A bit belated, but here goes:
Pretty much all of our religions and our various self-help practices are based on the idea that what we are right now is not good enough. We then envision what "good enough" must be like and we make efforts to transform what we are right now into this image of ourselves as "good enough." We invent in our minds an imaginary "mindful me" and then try to make ourselves into that.
The real conflict, as Brad points out, is not in trying to improve ourselves. It's in aiming for a target that is produced entirely by our imaginations, and which may well be forever out of our reach because of that.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to make yourself into a better person, as long as you're doing it in the particulars and not in the abstract. If you want to be less selfish, as Brad points out, you have to be less selfish. If you want to be more giving, then you go and be more giving. It ain't rocket surgery!
And yes, you are not alone if all this stuff sounds like twice-baked fortune cookies. It always seems that way from the outside, when all you have is the words, and mere words are lousy substitutes for real hard-won wisdom. hey can sure look like wisdom, but they're no more wisdom than — as Warner himself once put it — you can drink your Kool-Aid out of the word "cup".
Sometimes the way this surfaces is so straightforward you feel stupid for ignoring it. Couple of years back, I was up in a hotel room somewhere, grousing at a friend over this-that-and-the-other. I don't remember much about the discussion, but I do remember unreeling a whole line of "I wish"-type statements: I wish I had done this; I wish I was doing that; I wish I could be ... it went on like that. And a some point, after I said an I-wish-I-could-do-this type statement, he looked at me and said, "So why don't you?"
I didn't have an answer for him at the time — I think I pulled some silly subject-changing dodge — but the question got lodged in me for a long time. Every time after that I found myself in a situation where I could easily have used some cop-out, the same question came up: what was stopping me? Was it because I had some image of myself that included me not doing that (even if the thing in question was something as minor as asking someone to do something)? It took a while for me to finally get it through my fat head that it was this image of myself that was the real problem — an image of something that didn't even exist in the first place.
The only thing you really are is what you're doing. It sounds so corny, so lame, but every now and then life finds you with a way to slap you in the face with it. If you don't flinch when that happens, you might even learn something.
(Brad later added a follow-up post where he pointed out [among other things] that his intention was not to attack Thich Naht Hanh but rather to show how the words of any great teacher can be misconstrued.)
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