This term, navel gazing, has crossed my radar a few times in the last few months, allowing me to do some inquiry into whether introspection and a life of self-inquiry is indeed indulgent.
Since the beginning of recorded history, all great religions and philosophies have encouraged a contemplative practice. And don’t all of our decisions require a run through our filter? And to act and not react to the elements we’re faced with each day demands a quiet mind that has, at least, considered a mature approach to many of life’s sticky situations. Know thy mind.
So it seems we come, once again, to the question of semantics. What does navel gazing really mean? One would guess it might mean narcissistic self-indulgence, which might have negative connotations if we are judging. But the term self-inquiry has different implications perhaps…certainly it is language often used to face challenging issues before us.
But if all this isn’t enough, perhaps the best way to lead a contemplative life without the guilt that you are being self-indulgent, is to practice tonglen….this Buddhist practice puts us in touch with the noble heart. “Whenever we encounter suffering of any form, the tonglen instruction is to breathe it in with the wish that everyone could be free of pain. Whenever we encounter happiness in any form, the instruction is to breathe it out, send it out, with the wish that everyone could feel joy…..In the process, we become liberated from very ancient habits of selfishness.”(Pema Chodron)
There seems to be no turning back on the path, once a spiritual seeker begins. For me, the only option is to become more skilled in my observation and questioning. That along with listening and paying attention.