A friend of mine recently asked, "What is most important in your life?"
What a powerful question!
Before you read my answer below, I'd really like to hear what is most important in YOUR life.
If you like, please leave me your answer to this question as a comment below.
What's Most Important In My Life
Put simply, what is most important in my life is cultivating the ability to help people be happy, and to relieve them of the suffering they experience. My No. 1 aspiration in life is to leave each person I interact with at least a little bit better off than I found them.
Sometimes this means taking a lot of time to help someone. Many times it means simply making eye contact and smiling to others as they walk by.
This effort is so important to me because I have become acutely aware of how much pain I feel when I have done things that contribute to the suffering of other people, and how much joy I feel when I help someone to be happy and/or suffer less.
The ability to help people be happy and suffer less is what I call true love, which I think has three essential components: kindness, compassion, and equanimity.
True Love Is Not a Feeling
Most people refer to love as a feeling. And the word is used equally for people and things, including hamburgers and pizza. We've all heard someone say, "I love pizza," right? I believe that what they're referring to is not love, but liking someone or something, and/or feeling passion, or desire.
I see love not as a feeling, but as an ability -- the ability to respond to people, and all of life, with kindness, compassion, and equanimity.
- Kindness is the ability and effort to respond to someone in a way that makes them happy.
- Compassion is the aspiration to understand and help relieve someone of the suffering they experience.
- Equanimity is the ability to be kind and compassionate to all beings, without bias, whether we like them or not.
Training for True Love
Although there is an almost endless list to the benefits of practicing mindfulness, cultivating true love has been the principal motivation for my practice. The insight that comes from the continued practice of mindfulness -- that we are not the ego but that which is aware of the ego -- gradually reduces how selfish we are.
True love -- kindness, compassion, and equanimity -- is the natural result of being less attached to the ego.
The Benefits of True Love
Cultivating true love is probably the most powerful thing we can do to increase our own happiness. Arianna Huffington just posted a great article on the abundance of evidence for how true love improves our own life.
In addition to improving our own life, I truly believe that training for true love is the most important thing we can do to "save the world," to end suffering permanently.
I've realized that if I can uproot selfishness in me, I am free from suffering and I realize true love. I can also help others to uproot selfishness, be free of suffering and realize true love. If they can do it, they can help others.
Imagine what the world would be like if everyone was free from selfishness and suffering and capable of true love in each moment. There would be no wars, no one would go without food and shelter, and no one would be lonely in moments of pain.
Aware of the fact that each moment I practice mindfulness is taking us one step closer to a world free of suffering makes each moment of my life feel incredibly meaningful.
What's most important in your life? How often do you remind yourself of what's most important?
For more on emotional wellness, click here.
For more by Matt Tenney, click here.
Follow Matt Tenney on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@MattTenney1