equally naturally, and there need be no ego - no self. Emotions themselves are not ego but attaching to emotions is. Now when you say this, explaining ego in some ways is easier and in some ways it becomes much harder. When Oprah's housewives get too emotional it is attachment that drives them, so it is fair for Eckhart to say emotions are ego. When an emotion such as anger arises because the 1% are causing war and then you let the emotion go, there is no attachment - no ego. I have not got contact - phassa, do you try to explain this on mainstream tv? Is it constructive? Does it help him convey what he is trying to do? Of course not. But when one begins to ask questions these are needed to give the answers.
But then we have the word consciousness, and there is confusion. The consciousness of the khandas is a consciousness attribute of mind - giving attention to, the consciousness Eckhart uses is awareness. This awareness is emptiness or sunnata, but try to get Oprah's housewives into sunnata. Jokingly Oprah suggested that Eckhart came in with 5kg of bling, and Eckhart laughed saying that it would have been ego and if she ever saw ego in him to say. There was a suggestion that he would not always be conscious of ego arising. If that is the case then the khandas is a way to explain.
As is clear from this New Earth page I have let ego come in. Sparked by the hormone problems I allowed the ego to gain control. Whilst I am against dogma as an end in itself the fact is that the dogma could have saved me from this ego issue. No matter how much work I do I always need to be wary of the tricks the ego can play.
Continuing the reading:-
[p83] It is not the formless attention which is Presence that the ego seeks, but attention in some form, such as recognition, praise, admiration, or just to be noticed in some way, to have its existence acknowledged.
Egos seek attention, for harmony's sake should I give the ego attention? The more I think about it the more the problems I have had with people around the Path have been my lack of willingness to pay attention to their egos. My first egoic response is that I don't expect people to pay attention to my ego, my ego is frustrated however if they don't pay attention to the teachings I give. The last row involved someone who had spent a great deal of time on intellectual discovery, and even though he had asked me to help him he was really only seeking someone who would admire and agree with all those intellectual assessments he had made. Knowing that insight would bring us together and reduce his anger and frustration and because he had asked for help I refused to pay attention to his ego, and this led to one of the worst experiences I have had with someone from the Path. For harmony's sake I could have paid attention to his ego. Another person was critical of my approach. He called himself damaged, and oscillated between desire and attempts at understanding - he was not integrated. When he spoke I would try to add to what he said, but he didn't want that - he simply wanted me to pay attention to his ego. In both those situations I was speaking the truth, and if it was ego it could be argued that I was trying to prove superiority. If it was that I was not aware that I was doing it.
My first reaction to feeding someone's ego by paying attention to it is no, this is not the Path. But maybe I should pay more attention to harmony. At work with people in the department I paid attention to harmony, and it helped. But that was work, I was forced to compromise. So should I compromise for the sake of harmony? In defined teaching situations I would definitely compromise harmoniously but in Path discussions I am less aware of this. Does harmony dictate I pay attention to ego?
[p98] "Awareness is the greatest agent for change." Discussion is not awareness, saying something does not mean you are aware of what you are saying, hearing something is not awareness either. In terms of Oprah's housewives and US psychiatry culture - disparaging sweeping generalisation, it is important to consider the meaning of awareness more. When considering awareness I use the word internalising, somehow something has been said I take it in and internalise it. Eckhart and Oprah talk of ah-ha moments they are probably awareness but it doesn't end there. For the first time reading, there is much in New Earth that one can go ah-ha, but that isn't complete Presence - complete awareness; it is the start - no matter how powerful it appears to be.
It is important to understand that thoughts or ideas are not ours - they are not understood simply because we have the thought or idea - sankhara. To understand we need insight into the idea, and the word awareness does not automatically bring with it insightful understanding. If we go to the psychiatrist and talk about our problems because that is the psychiatric methodology, when we discuss them there is not a solution - sometimes recognition brings a solution as with ego but not always is there a solution. If we have an ah-ha moment and then don't work on it then that moment will become another idea amongst mental proliferations. The ah-ha needs to be internalised somehow. If we are Present when we have the ah-ha moment then it is internalised - in Eckhart's terms this is the work, being Present.
