My reflections on “self-cherishing”

As the year draws to an end, it is the perfect time to look inwards and consider everything that we are deeply grateful for. Consider that we are incredibly blessed to be born on this earthly plane, experiencing a physical existence as a human. Consider that we are bestowed with this precious opportunity to use this physical vessel to learn, grow & evolve through life experiences. Consider that most of us have adequate food, water, shelter, education & resources to survive. How blessed we are! ❤

Over the past few weeks, I have been learning about a root delusion that most humans have, which is known as “self-cherishing”.

Self-cherishing”, by definition, is to put our happiness & freedom from suffering as most important, to the neglect of others. It should not be confused with self-care, which allows us to love & take care of ourselves as necessary, so that we may be of service to ourselves & others.

Why should we be concerned with “self-cherishing”?

The main disadvantage is that “self-cherishing” closes our hearts & minds to the suffering of other beings around us. It is akin to us holding a ‘spotlight’ to focus fully & deeply on ourselves – all our misery, pain & suffering, and how it feels like the world to us. For example, as someone diagnosed with an autoimmune condition, self-cherishing makes me want to feel how unfortunate I am to be stricken with this disease. Why me? Why not others? Why am I so unlucky? Why is God/Source/Universe so unfair to me? It is easy to go down the negative spiral of thoughts, and feel the entirety of the unfairness & anger on our shoulders.

However, is this an accurate perception of the world around us? Do we allow ourselves to be reminded of the broader context of how things operate around us? Are we open to accepting the truth that our soul chose to experience difficult conditions for a greater purpose?

To oppose a self-cherishing mind, it may be helpful, for a start, to remind ourselves of the reasons why other living beings are equally important to us.

(1) All that we have today is due to the great kindness of all living beings.

Sometimes, we may feel as if what we have today is all due to our own hard work, and full credit should rightly be given to us. We may feel angry that our parents were not as supportive and nurturing as what we hoped for when growing up. At times, we may even feel like abandoning them.

At moments like these, it is helpful to take a step back & recall the reality that happened from the moment that we were given a life. Recall that our life was created by our parents. Recall that it wouldn’t have been possible for us to even be born had our dearest mother not kept us in her womb during pregnancy. Recall the team of medical staff that oversaw our mother’s pregnancy, to ensure a safe delivery as far as possible. Recall how helpless we were in the first few years of growing up, and how everything that we are currently equipped with, came from others. We learnt how to eat, drink, walk, talk and even bathe through others (whether directly or indirectly). All our skills, languages, and qualities that we have, were taught or influenced by others. We didn’t come to earth knowing how to communicate with others, and how to work in our profession to make a living. If not for the great kindness of other living beings around who imparted these knowledge (whether directly or indirectly), we wouldn’t have made it this far in our lives.

Even in daily life, may we consider the reality that everything we have, came from others. For example, the food that we consume, every bit of which came from different sources contributed by the world around us. Our vegetables might have came from the local supermarket, which in turn came from foreign suppliers, and in turn came from the farmer, with the entire logistics of transporting it to our plate coordinated by even more people.

Consider the reality that we depend upon others. Consider the reality that we are inter-connected to others, whether we like it or not, and whether we choose to see it or not.

(2) Just as I wish to be happy & free from suffering, so do others around me.

When we expand our ‘spotlight’ to include ourselves & others around us, we open our hearts & minds to empathise with the suffering of others. Ultimately, every living being is just like us.

Every living being wants to be happy & free from suffering, even though we may have different ideas how to accomplish that. For example, I may feel that in order to be free from suffering, I need to grow spiritually and stop the wheel of reincarnation. On a daily basis, I may feel that in order to be free from the negative talk of my dad, I need to react & retaliate back, to shut him up. He may feel that in order to be free from the lack of money, he should be obsessed with money. At different stages of our life’s journey, depending on our experiences, we may have different ideas how to be happy & free from suffering. Ultimately, our goal remains the same. We are all equal.

(3) I am only one, compared to the countless beings around. My happiness & freedom from suffering is insignificant, compared to the happiness & freedom from suffering of countless beings around.

When we see our suffering in the context of the suffering of others in a world of 8 billion people, we may appreciate that our suffering is, in reality, not the world to us.

While we honour our emotions, we allow ourselves the space to view our emotions in the broader context. For example, what is the suffering of my frequent body inflammation compared to the suffering of extreme hunger, fear or pain of people living in war-torn countries? Consider that these people also live & breathe the suffering that they are experiencing, just like us. Although their suffering may not be proportionately captured in mainstream news (due to its daily occurrence), it does not mean that their suffering does not exist or is insignificant.

Perhaps we can ask ourselves: Am I the only one suffering from this issue? Are there others who may be experiencing suffering that is similar to, or greater than, me?

Concluding thoughts

The purpose of our sharing is to open everyone’s hearts & minds to the reality around us. To remember the great kindness of everyone around, that we depend upon them, and we are all inter-connected (whether we are aware of it or not). At the heart of it, we are all equal and deserving of love, attention & respect. May we learn to always be grateful for everything around us, and share this gratitude with others who may be experiencing suffering similar to, or greater than, us.

May we stand together as a human race, united in our hearts & minds, feeling the deep love & compassion for all. Blessings be to All! ❤

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