window on self-promotion

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,

Genju