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I'm currently reading "A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose" by Eckhart Tolle and am finding his treatment of ego thought provoking

In common usage, ego refers to the self.  It may appear as confidence, self regard, pride, and self-respect,. Too much ego is an overinflated sense of self.  On one end of the continuum is the egomaniac -  both insufferably arrogant and generally out of touch with reality.  On the other end, a fragile ego subject to the myriad pitfalls of low self-esteem and the possibility of deliberate self-destruction.

But these are only manifestations of ego.  The ego itself, in Tolle's estimation, is identity.  A construct.  The answer to the question, who am I?  We create our own identity, sometimes deliberately but mostly unconsciously and once it is created we expend a great deal of energy to defend and maintain it.  On a personal level, defense may include fault finding, reactivity, accumulation of objects and at times paranoiac distrust of others.  Collectively, we may take on the identity of groups which are likely to be equally destructive.

Tolle traces the development of ego from childhood when we began to assume the roles which will define our developing identity.  This is the time when the concept of 'mine' begins to invest objects with a sense of identity.  We are better than others because of what we have.  We associate ourselves with gender, race and cultural identity at a young age and this association with roles continues throughout our lifetime.  We learn to define ourselves - to strengthen our identity - by separating ourselves from others. 

Over time, life experience shapes us.  We become conscious of what Tolle calls 'me and my story' - an awareness which allows us to generate ego and reinforce our sense of individuality.  We mistake this sense of individuality for who we are, conceptualizing ourselves based on our perception of past achievement, disappointment or conflict  but always conceptualizing - always creating a self that does not encompass our fundamental being - always basing this self upon thought processes.   Frequent, almost incessant self-talk, results.  We warn ourselves that others are not to be trusted, for example, because we believe that this is our experience.  But who is the self that must be told?

According to Tolle, our true self is consciousness - it cannot be found or promoted but only experienced.   Most of it experience this truth only occasionally but Tolle believes that it is accessible to  all once the false self is clearly identified.  This awareness is the key to enlightenment.

It is the author's specific hope is that individual enlightenment is beginning to occur at an accelerated rate, reach a kind of flash point and give way to a universal shift in consciousness.  As in the Zohar, Tolle begins his book with an analogy to flowers.   He gives us a beautiful image of the primordial birth of flowers.  Blossoming is compared enlightenment.  The flash point of flowers opening all at once over the entire earth is Tolle's universal shift.  If Kabbalah is a rose, Tolle's flower is profusion.

You can learn more about Eckhart Tolle from his book, "A New Earth" as well as from his 2009 with Oprah Winfrey.webcast.

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