Trust in Basic Goodness

In the Open Heart Project Sangha, our recent topic for contemplation and discussion has been basic goodness. I’ve written about it here before, but this morning I was reminded of something else I wrote that I want to share with you — specifically because I was thinking about how self-compassion begins with trust in basic goodness. Over a year ago now, my friend Joy put together a 30-day ecourse, called Illuminate Your Heart Whispers: 30 Days of Love Prompts. She invited me to contribute, and I wrote the following about basic goodness.


basicgoodnessskyMy mission in life is to ease suffering, in the world and in myself. My method is trust in basic goodness. My practice is knowing that I am basically good, resting in this truth, and living with this understanding at the heart of everything.

“Basic goodness is our inherent wisdom and compassion, the fundamental nature of all sentient beings. We all possess basic goodness — genuine openness, intelligence, and warmth. Basic goodness is whole and complete, as it is. It is unconditional and does not depend on our accomplishments or fulfilling our our desires,” (Chogyam Trungpa). It is not something we own, or can generate or earn — it simply is.

I am already whole, all of us are — this is basic goodness. I am not a problem to be fixed, or a project to take on, and neither are you, nor anyone else. You are not — no matter what advertising, religion, culture, or that little meanie with sharp teeth that lives in the dark might say – you are not basically bad, you are not unworthy or unlovable.

Certainly, we also might be confused, hurt, discontent, and lost in delusion, and we often cause suffering from this state, but our fundamental nature is always there, intact and available. Our basic goodness is like the sky, clear blue and spacious and enduring — everything else is simply the weather.

You have basic goodness, a deep wisdom and compassion, available to you every moment. It’s right there inside, waiting all the time. No matter what mistakes you have made or bad luck you have, it remains, it cannot be used up or smashed to bits, no matter how hard you might try, how violently you resist, how fast you might run, no matter what happens to you.

Basic goodness is what is precious about each and every one of us. It is what makes us shine and sparkle, what fuels love and right action and great work. It is medicine and magic and maitri, (“loving-kindness”). It is the only thing that is unchangeable, unconditional.

Basic goodness is freedom. “If you are ever going to be free, you must be willing to prove to yourself that your inherent nature is goodness, that when you stop doing everything else, goodness is there,” (Cheri Huber).

You are who you are, you are basically good and you can’t change that, no matter how you try. Certainly, you can change habits or opinions or affiliations or memberships or addresses or hairstyles, but that fundamentally true part of you, that collection of love and wisdom and dirt and breath and blood is basically good, and in a way that is you as only you can do it. It is the best, most brilliant you can give, and the most brave you can be.

It’s such good news, no one believes it. – Chogyam Trungpa

Take a moment with me right now to pause and rest in basic goodness. Right now, in this very moment, place your hand over your heart, feel the warmth there, the beating of your heart, the rise and fall of your breath, and say “I am basically good.” Notice if any resistance arises as you say those words. Be curious about that, but gentle. Take a deep breath and say it again, “I am basically good.” Rest in the deep knowing that this is true.

We can love and accept ourselves, our reality, exactly as we are and exactly as it is. No need for self-improvement or change, no need to earn this. We can simply drop the trying and accept ourselves, exactly as we are. It takes courage to trust in basic goodness, to believe that it is our fundamental state, to believe so of others, but if we can it is the path to freedom and love. Relax completely into who you are, aware in each moment of your basic goodness, your natural wisdom and kindness, and in this way you will be of benefit both to yourself and the world.

My meditation instructor, Susan Piver, has shared a mantra that I would like to offer to you as you develop your confidence in basic goodness. It goes like this:

I am basically good.
All beings possess such goodness.
Knowing this, my heart opens.
When my heart opens, the world changes.

I invite you, kind and gentle reader, to join me, in trusting and resting in basic goodness, in keeping our hearts open. In this way, we can ease suffering, in ourselves and in the world.

Three Truths and One Wish

image by Eric

image by Eric

1. One of the best things about getting up early and having dogs that need a long walk is seeing the sun rise. This was the sky on Sunday morning. Eric and I kept stopping, standing in amazement and telling each other how lucky we were to see it. He had his phone in his pocket, so he took a picture, capturing how the light reflected off the surface of the river.

2. I’ve started making a more conscious effort to connect, to communicate directly with that which is bigger than me. It is called by so many names — Yaweh, Allah, God, the Universe, the Self, the Divine. In one of my favorite movies, Joe vs. The Volcano, Tom Hanks’ character addresses it simply as, “Dear God, whose true name I do not know.” I’ve decided for now to call it “Dear One,” and like to imagine it calling me the same. Even so, I have no idea what it is exactly, and am certain I will never really know, never fully understand it. And yet, I believe it has something to teach me about love, something I long to know, desperately want to learn.

3. The more I practice self-compassion, gratitude, and communion, the more I am able to not abandon myself. I can stay present with the hard stuff, keep my heart open, let go of blame, relax and rest. I can be patient and kind and gentle and loving. I can be who I am, be confident in the way Susan Piver describes it, “the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment.”

