Saturday, October 17, 2009

Book Talking Again

One of  gifts of our recent community retreat was the recommendation by Fr. Philip Dabney, CSsR, our director, that I read Eckhart Tolle's 2005 book "A New Earth - Awakening to Your Life's Purpose." Now some, I am sure, will scoff due to its designation as an Oprah Winfrey Book Club choice and dismiss it as just another new-agey kind of book. Others may dismiss it because it is not a 'religious book'. However, I found Tolle's insight regarding the ego constructed self and the roles we learn to play while disguised in this self extremely helpful. Traditional religious language describes conversion as an annihilation of the false self. This is exactly what Tolle reflects upon using a different vocabulary. He quotes Jesus very often but also spiritual wisdom figures of many other traditions. Tolle's name has become quite well known since his first book "The Power of Now" appeared on the New York Times best seller list. That book is really a new take on living in the present moment, a version of the "Practice of the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence. In this Tolle follows the way of Thich Naht Hanh, the Vietnanese Buddhist spiritual teacher.

Most enlightening for me in "A New Earth was the nature of the ego-mind construction, the protective behaviors developed over time that keep us in the head, in the mind, and make us unhappy, angry, resentful, afraid, neurotic and narcissistic. Tolle writes that once we become conscious of this ego action-reaction tendency in ourselves and those around us, that realization alone can begin a kind of shedding (annihilation?) of ego-mind constructions and enable us to hestitate just a few seconds before reacting from our ego-bound position or reacting to another's ego-protective act which would normally send us over the edge.

The moment you become aware of the ego in you, it is strictly speaking no longer ego, but just an old, conditioned mind pattern. Ego implies unawareness. Awareness and ego cannot coexist. The old mind-pattern or mental habit may still survive and reoccur for a while becasue it has the momentum of thousands of years of collective human unconsciousness behind it, but every time it is recognized, it is weakened.
It is difficult to do this material justice. I can only heartily recommend Tolle's book for adults aware of their own need for growth in more conscious living and relating . He also offers some very valuable advice on how parents may avoid some of their unconscious behaviors and words that propel children into ego-protective construction which they will only have to stuggle to dismantle when they reach their own adulthood.

The wonderful local public library just put this brand new book into my eager hands. The wonderful Tracy Kidder has been interview in all the media about his rendering of the riveting story of medical student and Burundian refugee Deogratias (yes, that is his first name) who flees the genocide is his country and neighboring Rwanda only to arrive in New York City with little money and no English language skills. He has fled one horror only to arrive in another version - homelessness and victimization. His suffering is great but the grace of God remains and is manifest in a chance meeting with a very good soul whose determination finds Deo a family who will 'adopt' him. It seems one mircle after another and sheer instinct for survival get him through Columbia University undergraduate school and then into medical school and finally back to Burundi. There he reconnects with the family he long thought dead and realizes the dream of his boyhood to create a medical clinic in his native land.

Both of these boooks can enrich your soul.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

May I recommend a book currently on Oprah's list. It is "Say You're One of Them" by the Nigerian Jesuit, Uwem Akpan? It is a collection of short stories set in Africa. They tell of how children deal with horrible events in their lives. This Jesuit is a gifted writer.