Author Topic: self love vs. being selfish  (Read 6158 times)

sunflowerhk

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self love vs. being selfish
« on: September 14, 2015, 02:51:11 AM »
What's the difference between being selfish and loving oneself?  or, what's the difference between unconditional love and being taken advantage of?  I've always thought I knew the difference but when it comes to my relationship now with my husband, I don't know anymore.

My husband is a full-time artist (oil painting) and has been like that over the past 20 years.  He (46 now) never had a full-time job, never had any steady income or savings in the bank.  Even though he's always struggling financially, he refused to work in any profession not related to art, refused to draw decorative paintings (because he thought they are commercial products and are not "real" art), refused to teach art (because he didn't like being in a power position to "teach" others, and I believe he also didn't know how to teach because he tried teaching once but ended up slapping his student on the face).  So, he insists on following his (very narrow) path, at any costs, to be represented by galleries and do exhibitions.  His dream is to make it to the international art scene.

Before we married, he had a few okay years when he thrived on luck.  Because of the flourishing art market and a special trend (which happened to meet his style) at that time, he could have galleries to do exhibitions or sell a painting or two from time to time which was enough to pay his rent and simple living style for another 3-6 months.  But, that was only because of the market at that time and the fact that he lived in an artist village which is now demolished by the government and the real estate developers.  And now, his style in art is no longer accepted by the market/galleries and he's in the process of changing his style (which has proven to be very hard to do - so far, he has changed 2-3 styles).  Apart from thriving on luck, he also had his (poor) parents and relatives borrow him money (which he never returned).

Over the past 3 years of our marriage, he has been completely dependent on me.  Not only had I taken on the financial burden with a full time job (I also do some house chores after work because he's not motivated and not good at them), I was also his "marketing" person to help him get publicity and sell his art (I learnt to make a website for him, managed his Facebook, cold-called on gallery bosses to sell his art, took him to important art fairs and museums around Europe --- all of which he had never done before). 

When we first got married, he asked me to give him two years so that he would find the right style, have an exhibition and sell.  After two years, he asked me for another year.  And now after three years, he asked for more time (so that he would produce a series of huge paintings for an exhibition).  He even promised me to make this and that amount of money next year.
 
I've always tried to be unselfish and unconditional in my love for him, which I believe means putting other's demands before my needs.  But, I'm losing my calm to just give in the relationship.  I also have my wants: I (36 now) have wanted to have children and switch to a part-time job after having children. 

We're arguing a lot these days.  He said the most important for him in his life is to continue to make art (!), even though it means a divorce. :-(

I'm beginning to feel he's like somebody into gambling or drugs that he's addicted to his own "dream" and I don't want to buy into it anymore. 

If I want to separate/divorce, am I being selfish?  or has he been selfish?  What I believe is the right way to be not selfish but loving myself, with this man, is to separate, so that he can carry on his own dream.  What do you think?

Please help. :-(
« Last Edit: September 14, 2015, 02:57:33 AM by sunflowerhk »

Vivek

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Re: self love vs. being selfish
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2015, 06:00:11 PM »
A relationship works with mutual trust and understanding where each partner need to show commitment. I think you are carrying a burden by continuing the relationship with him and you are filled with resentment which is causing you much suffering.

Quote
He said the most important for him in his life is to continue to make art (!), even though it means a divorce. :-(
Looks like he has made up his mind regarding the marriage. He doesn't value it as much as you do. So, the decision is yours whether you want to stay married with him or get divorced. You have the right to take care of yourself, so the question of selfishness need not bother you much in this situation. Leading a family life means one may need to make compromises and sacrifices from time to time, but it does not mean you have to become a martyr.

How about consulting a marriage counselor or therapist?
Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?

Quardamon

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Re: self love vs. being selfish
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2015, 07:19:41 PM »
To me it sounds like you are well aware of your relation to your husband.
The reaction of Vivek sounds wise to me.
Are you also aware of your relation to the theme of guilt?
Sorry to be rude. I trust that others will correct me if I said something stupid.

sunflowerhk

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Re: self love vs. being selfish
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2015, 02:41:07 AM »
Thanks for your replies.  They do help me reflect on myself and the relationship.

