Wednesday, 21 May 2008

A New Earth, Part 2, and A Complaint Free World

I am on Chapter 8 of 'A New Earth'. Here are some quotations from Eckhart Tolle's book that struck a chord in me:
"Nobody is wrong. It is the ego in somebody, that is all. Compassion arises when you recognise that all are suffering from the same sickness of the mind, some more acutely than others."

"All you need to know and observe in yourself is this: whenever you feel superior or inferior to anyone, that's the ego in you."

"Whenever there is negativity in you, if you can be aware at that moment that there is something in you that takes pleasure in it or believes it has a useful purpose, you are becoming aware of the ego directly. The moment this happens, your identity has shifted from ego to awareness; the ego is shrinking and awareness is growing. If in the midst of negativity you are able to realise 'At this moment I am creating suffering for myself' it will be enough to raise you above the limitations of conditioned egoic states and reactions."

And three personal favourites:
"There is only one perpetrator of evil on the planet: human unconsciousness. That realisation is true forgiveness."

"Nothing that you can find out about yourself is you. Nothing that you can know about yourself is you."

"Only if you resist what happens are you at the mercy of what happens, and the world will determine your happiness and unhappiness."

I do intend to finish the book, but I don't think I need post again about it. I can make my final pronouncement about it right now. There is nothing new in this book, and other people have said what Tolle tries to get across, only much more beautifully. However, I would agree with Oprah that out of the many books like this that I've read, Tolle's is the most simply explained. If you've never been exposed to any of these concepts of consciousness and the ego, this is very clear. It's good, in a way, that there's nothing new here. If Tolle claims to have found the way to happiness, and it's the same as the sages have been saying for centuries, that must mean we're all heading in the right direction. As he says in the Chapter One webcast on Oprah's website, if you go deeper into all religions, you will find yourself at this same place.

I'm still not sure what Tolle is getting at with the pain-body stuff. I hope it's just an imperfect metaphor he's constructed to help him teach about emotion. I look forward to watching the webcast about that chapter to see if I can get any more detail about his ideas.

Overall, the book is worth a look, but I don't think it is one of the most important books ever written, or that Tolle is one of the foremost thinkers of the century or any of that other folderol I've heard Oprah spout about him. Get it from your library if you're curious.

I have been on the waiting list for 'A Complaint Free World' for months, but our library finally ordered it and I started reading it yesterday at lunchtime. This is another American thing that most of my American readers are probably more familiar with than we are over here in the UK. A pastor in Kansas City, Will Bowen, decided to challenge himself and his congregation to try to go 21 days without complaining or gossiping, and because he was in the habit of giving out 'doo-dads' as object lessons, he ordered some purple silicon bracelets to give out on the day of the sermon. The idea was to wear the bracelet all the time, and when you catch yourself complaining, you stop and move the bracelet to the other arm. You have completed the challenge when you have gone 21 days without moving the bracelet. He first did this back in 2006, and says that the average time it takes to achieve this goal is 5-7 months. I am sure most of the words that I speak are complaints in some form or another, whether it's disguised as an observation about something like politics and government, a wise crack, or general kvetching. I can't just say 'We need to tidy the living room', I always have to put some negative gusto behind it, 'This place is a dump! I can't believe we let it get to this state. I am so sick of sweeping up.'
This sort of talk is habitual, and serves only to make me feel bad all the time and make others feel bad, too. You don't even realise you're doing it. So 'A Complaint Free World' seemed like a good thing to try, because it would be a way of flagging up to me how I'm framing my thoughts and giving them voice.