One Wish: May we all find someone to help and to love, along with some kind of peace, a little ease, some rest, a bit of comfort, even as we continue to try so hard.

Something Good

Hewlett Gulch, image by Eric

Hewlett Gulch, image by Eric

1. What It Takes to Be a Writer, Courtesy of Elizabeth Berg on Medium.

2. Social Media blackout poem from Austin Kleon. Word.

3. The Realization on Zen Habits. The same question Buddhism has been asking for thousands of years.

4. 8 Things You Should Let Go Of Right Now from Be More With Less. And this one, which I can’t stop thinking about, Simple Moments Make a Simple Life.

5. Why I’m Moving Into Town for the Winter on Rowdy Kittens. I love how Tammy honors what is right for her, doesn’t let herself get locked into something or pressured but rather makes the best choice for herself, for her life. She doesn’t abandon herself.

6. Tortellini with Lemon and Brussels Sprouts Recipe. This is the season I get obsessed with brussel sprouts, so this looks yummy.

7. Desire to Fly: Samantha Bryan’s Hand-Crafted Sculptures of Whimsical Aviator Fairies Going about Their Daily Lives. Just another reminder to follow where your curiosity and delight lead.

8. The Child I Didn’t Adopt on Scary Mommy.

9. You are Accepted, wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook.

10. On Raising Hands from Dani Shapiro.

11. Why One Life Hack Can Change Everything on Elephant Journal.

12. He Sings A Song For His Dead Best Friend That Entrances The Entire Audience. Such a beautiful noise.

13. Turkey Pot Pie with Sweet Potato Biscuits Recipe. Sweet potatoes and pot pie, just two more fall food obsessions of mine.

14. Strange And Dangerous Neighborhoods Exist Around The World. Here Are The Weirdest. On Viral Nova.

15. How to Send Love and Light – A Practical Guide on Medium. (Feel free to practice by sending me some love and light.) ♥

16. Dallas Clayton: Dream Big! One of my very favorite do-gooders, artists, humans.

17. The Long Road Back: How to Keep Going After the Unimaginable Happens, “Two years after the tragic deaths of her children and her parents, Madonna Badger reflects on what happened—and what keeps her going.” She was also on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah yesterday, but I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet.

18. On Owning It: I Am An Artist from Lisa Congdon.

19. a letter to the other shoe always waiting to drop from lists and letters.

20. Wisdom from Ezra Bayda,

Our capacity to understand that life itself doesn’t have an agenda, particularly our agenda, seems to be very limited. We insist on our sense of entitlement that life give us comfort, pleasure, and ease. Why can’t we understand that the fullest and richest experience of life is often the result of the difficulties that life presents, where we are forced to go deeper? Isn’t disappointment our greatest teacher?

21. The Daily Bon, a photo challenge started by Laura Simms in 2012. “It’s simple: look for something in your day that makes you smile, post your pic to Instagram with the tag #thedailybon.” I’m in.

22. Wisdom Notes with Rachel Cole, one of my favorite holiday traditions.

23. “Practical solutions” to emotional eating from Isabel Foxen Duke, in which she says,

We eat emotionally in direct proportion to our pre-occupation with food, and our pre-occupation with food is a simple function of how badly we want to control our weight and our behaviors. 

When all we care about is weight loss, all we care about is food — and when all we care about is food, emotional eating is an almost certain outcome. 

On the flipside,
when we stop trying to control our bodies,
when we respect our bodies where ever they may land,
when our weight no longer dictates our self-esteem,
when caring for ourselves emotionally comes from a sincere desire to change our lives, and not just our outward appearance,
food loses it’s power…it becomes less and less important
…and yes, we finally create space for ourselves to develop new coping mechanisms outside of food. Yes, emotional eating does drop off on it’s own without much effort — ironically, when we no longer care if we’re eating emotionally to begin with.

24. Wisdom from Brave Girls Club,

You don’t have to have special permission to take a break, you know. You have done enough. When you are tired and weary and feeling worn out, it’s okay to be kind to yourself, to shift gears and take gentle care of your body and your spirit…No more working yourself so hard that you can’t even feel anymore. It’s time to REALLY nurture and take care of yourself. You are a gift to the world, so please take care of YOU.

25. Wisdom from Lodro Rinzler, “We should commit ourselves to waking up through our work, treating it as a spacious meditation hall in which our neurosis can exhaust itself.”

26. Monica Lewinsky Gives Her First Public Speech In 16 Years And Says Exactly What Needs To Be Said. For example, this: “Being publicly separated from your truth is one of the classic triggers of anxiety, depression and self-loathing. And the greater the distance between the you people want you to be and the you you actually are, the greater will be your anxiety, depression, sense of failure and shame.” Here’s the full transcript of her speech.

