Saturday, April 9, 2011

Ego and the Pain-Body: Liberating the Mind

In his ground-breaking work, "The Power of Now," Eckhart Tolle, an enlightened spiritual teacher, takes the reader through the mechanism by which our conditioned thinking patterns and their concomitant emotional states rule our lives.

The "ego" - our individualized and habitual way of problem-creating, thinking and problem-solving, or what the psychologist/philosopher William James identified as the "stream of consciousness" - is, Tolle teaches, always accompanied by what he calls "the pain-body." Thinking begets the pain-body, the pain-body begets yet more thinking, and so on, down the road of suffering.

Yet, like the Buddha some 2500+ years ago, Tolle also identifies a way out of suffering. End the addiction to, and the identification with, the human ego and the suffering of the pain-body will also abate. In his famous statement, "I think therefore I am," DesCartes was wholly wrong, Tolle says. "I think therfore I suffer," being much closer to the seeming truth.

"There is no ego apart from the thoughts," Tolle notes. "The thoughts, (and) identification with thoughts, is ego. But the thoughts that go through your mind, of course, are linked to the collective mind of the culture you live in (and) humanity as a whole. So they are not your thoughts as such, but you pick them up from the collective . . . most of them."
"So you identify with thinking," Tolle observes, "and the identification with thinking becomes ego; which means, simply, that you believe in every thought that arises, and you derive your sense of 'who you are' from what your mind is telling you (about) who you are."
And so our thoughts breed beliefs and motions, which in turn breed further reinforcing thoughts, beliefs and emotions, all in a psychological whirl which can quickly drive one 'mad' at any given point in time.

Stopping such thoughts is seemingly the only way in which we will break this vicious spiral. And, it is in the portal of what Tolle simply calls "Being" that we are afforded the silence that will break through into the raucous noise of the ego, bringing with it the clarity and sanity which fosters an emotional respite of peace, forbearance, compassion and well-being to a world of 'thought addicts' and 'emotional junkies.'

As the great 20th-century enlightened sage Ramana Maharshi taught:
"The mind is by nature restless. Begin liberating it from restlessness; give it peace; make it free from distractions; train it to look inward, and make all this a habit. This is done by ignoring the external world and removing the obstacles to peace of mind."

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