Basic Goodness

October 16th, 2009

‘Confidence in the goodness of another is good proof of one’s own goodness.’ -Michel de Montaigne

Many relationships suffer from a lack of self-esteem. A relationship’s self-esteem is connected to that of the partner’s but it also has a life of its own. Genuine esteem is founded in the courage to see oneself truly, both the positive and negative aspects of who we are and how we function and malfunction in the world. This path, which the Buddhists have called the path of the warrior, instructs that even through struggle and difficulty, we thrive in the openness of true knowing and seeing. The courage to confront the brittle edges and the messy corners of our own life and how we relate to others offers its own reward: acknowledging our brokenness is also the gateway to our ability to bear witness to our own basic goodness.

‘Whenever you see a bright and beautiful color, you are witnessing your own inherent goodness. Whenever you hear a sweet and beautiful sound, you are hearing your own basic goodness. Whenever you taste something sweet or sour, you are experiencing your own basic goodness…. Things like that are always happening to you, but you have been ignoring them, thinking that they are mundane and unimportant, purely coincidences of an ordinary nature�. Slowly, you begin to realize that you are able to feel the freshness of realizing your own goodness, again and again.’ -Chgyam Trungpa

Our relationships are perhaps the most generous and gentle teacher of this lesson in basic goodness available to us. No one knows my most brittle edges and the places where my heartache can break me like my husband. For years, when our relationship would bring out these places in me, it was easy to blame him. At the same time, I didn’t recognize the many small moments of tenderness and attentiveness in our life as the inherent and basic goodness in us that it was. My identification with what was broken in us became habitual. Being a warrior in our own lives and in our relationships is a steep slope.

Years of practice helped me learn that it was never really my husband, or for that matter anyone else, that brought up the harshest parts of who I am. The work of creating something good out of what often feels like not enough brought us both to our knees at times. This was also true about the places where we each shined. It wasn’t really the other person that provoked that steadfast patience with self or others, it was the basic goodness of what we were doing together, usually in the smallest details of life that lifted our head above the water line.

Making a practice of recognizing your basic goodness in the beauty surrounding you will change how you look at the world. Bringing that practice into your relationship and acknowledging the basic goodness that our relationships offer us, especially when they drive us crazy, will change how you live with others. Acknowledging the soft space of coming home and celebrating all the little details of making a home with someone offers endless opportunities for recognizing the goodness in our lives and our selves.

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