Monday, February 27, 2012

Touching Basic Goodness

There is goodness that you feel conditionally: scoring a goal in a soccer game, acing an exam, finishing a hard workout, stopping the invasion of planet earth by a hostile alien race... All of that stuff feels good, no question, but only if we succeed. 

There is another kind of goodness that is unconditional. You can learn to feel it even without an accomplishment to get the party started.
Just off the top of my head, here are some things that make me feel good without the condition of success:

  • A Campfire-cooked meal after a day backpacking in the mountains
  • A bear hug from my Dad
  • Noticing the leaves change in Fall and seeing the sunlight shine through with brilliant color
  • Diving into the cool ocean
  • Telling my wife that I love her
  • Lending someone a hand
  • Laughing at an unexpectedly funny joke
All of this stuff is a kind of preview of the basic goodness that you can tap into anytime, because it is always there. 

You can tap into your basic goodness through meditation practice, assuming you have the right guidance from a teacher. This is really, really, really unconditional! In other words, other people, objects or conditions don't even have to be there for us to tap into that experience of basic goodness. It already exists in you and in nature.

This idea that basic goodness is always there is at the heart of Buddhist philosophy and the meditative experience. I see references to it in the teachings on shunyata (emptiness), and the Tibetan concept of the cosmic mirror.

It's conceivable that everything we do is motivated by our desire to get back to basic goodness, our primordial human nature. The trouble is that the ego gets involved and makes things really complicated. At that point we get confused and start seeking basic goodness through ways of feeling conditional goodness. 

Next time you are confronted by someone with different religious or political views that yours, don't get all self-righteous, but consider that s/he too is just trying to get back to basic goodness. They may be trying to get us all back to basic goodness. Granted, they might be confused, but we might be confused too.

Make no mistake about it. This is a simple concept, but not an easy one to grasp. I can say that I've had glimpses of this, but not that I experience it all the time. If you are struggling to understand what I'm talking about, don't worry, you are not alone. If you are interested in learning more about basic goodness, check out Chogyam Trungpa talking about the topic of basic goodness: 

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