The title makes it sound like a self-help book, but author Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose” is unlike any self-help book I’ve ever read (after hearing me rave about this book recently, you knew this review was coming, didn’t you?).
Live in the moment.
To summarize, that’s your life’s purpose.
Not to be organized. Not to be a good mom (or a good anything — in fact, good is just a “fragmented perception of the wholeness of life”). Not to make money. Not to save the planet. Not to worship God (though being present is a form of that).
Just live in the moment. That’s it.
But it’s complicated, which is why it takes him 309 pages to explain it. Eckhart’s philosophy involves the ego, the difference between I and me, “pain-bodies,” awareness and enlightenment, and he uses common language to describe these intangible concepts. Some people accuse Eckhart of being redundant, but I admired his attempts to describe this way of interacting with the world in different ways. I enjoyed the deep-thinking journey.
Ah, I enjoyed the journey! I am living in the moment! I am enlightened!
Whoa, stop right there. Eckhart explains as soon as you think you’re enlightened, you’re not. This enlightenment business is a constant battle with the ego.
If the measure of a book is how much it changes your life, this book was great for me.
Here’s a small example: Today is Father’s Day, so my Beloved wanted — felt entitled to — a certain meal for breakfast. My stepson, fresh from his workout, “didn’t feel good.” So they sat on the couch this morning reading Yahoo! news while I labored in the kitchen over three different cooking pots and a 5-pound watermelon that was loath to be sliced.
I was resentful. My thoughts were anything but charitable: Why was I making breakfast? My Beloved isn’t my father! I’m not the one who wants scrambled eggs and sausage? I don’t even like watermelon! And I’ll be the one to clean up this whole mess!
But Eckhart counsels in his book that there are only three ways to do anything: Acceptance. Enjoyment. Enthusiasm. “Not what you do, but how you do what you do determines whether you are fulfilling your destiny. And how you do what you do is determined by your state of consciousness.”
“Resentful” and “wishing away” my breakfast chores would not be considered aware and enlightened.
So I changed my attitude. I observed my resentful self, so attached to my role and my Sunday morning. I adjusted, and starting accepting, if not enjoying, this breakfast-making process of the present moment. I tried to create perfect little cubes of watermelon. I paid attention to the sausage so it wouldn’t burn. I enjoyed the sizzle of the eggs as they hit the hot oil.
I wasn’t 100% successful in combating my resentfulness or being present in the moment, but my Sunday morning wasn’t ruined.
If this description sounds like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo to you, you probably won’t like “A New Earth.” Eckhart says not everyone is ready to be enlightened, i.e., to understand the concepts he touts, and they won’t like his book. I think it’s a brilliant way to combat bad reviews: “Only the unenlightened wouldn’t like this book” (I need to remember that for my next book).
To be clear, I think this book is the beginning of enlightenment, not the end. But if you’re looking for a little Eastern philosophy served up with a side of Jesus to help you combat the chatter of your mind, “A New Earth” might be a good start.
Looking for other books suggestions? Check here.