Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Power of Now, Ch.2: Consciousness, Ego, and my advice: Humor

My plan had been to blog every Monday about the Power of Now, but I'm not sure if I'll want to do this for eight more weeks. There are a bunch of other books about spirituality that I'd prefer to read, but... this book has a big following, including by some friends I greatly respect, so I'll try and give it a chance for awhile longer.

Anyway, last week I blogged about what I liked and didn't like about the first chapter. I'll continue in that vein with Chapter 2, but this time I'll start with what I disliked and end with what I liked.


The thing I dislike most is that this book is just so damn negative! Maybe I'm unusual, but I had a happy childhood and have had an incredibly great life. In fact, I've often marveled at how lucky I've been. So, I just don't buy-in to all this crap about the past being full of pain. I think that's very much a victim mentality. Now I know Tolle is trying to get people to stop thinking like victims, but I don't think the way to do that is to say things like "the more you are identified with your mind, the more you suffer." If we have family and friends who we love and who love us, if we have health, if we have a home...we are blessed! We have so much to be grateful for! Why aren't we reminded of that rather than being told our past is only full of pain so we should think in the 'now?'

Just like the past or the future, my belief is that the ego, too, can have both positive and negative aspects. Tolle's perspective of the ego, much like how he describes the past and future, is very negative. He says "the ego is very vulnerable and insecure, and it sees itself as constantly under threat. This, by the way, is the case even if the ego is outwardly very confident." Great! He's even saying confidence is only a front! I so disagree with that. I think confidence is everything. Our uniqueness is beautiful and once we recognize that, we have an inner-confidence that is a key to happiness.


I continue to agree with Tolle's description of consciousness. In this chapter, he describes past pain as "pain-body" and the ability to "observe" when you are falling into a pattern of unhappiness. He says, "You are now the witness or watcher of the pain-body. This means that it cannot use you anymore by pretending to be you, and it can no longer replenish itself through you." He goes on to talk more about dissolving the pain-body through a "process of transmutation."

I also agreed with Tolle in his description of some negative aspects of ego, such as the need to be right, aggressiveness, and defensiveness and would agree that these are the root of many arguments and relationship problems.

The Laptop Dancer's Advice: Find the humor

Although a lot of Tolle's writing sounds like psycho-babble to me, I do agree there's something to be said about observing your thoughts as an outsider. When I was writing The Laptop Dancer Diaries, it was kind of cool that part of my mind was like an "observing author" of the events that were happening. And when something embarrassing would happen, instead of getting all upset about it, I would think: "This will make a good story for my book!" Another great thing about writing a humor memoir was that I was always looking for the humor in life's events. So, just in case you get tired of being in the "now" another strategy might be that when something negative happens, see if you can make a funny story out of it. There's a lot of truth to that saying: "We'll laugh about this some day." Make that day as soon as possible!


Chandi J. said...

I haven't read his books but there sure does seem to be big following in Boulder! I recall flipping through one of his books once out of curiosity but it didn't feel like the right thing for me. He's saying the same things many spiritual teachers say and it just depends which approach resonates more for you... I resonate more with Byron Katie's approach.

Rob said...

This is so interesting. I didn't think the book was negative. I thought it often examines unhealthy states of being and behavior and then shows a way out of them. I thought it was very positive.

You've mentioned a happy childhood and family who love you and a house and being blessed. These are all wonderful things that we can enjoy. Yes, people who have that can count it as a blessing. What I wonder is: do you want to have your blessing and happiness come from those things? Those are external things and as many of us have discovered can evaporate quickly. So, what Tolle describes is not a particular type of reality to strive for or eschew (i.e. pain from the past or such), rather it's a recipe for an existence that's imperturbable in the face of the vicissitudes of this world.

"Confidence is everything"? I don't agree with this. Confidence tends to accentuate the "me" in my experience. Or maybe it depends on external things again, such as confidence in God or some other authority. I would rather have resiliency or robustness than confidence. After all, I'm here experiencing the whims of this life and confidence feeds a vision of the future, a vision that is often hard to realize or it's realized by allowing the ego to push things around. I'll admit this is an area of struggle for me, since it goes counter to the revered spirit that built much of America, Capitalism and Technology.

I suppose you could have confidence that things will work out in some form and that form is unknown until it appears. Even that seems like a product of the ego to me. If I delve into groundlessness, then there is no confidence and there is tremendous release and empowerment as I discover I can surf any wave that comes along. I tend to think of that as "peace of being", watching this physical form travel along it's journey. It doesn't need confidence, it simply is and always is. I mentioned in my other comment about ripping things apart and this is a case in point. It might not suit everyone and that's fine.

Well, this has been interesting. I'm thinking about typing in an edit program window and then pasting into this little text window if I keep this up! I want lebensraum!


Yvette said...

Wow, Rob, you are a great writer! I'm off to the airport soon for a business trip, so I don't have time for a long reply, but I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to leave comments, both on this post and on the other.

I wanted to spark some discussion and I really appreciate seeing the viewpoints on this and trying to understand the power this book holds over so many. I've heard from several that it is "life-changing."

Thank you, again, and I'll look forward to hearing your thoughts on "Chapter 3"!!/VillifiedIdiot said...

Stuff is bad news…If you do it perfectly, you'll detach from reality…Like Ignatiius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits…Its almost like Tolle has package the perfect medium for 'transference.' i.e.He used to live on park benches & if you find yourself in that sweet spot of the NOW- ALL the time, you just may end up on a park bench YOURSELF (or a psych ward)! May the farce NOT be with you!,7166,page=1