Tuesday, August 18, 2015


I really got a lot out of Eckhart Tolle's book A New Earth when I read it a few years ago.  It is a new age book, and there are probably some ideas in there to be avoided.  However, when I read it, it really broke through to me and spoke to me on a deep level.  I was able to let go of a situation (sexual harassment at work) that was in my past.  I was so angry about it, and I couldn't let it go, even when I had switched jobs, not once, but twice.  A New Earth helped me regain my sense of the present moment and accept what is. 

I am a faithful, practicing Catholic.  I was a little more new age and rebellious at the time I read this book.  So, I can't recommend a book that goes sometimes against our Catholic faith.  But one quote from Eckhart Tolle continues to come to my mind a lot. 

A point he makes is that people tend to spend time regretting the past, telling themselves that things would be different now if certain things hadn't happened in the past.  If another person hadn't done X, Y, or Z.  If something hasn't happened yet that you "deserve" or think must happen for your current happiness.  It's basically a problem of acceptance.  You must accept what is, not what you want to be, not what you think should be. 

He says that if you listen to people's stories, the stories they tell themselves, they could almost all be entitled, "Why I Cannot Be at Peace Now."  

I have found this to be true, and often true of myself.  It's a good warning.  It also lines up with cognitive behavioral therapy, which tells us that trauma happens to us, not just in events, but in our reaction and response to the events.  We often re-traumatize ourselves by re-playing situations, growing our outrage.  We criticize and complain with no healthy end, no goal in mind.  And "letting off steam" in a vague way like that tends to have the opposite effect desired - it makes things worse.  

I have compassion on others.  I try to listen deeply.  I also try to be very careful about the words I speak.  I think there is much wisdom in recognizing the stories we tell ourselves.  Are we telling ourselves that happiness, peace, love, kindness, etc. are somewhere in the future because of circumstances beyond our control?  In truth, they are waiting for us here - in the present moment - even with all of its imperfections.  It's our choice to see the good, to embrace reality, to accept what is.  It's very hard, and it's a battle I continue to fight. 

One of my favorite quotes from Viktor Frankl reminds us of our ultimate freedom to choose how we respond to life: 

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

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