Sunday, April 29, 2012

Enlightened Self-interest OR 'Path-Illogical' Selfishness?

"It is more blessed to give than to receive."
- Jesus, Acts 20:35

I doubt it is possible to simultaneously possess the ability to read this blog post AND to NOT have heard some variation of the above classic Bible passage. Even outside of the confines of Christianity and of religion altogether, most of us have had this idea presented to us in some form. Due to misinterpreted messages like this, many of us suffer from a sense of deeply in-grained guilt when it comes to allowing ourselves to receive from others. One of the most common responses to this guilt is to turn ourselves into 'giving machines' that release our energy to others without a 'selfish' thought regarding our own needs. 

But is denying our own needs really 'unselfish'? And, is denying others the 'opportunity' to give to us by refusing to be a receiver for them actually an expression of selfishness?

In my opinion, the answers to these questions are 'no' and 'yes', respectively. More on this later...

The 'Implosion' of the Sun
The Sun is the source of the vast majority of all flows of 'energy' on Earth from the systems that provide for life on Earth to the structures of those life forms themselves. Without a constant stream of energy from the Sun, all of life and its processes on Earth would cease to exist with rapid succession. 

Wow, that Sun of ours sure is an unselfish 'giver'...right?
At first glance, it would appear that our Sun is just giving away its energy. If this were actually true, then the law of conservation of energy would lead to the depletion of the Sun's energy over ALL time intervals. Yet, our Sun 's temperature has actually increased over the lifetime of Earth. So, how is this possible?

Burning wood for a fire or burning gasoline for an automobile engine are examples of purely 'explosion' reactions which deplete a fuel source in order to release energy and heat to the surrounding environment. While the Sun will eventually 'run out of fuel', in terms of the lifespan of Earth, the Sun has actually built up a core fuel source of helium from the fusion of hydrogen. This has occurred through a process of 'implosion' which can be thought of as compressing 'in' upon itself in order to release energy but also to build up a helium fuel source at its core. In other words, the Sun has been giving energy to planets like the Earth through the process of focusing its energies on its own enlightened self-interest and NOT by simply giving itself away.

What if WE could incorporate this 'implosion' model for how WE exchange energy? Could we actually find a way to GIVE to others through the process of focusing on our own self-interests?

As someone who uses the ancient art of Astrology in my practice, I find it interesting and fitting that the archetype of the sign of Leo is considered to be 'ruled by' the Sun in modern western applications. The Leo archetype gets a reputation for 'selfishness' and being too overpowering to others with unconscious tendencies toward self-absorption. But as I tell my clients with strong Leo themes in their charts, it is through their willingness to focus on their own urge toward self-expression that the rest of us are blessed with these gifts that they are bestowing upon us. Well, kudos for win-win solutions!

Enlightened Self-interest vs. 'Path-Illogical' Selfishness
But how can this REALLY be? It turns out that there is a big difference between enlightened self-interest and (what I call) 'path-illogical' selfishness.

Most of us have been on an airplane and, if we've paid attention before takeoff, we've heard the flight attendants inform us to ensure that our own oxygen mask is secured BEFORE securing the mask on our child's face, if cabin pressure were to drop unexpectedly. 

Upon hearing this for the first time, many mothers react to these instructions with a declaration something like 'oh, I could never do THAT!' Much of the reasoning for such a reaction is related to the guilt we associate with self-interest and with our collective disdain for the perception of selfishness itself. But when we throw a little logic into the equation, we realize that a child's lungs are smaller and can handle a lower oxygen environment longer than an adult. Also, we realize that a living guardian is worth much more to a child than a dead, or brain-damaged guardian any day. Score '1' for the 'securing your own mask first' idea!

Whether we are parents or not, we all have the opportunity to serve as role models in how we choose to 'walk our path' in life. The way I see it, every individual has a unique path to walk in their own life and it is through choosing that path with courage and enlightened self-interest that we are able to shower the world with our gifts, while simultaneously honoring our authentic wholeness.

But, all too often, people (and especially young parents) will choose a path based on what they perceive that they 'should' do with their lives rather than what is most appropriate for their unique life-path. This pattern can get passed down over generations with each succeeding generation expecting that their own 'unselfish' sacrifice of their personal path will somehow open up opportunities for their offspring to find their own way. Instead, the offspring end up observing their parents as role models and either take on these 'should-based' roles like their parents or they reject these 'should-based' roles with expressions of rebellion by raising the 'white flag' with regards to even choosing to have a path. Those who take on the 'should-based' roles will project their lack of freedom onto those who rebel and onto those who choose paths of enlightened self-interest. This leads to strong judgements from those who perceive that the 'should-based' self-sacrificing path is the path of righteousness.   

