Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Self - Centered - Happiness

What is it that makes us truly happy? We can follow what the great sages of the day say – to give us a guideline. But the truth is, no matter what they say, it’s up to each of us to choose what makes us happy. Choice, based on free will, is the operative word.

Some of the sages say is that the best act is to help others. By doing so, we help ourselves. Noble thought but is this true for everyone? And what does that mean exactly? Is it doing good works for others? But what of the notion that we cannot help others if we don’t help ourselves first? For anyone of us that has taken a commercial plane ride and listens to the flight attendant acting out safety rules, we learn this simple rule. They tell us, “You must put on your own oxygen mask before you assist anyone else.” Why? How the heck can we help anyone else if we are gasping for air ourselves. We may laugh at this but how many times have we said yes to helping someone when we’ve been tired, exhausted, all in the name of ‘being a good person.’ And how many times have we resented either the person who’s asked or for the more enlightened, ourselves for saying yes instead of taking care of ourselves first?

Have we been conditioned to believing that to be worthy of others, we must always help others first? If we act selfishly, we’ll be punished by whatever God we believe in or risk bad karma? Is this truth or just fear on our part? Should our sense of self worth always come from helping others – to jump in to save the day? And what does it say of ourselves that we always need to be “rescuing” others. I had a beloved dog that always wanted to be by my side. He hated water but more than having a hatred of water was his seeing me in it. One summer, I was swimming out to the middle of lake to reach a raft. He was right at my side – so much so that his nails were scratching my shoulder. It was becoming a bit painful so I swam faster. He trudged on to keep up with me. Finally, we reached the raft. I swam back to shore. He didn’t. He wouldn’t budge from the raft so my brother and friend had to row out in boat and drag our dog into it and row back to shore. In all of my dog’s heroic attempts to save me, he ended up needing to be saved. The truth his, I didn’t need to be saved. But his fear of water must of convinced him that I needed help and he went against his own needs to serve mine - even though I didn't want him to.

The other aspect of trying to help others is maybe they don't want you to. Maybe you're well intentioned advice isn't well received if you aren't walking your own talk. If your life is in somewhat of a shambles, shouldn't you be cleaning up your own mess? If not, why not? When we do that, are we avoiding our own lives? It's so much easier to see how to fix other people's lives. It must be a weird law of physics that perhaps should be called "The Law of Buttinsky."

After some painful reflection of all my "got to help others" attitude and many passive aggressive behaviors later, I came to an important discovery. The truth for me is, I keep asking for permission for everything. And resentful of the person who just walks in and just automatically expects it. I can spend hours tracing all the instances that led up to my lack of self-worth but the more important thing is to recognize that I can be that person - the person who gets what she wants. The last time I checked outside, the world didn't fall apart because I wanted my needs to come first. Just because I ask for what I want doesn’t mean I’m taking away something for someone else. Where did the belief come from that if there is a “have”, there is a “have not?” If the universe is ever producing, ever creating, which it is, then how is this possible? Can’t everyone have? They can. If we all serve ourselves, then there is no need to serve others. No one is lacking. What is lacking is the belief in ourselves that we create our own lives.

When I'm asked to help now, I ask myself why? Is this something I need or want to do? I'm much happier when I say yes because I truly want to rather than feeling "I should." The sky still hasn't fallen down because I've said no to things I don't want to do. In fact, the things I do are more meaningful when I say yes.

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