Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Self Confidence And No Self?

I am taking an energy healing course and there is a meditation on the heart centre which lists the attributes of the heart: compassion, harmony, healing presence and unconditional love. The meditation feels a lot like metta or loving kindness practice. It feels nourishing, like filling up a well. I feel a bit like a sponge soaking up the feelings of compassion, harmony, healing and love. It feels like when the sponge is full, I can squeeze it and a wonderful warm liquid will trickle out like golden drops of elixir into the world.

Over at Peter's monkey mind today, he asks the question, why do we continue to tell ourselves stories that are unhelpful and unkind, stories that perhaps have been told to us or we have come to believe on our own.

In the west it seems our habit is to find ourselves lacking; never quite measuring up. It is the rare bird that appreciates their strengths and exudes a healthy self confidence (as opposed to a puffed up ego based confidence). When the Dalai Lama was once asked about how to deal with feelings of self loathing, he required a lengthy explanation of what that was. When he finally understood what was meant, he emphatically said something like, "No, this is wrong," quite forcefully. Such feelings apparently don't exist in Tibetan culture.

There are many teachers that remind us of how important a healthy self confidence is (Tarthang Tulku, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche). But I hear you wondering out loud about this, "so if there is no self, (which is one of the tenets of Buddhism) what's this about becoming self confident? So in my understanding of the examination of self, it is not that "self" doesn't exist at all, but that it is not fixed and is always moving and changing, and so doesn't exist in any inherent or fixed way. And on the way to our personal discovery of this ethereal, flimsy, hole filled self, we need to have confidence in the little self, the every day person. We need to nourish this being that navigates the world, to give our being the courage and enthusiasm for this life and our practice, so that we can wake up and contribute to this world in helpful and meaningful ways.

Our job is to wake up and use our gifts fully because no one has the gifts you have and can offer to the world in your unique and interesting way. This is self confidence, the ability to see clearly, to keep on keeping on, and to have faith in our lives and those around us. We are here to join hands in this human journey and pull each other up when we need pulling and offer a hand to dance sometimes.

So, it is Spring, a time of new beginnings, a good time to nourish the seeds of new habits. This unruly mind needs weeding and then the planting of wholesome crops. So why not look inside and discover the riches there. Begin each day by telling yourself about them. Encourage yourself, offer uplifting words to yourself and you may find the well filling up and spilling out in to the world in ways that cultivate growth and nourish in weird and wonderful manners. And please, don't forget to put me on your dance card.


  1. I ponder where that came from too. I think originally someone wanted to make sure no one got a big head. Problem is, we never turned that effort back off. And most of all, words we heard once, we repeat to ourselves endlessly. If I was a social scientist, it would make a great research topic.

  2. a thoughtful post. we do have a choice, tell ourselves stories about what miserable wretches we are or tell ourselves about our good qualities even as simple as today I got up, today i prepared a meal, today i cleaned the bathroom, all fine things to do to maintain ourselves and others in this life.

  3. "...when the sponge is full...wonderful warm liquid will trickle out like golden drops of elixir into the world." Lovely imagery!

    I have noticed that my "storytelling" comes from a strong identification with this "little me" who *thinks* it needs bolstering, but upon investigation one realizes that this "little me" occurs within the larger context of the Life that is actually unfolding here... The "little me" is only an eddy in the larger River of Life that is fed and nourished by the River itself... Deep bows... C

  4. Beautifully expressed! My "stories," deep-rooted, unhelpful, negativity that played like a loop of music for so long, still come up occasionally. And I notice they do when I'm not feeling confident. Funny how onfidence is something to hone and work at, like any art! After beginning on the Middle Way now, more and more those "stories" fall away, and the real me is present. I like this me. She is OK! The choice is always there to dwell in possibility, as Emily Dickinson wrote, or stay trapped in the negative loop. I'll take possibility. ;o)

  5. Leslie - it is an endless source of wonder and it would make a great research topic!

    Suki - yes, I just read a piece somewhere that in fact giving our undivided attention, immersing ourselves in life, in something, in cleaning the bathroom releases us from the endless loop of our story.

    MeANderi - so wise, yes that little story telling me is contained in that larger context. Someone called it big mind the other night at meditation.

    Tracy- I like this way of describing it "the negative loop" It is true it is a life long practice and the more attention we can shine on it, the stronger it grows. I think that real me shines through in your photo and your posts!

  6. This post shares deep wisdom. Listen-up y'all!

    I love your writing dear ZenDot. You are definitely on my dance card.

    Bow, deep.

    ~ miriam louisa

  7. I really love the way you write dear!