New Blogroll, Positive Reinforcement, and The Self
Just a few misc. notes and articles this weekend. For those of you in a reader, I wanted to let you know I’ve updated my blogroll a bit. I have been a mad blog seeker and reader lately (and feel free to send me suggestions for more), but these 15 blogs are the ones I’ve been reading regularly. I’ll try to feature great posts from other blogs I like, or have recently found, in future Blog Shares posts. I’ve sorted my blogroll list into three categories, since this blog itself ranges across the spectrum of these three categories. Some of these blogs could easily fit in all three categories, so this wasn’t always so straighforward, but in general:
Mamas with Soul – Moms with big hearts that blog at least in part about parenting, and particularly on mindfulness and spiritual themes. (Or with what I consider a soulful quality. This is all quite subjective of course!)
Seekers and Teachers – Blogs that focus on spiritual themes, teachings and the process of seeking itself.
Mind/Body/Spirit – Blogs that focus on alternative health, or personal development from an integrated mind/body/spirit perspective.
I encourage you to check out the blogroll of each of these blogs, because they each have their own excellent community developed.
Also in the sidebar I always feature my latest two articles on the BellaOnline Buddhism site. I mention this because this week’s article is a list of Buddhist Movies, all of which are available on both Netflix and Amazon. So if you are a movie fan at all interested in Buddhism, you may like these (and some may also be available for at least partial viewing online, but I didn’t have time to research that.)
I also wanted to share a couple of interesting articles that came my way via StumbleUpon (the only social networking besides Twitter that I do). For me, these two articles really represent how two themes of this blog – parenting and the spiritual growth process – come together. The first is from Alfie Kohn, entitled Five Reasons to Stop Saying ‘Good Job’. I saw the author speak on the same subject last year, and I think this article really sums up his views on the problems with positive reinforcement quite nicely, and includes some suggestions for other ways to respond to our children.
Personally, I do not think it is entirely possible or desirable to parent entirely without positive reinforcement. (For example, I admit to resorting to bribery while recently potty training my youngest daughter, who, unlike her twin brother, was not at all interested. Her bribe of choice? Purple balloons. Shame on me. I am happy to say that she now uses the toilet without the promise of purple balloons and doesn’t seem at all harmed by the process.) But, I do see a lot of value in attempting to minimize positive reinforcement, which can quickly become a crutch. Doing so allows children to discover the joy of various activities just for themselves instead of for praise, and helps them to look at the results of their actions regarding others, rather than ‘being nice’ solely out of a desire for approval or fear of punishment.
To me this is also a very important pattern for many of us to break out of in our spiritual search. In general, organized religion emphasizes toeing a certain ‘moral line’ of good behavior, with a promise of reward, or fear of punishment. Many people who consider themselves ‘spiritual but not religious’ (myself among them), come to reject organized religion for exactly that reason. But it’s a hard ego pattern to break, and many of us carry the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ self-judgment into our spiritual journey. We constantly judge ourselves against some external projection of what it means to be ‘spiritual’, whether that projection is mindfulness, equanimity, compassion, joy, or something else. In the process we end up creating yet another projection that we can never live up to, and orient our spiritual process around whether or not we are or are not living up to our own standards.
I think truly probing the depths of our being, and discovering the joy of existence, involves dropping this process of projecting and judging altogether. Maybe you have patterns of anger, and lash out at people sometimes. So what. Say you’re sorry and move on. In my experience, anger will dissolve over time. The bigger question is, are you feeling more moments of joy? Are you learning more about yourself? Are you appreciating moments in your life? If so, then don’t measure yourself by any other standard. Some of us are more volatile energetically than others, so the process of growth is bumpier. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t moving closer to the ultimate truth of our being. (And equanimity is over-rated.)
Along those lines, I really love Zen, and the Vedanta/Advaita traditions of India. One of the sites I recently added to my blogroll is http://www.luthar.com, which contains many articles written by a lovely man and teacher that I have been corresponding to via StumbleUpon. These articles really get to the heart of the Vedanta/Advaita tradition, and particularly the teachings of Ramana Maharshi (Gangagi’s teacher’s teacher.) His latest is called The Heart of God: The Nature of Self-Realization. This tradition is really about experiencing your deepest source directly, and this is often referred to as ‘The Self’. This can be confusing to readers of Buddhist literature, where ‘The Ego’ seems like a bad thing, the force blocking us from spiritual truth, love, and joy. But The Self in this tradition is not ego. Instead, it’s as if we are each waves in the ocean of existence, and ego or self (with a little ‘s’), is the individual wave, while recognizing ourselves as part of the ocean of existence is Self with a big ‘S’.
So for me, the themes of moving beyond positive reinforcement in parenting, and moving beyond ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in spirituality, really merge at this level. In both endeavors, give up the categories, the individual waves, and just find the ocean…