I think I'm also egoistic or not equanimous because I think an equanimous person is nonjudgemental and lives in the Now and thus would not think anything (e.g. my relationship with my husband) as a problem, and so would not think of divorce. 

Am I misguided about the meaning of equanimity?  Please, can anyone shed light on this?

sunflowerhk

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Re: self love vs. being selfish
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2015, 02:25:20 PM »
I had talked to a friend about my situation and I got asked a lot of moral questions like:  Why did you marry that man at the beginning knowing he's always been like that?  Why can't you accept him as a househusband (there are many other women who have accepted that)?  Is your love unconditional or are you being egoistic expecting him to be what you want him to be? etc. etc.

I felt bad with some of the answers (e.g. I feel I'm egoistic because I do have expectations for him and my love for him is not unconditional).

But suddenly, I realize I'm spending too much energy on these moral questions and use the answers to decide whether I should divorce/separate or not (And, the reason why I've been focusing on this decision is because I, being judgemental, perceive "divorce" as a negative concept and so I try to avoid it).  To make the decision, I think I should listen more to my feelings in an objective way (that's perhaps why the answer is clear to an outsider who reads my story).  There is no need to turn the decision into a series of moral questions and spend too much energy on debating them.  There is no "right" or "wrong" decision.  If separation should happen, it will.  And I should then simply accept it as it is. 

Whether one is married or divorced (or have / have no children) does not matter to our happiness.  What is important is the mind to be peaceful in the present.  What's more, peace can only be found within oneself, not in others.  And finding that peace within myself is and should be the most important in life.

Am I on the right path?  Does it make sense?
« Last Edit: September 16, 2015, 02:38:43 PM by sunflowerhk »

gasteria

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Re: self love vs. being selfish
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2015, 08:27:28 PM »
I really love your recent post. I was considering to respond to your previous post but there was nothing more to add to responses of other people.

I agree with you that there is no right or wrong decision and that you should follow your feelings. Nobody else can judge your situation and see it the way you do.

I suppose it is possible to achieve peace of mind and happiness in any life situation even most painful and traumatic but it probably takes a lifetime to get there. But, I think we don't have to put ourselves or stay in difficult situation if there is a way out to prove that this is possible.

Your situation has nothing to do with morality because your feelings are neutral and non negotiable. If you accept them they will most likely lead you to the right decision. 

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Re: self love vs. being selfish
« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2015, 09:27:24 PM »
...
Whether one is married or divorced (or have / have no children) does not matter to our happiness.  What is important is the mind to be peaceful in the present.  What's more, peace can only be found within oneself, not in others.  And finding that peace within myself is and should be the most important in life.

Am I on the right path?  Does it make sense?

This is beautifully written sunflower. I feel you are finding the right path.

Becoming less judgemental and less driven by (over) thinking, you may find your attitudes to husband, roles, divorce etc all change. You may find unconditional love: for your own being first and then those in your life, and beyond. You will never think your way to happiness. Both thinking, unencumbered by conditionality, and feeling, unencumbered with sentimentality, can be good tools to employ.

You have discovered for yourself the conditionality and complexity of the way you habitually perceive and think about the world, your life - and how this plays with your emotions. Now you can start to undo the habitual and conditioned elements in this through your new found awareness. Not rushing into decisions while you make such changes may be wise.

Kindly,

Matthew
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Dharmic Tui

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Re: self love vs. being selfish
« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2015, 10:31:10 PM »
What is the positive side of your relationship like, or is it consumed by this division of your individual desires?

