it seems that unselfishness is the key to happiness, progress, all good in life. how do we get there? how do we do it? how do we eradicate selfishness from our lives?
i remember making a drawing years ago, when i was reall struggling with a feeling of being a big selfish jerk, that, at the bottom said "unselfishness is freedom". i made that picture and wrote those words at the bottom and i knew it was true. unselfishness, whatever it was, was freedom.
trouble was, i didnt really feel like i knew what that meant. AND, i was already doing my very best to be nice, to love people, etc... and i still felt like i was not living up to it. and i certainly wasnt feeling free.
now, 10 years later, i feel very aware that being unselfish involves being willing to be changed by god. being willing to become better, to leave the old things in the past and move joyfully on, refusing to be defined by what has come before. really, it is about not even being a "self", but rather, being a reflection of god.
i feel infinitely more free now than i did when i made that drawing with the words "unselfishness is freedom". still, i long to embody that more and more.
this week, as i was wrestling deeply, painfully with a selfish thought that i wanted badly to let go of, i was reaching out in prayer for something new. the idea that grew up through the cracks, that slipped in through what seemed to be the dark walls of loneliness and regret was the forever opportunity to pray for others.
it was sort of an amazing breakthrough. in this dark place where i was feeling so lost and "selfish" the idea came, "instead of praying to be made unselfish, why dont you take this opportunity to pray for someone else - just because you can". and then i realized, while all the actions i was thinking of pertaining to myself seemed blocked and difficult, there was NOTHING in the way of my praying for someone, anyone, else.
so, for the next couple of days i practiced praying for others. anyone. anyone who came into thought, anyone i passed on the street, the factory workers who made the urinal i was using. (really).
sometimes it was very difficult. but it seemed, after i got into the rhythm it was easy. and in fact, really delighting. the pain and heaviness i had been feeling so fully, dropped away. and sometimes when it came back, i would pray for someone else the moment i noticed i was feeling bad about myself, and soon i was back on the track of unselfishness. it felt luxurious - like i had the trick to never feeling bad again. maybe i do.
it caused me to think that jesus counsel to "Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you," is not so much a description of virtue as it is a simple description of how to be happy, and stay happy. it is a gift beyond gifts.
i also found that in times when i felt i just couldnt pray for someone, it was even healing just to think of someone else. i went through my friends, groups, the president, just thinking of what it would be like to be that person. and i found that it caused me to love them more. a simple, easy, unselfing practice.
i am still seeking after what it means to be unselfish, and how to make it a reality in my life. if you have an insight or a practice that you do that is helping you be more unselfish will you please tell me about it in a comment below, or on my FB page?
love to you all.