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Why Selfishness is the Most Selfless Thing in the World.

“Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it” ~ Rumi

Yoga is about taking away all the shit we put inside of us all the time—all the thoughts we put into our brains about who we are and what our place is; all the things we agreed to participate in that maybe we didn’t want to; all of our opinions about ourselves that we often fake as fact.

We take away everything so we can find that we are everything.

I can’t possibly see what could be more important than clearing my system.

And that little word right there—my, me, mine—that little word sparks a conversation I have had quite a bit, the conversation about yoga and selfishness.

No matter who I talk to, there is a general agreement that, yes, in fact, yoga is selfish—it is the vessel of us that we bring to the mat and we engage with ourselves as one pure question tacitly plays its way in our bloodstream: how am I put together right now and am I aligned with that?

I’ve heard dozens of opinions on the topic, all ranging from complete support of yoga to absolute distaste.

The distaste comes from the associative property in math: yoga is selfish and selfishness is bad, therefor yoga is bad.

I happen to completely disagree with that.

“The greatest thing I can do for you is work on myself,

and the greatest thing you can do for me is work on yourself.”

~ Ram Dass

This is why selfishness is the most selfless thing in the world:

  • Shitty Thoughts: When I have a whole bunch of shitty thoughts inside of me—thoughts about myself, about others, about the way the world has, does and will work—I show up with an offering of disengaged cynicism, and I cannot possibly offer anything remotely helpful. (i.e. when I’m full of shitty thoughts, I am an asshole)
  • Distractions: I am empty of distractions—I don’t have a whole bunch of judgments and opinions creating negative thoughts about people and allowing me to blame others for my own internal dysfunction.
  • Responsibility: I take responsibility for what I find inside of me, and I know that every feeling and thought I have is mine and mine alone—no one else is responsible for what I find inside of me. Therefor I am able to release my supreme ability to hold a grudge (and oh boy, is it a supreme ability).
  • Opinions: I don’t have a whole bunch of negative opinions about myself creating negative opinions about other people.
  • Acceptance: I am more prepared to accept things as they come, which means I don’t get bent out of shape when things happen that I don’t expect. i.e. getting cut off on the freeway, hearing disappointing news from a friend, or counting on the Post Secrets to be posted at precisely midnight every Sunday.
  • Emotional Intelligence: I can only experience the emotional vocabulary with others that I experience with myself. And I want that emotional vocabulary to be full of love, gratitude, compassion, courage, devotion and humility.
  • Love: When I learn that self-love is really the ability to allow myself to exist without trying to define or modify myself, I allow others to step into their own comfort and embody themselves without definition or modification.
  • Empowerment: My empowerment is not somehow predicated on the failure of someone. There is no hierarchy or greater-than-less-than scale. My empowerment comes from generosity of spirit, so that all beings may feel empowered.
  • Law of Attraction: If I feel good, I create space for others to feel good around me. If I feel like shit, there’s no hope for any of us.

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

~ Siddhartha Guatama Buddha

Selfishness is good, selfishness is bad—it doesn’t matter to me. And I’m not punishing myself either. I look at all of this as the ability to clear my system so I’m not punishing other people for my own bullshit.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter to me what anyone’s opinion is. I can only hold myself accountable for my own opinion on things and I must bring myself into my own alignment by asking, “does this opinion help me enjoy being the human being that I am?”

As long I align my opinions and ideas with that question, I never need to worry about anything else.

I want to wake up, greet my eyes in my bathroom mirror, and think, “Holy fuck, I love being this human being.”

That is what the whole of life is starting to boil down to for me.

“I don’t want realism, I want magic.”

~ Tennessee Williams

Abracadabra, homies. Bring on the self-love.

Like The Mindful Life on Facebook.

Ed: Sara Crolick 

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Alvaro Mar 12, 2014 1:56pm

What a stuff of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious

know-how concerning unpredicted feelings.

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Brentan Schellenbach

Brentan Schellenbach is a yoga teacher, writer, adventurer and happiness enthusiast. She is the co-founder of Yoga In Your Living Room, an online platform that helps people develop a fulfilling home yoga practice and learn how to be happy in life, regardless of circumstance. Join her and her partner, Oli, for free Weekly Letters every Sunday, which feature happiness lessons learned from life on their San Diego hilltop, along with new free online yoga classes and blog posts on the nature of happiness. She also helps local yoga studios and teachers move their branding online to connect with a broader audience. Connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.