An interesting concept: self-promotion. Some of the events that stirred the dukkha pot over the last weeks have been encounters with the manifestation of self-promotion. Actually it hasn’t been obvious, coming couched as self-compassion. However, the language should have tipped me off.
“It’s really important to me to do this on my own.”
“I don’t want to be part of a group.”
OK, I take that back. The language didn’t tip me off because it sounded very assertive in setting boundaries. The only thing at hinted at something being fishy was a felt sense of the ground shifting, the subtext sliding from goodness to grasping. And, I tend to give a lot of credit to the inherent goodness in the Other. That is, I give credit forgetting that inherent goodness is not necessarily goodness manifest.
Am I being harsh? I probably am. My downfall always comes from looking at ways connection and community can be cultivated. If we dug deep, it’s likely tied to losing culture and community at a young age. Or maybe it’s having had a powerful family and community which trained a mind that knows there is safeness in numbers, that the work is easier when the aspirations are embodied by many. Who knows.
Whatever the reason, I know community is critical and it’s always a shock to realize the Other may not share that vision. I think getting through the koan window on this one is to stop assuming that building sangha is a common aspiration for all Buddhists. The other part is to develop a discernment of self-compassion from self-promotion. Paul Gilbert, author of Compassionate Mind, notes that self-compassion and compassion for others go hand-in-hand. He also is very clear in pointing out the difference between self-compassion and self-promotion. In fact, as I read it, the latter is a shadow side of the former, cultivating competitiveness, entitlement, and personal indulgence.
It’s hard to differentiate just by listening to the words. Is it setting a boundary? Or is it holding a possessive view? Is it clarifying the nature of self? Or is it clinging to Self? It’s a tricky line we all cross over and over. And I see myself caught in its sticky web when I blunder along assuming the other has not only the same aspiration for a mutual outcome but the same North Star to guide us there.
Thank you for practising,