The discussion of parents on [pp98-99] irritated me. It appeared to place the onus of family issues on the lack of awareness of parents. Throughout the world there are parents who lack this "awareness" but the children are brought up well because the children know their place. Western children tend not to know their place, they tend not to respect parents for providing them with a home, they tend not to respect parents for all the hard work the system forces them to do just to provide a home, they tend not to accept their duties as children - duties that most children in the world accept, chores etc. Instead western children tend to follow a very egotistical peer-pressured model often directed by 1%-consumerism. A child should respect being a member of a loving home, and work to make that home better. Instead western children tend to make heavy demands both emotional and financial on the parents increasing an already difficult burden of providing a home. As result of the egos of these children their schooling is affected as well as homeliness. When using the words "tend to", what I an trying to convey is that the systemic pressure gives this stereotype, individually humans are not the same, children are not always egotistical. Whilst levels of awareness are different for children there is no natural reason why children cannot be dutiful.
Is my approach to the way children should behave wrong? I would claim it is not my approach but the natural approach. The West is not a good benchmark on what is natural because of its lack of grounding in Nature because of the consumerism. What is the natural way children should behave? Egotistical ....?
Being and Doing
It is interesting how there is different emphasis for me with these words. Let's start with an aspect of doing. People's heads spin as thoughts continually circumambulate, for some this translates to continually doing lots but achieving nothing. This doing is a waste of time, and more often than not is carried out as a means of preventing ourselves from having to be still - being. I suspect this is what is meant by "doing is never enough if you neglect Being" [p102]. But I have experienced another doing. After meditation chores are just done - being translated into doing, chores that prior to meditation might appear to be a burden just get done - being and doing, mind does not interfere. This doing has to be done, being helps.
[p106] "When you don't play roles, it means there is no self (ego) in what you do. "
[pp126-7] In this section he addresses the connection between a self-image and ego - about anatta. By having self-image we create an ego so he is basically saying self is ego; if there is myself there is ego. He sums it up as "So there is no such thing as my life, and I don't have a life. I am life. I and life are one." But even in this he is identifying I and life, I and life are one. That is the case, so why is it necessary to call it I - just call it life, sunnata, emptiness.
Listening to the talk:-
I liked this, it fits in with "I and life is one". [p114] "You then realize that you don't live your life, but life lives you. Life is the dancer, and you are the dance. "
Be present. Mindfulness - 24/7. This is impossible for me so I don't even try, that is not good. I have my objective as two meditations per day, and I don't manage that. And with the hormones my ego stopped me from meditating once a day. Very weak.
Even with the lack of meditation I am mostly happy although I have just had the dog incident to bring me down to earth - and I was down for a few days. That was needed to show me that ego was too powerful, and I am working on that. I am too erratic. I am not determined enough to do all I know is good for me. Green and yellow juice, chilel, and meditation, all of these are not happening consistently enough.
It starts with meditation so it can start with being present. Accepting meditation followed by ego taking more and more control as the day progresses is letting ego win. Saying I am happy which is mostly true is not enough, perhaps that happiness is an ego delusion.
Take moments during the day to be present. Be more determined with meditation. It is all too weak - I don't mean this enough.
|Chapter 5 - clip|
Reading the book:- |
"This is not to say that all thinking and all emotion are of the ego. They turn into ego only when you identify with them and they take you over completely, that is to say, when they become I." [p130] So he accepts this - see khandhas in Ch4.
"So emotion is the body's reaction to your mind." [p140] Are they? As one of the khandhas - vedana, they arise naturally, and become ego if we attach to them. It is not the body but Nature, life, that these emotions arise in naturally.
"[p131] An instinctive response is the body's direct response to some external situation. An emotion, on the other hand, is the body's response to a thought." Is this true? Instincts are the fore-runners of ego. When we are born Nature gives us instincts to help us survive. As we grow these Natural responses separate, and later form the basis for self. Because I accept the khandhas I see these emotions (vedana) as separate from the body (rupa). Instinct must also be a khandha, I would guess it would be connected to sankhara and vinnana. It would make sense that it was part of consciousness seeking to survive, that then becomes ego as we cling to the instincts and are not mature enough to let them fall away. Understanding through khandhas means that sankhara provides thoughts and vedana reacts to them. Vinnana has instincts that help survival, and the mind clings to the instincts to make ego. Eckhart describes the body as the agent intelligence uses, Tan Ajaan describes the khandhas as the agents intelligence uses. What is important is that neither is describing them as self - ego.
