Rinpoche: “What about me” is a bad habit. [Laughing] It reduces our strength, dignity, clarity. If you start off your day with “What about me,” you are already starting off on the wrong foot. Starting off with a mistake, a misunderstanding. We could talk about how there is no self, and get into all that—but it can get too technical and philosophical. Look at it just as a habitual pattern. If “What about me” worked, then it should have worked by now. Because it’s what most of us have been doing our whole life.
Because really what is it that we want to get out of the day? We want to be happy, we want things to go well—we want success, whether in love or business. We feel like the world owes us something. You get up in the morning, and automatically you are in a poverty mentality: “What about me? Hey, somebody left me out. I didn’t get what I want. I need more.”There’s a quality of, “I’m not good enough.”True selflessness is realizing that you already have everything. That’s a positive way of looking at it. There’s a negative way of looking at it, too.
ele: That I don’t exist, or something.
Rinpoche: Right. Which is not true. That’s only one part of it. The other part is that you are complete. If we wake up thinking we are not complete, we have to fill ourselves up. Everything has to be poured in. Then, when we start talking about selflessness, we think, “I already don’t have enough—now I’m going to really lose everything!” [laughing] But it’s not true. Because, with meditation, you see that you already have everything.
ele: There’s that famous quote you refer to: “If you want to be happy, think about others; if you want to be unhappy, think about yourself.” So how would practicing the opposite, “What about you?,” make me happy?
Rinpoche: When you think about others, there’s an attitude of genuine compassion. Whereas, “What about me?” tightens the mind, constricts, makes it small and self-centered. When you think “What about you?,” it expands the mind. There’s room for compassion—and that is inherently how we are, anyway. When you make that attitude shift, you are actually being more genuine, more who you are supposed to be. If you asked the Buddha or any great meditator, “Ultimately, what do you find when you meditate for a long time,” they’d say, “You find wisdom and compassion—what’s innate in who you are.”When you are obsessed with yourself, you do not have compassion. You can’t think about others.
Whereas the result of “What about you?” has a sense of delight. When I think, “What about me,” I just follow my thought patterns. I stress out because I think something is not going to work out. But when I think about others, there’s a quality of possibility.
ele: There’s some joy and freedom and relaxation in your life, which is what you want in the first place.
Rinpoche: When you meditate, you begin to feel that way. It’s just a matter of people beginning to do the practice a little bit and then realizing that attitude shift. People get very technical, and start thinking “Well, how exactly am I going to do all this?” and things like that. It’s the same as with “What about me”—we don’t consciously think about it, exactly—we just wake up with that intention.