Friday, September 3, 2010

Until I Get It Right

Warning: I might be all over the map today, but stick with me and I may have a point before this is over.

There's an interesting conversation going on over at quoteflections (you can check it out on my blogroll), about vanity and its place in our lives. It is my opinion, and my opinion only, that it's essential that we love ourselves, a love that comes from respecting ourselves, showing compassion for and not judging ourselves, seeing ourselves in a wholly loving light.  In order to truly love others, we have to love ourselves first. Trying to do so any other way is starting backwards and I don't think that works very well, if at all. However, loving ourselves is not vanity. Vanity is Narcissus looking at his own reflection in the pool (we'll take another look at him later). Loving ourselves is seeing another, and in doing so seeing ourselves, and still loving what we see. Still with me?

Vanity comes from the ego, and I'm still working this one out, as you might suspect. Separating the good from the bad in ego is pretty tricky. I think it may well be impossible. The ego will always be whispering in our ear, having us believe in separation, that we are not That person, the one who is unloving, the one who is judgmental, the one who is spewing venomous words of hate and fear. The tricky part is, while I'm looking at another in this light, I am responding from the same set of feelings that I am so derisive of. As I said, I'm still working on this one. The world seems to provide so many opportunities for practice.

It seems we could all benefit from a big dose of joy. I recently saw an image of children in Portugal. It was a photograph in the September issue of National Geographic, taken by freelance photographer, Miguel Costa. Six boys, sons of fishermen, were sitting atop a heap of sand at a remote beach. All six of them were grinning and laughing and expressing unmitigated joy. No ego there.

Mark Twain once said, "Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand."  Laughter is wonderful. Surely we have all known the joy that comes from unrestrained laughter with a friend, completely unhampered by judgment, of any kind. The ego is dropped, joy steps in. This doesn't mean we live in a constant state of yukking it up. It can also be a quiet, tranquil joy, the joy that comes from staying in the moment and finding peace there.

Back to our boy, Narcissus. While staring at his own reflection in the lake, he falls into the water and is transformed into a beautiful flower! The goddess of the forest notices that the lake is no longer fresh water, but salty. She visits with the lake and the lake admits to weeping for Narcissus. The goddess inquires as to why. Was it because of his beauty? The lake responds, "I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful. I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depth of his eyes, my own beauty reflected."

I'm not sure these two, joy and ego, relate to anyone else as much as they do to me, but the joy of blogging is that I can use my page to express my feelings, and these feelings are just my opinions. No answers, just opinions. My opinion is: Joy is the answer. That and love. But, "That's just my opinion, I could be wrong,"  as Dennis Miller used to say on his show, that used to be on, that I used to watch, before his ego started annoying me so much.  See?  I need a lot more practice.

A lot.

I started looking at images of paintings by Winslow Homer and couldn't stop.  So, it's Winslow Homer Day on my blog.


  1. "The tricky part is, while I'm looking at another in this light, I am responding from the same set of feelings that I am so derisive of."

    Yup, that is the tricky part. Somehow I thought I was supposed to be discriminating, in the sense of sorting the good from the bad, and the better from the best. But as you note, that leads to judging and that leads to negativity.

    The first time I heard someone say that our goal in life should be happiness, I thought that was selfish and wrong. It's taken a while to understand the spiritual and metaphysical benefits of being, and seeking to be, happy!

    Also: hooray for Winslow Homer day on your blog.

  2. I hear ya and I'm with ya! My personal goal in life is balance. Guess I lived in Japan at the right time in my life for this to impact. There are 3 circles in the world: In Asia, yin and yang (bad and good) must exist for without bad there is no good; in South America bad must exist for macho to excell; in the U.S. and Europe and English-speaking countries, bad must be gotten rid of. (Divide the rest of the world according to colonialism , wars, etc. and relevant influence...all of this is VERY general.)

    I totally agree that loving myself is first and foremost. Without self-love there's no self-help, self-confidence, and so on. When I put bad (which can be whatever pulls one down, from a fear of spiders to...)in its proper place, ie, release its grip, balance returns. When I feel in balance, my whole self sings.

    But that's me...

  3. Not all over the map, at all...just in a couple of different states and that's good because they're all connected, anyway. Or should be. I love how you're expressing your thoughts. They really help me with my own. So thank you.

  4. Oops, forgot, there's an amazing blog fest going on at Karen G's Coming Down the Mountain. The sole object is to find new followers. Go on over and jump in, Tee!

  5. I'm glad you said at the end that the paintings were Winslow Homer's. As I read, I kept wondering whose they were.

    Mighty fine musings today. Just take Narcissism, for instance. There is nothing more toxic or destructive than a full-blown Narcissist but I believe we all need a teeny bit of the "good" Narcissism to push us in a creative direction. But all the while we have to keep the ego in check, as you say. It almost seems like we've taken a chalk and drawn a line and can't step over it because then we enter the toxic zone.

    Balance appears to be the goal for happiness. That is the goal of yin and yang .....the middle road. I ate macrobiotically for 35 years and was usually extremely happy and peaceful because I was eating peaceful, middle of the road food.

    I believe it all begins with the food we use as fuel. Bad oil won't run an engine. Same with our body. Eating balanced food will keep us on that chalk line.

    Interesting post, as usual Teresa.
    Have a great holiday weekend.

