adaptability

Selflessness & Selfishness

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Though being “a good person” is often coupled up with being selfless, being a good person is not synonymous with being selfless. Sure being selfless is a wonderful ideal to live up to, but being selfless without self-care can leave you with nothing, good person or not. Being selfless without self-care is just like not following through on the part of a flight attendants safety talk when you are told that if air pressure in the cabin is lost, to put your oxygen mask on before assisting the child you are traveling with. When I was a child I was appalled by this idea. I just could not comprehend why the child should not get cared for first. Of course now I understand that if the parent dies as a result of not putting their mask on first, they will be unable to perform their duties as a parent. Of course a child does not understand this and needs to be taught the reason for the importance of this kind of sequencing, which can be made into a lesson about responsibility and roles. In the same vein as teaching a child the value of responsibility and roles, is the value of teaching a child to not be selfish but rather to be generous and to know the principles of a wise discerning mind and a loving heart, i.e. to be a good person. However, many times in espousing the values of generosity and love we negate that there are times when being selfish is of service, to our children as well as to ourselves. Much like the analogy of putting on the oxygen mask, if we don’t care for ourselves first, all our idealistic actions are in many ways for naught. For instance what good is it to give money away if you cannot feed yourself? Or, what good is it to be kind to a person who has caused you great pain, if you cannot be kind to yourself as a result? Of course this kind of exploration of the value of self-care before selflessness can go on and on and on.

One must be clear that the purpose of such contemplation is not to negate the value of selflessness, but rather to clarify the role of the value of selfishness. When we take the time to contemplate where we can truly give selflessly without taking from ourselves something that is a necessary component in our ability to give selflessly, we are using great faculties of the mind. Such contemplations can then become tools of our witness function, enabling us to see beyond the concepts of selflessness and selfishness and into the desires motivating them. When selflessness is motivated by a desire for self-gratification is it in fact selfless? When selfishness is motivated by a desire for true generosity is it in fact selfish as we see it, in a negative light?

Knowing the ultimate aim enables clear action. If the aim is to be of service, than first being of service to self enables one to be fully of service to others. If the aim is to be loving and kind, then first being loving and kind to oneself enables the ability to be loving and kind to others. If the aim is to quiet the mindstuff than being selfish about maintaining peacefulness enables attainment of this goal.

Being a selfless person is an excellent ideal and goal to set for yourself. I know that I aim to do something selfless everyday. Sometimes, for me, the only thing I have to give that won’t take away from what I need to get through the day without falling apart is a warm smile. And because each day is different, and each moment of each day is different, what I have to give changes constantly. For any of us to truly give selflessly we have to check in just a regularly as we breath to know what will serve in any given moment. What will serve self, and what will serve others. This is where the value of selfishness resides, in the practice of self-witnessing and responding to the world accordingly.

With Love, Always, In All Ways, For Giving, In Joy,

Genevieve

Dangerous. Love.

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Dangerous. The world we live in. Dangerous. The thoughts we think. Dangerous. Ignorance. Dangerous. Awareness. Dangerous. Hate. Dangerous. Love. The terrorist attacks in Paris this weekend rippled an echo of danger around the world. Stirring a pot that is already boiling, on the verge of boiling over. Like rubbing velvet against the grain, even the most isolated of us feel something adverse, something that puts us in some camp regarding our position on the subject. It’s human nature after all to feel something after hearing about such an act. However, what we feel depends completely on what we believe, and how we perceive the world.

Helen Keller lived her life in the dark and in silence, such an experience could have resulted in her living life in a paralyzed state of fear. That kind of experience of living is such a stark difference of perception than most of us able-bodied souls experience. Rather than living in a paralyzed state of fear, Helen Keller adapted, and to her credit is known to history as a remarkable, resilient, powerful, and incredible human. We can attribute her life experience that created the wisdom in which she said, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

There is no point in arguing that these most recent attacks on Paris make us all feel less safe, and were nothing other than heinous. Yet, we like Helen Keller have an opportunity to take something more powerful away from this experience, something greater than fear guised in the superstition of security. Remembering that life is not only dangerous, but it is also short, we have the opportunity always to receive from our lives what we put into them. Does it serve to lock ourselves away in fear of what lurks around the corner? Does it serve to judge others based on a story of someone similar? Does it serve to hold steadfast in a belief that is rooted in separation? Ignorance only serves ignorance. The more awareness any of us brings to ourselves the more able we are to see others in a light brighter than fear, stronger than force, and as powerful as love. There is always a light shining into the darkness, now is our opportunity to rise to the occasion and shine the light of awareness into a world full of ignorance, one conversation, smile, and gesture of generosity at a time.

Danger will remain, but it does not have to paralyze, it can be overcome with every ounce of strength gained by acts of love. This is the power of unconditioned love, this is the power that creates clarity out of chaos, and stars in the black blanket of a dark night.  This is perhaps what makes love always dangerous, because true unconditional love will always win.

Prayers to all of those who lost loved ones on both sides of this heinous act.  Prayers to those who hurt and are angry. Prayers to the city of Paris for whose patron Saint I am named. Prayers to all who are lost in a sea of ignorance.  Prayers to those living in danger everyday.  Prayers and love to the world.

With Love, Always, In All Ways, For Giving,

Genevieve

Dive In

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Where there is resistance is where there is the invitation for growth and expansion, to swim wide and free in the see of your spacious being. The places that rub up against us like the coarsest sandpaper, the doors we want to close and turn our backs on, the murky waters that don’t look inviting, and the reflections we look at and want to refuse to see. These are the most powerful opportunities of our lives, if we can only allow ourselves to dive in. Perhaps you remember learning to swim? I do. I recall fear, discomfort, and unease. My father had me hold his shoulders, as he would swim under and to the surface, giving me a heads up each time so I could hold my breath. Over time, I became more comfortable and found myself freely swimming through the water unassisted. If I had never learned to swim the opportunities to explore and enjoy my life would be far more limited, not to mention the peril I would find myself in if I ever wound up in deep water without a floatation device.

So much of learning to swim is like meeting the resistance of our lives and courageously diving in. Diving in does not have to be headfirst mind you. The resistance is the kind fatherly warning that you are about to go under; it’s the opportunity to garner yourself against that which may drown you. Sure, you could grab a floatation device, ignore the problem, refuse to deal, and turn away spending your life with your head above water not getting your hair wet, but how would such behavior prepare you for when you don’t have a choice. Learning to bolster up and face our challenges head on is how we learn to swim, not drown, thrive and not just survive. There is great satisfaction in resolving inner and outer conflict, in expanding beyond the parameters of what we are, for what we will become.

Where the resistance is, is the place we have the greatest opportunity, it’s the place to turn toward, not away. Dive in to the resistance and have faith that you will swim safely to solid ground, more free and happy when you arrive there than you were when you hit the water.

With Love, Always, in All Ways, For Giving,

Genevieve