Continuing with the ‘Power of Now’, Eckhart Tolle warns us that we may encounter, “intensive inner resistance to dis-identifying from our pain”. The closer we have identified with our pain-body and the longer that identification has existed for, the more difficult it will be to separate. Like all things in life, the younger you start the easier it will be but, also like all things in life, it is never too late to start.
Many of us thrive on our feelings of being hurt, of being the victim, of being able to blame somebody else for our mistakes, our problems. The association with our pain-body might be so great that it seems to us to be our real identity and we, especially our egos, are extremely fearful of losing our identities, or having them diminished, or even questioned, in any way.
Tolle tells us that this fear might create strong resistance to any dis-identification. “In other words”, he says, “you would rather be in pain – be the pain-body – than take a leap into the unknown and risk losing the familiar unhappy self”. That’s one of our issues, isn’t it, fear of losing the familiar. We have accurately being described as ‘creatures of habit’. It is possible to overcome this fear though but you have to be honest with yourself. Tolle advises us that “Only you can do this. Nobody can do it for you”. This invokes memories of advice given to us by Scott Peck in ‘The Road Less Traveled’, ” “There are many who, by virtue of their passivity, dependency, fear and laziness, seek to be shown every inch of the way and have it demonstrated to them that each step will be safe and worth their while. This cannot be done.” – remember that?
So, become aware of the resistance within yourself. As Tolle says, “Observe the attachment to your pain. Be very alert. Observe the peculiar pleasure you derive from being unhappy. Observe the compulsion to talk or think about it”. As with all things, our thoughts more readily pass to others that we recognize from this description, but do not be way-laid, do not avoid having to change yourself by dedicating your life to changing others. You have one, primary, responsibility, change yourself.
Observe yourself; then the work can begin. Tolle reassures us, “The resistance will cease if you make it conscious. You can then take your attention into the pain-body, stay present as the witness, and so initiate its transmutation”. Do not be surprised to feel fear, we all experience it on the verge of great changes, great adventures, and a spiritual journey is one of life’s greatest adventures. Of course, our ego knows, or at least suspects, that this journey may not bode well for it. Tolle is convinced that, “all fear is the ego’s fear of death, of annihilation. To the ego, death is always just around the corner”.
Fear, of being wrong, of being found out to be wrong, is one of the common examples of the ego’s fear of death. For the ego, any occasion of being wrong with its potential for humiliation, is an event equatable with death. Tolle tells us that that ego believes that it cannot afford to be wrong, “To be wrong is to die”. Relationships falter and wars break out on the rocky slopes of this ego position. A position that we all know is ultimately untenable. Remember deMello’s advice in ‘Awareness’, “That’s most liberating wonderful thing in the world, when you openly admit your’e an ass. Its wonderful”
We see this fear all the time, in ourselves, in others and often where authorities, public servants and public representatives are involved. A position of authority, or a public position, make the ego ever more vigilant. And, of course, organisations also have their cultures, their collective egos. All this combines to ensure that they just cannot allow themselves to be wrong; even when they obviously are, they cannot admit it. Faced with such a situation, the ego will do anything, anything, to avoid having to admit its errors, to avoid having to face up to its mistakes; anything, even, as we have seen recently in Ireland with the treatment of Garda whistle-blowers, destroying people’s lives. To the ego in such a position, the truth becomes a disposable commodity, democracy is reduced to an empty word, rather than a way of life.
And yet, as we all know, admission of an error, of wrong-doing, with the appropriate apology, can resolve almost any situation. But the ego has to be excluded. deMello, again, has words of wisdom for us.
“When people tell me,, “You’re wrong” I say “What can you expect of an ass?”
The lessons Tolle tries to teach us seem at first glance relatively easy and even trivial. Further consideration though, of their ramifications makes us aware of their true significance, of their revolutionary nature. This may be an indication of spiritual teachings; they have an outward simplicity but are, if fact, revolutionary. Think, for example, of the teachings of Jesus, imagine, for a moment, trying to live in full accordance with those teachings in our world. Difficult, perhaps impossible – we would likely be classified as crazy, by those most tolerant.
So, time to leave your ego behind, it brings nothing of value with it. Tolle tells us, “Once you have dis-identified from your mind, whether you are right or wrong makes no difference to your sense of self at all, so the forcefully compulsive and deeply unconscious need to be right, which is a form of violence, will no longer be there. You can state clearly and firmly how you feel or what you think, but there will be no aggressiveness or defensiveness about it“.
You will be free.
Otherwise, you will remain identified with your mind and you will have fear as your constant companion.
Tolle believes that so few people live in the present, experiencing the power of now, that, “you can assume that virtually everyone you meet or know lives in a state of fear. Only the intensity of it varies. It fluctuates between anxiety and dread at one end of the scale and a vague unease and distant sense of dread at the other”.
This journey is too important not to embark on it – so cast out your fears and take the first steps. Embrace the struggle, welcome it, it means that you are going places.