  6. Oh, I think I lost my comment so I need to start all over again. Serendipity! Love the internet and blogging. Just as I was reading your blog, your commentary on mine arrived. I enjoyed your remarks here on joy, an essential ingredient of life which I share. When teaching English literature to high school students before I retired, I was convinced that joy in the classroom was critical. Learning and mastering material are not always joyful, often tedious, but the results were inevitably joyful! I taught my classes with a Humanities approach and frequently used art and art projects with the literature and writing. Homer frequently was a favorite. Hope that you have a joyful weekend!

  7. You have me reflecting on my childhood and adulthood and wondering when the last time I laughed full heartedly with joy and no ego, with delight, I'm thinking those don't come often enough, I'm going to work on that. Love the last painting with the dogs in the boat, wonder if they're feeling joy.

    All of the paintings are in nature, I think that helps joy. I've got to push myself outdoors more to observe and delight in the world around me.

    Thanks for another great post.

  8. You know, I'm lucky. I usually just wake up happy. Let's just throw being a 4 x's Sagittarius into the mix. ha ha ha.. But, it really is part of it. Now here's kindof how I think...I meditate to silence the ego, that chatter that goes on inside my head. I then try to stay in the moment and mindful, and peace seems to surround me. Joy is fleeting in itself. The minute I try to hang on to some "joy" I start a form of suffering. know. As far as loving myself, well I think it's important to love all beings, and I'm a being too. So...I'm not loving my looks, talents, intelligence, whatever...again, I could get stuck in some form of attachment and the suffering starts all over again. As I look at the picture of those joyous boys, I understand that joy was available to them, at that moment, because they were in the moment. If they try to hang on to that joy...they'll suffer.
    I had to think about this post, and come back to it to respond...hmmm, sign of a good post!!!

  9. Wow! What thoughtful comments!

    Nancy: I am very grateful that you shared your thoughts. I see much of what I have learned, and am still learning, mirrored in your comments. Dropping all judgment of ourselves and others is imperative, I feel.

    Kittie: Yes, balance is necessary to lead a harmonious life. Nothing should remain so far from the Center that we lose that.

    CherylK: A "couple of different states." I'm glad you recognized their connection. It's hard to articulate these ideas in a way that really expresses what we're feeling.

    Manzanita: Very fine addition to the discussion. What we eat does play an essential role in how we keep balance in our lives. I have been working on this one for some time. Really listening to our inner voice that tells us when we're getting out of balance is something I continue to get better at. I appreciate your posts on eating healthy. I just purchased some raw cacao and look forward to making the pudding!

    Kate: I have a deep appreciation for teachers who use the humanities approach, combining all areas into an integrated whole. It helps students see a balance in life while introducing them to new ideas, and, hopefully, is a springboard for life-long learning.I bet you made a wonderful teacher!

    Linda: I am partial to the painting of the dogs in the boat, too. We can learn so much from the simple joy that dogs express, and their innate ability to stay in the moment. I think joy, that natural expression of peace that comes while in nature is a valuable experience, that should be repeated as often as possible. :)

    Lynne: I agree that meditating is a valuable tool in learning to quiet the mind and stay in the moment. I don't practice sitting in meditation nearly often enough, but I do practice staying in the moment and finding that tranquil, quiet joy, that resides there. Thank you so much for adding your very thoughtful comments.

  10. 'Joy is the answer...and love.' I like your reflections on the ego, our self centered nature which gets us all worked up and unhappy. Separating ourselves from ego but still seeing our own integrity and vital passions for ourselves and others need to be affirmed.

  11. I loved your first visit but not my last I think. I so believe in the yin and yang in life.. when life has been at its hardest is when I have grown in wisdom. Joy and ego.. quiet the mind, the ego mind.. joy is living the moment mindfully. Must go..but I will be back.

  12. Paul, A quiet, joyful passion for ourselves and others, without the ego! Yes! But then, I define terms rather loosely and think everything is possible! :) Thanks for adding to the discussion.

    Joan, I'm glad you visited and hope you'll be back. I, too, have grown in wisdom during difficult times. No doubt about it. I think I'm starting to learn these lessons without as much pain, Knowing that All is working for everyone's higher good.

  13. Hello Teresa! Thank you for a wonderful post. It's really something to think about. I'm also of the opinion that we love ourself from the beginning. To love others come with it. If this ability is destroyed it comes from outer influence. Recently I saw the results from a scientific research, where they had found out that babies have a sense of justice,(that humans actually are born with a sense of justice). I cannot find it now. But anyway, we humans are a complicated lot - and "our brain is a beautiful mess" like someone once said. You'll never know what will come next. At my high age I still feel it is complicated to find the balance, and I climb a mountain every day!
    Have a nice Sunday!
    Grethe `)

  14. Grethe, "A beautiful mess," that pretty much sums up the human mind. Finding a balance is ongoing. I thought as I got older, it would get easier, all the answers would arrive with less muddling through, but, alas, not to be. It continues, I suspect, until we leave this earth. But, what a ride!

  15. Hej Teresa! I always forget to say something. In spite of my way of dealing with balance, then I think it's individual, how people find balance in life. Maybe I have to be 200 years before I find out!!! You people here will find it sooner! And the most important thing to me is that life itself is wonderful. This was always my base, and as you say it's just about to enjoy the ride!

    I also forgot to say that those paintings are absolutely magnificent.

    Cheers to you, Teresa and your inspirational
    posts. I love the Great Bear-post.
    Grethe ´)

  16. Grethe, Life is beautiful and so many paths, as many as there are people, really. You fill your life with beauty every day with the images of nature you capture, the areas of interest you share with us and the walks you take us on with you. Thank you. Joy! Teresa