After my morning run and stretching exercises I lay on the floor and contemplated the rest of my day.  I thought about tomorrow evenings workshop, the book that I am writing at a snails pace, and then my mind flashed to a student in a previous workshop who seemed very unhappy with the evenings lecture, at least that was my perception of it.

The scene in my mind caused me to be flooded with feelings of anxiety and guilt.  Then the thought came, “I should have at least tried to address the issue, next time I will.” Suddenly, I realized that I was at the top of a negative spiral, I said, “I can’t buy into that thought, it is not serving me.”

Since those kinds of thoughts and feelings come up often I decided to investigate them. Through the investigative process of contemplation I realized that I was using a negative image to motivate myself to be a better teacher. I realized too that the feelings of guilt and anxiety will never be abated as long as I perceive them as tools on my spiritual path.

The Law of Cause and Effect is a wonderful spiritual teacher.  It unfailingly demonstrates to us that like always attracts like, that every reaction has an opposite and equal reaction. So, for example I cannot create peace in my home if I have to yell at my kids to get it.  I can (and have) scared them into submission but ultimately the fighting and arguing continue…that is, eventually my little ones will demonstrate back to me my state of mind, anger.

Knowing how this Law operates, it seems that if I use anxiety and guilt as a motivator to do good works, not only are my works are tainted, but eventually I wind-up feeling badly again.  This is samsara, the cycle of suffering, the cycle of death and rebirth, operating in my experience.

So the question that I am posing for us all today is, “Can we be motivated to do ‘the good’ by something other than negative thoughts and feelings?”  If we want lasting peace, harmony, and joy then eventually we must all conclude that there is no way to experience peace, harmony, and joy except to be motivated by peace, harmony, and joy.

Photo Credit: Samuel Scrimshaw