News and AnalysisPodcast

Skills, Goodness, and Spiritual Practice

 

This episode explains important distinctions between two separate areas of self-improvement, skills, and goodness, with special emphasis on opportunities and even dangers if this is not considered in the arena of spiritual practice.


Read transcript below 

TRANSCRIPT

Good morning, I’m going to speak today on a topic entitled Skills, Goodness and Spiritual Practice

What I want to do is simply introduce an important twinned element, not only in spiritual practice, but in life itself. Then I’ll bring these into account for how they combine or how they work together in the arena of our spiritual pursuits, or a personal spiritual regimen. So I introduce as paired elements skills, and goodness. These are particularly important to recognize as distinct arenas, different from one another. A lot of people just simply blend these two things. They don’t pause to recognize that these are two entirely separate matters. Every person ever born, has both elements within them, and has the capacity to make the most of each. 

Everyone is born with a set of skills. No matter who we are, no matter who the person is, this person could appear to the naked eye as the most extremely disabled, with every imaginable sort of cognitive disability, physical disability. And yet at important levels, this person has unique skills and has a life ahead of them. Or they’re in the midst of it, in which they have the opportunity to develop, and hone and refine these skills, to use their hours and days to arrive in the ever maturing parts of life, having made the most of their skills, having caused them to flower and have the capacity to be effective and influential. I repeat, this is everybody, this is everybody from your triathlon gold medal winner, to a person who has never been able to sit up a day in their lives, has a horizon of self improvement in the arena of the unique skills granted you granted me This is ubiquitous. It characterizes the life of every person born.

Then there is an entirely different area, the arena of goodness. Most people, as I say, tend to blend these things. They don’t pause to ponder how they’re different. Skills are meant to serve my growing capacity to be good at ever deeper, ever broader, ever greater, and grander levels. Goodness requires its own separate investment. Goodness is simply understood to be the extent to which the happiness of others is more an obsession of mine than my own preferences, pursuits, desires, conveniences, comforts, extravagance, extravagances tastes. This is a very simple definition; in ever increasing frequency until hopefully, all the time, in every circumstance, every waking moment, and even every sleeping moment, what I hope for most, what I live for most, with everything I think say and do, all exists just for the happiness of others to every imaginable and every possible extent that’s possible for me. That’s what I call goodness. It’s in a certain way, self sacrifice, but paradoxically, a person’s joys, freedom and boundless peace in life come from this way of life. It’s not seen or felt at first, but as one falls more into the natural way of goodness, the fruits of goodness and the blessings and the abundance of life naturally arises from that. 

So, skills are developed in a particular way. And goodness is developed in a particular way. Goodness is the strenuous, rigorous, difficult practice of always opting for the positive welfare of the other, even if on the face of it and in the immediate it seems like I’m having to give something up my sleep, the better part of the meal or whatever the upper or lower bunk, whatever the better clothes or whatever, it doesn’t matter doesn’t matter. So I train myself in this area I pay attention to when I’m acting selfishly. I try to work against it, I try to willfully make decisions in which the act is designed to improve the life of the other. Even if it’s at the expense of my own, in the moment and in this way I work on my goodness, contrary wise or related wise, working on my skills is something entirely different. Say I’m a good Dart player, I play darts, I have to throw 1000 darts to be confident under pressure to to score whatever particular point scores needed to hit the exact winner of the game or something like that. Skills are just where one concentrates on oneself, gets to know one’s capacities and nature and strengths. And then make every conscientious effort to improve one’s skills. You study, you find mentors, you find coaches, you find teachers, you work a little more than the next guy or next girl, you stay up all night, you shoot free throws in your driveway until you literally collapse and have to be carried indoors. This is just the refinement and the improvement in the efforts of our skills. 

I hope I’ve made that clear and these two very different matters in two sides of life, both of which require serious focus energy concentration, to try to improve ourselves in these two separate areas. 