"Because of the human tendency to perpetuate old emotion, almost everyone carries in his or her energy field an accumulation of old emotional pain, which I call the pain-body" [p139]
"We can learn to break the habit of accumulating and perpetuating old emotion by flapping our wings, metaphorically speaking, and refrain from mentally dwelling on the past, regardless of whether something happened yesterday or thirty years ago. We can learn not to keep situations or events alive in our minds, but to return our attention continuously to the pristine, timeless present moment rather than be caught up in mental movie-making. Our very Presence then becomes our identity, rather than our thoughts and emotions." [p139] Does his previous description matter? Do the differences matter?
My view of the pain-body would be that it was part of the self - ego in which the mind had attached to khandhas - thoughts and emotions and internalised them. To get rid of the pain-body we release the thoughts and emotions, and that release can occur in many ways. A straight-forward release catching the "pain" quickly, or living out deeper pain as at Nyanga.
I don't wish to get into Eckhart's view of body and emotions and thoughts, I am happy with the Buddhist one. I suspect the differences are not important.
The pain-body has the instinct to survive as it is ego, mature people who have moved beyond instinct do not attach to the thoughts and emotions that bring pain, and mature people definitely do not internalise the pain.
"All thought is energy and the pain-body is now feeding on the energy of your thoughts." [p145] I don't accept this either. Thoughts arise. Chi is all around us and we can use it. So we attach to a thought and give that thought chi, then we internalise the chi-thought into the pain-body. How the pain body functions I have no problem with:-
"Emotion from the pain-body quickly gains control of your thinking, and once your mind has been taken over by the pain-body, your thinking becomes negative. The voice in your head will be telling sad, anxious, or angry stories about yourself or your life, about other people, about past, future, or imaginary events. The voice will be blaming, accusing, complaining, imagining. And you are totally identified with whatever the voice says, believe all its distorted thoughts. At that point, the addiction to unhappiness has set in." [p145]
What is thinking?
"The greater part of most people's thinking is involuntary, automatic, and repetitive. It is no more than a kind of mental static and fulfils no real purpose" [p128]. This is true. But if this is the case what should thinking be?
Repetitive - a thought has happened and we attach to that thought repeating it.
Automatic - do we control this repetitive process? If we don't it is attachment, but where does thought come from when there is detachment? If there is stillness there is no attachment and not thinking, but if something happens then thinking happens - sankhara. This is also automatic and natural - a natural response to an event.
Is it involuntary? In stillness there is the natural state of the mind, there is no thinking - just natural. If thinking occurs in response to an event, it is natural and automatic. If the mind decides to apply sankhara to these thoughts such as intellect and reasoning then new thoughts arise. This process is automatic, once the decision to rationalise has been made. Because most thinking processes are natural they often appear involuntary and automatic, what is important to understand about thinking is when the ego arises. This is usually when thinking is repetitive. When we attach to a thought it repeats, when we remember what is the purpose of remembering? Is it attachment or is it to learn from the memory? When we plan is it for the purpose of planning or is it mental proliferations - being attached to the future planning? When thinking occurs naturally it is now, when it is repetitive or proliferating it is attachment - ego. This is the convergence of sankhara and The Power of Now.
Another important description of thinking is insight. Insight is the process of thinking that comes from meditation. But what happens with insight? In meditation the mind is still, and ONEness speaks - insight. As a result of insight sankhara develops the insight through logic and reasoning. This ONEness speaking is natural - it is Nature thinking - it is Natural thinking. So we have the process of Natural thinking and its development through sankhara, and we have egoic thinking in which the ego grasps at thoughts and tries to make them its own. So in thinking we have two sources - Natural thinking and egoic thinking. Examine what an intellectual does - the intellectual identifies with the ideas - the thoughts. An intellectual has egoic thinking. So yet again here is an explanation as to why insight and intellect are in conflict, insight is Natural thinking, intellect is egoic thinking, but from the outside there is no difference.
Two other words can describe these types of thinking - dynamic and static. Consider the intellectual. The intellectual ego agrees with an idea, and says this idea is my idea - not necessarily taking absolute ownership of the idea but subscribing to the idea. But once agreed, the idea does not change it is static. But ideas that come from insight are not fixed because Nature is not fixed. From inside the Natural thought comes, it is not mimicked, it is not heard nor seen, it just comes - insight. Nature continually changes from one moment to the next - it is dynamic, and thoughts that come from Nature are equally dynamic. If the ego accepts these insights as belonging to it, the thoughts have lost their dynamism and have become fixed. The process of insight is dynamic, the ego that accepts an idealism is static - another reason why insight and intellect are in conflict because one is dynamic and the other is static.
