Friday, May 13, 2005

Benign Neglect

Eknath Easwaran says that selfish desires are like “delicate houseplants” that need a lot of attention to grow, whereas if they’re neglected, they wither and die. We can neglect our selfish desires by reciting our mantram and keeping our minds focused on worthwhile work, especially that which serves others.

This might sound like a way of dealing with selfishness that is unworkably simplistic at best and, at its worst, could amount to unhealthy repression. I might add that Easwaran counsels the same essential approach to dispelling emotions such as jealousy, resentment, and anger.

But it’s worth keeping in mind that he’s urging us to practice these techniques within the framework of an entire way-of-life that integrates complementary elements such as meditation, mindfulness, slowing down, and participating in a spiritual community of some sort. When looked at and practiced this way, Easwaran’s approach to overcoming selfishness and other misguided attitudes and emotions through benign neglect may be effective and wholesome.

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