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Tuning Out Ego and Tuning Into Others

Don't be led by your ego; tune in to the other person for a successful relationship, writes Eckhart Tolle

How quick we are to form an opinion of a person to come to a conclusion about them! It's satisfying to the egoic mind to label another human being, to pronounce righteous judgement upon them.

Every human being has been conditioned to think and behave in certain ways — conditioned generically as well as by their childhood experiences and their cultural environment. That is not who they are, but that is who they appear to be.

When you pronounce judgement upon someone, you confuse those conditioned mind patterns with who they are. To do that is in itself a deeply conditioned and unconscious pattern. You give them a conceptual identity, and that false identity becomes a prison not only for the other person but also for yourself.

To let go of judgement does not mean that you don't see what they do. It means that you recognise their behaviour as a form of conditioning, and you see it and accept it as that. You don't construct an identity out of it for that person.That liberates you as well as the other person from identification with conditioning, with form, with mind. The ego then no longer runs your relationships.

Of want and fear
As long as the ego runs your life, most of your thoughts, emotions and actions arise from desire and fear. In relationships you then either want or fear something from the other person.

What you want from them may be pleasure or material gain, recognition, praise or attention, or a strengthening of your sense of self through comparison and through establishing that you are, have, or know more than they. What you fear is that the opposite may be the case, and they may diminish your sense of self in some way.When you make the present moment the focal point of your attention — instead of using it as a means to an end — you go beyond the ego and beyond the unconscious compulsion to use people as means to an end, the end being self-enhancement at the cost of others.

When you give your fullest attention to whoever you are interacting with, you take past and future out of the relationship, except for practical matters. When you are fully present with everyone you meet, you relinquish the conceptual identity you made of them — your interpretation of who they are and what they did in the past — and are able to interact without the egoic movements of desire and fear. Attention, which is alert stillness is the key.How wonderful to go beyond wanting and fearing in your relationships! Love does not want or fear anything.

If their past were your past, their pain your pain, their level of consciousness your level of consciousness, you would think and act exactly as they do.

With this realisation comes forgiveness, compassion, peace. The ego doesn't like to hear this, because if it cannot be reactive and righteous anymore, it will lose strength.

Know the real essence
When you receive whoever comes into the space of Now as a noble guest, when you allow people to be as they are, they begin to change.

To know another human being in their essence, you really don't need to know anything about them — their past, their history, their story. We confuse knowing about them with a deeper knowing that is non- conceptual. Knowing about and knowing are totally different modalities. One is concerned with form, the other with the formless. One operates through thought, the other through stillness.

Knowing about is helpful for practical purposes. On that level, we cannot do without it. When it is the predominant modality in relationships, however, it becomes very limiting, even destructive. Most human interactions are confined to the exchange of words — the realm of thought. It is essential to bring some stillness, particularly into your close relationship.If stillness is there, it can contain anything.

True listening is another way of bringing stillness into the relationship. When you truly listen to someone, the dimension of stillness arises and becomes an essential part of the relationship. But true listening is a rare skill. Usually, the greater part of people's attention is taken up by their thinking. At best, they may be evaluating your words or preparing the next thing to say. Or they may not be listening at all, lost in their own thoughts.

Be alert and attentive

True listening goes far beyond auditory perception. It is the arising of alert attention, a space of presence in which the words are being received. The words now become secondary. They may be meaningful or they may not make sense. Far more important than what you are listening to is the act of listening itself, the space of conscious presence that arises as you listen. That space is a unifying field of awareness in which you meet the other person without the separative barriers created by conceptual thinking. And now the other person is no longer "other". In that space, you are joined together as one awareness and one consciousness.

Do you experience frequent and repetitive drama in your close relationships? Do relatively insignificant disagreements often trigger violent arguments and emotional pain?

At the root of such experiences lie basic egoic patterns: the need to be right and, of course, for someone else to be wrong. There is also the ego's need to be periodically in conflict with something or someone in order to strengthen its sense of separation between "me" and the "other" without which it cannot survive.

In addition, there is the accumulated emotional pain from the past that you and each human being carries within, both from your personal past as well as the collective pain of humanity that goes back a long, long time.

This "pain-body" is an energy field within you that sporadically takes over you because it needs to experience more emotional pain for it to feed on and replenish itself. It will try to control your thinking and make it deeply negative.

It loves your negative thoughts, since it resonates with their frequency and so can feed on them. It will also provoke negative emotional reactions in people close to you, especially your partner, in order to feed on the ensuing drama and emotional pain.

How can you free yourself from this deep-seated unconscious identification with pain that creates so much misery in your life?
Become aware of it. Realise that it is not who you are, and recognise it for what it is: past pain. Witness it as it happen in your partner or in yourself. When your unconscious identification with it is broken, when you are able to observe it within yourself, you don't feel it anymore, and it will gradually lose its energy charge. Human interaction can be hell. Or it can be a great spiritual practice.


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