"For thousands of years, humanity has been increasingly mind? possessed, failing to recognize the possessing entity as not self"[p128].; people have failed to recognise that the ego has attached to thinking thus making the mind attaching to repetitive thoughts as ego. We are not our thoughts. There is Unity, the ONE, Gaia, that has thoughts through the various sankhara. Instead of just accepting these thoughts egos try to possess them as their thoughts creating separation - the beginning of global problems. Whilst there is Unity, whilst the thoughts are Gaia's there is ONE planet and harmony. Note Eckhart uses the term "not self" for the possessor - meaning ego, implying that what is not the possessor is the self, this is not anatta; anatta means there is no self - just sankhara and ego or attachment.
"The degree of identification with the mind differs from person to person. Some people enjoy periods of freedom from it, however brief, and the peace, joy, and aliveness they experience in those moments make life worth living" [p128]. Identification with mind is egoic. To be free from ego brings peace, joy and aliveness. If sankhara arise naturally and the ego does not attach, this need not destroy the peace joy and aliveness.
"Alienation means you don't feel at ease in any situation, any place, or with any person, not even with yourself. " [p128] But to talk about alienation we need to consider alienation from what. By agreeing to behave the way society wants we are alienated from the Path, this brings unhappiness; by following the Path we are happy but this can bring alienation from society - this does not bring unhappiness.
"The physical organism, your body, has its own intelligence, as does the organism of every other life-form. And that intelligence reacts to what your mind is saying, reacts to your thoughts. So emotion is the body's reaction to your mind" [p130]. Above I said that I was not going to analyse Eckhart's differences from the khandhas, but much of the stuff on thinking concerns an acceptance of the khandha approach. Now this quote has a number of approaches that make assumptions. OK, khandhas are assumptions - assumptions have to be made. Let us begin with the body - rupa. Does the body have intelligence? What is the function of this intelligence? To perform bodily functions. Liver has its own intelligence - to perform the functions of the liver. The glands have their own intelligence - to create the hormones of the body. But why would the body have a function not connected to it? The Intelligence of Nature ascribes intelligence to the body to perform bodily functions - end of story concerning the body.
Using the khandha term - sankhara I described how thoughts arise. The Intelligence of Nature responds to an event and thoughts arose, so why not say using the Intelligence of Nature emotions arise - vedana. Is this important? It seems unnecessary to ascribe attributes of Intelligence to the body. The body arises from the Intelligence of Nature, as do emotions - vedana, perceptions - sanna, and thoughts and their processes - sankhara; consciousness brings these arisings to the awareness of Nature. By functioning within parameters the body and body's parameters, emotions and emotional parameters etc there is a consistency within the khandhas. I just note here that this is a description and in no way can it be offered as a proof. Apart from Eckhart's necessity of ascribing Intelligence to the body, in practice there seems little difference. But it is worth knowing what is different.
"The degree of identification with the mind differs from person to person. Some people enjoy periods of freedom from it, however brief, and the peace, joy, and aliveness they experience in those moments make life worth living. These are also the moments when creativity, love, and compassion arise." [p128]
"You don't run your body. The intelligence does. It also is in charge of the organism's responses to its environment" [p130] Fundamentally I agree with this, it is the intelligence of ONE planet that runs everything - Intelligence. Note this is not intellect, intellect is what the mind uses to reason. Intelligence is what provides the insights when we are in harmony with ONE planet. "It is the same intelligence that manifests as Gaia, the complex living being that is planet earth." [p130] This Intelligence is in charge of the khandhas, and not we who are in charge - however someone might try to describe that we or I. Once there is attachment to a khandha that attachment is ego.
"This intelligence gives rise to instinctive reactions of the organism to any threat or challenge.... An instinctive response is the body's direct response to some external situation. An emotion, on the other hand, is the body's response to a thought" [p130]. I have already gone into why I don't perceive emotion as the body's response to thought, so it is necessary to determine instinct. Quite obviously I am not going to accept instinct as the body's response to anything. Instinct is a mental process along with other mental processes such as reason or intellect. Once Intelligence directs sankhara to provide a mental response to an external situation, that response is an instinct. Instinctively this might mean we might move in a certain way without being conscious of it. Instinctively babies react to mothers, this could be instinctive emotions, or an instinct for survival that might involve mother's milk - food and body. Instinctively we develop sexual responses, these could be emotional or physical. But they do not require consciousness - vinnana, they are directed by intelligence without the need for consciousness. Intelligence uses the khandhas to provide an instinctive response - a response that does not require consciousness - vinnana. But once there has been an instinctive response, consciousness will become aware of it. Holding onto these instinctive responses - especially sexual - is what the ego does, appealing to ego is the way the 1% run our society, primarily appealing to the sexual ego. Intelligence goes beyond such ego although the sexual instinct is initially an Intelligent response.
