my aim is to do not my own will, but the will of him who sent me
Other-centredness: a more difficult idea than self-centredeness. We are all more familiar with the self-centred state of mind, although usually readier to accuse others of it than to see it in ourselves. Its opposite is at the core of all wisdom teaching and the basic dynamic of meditation itself.
The truth – that we are most fully alive and most truly ourselves when we are oriented towards others rather than our own interests – is hard to practice. Yet, little by little and with many relapses, as the re-orientation of our minds, feelings and motivation moves us in this new direction, we discover a new form of happiness. A new level of meaning in life emerges. Meditation, properly understood, embraces this change of mind wholeheartedly as we learn to take the attention off ourselves.
At first, and for some time, it seems we are battling against a powerful head-wind. Attention reverts frequently to the thoughts, plans and memories that we are trying to lay aside by saying the mantra. The mind, like a puppy that is being house-trained, keeps on making the same mistake. It requires, not force or punishment but a great patience that reflects the love we feel for it. Current concerns, with old familiar anxieties, keep coming back demanding our attention. It seems very plausible that we could use our time most profitably by solving our problems or re-analysing them. Soon we see, however, that unless we learn the art of directing our attention, every thought or plan, including even those that concern the well-being of others, is quickly hijacked by self-centredness. The mantra gently but consistently retrains our mind with a higher level of other-centred attention which brings true benefits to ourselves and to all aspects of our work.
It is good work because it brings out the best in us and produces benefits for others. What we do in our training sessions of meditation thus bears fruit across the whole range of our conscious choice and activity; but it also transforms our unconscious habits of mind and feeling.
So a new horizon comes into view. We see the innate moral order of reality, the essential goodness of the universe which is itself the ultimate good work. This is reflected in our instinct for consistency – in faithfulness, justice, truth and kindness – in everything concerning us, in body, mind and speech. Even as we recognise the consequences of our words and actions and see our responsibilities as they really are, we sense that it is not only our own will that we are following. There is a will in the universe that is other-centredness itself, established in the nature of reality. Lao Tse called it the Way. Jesus knew it as the Father.