27. Maybe Being a Yoga Teacher Isn’t the Thing to do After All on Elephant Journal.

28. A Meditation on Grief from Jack Kornfield.

Day of Rest

Sam, Ringo, and Eric took a very long hike together yesterday morning

Sam, Ringo, and Eric took a very long hike together yesterday morning

What I’m contemplating today: How different things would be if we were all in pursuit of sanity, health and wellbeing, rather than seeking distractions, financial gain and fame. What might shift if we focused more directly on being well rather that earning the right to it. The confusion of thinking we can buy everything we need. Discovering what I like to eat, trying new things and cooking more, with the intention of nourishing my body but also eating with delight. How I might continue the process of healing. Connecting with divinity, God, the Universe, the Self — the one whose name I do not know. Being in relationship, the wonder and the difficulty. What it means to love myself, to love another. How to start. How to stop.

Gratitude Friday

1. The colors of fall. I am amazed by them, sad because I know they are temporary, gone so soon, and the sign of a darker, colder time to come.

2. Writing practice. I’ve been looking back through some of my old journals as I start to put together the two books I’m working on. I am so lucky to have that record. I also am realizing that I have been writing these books for years, and if I simply type up what I’ve already written, 75% of the work is done. I am also surprised by my own wisdom, by how much I understood so long ago, in what was just the beginning.

3. Teaching yoga. I showed up to my Wednesday morning class and ended up with a surprise substitute teaching gig. I had absolutely nothing prepared, didn’t know until two minutes before class was scheduled to start that I was the teacher, but it all worked out. I wasn’t nervous and it was a good class.

ringobluefeelingbetter4. Ringo Blue feeling better. Just a week ago, he was so sick. I am so happy to have my healthy puppy back, even feeling grateful for the moments he’s getting himself into trouble.

5. Susan Piver’s Awake in the World talk on the four noble truths of relationships. It was so helpful, she’s so wise and funny. Eric wasn’t able to watch it with me, but I can’t wait to talk to him about it.

Bonus joy: laughing with Eric, the last tomatoes from our garden, Sam getting into bed in the early morning and cuddling with me, PicMonkey, good ideas.

 

The Shit is a Metaphor

goldenraintreecolor02I find myself constantly amazed by the color this time of year, how everything is lit up, the way some of the leaves are so bright on some plants that they look like they must be plugged in, electrified. I’m also gripped by a tender sadness as our garden gets too cold and stops producing, as things begin to die off, as the trees drop their leaves and stand naked, gray and bare.

It’s necessary, this cycling between blooming and resting, this transition from awake to asleep, from life to death. It’s the way things are, the way this works. We can resist it or try to deny it, but that only leads to more suffering.

I was watching myself this morning on our walk, noticing how I deal with obstacles. I work so hard in my practice to allow things to arise as they are, to be present with reality but without judgment or agenda, to show up with an open heart, to maintain my sense of curiosity and humor, to be patient and kind. I work at it, but so often I fail. I get triggered, hooked, irritated, upset. I act out.

that's not dirt, that's shit

that’s not dirt, that’s shit

This morning, there was horse poop about every 20 feet on at least three of the miles of trail we walked. With a puppy who doesn’t have a very good “leave it” yet when it comes to something so appealing, that means I spent an awful lot of my time trying to keep him out of it and it out of him, either by having to pull him away from it or reach into his mouth after it.

So I spent a lot of our walk this morning covered in shit. It was on my hands, the leash, and my pants. I wanted to just accept it for what it was, no judgement, but I confess after a bit, I was frustrated and looking for someone to blame. I was mad at everyone: the horses, their owners, my dog, myself. All we were trying to do was have a nice walk, to enjoy the cool air and beautiful colors and quiet and time together, and instead our path was littered with shit.

There was so much of it that at a certain point it was comical. When we came up the hill and saw the bridge we needed to cross was covered in it, all I could do was laugh. In that moment, I felt myself soften, shifting from wanting to bag up all the shit and dump it in the living room of the first horse owner I could find to feeling a genuine sense of kindness towards all of us, how hard we try and how messy and challenging the whole thing is. We cling so tightly to our sense of security and comfort that we can completely forget to look up, to see how the sky is lit up, that the leaves are glowing, to know that it is fleeting, all of it, and we must pay attention because soon it will be gone.

Three Truths and One Wish

tinybook1. Sometimes I need to see myself the way someone else sees me. Sometimes that means I need to quiet my internal critic and see the way someone else loves and accepts me, listen to the way they honor what I do, feel their gratitude and kindness. Other times that means I need to interrupt my ego, its sense of my own importance and rightness, in order to see from someone else’s perspective the suffering I am generating.

2. It’s hard to be wrong. Especially when I try so hard to say the right things, to not make any mistakes, to be perfect. But when I’m wrong I have a choice. I can smash myself to bits or I can be kind, gentle, forgiving. I can try again, not give up, say I’m sorry.

3. “Every time I think someone has a hold on me, I realize I’m the one with the tight grip,” (Courtney Carver). The door to the cage is open, but I sit inside, not moving. In the most gentle way possible, I ask myself to relax, to let go. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

One wish: May we practice honesty but temper it with kindness. Where there is tension, may we release it with our breath, relax it with our willingness to surrender, to let go.