Athletes, business icons, some world leaders, often celebrities and many other prominent figures are revered for their “greatness.” They’ve exhibited tremendous discipline, skill, talent and courage to achieve such difficult goals. They live atop the rest of our shoulders, as we do nothing but validate them for their mastery, giving little credence to their goodness, which at many times, is difficult to perceive. Doesn’t mean it’s not there.
What our society’s preoccupation with achieving, beauty, money and fame leads to is a cultural identity crisis. It sometimes leads to an homogenized American dream and a fixation with how the outside world perceives and treats us, rather than how we treat ourselves and our outside world.
Far fewer than those admired for their greatness are those graced by goodness. I believe most people are good, but what is exhibited, shared, pursued and therefore rewarded is mostly greatness. Those known for their goodness exude such a kindness of heart, a genuine compassion, a lust for being alive, that they often seem foreign to many of us. Why are they so happy? What happened to them, what was given to them, what did they achieve, who do they know that they now hold such peace and light in their being? NOthing and NOone is the answer. Those fortunate souls have found the secret. They are in love with the life that they are, not the life they have.
As a recovering over-achiever with a slight side-effect of perfectionism, I toiled mostly with greatness. I was fixated by it, in others and in myself, hoping I had it, working to achieve it, and ultimately, believe that I was it. Why else would I strive for such good grades, to the point of stressing myself into sadness and exhaustion? Why else would losing a game/match negatively affect me? Or godforbid my favorite athletes, whose greatness I admired deeply, loses, and my heart sinks. Because I was so defined by the external circumstances and so completely unaware of the very fundamental truth that I Am Alive Now, and everything else is superfluous.
Something in me always wanted to teach. A dream would be at the collegiate level. I recognize how that dream reflects a bit of my strife for greatness, my need to achieve, satisfying that ache in my psyche that says “you are enough now.” A teacher is sometimes undervalued and almost always an underpaid profession, no matter what the subject. Why you see such goodness amongst many teachers is because they clearly followed their hearts when choosing the path of teaching, because it sure as shit wasn’t to get rich. For me, the decision to teach actually took more cajones (we need a female equivalent, ovaries as metaphor for guts doesn’t quite cut it yet) than any other choice I’ve made. Somehow following my heart meant sacrificing my ego’s need for greatness. Now it was up to me to showcase my goodness and hope it led to greatness, but no more trying, thinking or doing, I chose being as a priority and that’s where goodness resides, in the beat of the heart, the rise and fall of your breath, the vibration of cellular activity in your body.
In short, goodness is your essence. Goodness is your nature, how you relate to others, how you treat yourself, your relationship with life, your comfort with presence. Greatness is of the mind. There are many feats of greatness that should absolutely be respected and used as fuel for inspiration, in particular coming from a soul with inherent goodness. I can only explain that from my personal past experience, being clouded by the need to achieve can disguise your goodness.
It is precisely why buying things, winning things and being consumed by future results/acquisitions provides only a fleeting high and then it’s on to the next. I love my modest collection of yoga clothes, my book and DVD collection, and my furniture, but I feel no attachment to these things, just as my diploma only reflects a fraction of who I am and what I’ve done. When you prioritize your goodness, your experience of being human, you’re privy to the intelligence that arises beyond thought, you become attune to what your body, mind and heart needs and when you listen carefully to the voice that is not your ego, the noncritical, reasonable voice of your soul, your path to greatness will unveil itself and nothing will stop you from following it. What will lead to your own definition of greatness will be the gratitude and emphasis placed on your goodness, on living your best day every single day.
Tips to accessing your innate goodness:
Breathe: One conscious breath is a meditation, as the ever wise Eckhart Tolle says. The simple act of taking voluntary action over your breath, inhaling fully and exhaling slowly, is your gateway into presence, into feeling the life force that you are, into experiencing your inner reality.
Make a list of not only what you will be getting from achieving this future based goal, but more importantly what you’ll be sacrificing. Then make a separate list that simply states Why you are pursuing this form of greatness. There is no wrong answer. Knowing why you’re following a path can be helpful in knowing if it’ll bring you lasting happiness or not. If you must sacrifice your health (sleep, adequate diet, movement, stress intake) then you may not be prioritizing your goodness. If you can find a balance where you prioritize both, there’s the sweet spot. Sure there may be some sleepless nights, but if that’s a consistent reality for you, along with not having time for sex, relationships, friends, quality food and genuine play, then why are you wasting your time? The tastiest fruits of this existence lie within our natural inclinations: connecting with others, laughing, moving, loving, eating, resting. Neglect these and life will feel short and incomplete.
Take an honest look at your closest relationships. Do you feel like your best self with those you hold so dear? What are these relationships giving to you and what are you able to give to them? Real love, which exists eons away from the ego, is equal, natural and dare I say, easy. You want only happiness, fullness and enthusiasm for the other, whether it be friend, family or lover. And they only want the same for you. You support one another without question, anticipate each other’s needs with a sound intelligence, and the bond between you is intangible, indestructible, and far exceeds the importance of your opinions, your greatness, your past or your future. Real love exists in a timeless realm. The thinking mind must occasionally be muted to become aware, but once you are, there’s no going back.
Delve into Yoga: The suggestions above are lessons yoga taught me. Yoga is a cheaper, kinder, healthier psychoanalysis. I studied Psychology in college, I am not diminishing the value of psychotherapy, psychologists or utilizing these tools to discover more answers to your burning questions. I simply feel yoga provides some truly dynamite, spot-on questions, the answers only lying in you. No one else can answer the questions about your fundamental truths: who you are, who you love, what you desire out of life, and why you experience life the unique way you do.
Through asana, mat and body are metaphors for life, your practice and how you feel in it has a lot to inform you about your internal well-being. When we focus solely on anatomical achievement, on what we assume to be greatness on the mat, we lose the message entirely. Yoga integrates the mind, body and heart in ways very few practices do. Your asked to move intuitively, to instinctually decipher between sensation and pain, to observe the activity in your mind, to own the energy you bring into the room, and you’re confronted by your relationship with time. We’re either dwelling and/or attempting to recapture the past, anticipating and/or rehearsing for the future, or we’re present. Only while present are you attuned to your essence and goodness. Everything else is just filler. Your path to greatness will be undisturbed by your gains or losses. The strength in your goodness will be your guide. Play the game because the game is fun, not because you love to win or you hate to lose. Play to play.
Yoga helps instill the truth that the only real competition in this world is the struggle between your ego and your essence. When you drop comparison and realize the futility inherent in the rat race, you realize you’ve already won. You’re here, alive, now. Nothing else matters as much. More important than knowing all and having the answers, is maintaining the innocence and humility required in asking questions, in grasping that sense of wonder that makes life a mystifying experience. Trust your heart, your essence, your goodness, your stillness, and the outside world will manifest your greatness. Give what you wish to receive. Everything you were born with, everything you nakedly are, is all you will be left with when you die. Live light, travel light, and you will exude light. Life will be luminous.