Vivek

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Re: self love vs. being selfish
« Reply #8 on: September 17, 2015, 04:51:04 PM »
Quote
I think an equanimous person is nonjudgemental and lives in the Now and thus would not think anything (e.g. my relationship with my husband)
That is just part of your perception of what a wise person should or should not do. As I said, being committed in a relationship does not mean you have to play the martyr. Being equanimous or not, does not make any difference to that. Maybe you should let go of all the "shoulds" you carry in your mind about what a wise or equanimous person should or would do, and allow your own inner-wisdom to guide you with timely insights so that you can navigate your present situation with your husband skillfully. A competent therapist should be able to help you with that.
Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?

sunflowerhk

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Re: self love vs. being selfish
« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2015, 02:02:38 PM »
Thank you for all the inspiring replies and positive energy.  The suggestion about the need of giving up all the thoughts of "should" is a very good one.  The "right" decision is not made by the mind thinking (or making a list of "pros" and "cons")...... wow, all these are so counter the way we were taught at school and in our upbringing. 


It's true I am filled with resentment against him and this is certainly the worst time I should make any decision about the relationship.  These few days, I've made a conscious effort of observing my emotions and not reacting to what he had done or said as I would have in the past, although I was not able to tell the difference between not reacting and withdrawing from him (What's the difference?).  It makes me feel much more peaceful inside and there is no reason to argue anymore.  And, the question of divorce no matter seems to be a question because there seems to be no more problems if I focus on the present.  If one day in the future we should separate, it would not be because he has not met my expectations of being a husband... it would be us growing apart, because of our conflicting interests and directions in life, and we would separate in peace.     


I'm actually thankful to my marriage problems, because the suffering involved has pushed me further in my search for peace in my spiritual journey.  I have for the very first time able to see problems with my mind and am learning to take on a new sense of awareness or consciousness about my life situations.  Not easy at all but at least I've found the right path.


Thank you for all the inspirations.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2015, 02:11:44 PM by sunflowerhk »

Middleway

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Re: self love vs. being selfish
« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2015, 01:09:51 PM »
And, the question of divorce no matter seems to be a question because there seems to be no more problems if I focus on the present.  If one day in the future we should separate, it would not be because he has not met my expectations of being a husband... it would be us growing apart, because of our conflicting interests and directions in life, and we would separate in peace.     

You say there seems to be no problems when you focus on the present. What is "present" mean for you? Focusing on the tip of your nose or breath?

Your present is that you think you are married to a person who is not making his contribution into the marriage. And you have resentment towards him. You have desire to have kids but you think you current situation does not allow that. You are 36 and your biological clock is ticking and therefore you are anxious.

Tackling this issue head on NOW would be focusing on the present. Vivek suggested twice to get marriage councillor to help you both. Take his advice and deal with the problem now.

Equanimity when forced upon oneself is a form of self discipline. It is violence against one's own self. Equanimity comes from or a result of letting go. Letting go means you accept the current situation as it is without any judgement. If you have resentment, you have resentment. You have desire to have kids, you have the desire; and there isn't anything wrong with having a desire to have kids or there is nothing wrong to have feelings of resentment. They arise dependent on a number of internal and external factors. Simply acknowledge that those emotions and desires have arose within you. With that accepting mind, you now reflect on the root causes of those emotions and desires.

Deal with the root causes NOW. Do not punt your present to an uncertain and unknown future.

Warm regards,

Middleway
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sunflowerhk

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Re: self love vs. being selfish
« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2015, 01:56:44 PM »
Thanks for your suggestion, Middleway.  Marriage councillors are expensive and not everybody, including myself, can afford it.  And, what kind of changes do you think a few sessions with the marriage councillor will bring? 

My husband knows what he's supposed to do as a husband.  But he doesn't do it because he has very strong beliefs or attachments to his artist identity and dream.  My husband and I have done a 10-day course.  Although I see him meditate 2 hours everyday, his attachment to his dream and identity remains the same and he is still very much locked up in his own mind.  What I have learnt in this relationship is that people's personality and temper rarely changes.  And I should not even try to change the other person.

How am I supposed to "DEAL" with the situation other than focusing on the now and listen to my inner knowing?  even though the circumstances change and I can eventually have kids, do you think there will be no more problem in our relationship and that's happy-ever-after?  Don't you think the root cause is our egoic mind? 

