Finding Presence and Purpose: Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth

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A few weeks ago I wrote about on of the first “self-improvement” books to capture widespread attention, Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends & Influence People. This week, I want to discuss a more recent book that launched its author into the ranks of influential thought leaders, Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. What makes this book different from its contemporaries? Tolle’s purpose “is not to add new information or beliefs to your mind or to try to convince you of anything, but to bring about a shift in consciousness.”

This kind of thinking is precisely what led me to write my own book, The 10 KIDmandments. I didn't set out to tell anyone how they should be a better parent, but instead to create awareness of ideas I have found important and to inspire people to think more deeply about their own approach to parenting. Many of Tolle's ideas have inspired me in my own search for meaning, and I'd like to explore a few of them here.

Living in the Present Moment

“Whenever you interact with people, don't be there primarily as a function or a role, but as the field of conscious Presence.” ? Eckhart Tolle

It seems to be getting harder and harder to make a real connection these days. Technology has accomplished a lot, but one side effect is that we've forgotten how to be present. Remember the days when waiting in line meant looking around and maybe even talking to the people around you? Today, we can check our email, read the news, even watch movies while we wait. As a consequence, we've become used to distracting ourselves rather than engaging in the moment with the world around us. 

Moments of real connection may pass us by because we aren’t mentally present. Being present is more than just physically taking up space; it is having the mindfulness to actively engage with our children, employees, and clients. When we connect with others in this way, we bring them into the present moment with us, and open the door for meaningful moments to take place.

I explore this idea in my book — KIDmandment 4 is Living in the Present. I believe that in order to live a life filled with excitement, we must consciously create our own lives. Living in the present helps us be aware of who we are and what we are feeling in the moment. In doing so, we set an example for our kids that life is what we make of it. We have the power to choose how we react in every situation when we are present in it, rather than being caught up in the past or living in anticipation of the future. The past is gone; the future is not yet here — this moment is what matters.

The Danger of Materialism

“But we cannot really honor things if we use them as a means to self-enhancement, that is to say, if we try to find ourselves through them.” – Eckhart Tolle

Tolle warns that using material possessions as the basis for our identity only sets us up for fleeting satisfaction of our egos. He writes that if we can honor the necessary objects in our lives for what they are and not appraise ourselves through them, we can break out of a potentially destructive cycle. I believe that one reason Tolle's book resonated so strongly with an American audience was the financial crisis of 2008. Suddenly, a society that had come to define itself by its wealth and possessions needed to re-evaluate that trend and begin to look inside for significance. Coincidentally, A New Earth was selected as part of Oprah's Book Club in 2008 and quickly became the fastest-selling book in the club's history.

I discuss this issue in KIDmandment 9 — Money and Materialism. I believe that happiness is ultimately found within, through doing things that we love rather than simply pursuing money and material “success.” Our children should be taught to respect money and to use it well, but not to value it above their own happiness and fulfillment. If we are lucky, we can find a path in life that gives us both fulfillment and material comfort. It's important that we teach our kids to value their work, not their paycheck, so they will grow up to take pride in what they do, not what they own.

Self-Reflection Creates Positive Change

“Awareness is the greatest agent for change.” ? Eckhart Tolle

Tolle endorses self-reflection as a path to happiness, growth, and self-improvement. He writes that if we aren't in an “acceptance state,” if we aren't fulfilled, we should look inward, not outward, to examine why. Is it because we aren't grateful for what we have? Is it because we are reacting to our experiences as though we are victims, not acknowledging our power to shape the way we interact with the world? Asking these questions early and often helps us develop healthy self-awareness, self-control, and self-determination.

KIDmandment 1 is Life's Purpose. It examines the big questions — What do our lives mean? What is our purpose on this earth? We may never completely pin down the answers, but reflecting on our actions, both our successes and our failures, leads to greater peace in the present and positive growth in the future. This KIDmandment is about understanding, teaching, and living a life filled with purpose and meaning. As parents, I believe one of the most valuable lessons we can teach our children is to discover and live their purpose.

Positive Realignment

Tolle’s book focuses on conquering the ego and attaining a mindful present. Much like The 10 KIDmandments, these philosophies can be applied to our lives both at work and at home. Being present allows a fuller experience of the now, our value is in who we are and what we do, not what we own, and self-reflection helps us recognize and live our purpose. I wholeheartedly recommend A New Earth to anyone who is seeking inspiration and guidance towards living a more peaceful, present life.

What is your favorite piece of wisdom from Eckhart Tolle? Share it by tweeting @JeffOddo!