“Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Jesus said, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
What does “poor in spirit” mean?
No inner baggage, no identifications. Not with things, nor with any mental concepts that have a sense of self in them. And what is the “kingdom of heaven”? The simple but profound joy of Being that is there when you let go of identifications and so become “poor in spirit.” This is why renouncing all possessions has been an ancient spiritual practice in both East and West.
The ego tends to equate having with Being: I have, therefore I am. And the more I have, the more I am. The ego lives through comparison. How you are seen by others turns into how you see yourself. If everyone lived in a mansion or everyone was wealthy, your mansion or your wealth would no longer serve to enhance your sense of self. You could then move to a simple cabin, give up your wealth, and regain an identity by seeing yourself and being seen as more spiritual than others. How you are seen by others becomes the mirror that tells you what you are like and who you are. The ego’s sense of self-worth is in most cases bound up with the worth you have in the eyes of others. You need others to give you a sense of self, and if you live in a culture that to a large extent equates self-worth with how much and what you have, if you cannot look through this collective delusion, you will be condemned to chasing after things for the rest of your life in the vain hope of finding your worth and completion of your sense of self there.
How do you let go of attachment to things? Don’t even try. It’s impossible. Attachment to things drops away by itself when you no longer seek to find yourself in them. In the meantime, just be aware of your attachment to things. Sometimes you may not know that you are attached to something, which is to say, identified, until you lose it or there is the threat of loss. If you then become upset, anxious, and so on, it means you are attached. If you are aware that you are identified with a thing, the identification is no longer total. “I am the awareness that is aware that there is attachment.” That’s the beginning of the transformation of consciousness.
Excerpted from Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, pages 43-46