Hello my fellow human Beings:
How do you feel when you read the newspaper or watch the news on TV and hear all the stories of suffering from around the world and in your own backyard?
Do you feel guilty for the happiness and abundance in your life, which those other people are not experiencing?
Do you feel guilty that you are not doing enough to help those other people, even if you don’t know how best to help them?
Do you feel guilty and unworthy of your own well-being and joy because there are others who have not?
Feelings of guilt run rampant in our society coupled with shame and unworthiness. We bash ourselves for our actions or inactions. But does that self-bashing help others? NO!!
…and it doesn’t help us either.
In fact, we harm ourselves with such negatives feelings of guilt, shame and unworthiness. So instead of helping ourselves and others, we hurt ourselves, cause ourselves more suffering, and disconnect ourselves from our essence, thereby making us unable to truly help others. A general lose-lose situation of perpetuated suffering.
Sharon Salzberg, one of the premier teachers of loving-kindness in the West, writes in her book The Kindness Handbook:
“We can fool ourselves into thinking we are feeling compassionate and yet we might actually be feeling guilt. …But that is not quite the same as a sense of compassion. Guilt, in Buddhist psychology, is defined as a kind of self-hatred. It is another form of anger. There are times when we understand that we have acted unskillfully, and we feel some concern and remorse. This can be important and healing. But a distinction needs to be made between such concern and guilt, which is a state of contraction, a state of endlessly going over things that we might have done or said. If we are motivated by guilt at what we feel, it will drain all of our energy; it does not give us the strength to reach out to help others. We ourselves take center stage when we are in a state of guilt.”
So let go of guilt and start being compassionate with yourself.
Sharon Salzberg, in The Kindness Handbook, continues by stating that:
“[E]volving a spiritual practice is not about having and getting. It is about being more and more compassionate toward ourselves and toward others. …It is about being compassionate naturally, out of what we see, out of what we understand. …[Remembering that] compassion is known in Buddhist teaching as the quivering of the heart in response to pain and suffering.”
So as you go forth this week working to develop your spiritual practice, remember to be compassionate with yourself and others as your heart quivers not only in response to others’ pain, but also your own. Remember to find time to pause and be still; to connect to your true essence, the Buddha within, knowing that your thoughts, words and actions towards yourself can have an effect on your own well-being with ripple effects out to others. By letting go of guilt and being compassionate towards yourself, you open your heart to share its endless bounty of peace, joy and love with others. In this way, you allow yourself to take the next right action to help others and yourself live more abundantly.