In a recent blog, Forgetting Forgiveness, the issue of when to bring up past injustices was discussed. In this case concerning a specific slight felt at the hands of a friend, a long, long time ago. A friend who was no longer in the life, but with whom communication had recently resumed thanks to the miracle of Facebook. It was wondered whether the subject should be raised or just left in the past and forgiveness granted silently.
After some days of consideration, the decision was that the issue should be raised. Because, in the words of the advice giver, “trust must be the basis for all relationships.” He felt it was a matter of the trust having been broken between us and that the other must apologise before the friendship could be renewed.
In the days leading up to the history composition, a feeling in the gut was felt each time the topic was considered..a subtle sense – call it intuition – that this was not the right course of action. Even as the message was written, detailing the circumstances and their emotional results, the sensation continued – nagging and churning in the pit of the stomach.
Despite the misgivings, the friend received the email with great understanding and compassion, even tenderness. It was admitted apologetically, however, that neither the incident nor its long term consequences were remembered. But how was this possible? The pain experienced was recalled with such clarity, as though it had been branded into the soul on that day 27 years ago.
The recipient of the email did offer up an explanation of sorts, which in a few days time would gain deeper, more universal meaning. She wrote,
“I was so caught up in my own suffering, I was oblivious to your pain.”
We were both suffering, unaware of our shared emotional pain. The thought arose, “How could this be when we had been such close friends?”
And then the larger context of what had happened begged to be understood. What causes suffering? Why do we human beings seem to be in an almost constant state of suffering. Discontent, anger, resentment, bitterness, anxiety and depression seem to be the predominant emotions permeating the planet. It seems to be rare to encounter someone who seems genuinely happy and isn’t just saying “I’m great!” in an attempt to hide the truth or convince themselves that all is well in the world. Because we also share a blindness to each others suffering, the charade of pretending to be happy can be seen as even more tragically ironic.
The Buddhists say that life IS suffering. And we are only released from it upon realizing enlightenment. Okay, fine, but what about those of us who are mere mortals a long way from Siddhartha’s Banyan tree? Surely we aren’t meant to go through life suffering day in and day out? What would be the point of that?
The answer came a few days later in the form of a book.
Eckhart Tolle, in his book “A New Earth: Awakening your life’s purpose,” professes to have the answer to these questions and many more. Most importantly and impressively, he tells us how to end suffering. All suffering.
According to Mr. Tolle, the EGO is at the core of all unhappiness and conflict in the world, on an individual, national and international level. Infighting, petty bickering, crime, wars and all manner of conflict, he says, result from egos out of control, trying to dominate and maintain power in the individual and in the world.
While it is normal to have an ego – and we all do – the problem arrises when the ego runs the show – suffering can be the only result. To accomplish its end of getting and staying in control, the ego tricks us into thinking “we are it” and that the ego is therefore essential to our very survival. Fear of death is directly the result of our identification with the ego.
This ego-indentification occurs gradually as we grow up and mature, becoming particularly combersome during adolescence when self-consciousness, insecurities (all products of the growing ego) become the emotions driving our actions and all too often reactions. The more we identify with the ego, the more we feel separate from the “other” and become blind to the fact that they are experiencing similar emotions.
Identification with the ego distracts us from the reality of life. The “beingness” of life that can get us out of the cycle of suffering.
The ego, it turns out, is a lot like a whining child looking for attention. The ego likes to bring up the past and make us worry about the future. It is concerned with “I”, “me” and “mine.” It is that part of each of us that clings to the past by identifying so strongly with “our story.” It needs to be right and prove others wrong. It is the voice in the head that never shuts up. It keeps us from living in, and thereby enjoying, the present moment.
Mr. Tolle would assert it was the ego that in the present circumstance needed to bring up the past injustice, that needed to be consoled, apologized to, told it was right and the “other” wrong. And that by doing this the ego empowered itself, guaranteed its continued existence and, sadly, continued suffering.
Two ducks on a pond meet and begin to fight. Feathers fly and they squawk and honk and make a ruckus. Then, as quickly as it started the fighting ends and they swim away in opposite directions. The ducks then both stretch their necks out and shake all their feathers. They settle and then glide back together as though nothing happened.
The duck at the core of the Being urges us to shake out our ruffled feathers and move forward. To let go of the past and recognize that we are all the same at heart, all afflicted by the same suffering. And rather than dredge up old grievances, to be happy that at long last, the lost friend is back in the life.
To buy A New Earth: Awakening your life’s purpose go HERE.