Consciousness consists of thoughts and emotions, the latter often triggered by thoughts but also coming from accumulated negative energy from our personal and social environment. Mild, or not, traumatic or unresolved experiences can hang around as negative energy packets awaiting release, triggering. The other factor in consciousness is awareness.
The world as we know it, drifting toward extinction - threatened by over-population, consumption/pollution and war (nukes et al.) is captained by this consciousness with its imbalance of the three components, favoring thoughts/emotions over awareness.
We experience then a mindstream of thoughts and emotions with occasional gaps of awareness. An artificial identity is created as refuge from the fearsome belief that we are isolated, vulnerable entities living in a hostile, indifferent world. The entity protects us from unpleasant feelings more or less effectively if temporarily by searching for or constructing evidence for our superiority to others, resisting what is with anger, impatience and judgment, accumulating status through things, gathering power over others and seeking the seductive security of money.
The belief that we exist precariously in a stony landscape of endless threats is false. We are indeed intimately interconnected. In addition to providing fake refuge the mistaken notion also stands as a barrier between us and the joie de vivre smile of recognition that lives in the gaps in mindstream, the experience of being.
And we call it ego, dysfunction, the mind-chatter that keeps us in our heads and out of our hearts, that is to say in the present where we experience the felt interconnection of ONE which is being, fathomless being, inclusive of ALL, intelligence, source of all that we are and know, beyond the passing material world. Our task in what Tolle calls the awakening is to reverse the common ratio of presence to mind-chatter which is the dysfunction plaguing our fragile life system, reverse that ratio from high percentage spent in mind-chatter to high percentage spent in presence. Out of this new consciousness will flow A New Earth, the one intuited by sages throughout his(her)story, an imperative for our species, now only a small step away.
It is an incredibly exciting and simple insight, that creating gaps in mindstream requires nothing more than shifting your attention away from words in your head to taking a breath and re-realizing that you are.