I'm not a fan of bandwagons, but I must admit to enjoying the latest Oprah's book club pick, A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle. Granted, I actually read the book before Oprah chose it. I've been a fan of Tolle's work for the past couple of years. His book The Power of Now is one of my favorite recommends at the bookstore. While it's shelved in self-help it's so much more profound than the usual schlock in the section. I describe it as being closer to Zen Buddhism. Tolle's focus is on present moment awareness and the shift from ego attachment to authentic being.
I think wikipedia's page on Tolle does a good job of outlining his basic teachings:
- You are not your thoughts. You are the awareness behind the thoughts. Thoughts are often negative and painful, yearning for or fearing something in the future, complaining about something in the present or fearing a matter from the past. However, the thoughts are not you, although your ego wants you to think that. Awareness of your thoughts without being caught up in them is the first step to freedom.
- Only the present moment exists. That is where life is (indeed it is the only place life can truly be found). Becoming aware of the 'now' has the added benefit that it will draw your attention away from your (negative) thoughts. Use mindfulness techniques to fully appreciate your surroundings and everything you are experiencing. Look and listen intently. Give full attention to the smallest details.
- Accept the present moment. It is resistance to the present moment that creates most of the difficulties in your life. However, acceptance does not mean that you cannot take action to rectify the situation you are in. What is important is to drop resistance so that you let the moment be, and that any action arises from deeper awareness rather than from resistance. The vast majority of pain in a person's life comes from resistance to what is.
- Observe the pain-body. Years of conditioned thought patterns, individually and collectively, have resulted in habitual emotional reactions with an apparent personality of their own. During 'pain-body attacks' we become completely identified with this 'pain identity' and respond from its agenda—which is to create more pain for ourselves and others. Observing the pain-body is awareness itself arising—as it allows humans to separate from this unconscious identification with pain."