On p131 I feel his descriptions are breaking down and his explanations are becoming more contrived. This one particularly doesn't ring true:-
"Although the body is very intelligent, it cannot tell the difference between an actual situation and a thought" [p131]. Intelligence has previously been described as that of Gaia, ONE planet, and yet such intelligence cannot differentiate actuality from thought. For me this breaks down his theory. Khandhas ring true, and can happen simultaneously. Emotions and mental reactions can occur simultaneously to an event without breaking down the khandhas as a description, however the following Eckhart description is a struggle:-
"Indirectly, an emotion can also be a response to an actual situation or event, but it will be a response to the event seen through the filter of a mental interpretation, the filter of thought, that is to say, through the mental concepts of good and bad, like and dislike, me and mine. For example, it is likely you won't feel any emotion when you are told that someone's car has been stolen, but when it is your car, you will probably feel upset. It is amazing how much emotion a little mental concept like my can generate" [p131].
Is a dream just a thought or does it not have a reality in its own context? I feel this following is also a struggle as an example as well:-
"To the body, a worrisome, fearful thought means I am in danger, and it responds accordingly, even though you may be lying in a warm and comfortable bed at night. Th heart beats faster, muscles contract, breathing becomes rapid. There is a buildup of energy, but since the danger is only a mental fiction, the energy has no outlet" [p131].
However what he concludes with on this page I very much concur with:-
"Part of it is fed back to the mind and generates even more anxious thought. The rest of the energy turns toxic and interferes with the harmonious functioning of the body." [p131] This agreement is important because it is the basis of the pain body. Whilst khandhas and Eckhart eclecticism are different they end up in the same place and that is significant. I am still not sure whether these differences, khandha or otherwise, matter.
"[p133] The ego is not only the unobserved mind, the voice in the head which pretends to be you, but also the unobserved emotions that are the body's reaction to what the voice in the head is saying." The ego can be the unobserved mind in the sense that people are not trying to observe themselves. The ego sneaks up on you even when observing has begun but been forgotten - on the Path, and in some cases when active observing has begun ego still sneaks into nooks and crannies.
The ego identifies with that part of the voice in the head that is not Natural thinking - not Insight - not Now thinking, and identifies with those repetitive thoughts. But for the rest of the quote we have the confusion caused by the debatable body's reaction. If there are emotions arising because of Natural thinking there is no problem - that is Nature, if emotions arise as a consequence of thoughts that have been attached to that is ego. Here the notion of body's reaction is definitely confusing.
Khandhas arise naturally
It is the nature of khandhas to arise, that's all - just nature. Emotions arise to events whether they are natural or egoic; they just arise. In all cases such emotions need to be let go, experienced and let go. However if the event is egoic ie that the ego is clinging to such an event then the ensuing emotion is also likely to be clung to. I think back to when anger took over. Ego reacted to some conduct from one of the individuals who riled me. Ego would rabbit in my head "Why did they do that? It is so unfair." I would get angry and that would fuel the thinking. Basically this egoic process added to my pain body. But the "body" forms naturally through the internalisation of these emotions based on egoic thinking, does it have to be the "body's reactions" in order to call it a pain-"body"?
When I have been doing my emotional cleaning such as Nyanga the pain and emotions I released were real, at that time they were situated in my stomach. At other times the pain and emotions have been situated in my knee, and most recently the pain and emotions have been in the glands in my head. I am happy, for the moment (covering myself), to accept that these "situations" are in my pain-body - it is only a term - a description. But the process, as far as I understand it, is as I described - ego attaching to khandhas usually emotions and internalising them; certainly the stuff I have released has been formed that way. Similar to this:-
"Those reactions are the emotions. The emotions, in turn, feed energy back to the thoughts that created the emotion in the first place. This is the vicious circle between unexamined thoughts and emotions, giving rise to emotional thinking and emotional story-making" [p133], but not exactly because the reactions he refers to came from the body causing emotions. This circle in my case is not always unexamined as there have been times that I have been conscious of doing it and unable to stop myself, but I do believe the worse aspects of my pain body were developed unconsciously. However overall I am comfortable with the term "pain-body" because these internalised emotions felt solid.
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