After having somewhat of a dreadful morning I came across this passage from Eckhart Tolle and it triggered an aha moment. It speaks of the loss of sense of self, awakening, and the end of suffering.
What exactly is the connection between suffering and spiritual awakening? How does one lead to the other? When you look closely at the nature of human suffering you will find that an essential ingredient in most kinds of suffering is a diminishment of one’s sense of self. Take illness, for example. Illness makes you feel smaller, no longer in control, helpless. You seem to loose your autonomy, perhaps become dependent on others. You become reduced in size, figuratively speaking. Any major loss has a similar effect: some form that was an important part of your sense of who you are – a person, a possession, a social role – dissolves or leaves you and you suffer because you had become identified with it and it seems you are losing yourself or a part of yourself. In reality, of course, what feels like a diminishment or loss of your sense of self is the crumbling of an image of who you are held in the mind. What dissolves is identification with thought forms that had given you your sense of self. But that sense of self is ultimately false, is ultimately a mental fiction. It is the egoic mind or the “little me” as I sometimes call it. To be identified with a mental image of who you are is to be unconscious, to be unawakened spiritually. This unawakened state creates suffering, but suffering creates the possibility of awakening. When you no longer resist the diminishment of self that comes with suffering, all role-playing, which is normal in the unawakened state, comes to an end. You become humble, simple, real. And, paradoxically, when you say “yes” to that death, because that’s what it is, you realize that the mind-made sense of self had obscured the truth of who you are – not as defined by your past, but timelessly. And when who you think you are dissolves, you connect with a vast power which is the essence of your very being. Jesus called it: “eternal life.”