We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It's one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it's another to think that yours is the only path.”
Paulo Coelho

Like Paulo above, I believe that we cannot compare apples to oranges. Every path of enlightened self-interest is unique and cannot be judged against another path. Before we can assess the actions of an individual, we must first understand the unique path of that individual. Its not surprising, however, that those who choose a path of enlightened self-interest tend NOT to judge the path's or actions of others on their own unique paths of enlightened self-interest. It is typically those who simply 'copy and paste' the 'should-based' self-sacrificing path OR that are rebelling against recreating these mechanical reproductions who tend toward this kind of judgement toward others.  

We have the power to choose a path of enlightened self-interest, knowing that we are honoring our own wholeness and sovereign essence all while bestowing our gifts to the world through the process AND allowing others to freely do the same. However, it is much more 'common' for people to choose the 'should-based' self-sacrificing path or to simply rebel against forging a path. Since these choices are more common, these choices are often mistaken as 'normal'.

To me, the word 'normal' is a description of actions and choices which are both 'natural' and 'healthy' toward a given intention. Yet, somewhere along the way, our collective psyche confused the word 'normal' with the idea of what is 'common' and we started aspiring to find ourselves within the 'safety' of the 'bell curve'. In statistics, this bell curve is even referred to as 'normal' distribution (see image to the left). What a mess! To me, both the 'should-based' self-sacrificing path and the rebellion against having a path are examples of 'path-illogical' selfishness

 "It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society" - Krishnamurti

How Do We Know the Difference?
Whether we choose to be on our own path, on a path predetermined by others, or on no path at all, we all have one thing in common...we are ALL on a path! But, if we are striving to be on a path of enlightened self-interest, how do we know whether or not we are on it?

Ah, the million dollar question....

The billion dollar answer to this million dollar questions is that only YOU can know and that requires balancing your logic with a strong sense of intuition. Coming into your own 'wholeness' where these masculine and feminine energies are balanced appropriately will leave you in a state of perpetual creative self-direction. This state of free energy (implosion) can't help but radiate out its harmonious siren. This model of 'implosion' is an ideal state of energetic 'Sovereign Harmony' where we can generate energy and not only NOT run out of it, but we are able to share our gifts with others while ever increasing our creative capacity

Okay, so maybe the actual answer to how do we 'KNOW' is a bit too deep and advanced for most people to fully digest. So, perhaps addressing how we know that we are NOT on a path of enlightened self-interest is more appropriate.

It is actually more common (i.e. it is considered 'normal') to be on a path of 'path-illogical selfishness' than it is to be on a path of enlightened self-interest. The tell tale signs of being on this more common path are feeling compelled to utilize fear-based self-preservation tactics and avoidance techniques when confronted with the discomfort of the unknown. Okay, so we ALL will do this at some point. The difference is that those on a path of enlightened self-interest will decide to face the discomfort and plow forward despite the fear and the threat of 'loss' along the way. Unfortunately, the more common response is to 'turn-back' and to use the fears we experience as the excuses and the 'proof' as to why the expected 'should-based' self-sacrificing path is the 'way to go' in life. We will even attempt to 'drag' others along with us, while convincing them to fear what we fear in life. After all, misery does love company. But, to me, its getting a little too crowded in here...

This would be 'okay', in my opinion, if there weren't others looking to us to be their role models as in the case of parenting. In my opinion, nothing is more detrimental to the emotional development of a child than being invaded (i.e. emotionally raped) with the fears that hold his/her parent(s) to the 'should-based' self-sacrificing path in life. This is the equivalent of smothering your child with the 'hot towel' in the airplane rather than helping them with their oxygen mask. As much as you feel 'comforted' by these tactics for yourself, you are not doing your child any benefit in terms of their own path toward self-determination.

So, in terms of being a role model, is it better to have no path or agenda at all then? Isn't it just easier to raise the white flag and decide for ourselves that the world is just too powerful and that we are victims of its powers no matter how hard we may strive toward our own path of enlightened self-interest? Maybe its just easier to 'do what we're told' and not have to worry about the struggle for self-determination. 

In my opinion, both choosing the path of 'should-based' self-sacrifice AND/OR choosing to disown the responsibility for creating a path in the first place are 'illogical' paths. That is, both choices lead to a life of decorating one's prison cell (i.e. comfort zone) rather than focusing on the path toward our own personal whole and sovereign freedom. To me, the word PATHetic comes to mind when addressing either one of these 'path-illogically selfish' choices. I refer to these paths as 'path-illogical' because both choices relegate a person to NOT moving forward in life and to remaining content within their own comfort zone while using 'guilt' and other tactics to entice prison visitors to spend time with them in their cells. No thanks.

These are 'illogical' paths because they lead us NOWHERE and they are 'selfish' because they only serve the fears of the person choosing to be enslaved by them.

But just as the word 'PATHetic' comes to mind when contemplating 'path-illogical selfishness', so does the word 'symPATHetic'. As much as it personally annoys me to be bombarded by the heavy energies of those insistent on 'path-illogical selfishness' and who misinterpret enlightened self-interest for 'selfishness', I realize that what traps these individuals are the layers of unhealed traumas and wounds from their own personal childhood experiences. 

