To close out meditation programs I lead, each participant has the opportunity to anonymously offer an issue that they are working with in their own life. Given the cloak of anonymity people feel free enough to strike at a core feeling of despair. We would be sitting in a circle and I would pull a piece of paper out of the bowl, and my heart would immediately break upon reading the topic to be discussed:
I have difficulty seeing myself as worthy of love. I doubt I'll ever find a partner. I feel alone and unlovable.
Sometimes this question was phrased as someone feeling like their partner did not actually love them and they didn't have confidence in their ability to be loved. Other times it was based in feeling alone. More often than not, the person asking the question says they feel like they are not worthy of another person's love.
We live in a society that is based in highlighting our short-comings. The make-up ads, the perfectly manicured celebrities, the thousand dollar suits and dresses that adorn them, everything highlights just how not put together enough we are. We have society yelling in our ear, saying, "Everyone has their act together except you. I swear!" Of course, that is simply not the case. Everyone, including the fantastical celebrities, have issues. I can't imagine the latest twenty-something movie star going through her second divorce doesn't worry that she is inherently unlovable.
The Shambhala Buddhist view of basic goodness is that we are already perfect. We are already amazing, just as we are. We are imminently loveable. If you can learn to develop faith in that notion, then you will realize your own self-worth. It is so important to develop faith in basic goodness. Pema Chodron has said, "I can't overestimate the importance of accepting ourselves exactly as we are right now, not as we wish we were or think we ought to be."
In any moment we have a choice. We can give in to society's pleas, urging us to become despondent because we will never be good enough to succeed in love, work, or family. Or we can listen to our own basic goodness, allowing that intuitive voice to guide us toward awakening to our full potential. We can hear that voice urging us to realize that we can accept ourselves exactly as we are; that we are already complete.
When we listen to the societal whisper of doubting our own goodness, we end up feeling alone and unlovable. When you have been broken up with, or have been single for a long time, you might begin to doubt that you will ever find someone who loves you for you again. Particularly as you start to get a bit older, you see all of your friends pair off and get married, and you may feel like you have missed the boat and will end up alone, with cats, until you die, are not found for weeks, the cats get hungry, and they eat you.
That is an extreme form of doubt. It is based in the idea that you are not okay. You are not good enough to be loved, or worthy of another person's admiration, so you will live a miserable life because no one will care for you in any way. It assumes that true happiness will be found in external circumstances, in this case a partner, who will always be around, supportive, and not die before you.
When you are hooked by this trap of doubt, there are two things you can remind yourself:
1) Everything is impermanent
My father's dentist used to joke that there can't be a hell, because you can get used to anything in three days. The notion behind impermanence is that it's not just good stuff that changes, morphs, and fades away. It is the bad stuff too. It is the heart-break when you are dumped, and the grief when someone dies, and the feelings of inadequacy that move across our life like a tumbleweed in an old Western movie. Everything is impermanent, so there is actually very little to worry about in this lifetime.
2) Basic goodness never fades away
The one thing that will not fade or go away is our innate wakefulness. In traditional texts it is referred to as primordial, in that it has no beginning and no end. Our ability to wake up is always available to us, like a well that has unlimited water rushing into it. No matter how much we drink of our basic goodness, there is always more of it to enjoy.
If you can overcome your doubt, you can connect with the view of basic goodness. You can soak in the cool, refreshing waters of this fathomless well of awake. Even if society whispers in your ear that you are unlovable, or that you will end up with one hundred cats, you can take a sip of your own goodness and acknowledge that those whispers are ephemeral and they too shall pass.
From 'Walk Like a Buddha' by Lodro Rinzler, © 2013 Lodro Rinzler. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications Inc., Boston, Mass.