Selfish. When you hear it there is an immediate negative relationship to the word. It’s ugly. It’s self-indulgent. It’s narcissistic.
Definition of selfish
1: concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others
Ugh. That’s bad. “Without regard for others”. That should be punished!
Has this ever been you: “Once I take care of all the important people and things in my life, then I’ll take care of myself.”? Yeah, you have a problem. The guilt we feel, either as parents, spouses, employees, children, etc. is overwhelming. So much to do, so little time. But this definitely is not the key to success. Driving your kid around to every event they desire to attend isn’t caring, it’s coddling. Not saying ‘no’ to a boss or colleague. And funny enough, it’s a form of abuse. Abuse to you. Abuse in the fact that humans learn things when the situation is difficult, not when it is easy. Sometimes in my life I wonder (i.e. fear) that things have gone too well. I have never been in war, never hungry, never poor. Believe-you-me though, the Universe has found clever ways of reminding me that I’m a human. I sit in awe of these moments.
If we do whatever the other person or “society” is telling us to do, we are merely a reflection. Not a real person but a facsimile of someone else’s desire. This is not to say that Service is a bad thing. It just has to come from the right place. If you desire to serve your community only to use it on your “insta” account, you are not in it for the right reason. Do it because you like it. And when you feel good about yourself, rejoice in it. I open the door for people for two reasons: 1) it is a nice thing to do and 2) it makes ME feel good. Selfish.
What if, just for fun, we applied the definition above to the act of meditation, to see if it fits?
- “Seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage”. Check.
- “Pleasure”. Um, check.
- “Well being without regard for others”. Holy shit. Check!
So by definition, meditating is selfish. And yet in study after study, the benefits of meditation are undeniable. Health can easily fall into this same category as well. I eat healthy for my own advantage, pleasure, and without giving a crap what someone might say. Asshole.
Same thing for opening that door for someone. 75% of the time I get a “thank you”. That makes me feel good. It brings me pleasure. But in the back of my mind I know that 25% of the time the person won’t say “thank you”. So I am doing this without regard for others. I am doing it for me. It also gives me the opportunity to move through an emotion of judgement. Again, this can be seen as self-indulgent. I am actually practicing my patience and compassion on people.
My heart pumps blood for no one else (although I am an organ donor, so one day who knows?). It feels. It hurts. It gets confused and flops from time to time. It races around. A healthy heart can give you more stamina. You live longer. You feel better. AND… it nourishes itself first.
- Old Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
- New Rule: Do unto others as you would have YOU do unto you.