One of the most compelling challenges in my spiritual life has been to really understand the motives underlying any feelings and actions. One of my teachers said a long time ago that a healer needs to achieve what he called “pure intentions.” However, since subconscious forces drive us, how do we know?
For example, the most generous gestures could be driven by the need to please others or be loved. An action could give us stature to the eyes of others but only our inner core would know how many pints of selfishness our generosity hid.
But this is not a new dilemma for me.
At 15, I was already a snob philosopher who could swear with no shame that she understood Socrates pretty well. Plato’s writings got me thinking about the essence of life, about beauty and goodness and I pondered what would be the best way for me to achieve some kind of utter kindness, selflessness, integrity… only to come to the conclusion that achieving this utopic perfection would on itself be tremendously selfish because I’d be striving for it basically to feel good with myself.
Is selflessness really possible?
I follow the great egalitarian philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau in that man is naturally good but becomes corrupted by the pernicious influence of human society and institutions.
I also believe with Daoists that we are born with wisdom, trust, faith, love, peace and joy and life experiences makes us learn anger, grief, fear, mistrust, resentment.
But be what it may be, we’re still black and white and all the shades in between: ego and soul, yin and yang, opposite forces characteristic of duality, struggle inside.
Maybe our life is about bringing light into our darkest places. Maybe it’s about increasing our awareness of our true essence.
Maybe enlightenment is this consciousness of the whole made of contradictions, about keeping a constant awareness of our oneness in the midst of our perception of division and differences.