This is why it makes sense to me that young parents are the least likely to exhibit a model of enlightened self-interest and most likely to choose a path of 'path-illogical' selfishness while assuming that those on a path of enlightened self-interest are actually the 'selfish ones

Becoming 'whole' and sovereign is part of the path of enlightened self-interest. Part of this process is integrating ALL of ourselves including our old traumas and wounds. It is through this unconditional acceptance (i.e. unconditional love) of ourselves that we become 'whole' and therefore 'healed' in the process. But guess what? We have to be willing to face all of our temptations along the way which will entice us to simply follow along with 'path-illogical' selfishness as most 'normal' people do. We have to be willing to crawl on our hands and knees like we did as a child when we originally experienced our wounds and we have to be willing to GET DIRTY in the process.

Crawling Our Way To Freedom 

"Andy Dufresne, who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side.
- Red, "The Shawshank Redemption"
Let's face it...the only way OUT of a mess is THROUGH that same mess! Each of us has our OWN mess to tend to and so each of us has our OWN personal list of temptations that may deter us from our own path of enlightened self-interest. But, for ALL of us, avoiding temptation when our unique 'stuff' comes up is difficult and 'messy' because we have to re-experience everything that we rejected and refused to experience throughout our lives. Only now we are dealing with it all at once and, usually, on our own. No wonder its uncomfortable! That's why it behooves us to have some symPATHy for ourselves as well as for others as we work through these processes.

In "The Shawshank Redemption' Andy not only gifted himself with freedom when he tunneled his way out of Shawshank Prison, but he also 'gifted' a degree of freedom for the other inmates through his own act of enlightened self-interest.

As a model human being (but especially as a parent), the most well-rounded example of a human that one can set is that of someone leading a life according to their own enlightened self-interest while still maintaining a sense of respect for the self-interest of others whether or not the enlightened path of others are similar to our own. But our path must be both 'logical' AND able to 'gift' others through its own process of unfoldment.

In addressing the original questions from the beginning of this post...

"1) But is denying our own needs really 'unselfish'? 2) And, is denying others the 'opportunity' to give to us by refusing to be a receiver actually an expression of selfishness?" 

1) No, denying our own needs is actually quite 'selfish', especially when you consider WHY we deny them (i.e. clinging to our own fears). Denying the pathway of our own enlightened self-interest is indeed a 'selfish' act since it prevents ourselves and others from receiving our gifts. 

2) Yes, refusing to be a receiver of gifts (especially refusing the gifts of our children in order to prevent the annihilation of our perceived status as 'important provider') is actually another form of 'selfishness'. In my opinion, not allowing others to share their wholeness with us in an unconditional manner is more suffocating and debilitating to another's sense of self-worth than any set of words can ever perpetrate. 

And yet, these 'normal' acts of self-denial and refusal to receive continue to be considered nomination material for 'Mother of the Millennium' awards by the vast majority of our world culture. In my opinion, something is seriously 'unhealthy' and 'unnatural' regarding the reality of this outdated collective agreement for what is considered to be 'normal'.

 To Give Or To Receive?
Whether you agree or not, according to modern science, 'time' as an absolute frame of reference does NOT exist. So, if we contemplate the reality that there is NO time and that the only EXPERIENCE we can have NOW is based on what ACTIONS we choose to take in the moment, then the process of 'giving' something IS the EXPERIENCE of HAVING that something in the first place. Conversely then, choosing to TAKE in the moment yields the EXPERIENCE in the NOW of NOT HAVING whatever it is that we are choosing to TAKE. 

The last paragraph may require re-reading a few times to digest. But give yourself a break if you don't 'get it' the first time you read it. Once you 'get it', the Jesus quote from the beginning of this blog post may suddenly have a whole new meaning for you. Contemplating that old Bible quote without the guilt we've been fed regarding the idea of receiving can be mind blowing!

When we are willing to claim our path of enlightened self-interest and to do what it takes to 'heal' and to reclaim our wholeness, we can reach a point of balanced internal energies (i.e. logic and intuition) where we are in a position of inner security from which it is more natural (i..e. normal) to 'trust' ourselves and our place in the world. The more that people attain and maintain this state, the more harmony can reign in the world.

This is my personal vision of what I refer to as the state of...Soverign Harmony...

So, in closing, DO as Jesus said at the beginning of this post, and GIVE! But just remember to 'give' us the BEST and ONLY thing you have ever really 'had' to give to anyone...the gift of YOU! And do feel 'free' to take as long as you 'need' to discover the uniqueness of your own authentic self...

I think I speak for all of us when I say that YOU will be worth the wait...

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." 
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Christopher Robert Taylor
Sovereign Harmony 
Awaken - Enlighten - Align