What if You’re Good? (basically)

What does it mean to you to ‘be basically good?’ Does it mean you chose to eat the fruit instead of the cookie?  Or does it mean you are mostly nice to others?

If I hear the phrase basic goodness my mind sends me in a few directions.  First off, I think that it means I will be getting my desert at dinner tonight because I’ve been good. There’s an old ingrained one. Then it makes me wonder if I’m a ‘good’ person at the core or  if I’m a ‘bad’ person?  I remember  that I’ve thought that about some people I’ve crossed paths with in life were  just plain evil.  That means they can’t be basically good? Right? This leads me to question: Do I believe that basic goodness can only apply to some of us?   I don’t like that thought very much.  Predictably, fear shows up now and I clearly hear my thought:  ‘I can’t get there from here.  Being good is too hard.”


Wow. When did the basic human quality of goodness, the knowledge that we are all born into this world with basic goodness inside of us-whether we think of it as kindness, compassion, gratitude, or just our own ability to be present and witness the world-when did that become something to attain instead of something to recognize?


To think I am made of basic goodness is a revolutionary idea.  What in me is inherently just there?  So much of the time I feel like my life is jammed full of things I’m trying to attain.  Everything is a goal, a place to get to, to find, to keep, to maintain once I get it, to own and to lose sleep over losing at night.

But basic goodness is held out in the teachings of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche as, and I’m quoting the outrageous statement from his book called Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior”  something that is right in here all the time.


“Discovering real goodness comes from appreciating very simple experiences.  We are not talking about how good it feels to make a million dollars or finally graduate from college or buy a new house, but we are speaking here of the basic goodness of being alive which does not depend on our accomplishments or fulfilling our desires.”


When I read this, it was like finally hearing a melody clearly that had always been playing, quietly in the background.


“We experience glimpses of goodness all the time, but we often fail to acknowledge them.  When we see a bright color, we are witnessing our own inherent goodness. When we hear a beautiful sound, we are hearing our own basic goodness.  When we step out of the shower, we feel fresh and clean, and when we walk out of a stuffy room, we appreciate the sudden whiff of fresh air.  These events may take a fraction of a second, but they are real experiences of goodness.  They happen to us all the time, but usually we ignore them as mundane or purely coincidental”


(Someone once pointed out to me that there are no coincidences. Note the word ‘coincide’ is inside of coincidence. )


What I love about basic goodness is I don’t have to acquire it.  I think it can be more like an onion; I can just peel down to it.  Or, perhaps, even more basically, I could just be aware of it and see that it has been here all the time.  I just haven’t been noticing.


Basic Goodness in my Life  

Without much thought-A Quick Top Five


  1. Yesterday when I was teaching singing in my living room the smell of lilacs from outside just wafted in at one moment.  Basic goodness was right there when I paused from my work and actually smelled the aroma.


  1. This morning I woke up early and when I sat to meditate, I heard a cat fight outside.  It didn’t turn into “you are ruining my peaceful moment”, nope; I just really heard those ‘voices’.


  1. Walking my daughter to school this morning the gluten free bakery in my neighborhood was hard at work making the days bread and nothing brings me into the moment quicker than the smell of fresh baking.  I was right there!


  1. My son came right up the stairs this morning, still sleepy eyed, and stumbled right into my arms and hugged me.  That he is 13 and did this is in itself, amazing.  But today I really noticed that he still smelt of his bed, and he was warm, and he squeezed me, and there were just so many sensations at that moment. Beyond words really. It was love in an instant fully present.


  1. Looking out my window right now with the plethora of greens of spring and the sound of birds, birds, birds. Feeling like I don’t’ know where my still mind begins or ends. I feel like I am the sound, hearing it, making it, it is all one.


What’s your top five, ‘off the top of your head’ ,moments you have had recently that open the window to your basic goodness?


As Trungpa Rinpoche wrote:


“The human potential for intelligence and dignity is attuned to experiencing the brilliance of the bright blue sky, the freshness of green fields and the beauty of the trees and mountains.  We have an actual connection to reality that can wake us up and make us feel basically fundamentally good.”


Isn’t that what we all want in our lives?


As a member of Shambhala and as a person who took Refuge a year ago, (which means I can now fill out my census form officially with the word Buddhist) and as a person who this past Sunday took my Bodhisattva warrior vows, I am delighted to write about Basic Goodness Day, May 7th, 2013.



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