Dharmic Tui

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Re: self love vs. being selfish
« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2015, 02:47:32 PM »
I believe the root cause is the egoic mind, your husband wants to live out his artistic tendencies, which is at odds with your desire to have children. I guess what you have to temper is how strong your desire is, and whether you can accept a life without procreation, or whether it'll always be a point of contention between you.

Middleway

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Re: self love vs. being selfish
« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2015, 11:23:51 PM »
Thanks for your suggestion, Middleway.  Marriage councillors are expensive and not everybody, including myself, can afford it.  And, what kind of changes do you think a few sessions with the marriage councillor will bring? 
Try and go for one session together. What happens when you try and do that? Both of you have to show commitment to make your marriage work. Are you afraid that he would say no? and then what? You don't wish to face that situation?

My husband knows what he's supposed to do as a husband.  But he doesn't do it because he has very strong beliefs or attachments to his artist identity and dream.  My husband and I have done a 10-day course.  Although I see him meditate 2 hours everyday, his attachment to his dream and identity remains the same and he is still very much locked up in his own mind. 
Of course he does know what he is supposed to do. But doesn't do. He went for 10-day course with you and meditates for 2 hours a day. Why is he doing that? Does he want to change his old habits? Is he suffering inside for not able to be a good husband that you want him to be?
What I have learnt in this relationship is that people's personality and temper rarely changes.  And I should not even try to change the other person.
This is a great insight. Does that apply to you as well? Am I wasting my words here? I want to help because I feel like it. It is up to you on what to make of my words.

Don't you feel like helping your husband overcome his attachments to be a good husband that he wants to be? If so, go to a marriage councilor at least for one session.
How am I supposed to "DEAL" with the situation other than focusing on the now and listen to my inner knowing?  even though the circumstances change and I can eventually have kids, do you think there will be no more problem in our relationship and that's happy-ever-after?  Don't you think the root cause is our egoic mind? 
Of course it is your egoic mind that is the root cause of the problem. It is very cunning. It is very insecure and does not want to face its present reality. It wants to use the path as distraction rather than face the present reality. It will rationalize/persuade/distract and do anything but live in the present.

It is up to you to decide whether you want to "stay" in the now or you want to "live" in the now.

Warm regards,

Middleway

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Re: self love vs. being selfish
« Reply #14 on: September 22, 2015, 12:00:47 AM »
sunflowerhk,

Vivek, Dharmic Tui and Middleway all give wise advice.

There is a contradiction here:

Quote
The suggestion about the need of giving up all the thoughts of "should" is a very good one.

and with this, which is another form of "should":

Quote
My husband knows what he's supposed to do as a husband.

I would agree with Vivek and Middleway that even one session with a marriage counsellor would be a very wise investment, not least because DT has "hit the nail on the head": you have an egoistic (and fully understandable) desire to have children which is conflicting with your husband's egoistic attachments to his self-image as an artist.

Marriage counselling is a lot cheaper than raising children, it may help you both: either come together or decide to part ways, or something else.

Whatever happens there is a tension between you that needs to find resolution. And that resolution is not likely you giving up your wish to be a mother, nor your husband giving up his wish to be an artist - it will be something other, something that emerges from the process of finding deeper and more honest communication with yourselves and with each other.

This is so true:

Of course it is your egoic mind that is the root cause of the problem. It is very cunning. It is very insecure and does not want to face its present reality. It wants to use the path as distraction rather than face the present reality. It will rationalize/persuade/distract and do anything but live in the present.

It is up to you to decide whether you want to "stay" in the now or you want to "live" in the now.

Kindly,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

sunflowerhk

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Re: self love vs. being selfish
« Reply #15 on: September 24, 2015, 01:03:23 PM »
I was actually about to set up a session with a marriage counsellor.  But, my husband refused.  He said it's a waste of money and said: "why do you let others solve our own problems?  who knows our problems better than ourselves?"  I told him that an outsider (and a professional) will be more objective but he refused to listen.  He said he refused to go because he's helping me to save money (because he hasn't been making any money since we're married...), but he forgot that it's my plea for us to go together.  A refusal like this is just one of the many episodes of him escaping from reality, a sign of his close-mindedness or egoic mind. 

