When I was around eighteen years old I was in the downtown public library. It was cold and rainy outside and I was taking shelter inside the warm quiet building. I remember I felt like crap. I felt lonely, sad, and felt unlovable. In fact, I had spent pretty much my whole life feeling as though there must be something fundamentally wrong with me. Why else didn’t I get any attention? Why else did I struggle with anger, addiction, and anxiety? As I wandered around the large stacks of books I saw a bright golden cover that had fallen flat on the shelves. I picked up the book and somehow I felt instantly that this book would change my life. And it did.
The name of the book is, Shambhala: the sacred path of the warrior by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. As I read the worn pages I learned for the first time that my fundamental nature is one of goodness. Something he calls basic goodness. Not goodness as in good vs. bad, but rather goodness as in wholeness. Goodness as in how the sun rises everyday, the big beautiful sun. No one questions the goodness of the sun or the rain or the ocean, they are fundamental. In this way, I learned, I am no different than nature and that underneath all those feelings of unworthiness, there is the golden light of basic goodness: it is unchangeable, fundamental, and the truth of who I am.
Of course, it would take me many years to actually embody the truth of basic goodness and I’m still on that journey. It’s one thing to intellectually understand something but quite another to weave it into the fabric of our being. I ended up taking refuge in Shambhala Buddhism and have spent years studying and practicing the dharma and yet this feeling of worthlessness and inadequacy still arises. What I’ve come to realize though is that even those feelings of unworthiness are an expression of basic goodness. If our very nature is basic goodness than absolutely everything in our experience is an expression of that nature: the good, the bad, the ugly-all of it.
We need the teachings on basic goodness like never before. Like most profound wisdom teachings, simplicity can be deceiving. You might think, “oh yeah, basic goodness, I understand, I’m all good. I got it”. And allow it to confirm what you think you already know. But in my experience what we consciously accept and what our neuro-programming believes, can be quite different. Years of patterning and habitual ways of thinking have set up our minds to believe something even if it’s not true, such as “I am inadequate”. Even if we’re not aware of these subtle beliefs, they are pervasive and affect all of our thoughts, decisions and behaviors.
So think of basic goodness as an antidote, a medicine. The more we instill the feeling of basic goodness in our being, the more it will serve as a salve and medicine when things are really hard and our self-sabotaging beliefs come to haunt us.
Here is a practice
Sit comfortably with eyes closed. Set a timer for 10 minutes.
Rest. Allow thoughts to come and go like clouds in the sky. Bring your minds attention to the breath. When you find yourself getting stuck on a thought, notice and come back to the breath. Do this for a few minutes.
Feel a white/golden light in your heart center. It’s the color of sunshine in the early morning. Pure, golden, soft, kind.
Spend a couple minutes really feeling the texture of this light in your heart center and now allow it to radiate to all parts of your being. Imagine that it extends past your body and into your house, your life.
Imagine any difficulties you are experiencing and now imagine this golden white light touching and purifying those difficulties.
Sit and rest.
Let me know how it goes.