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.
My 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.