His approach to solving problems in our relationship is to escape from them (e.g. by sleeping, watching tv, doing his artwork) and drag them on long enough until one day we are old and tired enough and lose the energy to argue.  He also didn't like to communicate (he would say: What is there to talk about?  we both know what we should do.  We just need to do it, that's it...  I don't want to spend another hour talking... I don't have time to talk now...)  During his escape period, which usually lasts for around a week, our relationship seemed peaceful on the surface.  But, did problems go away?  No.  When anger accumulates inside of him up to a point, his temper would erupt resulting in screaming (so loud that all the neighbours could hear) or even some early forms of violence (e.g. pushing, grabbing).  I had tried very hard for us to communicate.  Despite zillion times of honest communication (mostly initiated by me and I tried to do it with my best attempt in listening and loving kindness), this cycle of escape-eruption still happened over and over again.  That's why I have come to the conclusion that people's temper and egoic mind rarely changes, unless they surrender and make a lot of effort to stay conscious.  And, I don't think he is even aware of his egoic mind, let alone surrendering (he is so sensitive about anybody "teaching" him anything).  To be fair, I'm not saying I don't have my share of problems with ego, not at all.  But, I think I am at least aware of them and do make efforts.

For about two weeks now I have been reading Eckhart Tolle and watching his videos and I have never felt so peaceful before.  I rarely reacted to "problems" I used to before.  I don't feel I am filled with resentment against him now (I was, not now), or at least not of the same intensity as I had before.  And this feeling of peace from within is new to me.  Right now, I see him as a friend.  And there seems to be no problem living with him in the present.  But deep inside, I know soon in the future I would want to part ways.  I'm not escaping from our marriage problems or wanting to rush into another relationship, but just because I know he's not somebody I want to have a family with (with or without children). 

I think I have made the decision.     
« Last Edit: September 24, 2015, 01:28:34 PM by sunflowerhk »

Middleway

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Re: self love vs. being selfish
« Reply #16 on: September 24, 2015, 06:35:13 PM »
Sunflowerhk,

It takes a lot of courage and inner strength to be able to discuss your difficult situation. It reminded me of the following video. This is not to influence you away from your decision but thought you might find it useful to have complete perspective.


http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NJ9UtuWfs3U

Warm regards,

Middleway
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sunflowerhk

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Re: self love vs. being selfish
« Reply #17 on: September 25, 2015, 12:29:54 PM »
Thank you.

VipassanaXYZ

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Re: self love vs. being selfish
« Reply #18 on: September 29, 2015, 06:58:52 AM »
Sunflower

There is a lot of cloud around 'being in the now' and what people generally understand by equanimity - but that discussion is for another time I think. Middleway and everyone else has given very good advice.

                                                                                                       -  -  -

Marriages are breaking down at unprecedented rates world wide. The 'system' is currently brutal and unforgiving to those who do not give in to the material conventions.  It really is a fake world out there.

Any which way, personally, I would not make any decision based on money, or let any difference or drifting come in the relationship over it.

Marriage, defined in Indian systems like astrology, has nothing to do with the rite and ritual (legal document), it is all about what you share with the other person - the real stuff. So am not talking about social/legal conventions termed as marriage. I am assuming that you two shared deep compatibility.

Remember and observe what got you together. For a while focus only on your strengths and his.

I will add something: It is rare to see both partners interested in meditation.

Beginning years of meditation are generally tough, and they rake up underlying 'sankharas'. If you work through, you move towards clarity and happiness.

Since you brought this to a meditation forum I am going to take the liberty to say that the values of the individuals have to match, the generosity too, for things to work.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2015, 04:04:22 AM by poojavassa »

VipassanaXYZ

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Re: self love vs. being selfish
« Reply #19 on: September 29, 2015, 10:26:12 AM »
What's the difference between being selfish and loving oneself?  or, what's the difference between unconditional love and being taken advantage of?  I've always thought I knew the difference but when it comes to my relationship now with my husband, I don't know anymore.

