Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Treasures of the Self

Another little shot of the Zen garden in progress
In a comment on my last post, Dharma blogger extraordinaire 108zenbooks said something like "even in the harshness, I feel your gentleness".  This got me thinking.  Since that post was about the heavy club of judgment we often wield, I wondered about the flip side of that stick; appreciation. My own gentleness, hmm, appreciate that??

While we are often quick to cite our shortcomings and could easily whip off a long list of them in a blink, we don't often give much attention to our strengths or positive qualities.  Have you ever been at a workshop where people are asked to name their positive qualities or strengths?  Things get very uncomfortable and quiet.

To cite the bleeding obvious, as Basil from Fawlty Towers might say, I am not talking about ego here.  But you knew that, even if you've never seen Fawlty Towers (poor you!).  We are not puffing ourselves up here like peacocks, filling ourselves with false confidence, but contemplating the unique qualities  and gifts we came here with.  Because we are individuals, with our particular karma, we carry with us unique gifts.  Lynette's comments reminded me that one of my qualities is indeed gentleness.  I often see this as some sort of shortcoming and that would be judgmental fairy waving it's dark little wand.  And I think each personality trait (can I call it that?) has it's flip side.  Tenacity can also manifest as stubborness.  Gentleness can morph into timidity.

But I think as part of our practice we need to develop an inner confidence, one that we develop based on clarity and intuitive knowing of our relative self.  This is where our practice begins.  Without loving and appreciating our little self, we can never hope to move outside of it and experience the dropping of boundaries and seeing the bigger picture of "no self". We need to appreciate and value this "little self" first.  It can only be an aid to our practice because it takes courage to do this work, to travel this path, to know that we are fine just the way we are and we can do better.

Bill Plotkin, from the Environmental Buddhist site says, "Each of us is born with a treasure, an essence, a seed of quiescent potential, secreted for safekeeping in the center of our being. This treasure, personal quality, power, talent, or gift (or set of such qualities) is ours to develop, embody, and offer to our communities through acts of service -- our contribution to a more diverse, vital, and evolved world. Our personal destiny is to become that treasure through our actions..."

What are your gifts that you came here to explore and share?


  1. I love this quote you've added to the end of an insightful post. I truly believe that we each have a gift - no matter how big or small.

    When you mentioned appreciation, I also thought of compassion and understanding as along the same path. When I remind myself that we each have a gift to bring to the world, compassion and understanding come far easily...

  2. So, our perceived weaknesses...judged by society? by our ego?...could be embraced and appreciated and used for good?

  3. spirit - yes, realizing that each of us has a gift does allow us to see even those we find difficult in a different light. Acknowledging this in ourselves allows us to relax into who we are.

    Hazel- conventional culture often has values that are not particularly inspired. Perhaps gentleness might be perceived as weakness in an aggressive culture? But yes I think what we perceive as our weaknesses can indeed be our strengths. It is for us to explore.

  4. All I can say is thank you for the last two posts. Simply elegant writing and fantastic message!

  5. Thank you, my friend in Dharma! As usual, you have dug deep to the treasure. I am always inspired by your courage and wisdom.

  6. Oh ... this is hard to do ... thinking of my strengths and positive qualities, but a good exercise.

    I like the Plotkin quote. Makes sense to recognize our strengths in order to develop them and through that personal destiny, we can contribute to life.