Anyway, the impetus for me picking up a copy of Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose was to follow up on his The Power of Now, which I'd read several years ago. I recall not being “particularly impressed” with Tolle at that point, but he still had a lot of interesting points/perceptions, and I'm sure there was something out there which had pointed towards this book as something I should check out.
A New Earth hardly made me a Tolle devotee, but it, like its predecessor, had enough quality bits that it kept me engaged through the reading, although my main take-away was that it was very uneven, swinging from fascinating conjecture to classic teachings to outright “woo woo” pretty much at whim. I must admit that, early on in this, he hooked me with “The first part of this truth is the realization that the “normal” state of mind of most human beings contains a strong element of what we might call dysfunction or even madness.” … although he lays this on “the Ego” (the book is largely a denunciation of the Ego) rather than so much on “the normals”. Needless to say, I found this bit appealing:
The most interesting part of this book is the concept of the “pain body”, a “semi-autonomous energy-form that lives within most human beings, an entity made up of emotion”, an accumulation of the remnants of old emotional pain and negative emotions that lives “within the very cells of your body”. It is both individual and collective, with both single people locked into patterns of behavior and belief based on this residual pain, and nations and people acting out similar reactions, just writ larger. Perhaps counter-intuitively, the pain body seeks out pain, both in creating it in others and suffering it in the self, it feeds on “drama” and anguish and a whole spectrum of negative emotions … it is what defines most of mass-media “entertainment”, from bad people behaving badly to the concept of “if it bleeds, it leads”. There are levels of density in pain bodies, from very faint traces in the nearly saintly, to dense masses in those people whose presence makes most people cringe.All religions are equally false and equally true, depending on how you use them. You can use them in the service of the ego, or you can use them in the service of the Truth. If you believe only your religion is the Truth, you are using it in the service of the ego. Used in such a way, religion becomes ideology and creates an illusory sense of superiority as well as division and conflict between people.
Tolle suggests learning to recognize what “triggers” one's pain body so as to be able to avoid acting according to it's reactions. Obviously, having posited a fairly specific (if not unique) concept with this, he spends a good deal of the book weaving this idea into relationships with a wide range of teachings, putting a context around it to not have it seem as “made out of whole cloth” as it might standing on its own!
There are points here were he loses me, and I don't know if that's due a a failing on my end or that what he's spinning out requires more “connecting the dots” that I was willing or able to do. He begins talking about consciousness and how a higher level of consciousness is manifesting in the world, via those who are able to escape the snares of the ego and the pain body. He suggests that in most cases, only in age and death do we move through these levels and reach an awakening. Consciousness presses towards “awakened doing”...
There are three modalities of this, which he defines as acceptance, enjoyment, and enthusiasm, each being appropriate to certain situations. He also says that there are “frequency holders” developing whose task “is to bring spacious stillness into this world by being absolutely present in whatever they do”, much like the classic “contemplative” role of various monastic disciplines. The “New Earth” of the title really is only briefly dealt with here, and it is the new conscious/spiritual reality being moved towards via the other elements discussed here.Awakened doing is he alignment of your outer purpose – what you do – with your inner purpose – awakening and staying awake. Through awakened doing you become one with the outgoing purpose of the universe. Consciousness flows through you into this world. It flows into your thoughts and inspires them. It flows into what you do and guides and empowers it.
Again, A New Earth is deeply “newagey”, and if you can't stomach that sort of thing, you're going to have a hard time reading this. However, what Tolle sketches here is very interesting and much of what he walks the reader through is actionable on a self-observing level. I'm not as thrilled with this as some (heck, this was featured by Oprah's book club!), but it certainly is a worthwhile read. The used guys have “very good” copies of the paperback for as little as a penny (plus, shipping, of course) and the on-line vendors have it at substantial discounts … its popularity, however, probably means that it would be available via your local brick-and-mortar, if you're feeling like being kind to those folks.