Archive | June, 2013

The answer to everything? Loving yourself.

12 Jun

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I do misguided things, and why I sometimes get it right: say the right thing, do the right thing, etc. You may have run across “The Eight-fold Path” in Buddhism: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration (check out these principles at  http://thebigview.com/buddhism/eightfoldpath.html ).  It seems to me that we can unpack those tenants of Buddhism further and boil them down, to find the elusive user manual for life!

If you approach every decision you make- whether to speak or not, what to say, what to eat and when, etc., etc., it becomes clear that there are decisions that support you, and decisions that sabotage you. Regardless of your religion or moral persuasion, each decision can be made in relation to how it loves you, so to speak. Here’s a real-time, concrete example: I’m sitting here, typing this in my office.  I’m hungry, so I’m eating a cereal snack mix that’s not satisfying me.  I also know that I promised my son I’d bring my computer work to do at home during the summer, instead of sitting here away from him in the office. So, I could continue to feed my body food that’s meant for emergencies (like having no time to eat in between clients) instead of feeding it healthy, satisfying lunch; and I could continue to break my word to my son. Or, I could decide to love myself through right action, right mindfulness and right concentration.

Hey, wait!  Sitting here doesn’t sound like loving myself!  Ok, I’ll continue this discussion at home, after lunch and after I say “hi” to Harry!

(Harry decided to sequester himself in his room…but at least I’m in the dining room, typing and available! Quesadilla with apples and kale and homemade tomato sauce for lunch, by the way).

Of course, there’s the question of other people in our lives- we don’t live in a vacuum. And it’s usually in relationships that we screw up, because there isn’t anything we do or say that doesn’t effect people around us!  Here’s a recent example of something I did that illustrates pretty well how I disregarded the Eight-Fold Path stunningly well:

I received via email a request to edit someone’s letter which was attached. As I read her letter, I thought to myself, “This is not going to appeal to its audience; it’s too wordy”, etc. I spent a good hour going over the letter, rearranging phrases and deleting whole sections to make it into a succinct, one-page letter that I felt conveyed the message, while honoring the style of the author, which was very unlike my style.  I felt I had done her a service; indeed, I patted myself on the back, reflecting that I had dedicated an entire hour of my time to this request for editing.

When she responded in outrage that I had denuded her letter from its original spirit and had chopped up something she had spent six hours writing, I had a rude awakening.  In my zeal to “help”, I had instead hurt someone. I had not listened to the real need for editing; I hadn’t taken into consideration the personality of the person involved; and I had launched into this effort, which was not joyful as “right effort” should be, but which was rather based on my need to be right or superior.  True, I wouldn’t have written a letter like that.  True, I still think it was too wordy.  But the fact remains that this person has a right to express herself differently than I do. Someone I respect recently told me, “Christina, you don’t always know.”  In short, I needed to be more loving and respectful toward the letter-writer.

Ok, so what does all this have to do with loving oneself? Well, another concept of Buddhism is that we are not really individuals, separate from one another. We are one and the same: ” I am he and you are he as you are me and we are one together”, as the Beatles said in “I am the Walrus.”  Another way to look at it is that we are all strings in a web of interconnectedness; when I pull my string, the whole web is affected; the important lesson is to see to it that whenever we pull our strings, we do so with the whole web in mind. When I hurt someone else, I hurt myself. I affect the whole web, ultimately.  If I can look at other people as extensions of myself, and that I am an extension of them, it seems pretty clear that we’re all in this day together- shouldn’t I try to love myself (you, him, her, them) to make it a great day?

I have a sneaking feeling that this lesson is going to be my next deepening experience- here’s hoping I can absorb it well!

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