Trust in the Goodness of your Practice

I feel more comfortable around people with flaws. I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.

– Augusten Burroughs.


Maybe you know that starfish story? On the morning after a storm, thousands of starfish have been washed up on the sand, and a morning walker sees somebody on the beach, throwing them back in to the ocean one by one. Approaching the person, the walker says “There are thousands of these things. You know you can’t really make a difference?” The person picks up another starfish, tossing it gently back into the waves and replying, “It makes a difference to this one.”

What we do makes a difference. Your life is forged, moment by moment, by how your heart meets the world. Look carefully, and you’ll see the inherent goodness of your deepest heart’s longing. How much do you appreciate your own goodness?

Talking with dharma students, I see again and again how the fundamental goodness of heart that animates their practice gets undermined by frustration, fear and helplessness; doubt, skepticism and subtle (or not so subtle!) negativity. It might take the form of a low level grumbling about what is happening; a background narrative that emphasises us what is uncomfortable or unfair or inconvenient; talking up what is wrong with ourselves or others or the world.

Focusing on what is wrong or bad or problematic (and of course, there is an infinite amount), we lose touch with a free and buoyant heart. Love and trust, joy and confidence fade. Everything looks shitty. Life itself looks bleak. Actually, precisely because there is much in ourselves and in the world that needs care and attention and transformation, a happy heart is a vital resource for meeting all of that.

We easily project this background negativity onto our Dharma practice too, telling ourselves how inadequate our meditation is, in quantity or quality or both. We tell ourselves that we are not concentrated enough, not disciplined enough, not wise or compassionate engough, and so we undermine our good intentions. We overlook the goodness of heart that animates our practice; we ignore the clarity of mind that sees life’s vast mystery and orients us to inner and outer transformation.

On Sunday, in my first session of 2020 at Worldwide Insight (or Sangha Live as it is about to become), we’ll explore together how our basic goodness gets inwardly undermined, how it can be reclaimed, and how nourishing it is to really find and feel and trust in the goodness of your practice.

Between now and Sunday, explore this for yourself. See how you might inwardly moan about your meditation or your mind or your life. See if you can recognise your sincerity. Your good intention. Your precious heart.

Basic goodness is the fundamental ground of your own heart and mind and being. A buoyant heart allows us to face the ‘infinite ocean of suffering’ and stay open-hearted; It is the foundation for living the Bodhisattva vows, it is how we keep on waking up and showing up and growing up, for the benefit of ourselves and others and the world that deeply needs our goodness to come forward.


With love,
Martin