With this now I want to move to the main point of this little disquisition. A great many people are involved in spiritual practice of some sort or another. We may be a simple Methodist or Presbyterian or Catholic who goes to church Sundays, or maybe goes to church once or twice a week on other occasions as well. Possibly study scripture every day, possibly has a regimen with a particular time in the morning that’s dedicated to prayer and meditation. You might be a new age sort, you might be strictly into meditation, you might be a member of a formal Asian or Eastern religion that involves yogic practices, movements, breathing. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. Everybody finds, is born into,  settles into, finds or prefers, or eventually picks that collection of religious behavior and regimen that they imagine will contribute to their spiritual growth in their eternal destiny. Maybe some or only imagine one or the other. Maybe someone just focused simply on eternal destiny never even pondered what the notion of spiritual growth is. And then there are others trying to grow spiritually, greater awareness, greater, I don’t know make your heartbeats go down to 12 beats so you know, it’s that there are different orientations and spiritual regimen. 

But be that as it may, the important thing that I want to introduce is I want to import what I’ve just spoken about, regarding skills and goodness, because in spirit and spiritual pursuits, just like anything, just like playing the violin, or cello, or just like track and field or Jai Lai, it doesn’t matter. Spiritual pursuits are identical in this degree or in this manner. They require serious investment in overcoming those obstacles, breaking through barriers and becoming better and better, more and more skillful, better and better at the particular and unique skill set. That’s purely my own, particularly in the area of spiritual growth, or spiritual regimen, or my heaven bound notes or other other life oriented notes or whatever. There are things I have to do, I have to invest in the same way I’d invest in any skill, playing the piano for a recital or something like that. If I’m meditating, it’s hard. If anybody’s ever tried it, it’s an enormous amount of work, I don’t know which would be harder to master a Chopin piece. I don’t know what would be harder to master a Chopin piece, or to master the capacity to meditate in a pure and complete fashion even for three minutes in a row. I really don’t know. I’ve never tried to play Chopin, but I meditate. 

But here’s the thing, honing in and, and improving and investing in the skills needed for spiritual growth is entirely different from honing and improving and advancing in the arena of goodness. Goodness is not a matter of being able to meditate. So you can find people that are highly skilled in spiritual practice, who are crummy people, they’re lousy people. They’re selfish. people, they’re arrogant people. There’s no development whatsoever. Sadly, these people turn others away from perfectly good religious practice. You think to yourself, oh, this guy meditates all the time, he claims to be so peaceful, he can stop his breath for a minute and a half. And, he’s a nasty, selfish guy, always, always thinking of himself or herself, always speaking of themselves, he or she’s just the individual who you really don’t want to be around. And so that means that that person is working only on their skills and not on their goodness. Goodness always requires being oriented toward the welfare of other people. So that when I invest in my spiritual practice, no matter what it is, I could read the Bible, if I read the Bible every day, I sit on the subway with a big fat Bible, kind of hope to be seen by everybody turning those onion skin paper, thin pages, and just exuding my love of love of Jesus. But if I’m not simultaneously invested in and into and studying goodness, and trying to improve my goodness, then spiritual practice is simply delimited to the development of certain skills, that Bible reader may have tons of religious skills and spiritual skills, even spiritual powers, for all I know, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that those skills are being applied to the arena of goodness. 

The last and final thing I’ll say on this matter, is that if you happen to be involved in spirituality at deep, deep levels, you end up in spiritual environments, and you end up under the influence of spiritual environments, and spiritual entities. And so if you happen to be involved in meditating, and attaining heights of this embodiment, I strongly urge that you or we or I, or whoever, invest in balancing those skills with goodness, because in the higher reaches or higher rounds of spiritual reality, your skills can bring you into places where you come under extremely bad influences, and there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s the reality of your environment. But if you refine and strengthen your goodness, then when your spiritual practice brings you into rarefied spiritual environments, and in the presence of spiritual entities, these will be good. They’ll be edifying, there’ll be enriching, there’ll be positive for the real quality of our souls and of our being and of our way of being in the world. So the skills and goodness partnership is most especially pressing for anyone that’s seriously pursuing spiritual practice in ways that are going to have you in the pure presence of spiritual entities and under the overwhelming influence of rarefied spiritual reality. Alright, thanks very much for listening. We’ll speak again soon.