In addition to what I said above:

Unconditional love is not becoming lifeless and without reason.
Unconditional love also does not mean that you lose your integrity and individuality.

It would simply mean having good will for the person.

Same with things like forgiving:
Forgiving someone does not mean that you have to reach out and tell them in so many words. In your heart, that is where it matters.

By forgiveness, it is you who is choosing to change.

You are choosing to end the (vicious) cycle from your end, so you don't keep rolling in it further. At the same time, do things that are are practically necessary - even if it means a strong action.


Buddha said be selfish. Help and reach out, but without hurting yourself.
Take care of yourself first.

I remember an analogy I read somewhere: If you were to incur a loss of one cent and someone else will benefit by one million, should you choose to give your one cent?

And the answer was no, don't give at your loss!
You'd hear amazing stories of sacrifice in the scriptures. These people who gave their everything [like the poor man who offered to Buddha the last and only piece of garment (he and his wife shared this garment, whoever was going out took the garment)], they have done this feeling a happiness that surmounted anything else. They felt enriched and felt value in this giving.

It was not forced giving, it wasn't convincing yourself, reasoning out to give. The mind was not conceited. Giving had come from true bounty of the heart, this is the kind of giving that is appreciated by the Buddha, that brings good results. Giving with joy.

Joy is one of the seven actors of Enlightenment too.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Factors_of_Enlightenment

I will share an incident from around eight years back:
I was serving a ten day course in Jaipur, Rajasthan. A young woman from England was travelling through India. Attended the course for the first time. Followed all the discipline (people in the West are so well-trained to follow schedules and it never fails to impress us Indians). But she followed because she took it as training, not from the heart.

One day she just collapsed and could not get up. I went in to see and she was not well and I let her rest. Next day when I went to see her, she seemed worse and lonely. I felt she wanted to talk and she seemed deep down in a hole somewhere. I had never really seen that kind of depression before. I domt know how, but I got a sense that this tall beautiful woman did not have a home, even back home.

I did something silly and told her to sit on the ground (had seen her sit in amazing lotus position before) and feel rooted. She seemed to like me and listened to me, I got some encouragement from this and in my excitement I asked her to imagine she had roots growing into the ground from the base of her spine. She did that and went back to her bed.

She said she wanted to leave.

I asked her to do a last one hour sitting in the hall before leaving. As she was about to enter the hall, I asked her to feel her roots are of 'Joy', explained the Pali word 'Pitti' to her in a hushed whisper. She looked surprised to hear the word 'joy', as if hearing it for the first time. She asked me to say that again, I spoke about it some more, her eyes brightened. (To do this for a few moments for just this time at the beginning of meditation to have a base of joy and then meditate as usual without bothering about it any further).

During the meditation I opened my eyes and lo! She was sitting with a straight spine with a smile on her face. I knew she was in pain but this smile told me that she was deeply involved and was fighting this pain and winning ... she could see this pain wriggling under her and hence the amused smile. Brave young warrior, I cant forget that image to this day. Her face shining, and a slight smile. Smile that you'd see on someone's face when they are completely engaged and loving what they are doing. When they don't even know that they are smiling :)

(She did not speak to me after that. We spoke about it on the final day of the course:)).

All I want to say, this pitti, this 'joy' is one of the factors of meditation. You cant reach the first jhana without it. It gives the subtle energy you need.

Same with giving, giving should come from a place of plenty, from a place of joy.
Then, it automatically becomes unconditional or whatever tags you want to put on it.

There are situations and events that 'inspire' this kind of giving.
It happens naturally.

 Here are some good readings on Giving:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/search_results.html?cx=015061908441090246348%3Adj4lxnh4dda&cof=FORID%3A9%3BNB%3A1&ie=UTF-8&q=dana&sa=Search
« Last Edit: September 30, 2015, 05:53:57 AM by poojavassa »

 

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