You can request a free purple silicon bracelet from A Complaint Free World, but I went out on my lunch hour and bought an elasticated bead bracelet from Claire's Accessories instead. To me, the purple silicon bracelet draws attention and would cause people to ask you what you're doing or what it means, then you'd have to explain...that just seems like asking for attention for your good efforts; could lead to smugness, etc. I didn't feel comfortable with that. But no one will notice a regular bracelet, and if they see me moving it from one wrist to the other, they'll just think it's a nervous tic or something. My programme of self-improvement is for me, and any notice they take of it should be that I'm nicer to be around, not that I have a bright-coloured, faddish purple bracelet. (I did try to find a purple bead bracelet to keep the spirit of the project, but settled for a smoky gray one. It has some faceted beads in and has 3 strands, and I don't think anyone will take any particular notice of it.)

Well, I put this bracelet on at 12.30, and by 1.45 I had switched it 7 times. And that was while I was working the frontline! I stopped counting after that, but I moved it several more times and a few more times after I got home. I got up this morning and put on the bracelet, saw something on TV about wages vs the rising inflation rate, opened my mouth and had to move the bracelet again, and that was at 6.30 in the morning! The rule is, you have to move the bracelet if you speak. If you catch yourself having a complaining thought, you don't have to move the bracelet, but as you learn not to speak it, you will tend to think it less. That's the theory.

Now when I say I'm going to try not to complain, that doesn't mean that I'm going to avoid standing up for myself. I have a formal complaint lodged right now with the NHS for my local hospital taking 14 weeks to get me an appointment to see a consultant. What I'm talking about is a constant stream of negative remarks that serve no purpose other than to keep me in a general state of negativity and make me a pain in the butt to be around. If no one notices a difference in me, so what. If I feel better within myself, that's the important thing--and maybe my skin will clear up! :)

This book is a quick read. I will finish it today as it's my day off and I have no intention of going into town because I've spent enough money lately and every trip into town ends up costing me at least £20. (It's a mystery why stopping for a loaf of bread ends up in a shopping spree to feed the Waltons.)

I think the idea to try to go without useless negativity is a wonderful one. It's day one for me again today, because every time you move the bracelet you have to start over. If anyone wants to join me, feel free! Get yourself a bracelet or some other token and check in here with me, and if you have a blog, leave us a link, please!

Oh, I have my first lesson with a new driving instructor today at 3.15. Full report later!

May all beings be at ease.


Morandia said...

the complaint free world sounds interesting...

as to A New Earth - I like the quotes you posted but I do take exception to part of the first one. "Nobody is wrong. It is the ego in somebody, that is all. Compassion arises when you recognise that all are suffering from the same sickness of the mind, some more acutely than others.":

I don't necessarily agree with the idea that we are all suffering from the same sickness of the mind. I don't like the idea that we start out broken and need fixing. Maybe it's just me....

Laura said...

I decided not to do the bracelet thing, but am trying to complain less. I can SO sympathize with your switching it 7 times in 45 minutes. I've begun to notice how often I greet people with a complaint! Like "wow it's gray today" or "isn't that ice machine awful?" (two examples from this morning!). I think I try to bond with people by complaining with them. I'm sure I could use more positive statements to achieve the same goal!

Fat-Free Vegan said...

Hi Carla! I don't think Mr. Tolle claims to have discovered anything new, I think he's just expressing things in a different way that might help more people connect with the message. I think there are many paths to the same truth, and his is but one of them.

I have read The Miracle of Mindfullness and other such books, and I couldn't connect with them or get anything out of them, but then that's just me. They didn't reach me. But from the moment I picked up A New Earth, it's all made perfect sense to me and I believe I've gained a lot from it. For me, the chapter on the pain-body was one of the most important because I could actually see it within myself. I would agree with you that I don't particularly like the term he's given it, but you could use any term that is more to your liking to describe it. But I can clearly see where mine has reared it's ugly head, and I believe that when it does again, I'll be ready for it.

I guess what I'm saying is that while his teachings may not connect with you, that's fine -- you've found other things that do. But for many of us, myself included, it's just what I needed to hear, and I am very grateful for it. So for ME, it is one of the most important books ever written. But it doesn't have to be for you. :)