A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
Sit Down and Read
One Line Summary
Who are you not?
I love Eckhart Tolle. He is a world renowned spiritual teacher that drops knowledge all the time, but that’s not the only reason he’s great. His personality is such a 180 from my own that he cracks me up. Everyone assumes that Tolle talks like he’s in another dimension because he’s enlightened, but actually if you read other enlightened teachers, none of them talk like that. Which means that’s just part of his personality. Hilarious.
Anyway, A New Earth is the second book published by Eckhart Tolle, following the massive success of The Power of Now. The Power of Now was a hugely influential book for me that I read back in graduate school, but most of the hardcore spiritual ideas went way over my head. Still, it’s a great introduction to true spirituality.
A New Earth is more advanced knowledge. I would not start with this book if you haven’t read The Power of Now first. Finish that, let it digest and then come to A New Earth.
In this book, Tolle expands on the concept of the Ego, pain-body and your true existential nature. As it turns out, you’re not a human being living on planet earth. But also, you kind of are.
Confused yet? Good. This isn’t about belief or acquiring knowledge. It’s not about becoming a better person. It’s not about serving some God or unity with the divine.
It’s about waking the fuck up.
Why it’s Awesome
“Knowing yourself deeply has nothing to do with whatever ideas are floating around in your mind. Knowing yourself is to be rooted in Being, instead of being lost in your mind”
-Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
Do you know who you are? The shocking answer is no, you do not. Yesterday I talked about how when you’re an infant, you’re basically just this giant ball of nothing. You have no beliefs, no opinions, no identity at all. And yet, you exist. So there is something that’s “you” which exists before the mind starts saying “this is me” or “this is not me”.
You say that what you were was an undeveloped infant without even an ability to form an identity. But notice that this interpretation is no longer accurate to who you currently believe yourself to be. Yet you would say you are just as much “you” as you were then, only you’ve changed. But how can what you truly are change? If it’s honestly 100% who you are at the deepest level, there should be some constant that has always been there, no matter your interpretation. Let’s call it Constant You.
But what is this Constant You? If what you are existed before all beliefs, then what can we say about this constant in words? That would make it into a belief, and we’ve gotten no where.
Does your head hurt yet?
This is why spiritual teachers are forced to use this strange sounding words like Spirit, Consciousness or, in Tolle’s case, Being. They are purposefully non-descript because they’re trying to explain what inherently can’t be explained about who you are
That’s what A New Earth is all about. Find out who you are when you drop ALL beliefs and opinions about yourself. What is it that remains?
If this seems like an insignificant question to ask yourself, I’d suggest you reconsider. We spend so much of our time wondering what is right or wrong for ourselves. Is this style “me”? What am “I” passionate about? What is “my’ purpose? What do “I” care about? But if you’re honest with yourself, you’d have to admit you’ve never really found an answer that 100% works. I know people in their 50’s who are still trying to figure out what they want do with their lives.
Wouldn’t it be incredible if you could actually full resolve this question? Would that be worth pursuing? Because that’s what we’re talking about here. 100% clarity of who you are. No questions asked. No questions even possible.
Even more incredibly, you’d be able to answer the question of what happens when you die. 100% clarity of who you are means there’s no fuzziness of where you go when it’s all over.
For me, I have to know. I’ve never been a person that was okay with a giant question mark hanging over my head. I want to know what’s true. Even if it doesn’t benefit me in the least, it kills me not to know the answer.
So how do we find this Constant You? If we can’t put it into words, then it seems impossible. What other option is there?
Amazingly, there is another option. And it’s what makes this whole thing worthwhile pursuing. Besides words, thinking and rationality, there is one other way that we understand things: direct experience. You can understand this Constant You the same way you’d very quickly understand fire if I put your hand in a candle, even if you’ve never heard of fire and had no conceptual understand of how it works.
I love this because this means that we’re not talking about some religious belief you have to have faith in. You can see it for yourself, provided you do the math and don’t just watch the teacher. No belief required. In fact, considering belief is what is standing in our way, belief can actually hurt. I’ve fallen into this trap before myself, since I’ve read so much on this topic. In reality, I know nothing.
Tolle recommends are very specific strategy for directly experiencing the Constant You, and it’s related to his first book, The Power of Now. The strategy? End the illusion of time. Easy, right?
Some people freak out when you say that time is an illusion. But let’s break down what time really is.
What time ACTUALLY is is a CONCEPT. The human mind came up with it in order to help us function in the world. And it’s an extremely useful concept that has proved over and over accurate. But you’ve never actually “experienced” time directly. If you think you have, please explain to me where you’ve found it. I would like to say Hi.
Notice that, at any given moment, the past and future only exist as a thought. And that’s all they ever have been. A memory or an anticipation. You’ve never been anywhere but the present moment.
Ending this illusion helps us find the Constant You because almost all the beliefs you have about yourself have something to do with time. Either you define yourself as some memories or you define yourself as what you will do in the future. But who are you RIGHT NOW? No memories. No projections into the future. This exact moment, what are You?
If you can truly answer this question, you’ve found the Constant You. This is what was you before you thought you were anything at all.
Another strategy Tolle advocates is paying attention to what is Not. Sounds confusing, so let me go more in depth.
If you’ve managed to follow along with what I’ve been saying, then you understand that we’re looking for something undefinable. Therefore, what we can try and do is say what the Constant You isn’t. Pay attention to silence in between words. Pay attention to the empty space that seems to hold everything. By doing this, your perspective will begin to shift.
The final way people tend to find the Constant You is not through a “technique” but suffering. For instance, say someone defines themselves heavily as an athlete. Their whole life they’ve almost nothing else but play sports. Everyone around them thinks of them as an athlete. Their entire future is set up on the expectation they we will continue being an athlete. It is who they believe themselves to be completely.
But then, one day tragedy strikes and our athlete receives a career ending injury. Their entire life falls apart. They are forced to let go of their identity as an athlete, which is all they’ve ever known themselves to be. In that moment, the Constant You is there. And some people experience tremendous spiritual growth when this happens. They see that actually their identity as an athlete is a sham. Adyashanti is one such person who had these experience.
Obviously this is not a pleasant experience. In fact, you could equate it almost with a sense of dying. What you falsely believed yourself to be has to dissolve in order to find the truth that remains. There isn’t really any other way around it.
Why Does It Suck
I’m not a spiritual teacher or a guru. I’m not a life coach. I’m not enlightened. I’m just a guy who is looking for answers like everyone else. So don’t just believe anything I’m saying. And more importantly, don’t just believe what these spiritual teachers are saying.
It’s possible that Tolle is full of shit. We have no way to prove he’s not. I’ve done everything I can to make that what I’m believing is accurate. I’ve cross referenced it with just about every great philosophical teaching there is. But I could be wrong. And so could Tolle. And so could every Enlightened teacher. Maybe they’re delusion too. Maybe it isn’t possible to discover the Constant You. Maybe there is no Constant You.
I love Tolle, but he has a way of explaining things that adds a lot of unnecessary fluff. Sure, it sounds all “spiritual” and cool. But realistically, that doesn’t make it useful to waking up. It can get easy to get caught up in the finger pointing at the moon instead of the moon instead.
The Wrap Up
I absolutely love this book and highly recommend it to anyone looking to discover their life purpose and who they are. But just know that there are better books out there on this same subject. Tolle is a great introduction, but there is still more to know. Enlightenment and finding the Constant You is the most challenging subject I’ve ever encountered. You’ve never done anything like this before in your life. And if you’re serious about it, you’re going to need many teachers.
All that matters is opening up the next lock.