Is selflessness possible?

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?DSC00559

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.

Just for today I do not worry

It’s a never-ending habit. Starts in the morning and ends before you go to bed. Drives your mood, your relationships, your decisions. I’Imagem talking about the habit to worry. You might already have read “Just for today I do not anger,” referring to the five principles taught by Reiki founder Mikao Usui. “Just for today I do not worry” is one of the five.

But how to stop worrying?

It goes on and on and invades our mind: Will you earn enough to pay for your health care needs when you get old? Will you perform as expected in the new job?
Does he love you as much as you love him?

The list is long and you keep worrying… from being late for an appointment to major decisions in life.

According to the five-element theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine, we are all born with wisdom (and the wisdom resides in our “kidneys”). This wisdom refers not only to the inner capacity of the body to self regulate, repair, regenerate and heal. It also refers to instinct, reflexes and intuition.

The baby knows the caregiver will tend for his/her needs and trusts the world. It’s driven by something that we don’t yet fully understand, to the breast, to suck its nourishment (it’s not just a reflex). The baby cries to signal a need; it cuddles because he or she knows love; it smiles because he or she responds with kindness to our care.

The newborn comes to this world equipped with wisdom, trust, faith, confidence, joy, a sense of integrity and of connection with mom. But as the baby grows up, these feelings and emotions suffer. Life is painful, frustrating… you don’t necessarily get what you ask for. As we experience the world, it is inevitable to experience – to some extent –  betrayal, abandonment and/or rejection. Mild as an experience could in many cases be, it would shape our feelings. We learn anger, resentment, grief, mistrust and fear as the result of hurt and frustration. We may even lose faith in our capacity to master the world and create our own reality.

As fear sets in, wisdom is overshadowed by it and the result is worry. We stop trusting. We no longer experience faith in our connection with the whole.

Fear becomes the enemy. It stops us from loving fully, from enjoying life, from trusting others. Worry is often the sheer expression of our fear.

Faith in the universe, faith in our capacity to create our reality, will lead us to stop worrying. It might sound cliché, but we need to really believe that “everything is going to be alright.” Not necessarily because we will always get the results we want in any given situation but because we will have the necessary wisdom to make the most of it and because, even when we can’t understand it, the results are related to something deeper: our soul purpose.

How can we help our children keep the wisdom intact and avoid the fear?

Just for today, I do not anger

ImageWhen I took the Reiki Master level class in 1999, my master told us that the mastery path consisted on achieving success in two “tasks:” One, aligning our will with the universe’s will and two, mastering the five Reiki principles:

  1. Just for today, I do not anger

  2. Just for today, I do not worry

  3. I give thanks for all of my blessings

  4. I honor my parents, elders and masters, and

  5. I work honestly (on myself)

Reiki founder Mikao Usui had developed these principles to help practitioners and students on their spiritual path.

I started to look at the principles and to find ways to apply them. Years before I took that Reiki class, I had read Richard Bach’ explanation of why we get angry. It hit a chord with me. Could it be? Is there always, as he said, a power issue behind our anger?

Throughout the years, I tested Bach’s hypothesis and it seemed to work for me; so, I shared it with others. It seemed clear that when I got angry at the guy that didn’t provide me with, for example, good customer service over the phone, my anger responded to a feeling of  something that sounded like, “who does he think I am? Doesn’t he recognize that I am not a dummy? Why does he talk to me as if I know nothing of the issue I’m calling about?” It felt that I was right in demanding more from customer service.

But what about when my anger was related to family matters? Why do we get upset with people we love? Are we really into power struggles with them? At times, the answer was a resounding yes! And so, I left Bach’s hypothesis unchallenged for the time being.

Later on, Don Miguel Ruiz’s writings offered me another pearl of wisdom. We get angry because we take it personal, he thinks. Do we? Maybe!

And there I went on testing the new hypothesis, combining it with the former one, eagerly trying to know the truth.

However, only recently it has dawned on me that anger is most likely related to love or the lack of it.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine’s five element theory, we’re born with love, compassion and kindness and life experience makes us acquire opposite emotions: hate, anger, resentment.

At first, I started to notice that, indeed, when I got upset, I could be just reacting to unkindness, which felt… fair? I mean, there is indignation and there is anger, right? Indignation is when we justly get annoyed because of something ugly, unfair, unjust or disgusting.

But there was something else. Unkindness just alerted me of the fact that I had a need to feel loved and liked. When somebody is unkind to me, I deducted, then I feel I am not loved. And this could explain the temporary falling out of balance.

Next question I asked myself was if I assumed that I shall be loved? And then, was my feeling rooted on unresolved issues from my past? But, I didn’t think so.

There is this part of me that knows only love, that resonates with love. Unkindness feels as a discordant note. And this was also part of the answer. However, I kept digging.

There was something else, I found, and the insight came out with tears. Unkindness by others also alerted me of my incapacity to love unconditionally and to totally accept others as they are.

I am love and love is what I came to experience! Since love is my north, becoming aware of how far I still am from achieving my destination obviously saddened me deeply.

I shall continue to work on the principles… I shall keep on working honestly on myself!