I was having coffee with a very wise friend (who also happens to be a Zen teacher) and we were discussing the issue of selfishness. He told me that he believes our lesson in our lifetime is to learn to do that which is difficult to us. For instance, if you have trouble extending to others, sharing, opening your heart and giving others a space in your life, then your work is in learning to say “yes” to others more often. In other words, if you’re selfish, then you can grow by learning to be more selfless. If you fall into that category, this article isn’t for you. Move along.
I’m writing to those of you who have no difficulty saying “yes” to everyone around you, but often end up shortchanging yourself. According to my friend, your work is to learn to say no to others. Your work is to learn to say yes to yourself and to consider your own needs. Why? If you are only saying yes to others because you are incapable of saying no, you are acting out of habit, and not by choice. When we do not feel that we have choice, we create resentment, anger and difficulty. In other words, we make ourselves (and others around us) unhappy.
I’m currently teaching an Artist’s Way course. Every time I lead or participate in this admittedly demanding course, the same questions come up for me: how can I possibly make seven hours a week to address my own creative needs? Isn’t that SELFISH? This is a common theme that I hear from participants in every AW workshop I teach. Indeed, it is something that Julia Cameron identifies as one of the main obstacles for artists or creative people: the myth that time spent attending to our own needs is wrong or bad.
How often do we show up for others? I bet that if you look at your weekly calendar, you’ll find that you spend a lot more than seven hours a week keeping the appointments that you make with other people. I bet that you make an effort to be there on time. I bet that you often prepare in advance. I bet that you even dress up.
How much time do you spend:
- Championing or encouraging the dreams of others?
- Facilitating solutions for others?
- Using creative energy to pull people out of bad situations?