In an earlier article, I presented the three practices from Eckhart Tolle’s teaching that I find useful – Attention, Alertness and Acceptance. The second practice, Alertness, involves catching oneself losing in an egoic thought pattern. The question is: what kind of behaviour is indicative of egoic thinking? Here is an excerpt from Eckhart Tolle’s book “A New Earth: Awakening to your life’s purpose” in which he articulates 9 ways of losing ourselves in egoic thought pattern. (page 254):
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Here are some ways in which people unconsciously try to emphasize their form-identity. If you are alert enough, you may be able to detect some of these unconscious patterns within yourself (Note: the book doesn’t have the numbering. But the wording is Eckhart’s):
1. Demanding recognition for something you did and getting angry if you don’t get it
2. Trying to get attention by talking about your problems, story of your illnesses, or making a scene
3. Giving your opinion when nobody has asked for it and it makes no difference to the situation
4. Being more concerned with how the other person sees you than with the other person, which is to say, using other people for egoic reflection or as ego enhancers
5. Trying to make an impression on others through possessions, knowledge, good looks, status, physical strength, and so on.
6. Bringing about temporary ego inflation through angry reaction against something or someone
7. Taking things personally, feeling offended
8. Making yourself right and others wrong through futile mental or verbal complaining
9. Wanting to be seen, or to appear important
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This list helps me as I play "catch me if you can" game from time to time. Perhaps you might find it helpful. I found it useful to focus on one or two patterns which are dominant in those days. For example, I have played with no 3 (giving opinion when nobody has asked for it), no 5 (trying to make an impression through knowledge). As a trainer I become alert on "creating an impression" part. It appears as though "creating an impression" is necessary to have an impactful training. No 7 (taking things personally) is a slippery area too. Sometimes I just smoothly slide into it especially during the conversation with my wife. No 8 (I am right, others wrong) provides ample of opportunity for doing the experiment.
What happens when you catch yourself in an egoic thought pattern? You create a momentary gap in egoic thinking. How long is this gap? I don’t know. Perhaps the gap is tiny – less than a second. In fact, I don’t have any control over the duration of the gap. Hence, Eckhart suggests that one should try to catch oneself in the egoic thought pattern as often as possible.