For several years I’ve read the Dalai Lama’s “The Path to Tranquility” every night. At this point I’ve probably gone through each day’s entry six or seven times, and yet, each time I read a day’s segment, I’m struck by something new. This was in a recent reading:

“The common enemy of all religious disciplines, the target of all oral precepts laid down by the great teachers of mankind, is selfishness of mind. For it is just this which causes ignorance, anger, and passion—which are at the root of all the troubles of the world.”

What stood out for me was “selfishness of mind.”  What does that phrase mean to you? Please take a minute and really think about that. For me it means always and only thinking about myself first. Can I get first in line? Can I get the seat I want? Will there be enough chocolate layer cake left for me when I get there? Or more importantly, how can I keep “them” out of my neighborhood and out of “our” school? Why do “they” think they’re entitled to benefits paid for by my hard-earned money? I’ve always bought all these things packaged in plastic. It’s convenient. Why should I change when no one else is?

Women Over 50: How Self-Focused Are You?

Thinking about this is particularly important as we get older. I’ve noticed that as some people age, they tend to get more self-focused.  I know this is a generalization and it certainly isn’t true of all older people. But if there’s any validity to the observation, why might that be. As some people get older, their world begins to shrink. Either because of health issues or choice, they go fewer places, see fewer friends, gradually stop doing things they may have done for a long time. As a consequence, their focus becomes more and more narrowly on themselves: what they have, what they want, how they feel. Many of us also simply fear change and would like things to go back to the way we remember them twenty-thirty-forty years ago at which point we were comfortable and things were familiar. Again, we’re focused on our comfort.

There are, of course, other reasons why we can become too self-focused. If work is very important to a person, she may spend most of her time thinking about it, even when she’s involved with other people on a social or personal level. Or someone may become so concerned about a personal issue that she becomes oblivious to other people’s problems or situations.

Where Are You?

Where would you put yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is “I think of myself first” and 10 is “I think of others first”?  There is a caution here. As women many of us have been trained to always think of others first to the detriment of our own needs and desires. I think what we’re looking for is moderation, where I don’t sacrifice my own needs and wants while being careful not to infringe on yours.

Being grateful for what we have is a great way to counteract always putting yourself first. If you don’t currently have a gratitude practice, an excellent book for getting started is Amy Collette’s The Gratitude Connection.

Also, think about the things you’ve stopped doing that you enjoyed in the past. Many of us became a bit more hermit-like following the Covid shutdown. It has just gotten so easy to watch the movie on TV or skip the in-person networking event and do the virtual one instead. In these ways we are daily slightly constricting the world we’re living in.

Make A Commitment

Make a commitment that in the next month you will invite friends over to your home for something, even if it’s just drinks or dessert. There’s a different kind of connection when someone is on our home rather than across the little table in the coffee shop.

And finally, become alert for any evidence of “selfishness of mind” cropping up. This can wear many disguises, so be alert. Two of the things we know help us remain happy and healthy as we get older are our social circles and the nature of the relationship with have with others. Keeping the welfare of others in mind is a good place to start. As a reminder, Women Over 50: How Self-Focused Are You?

Learn More…

The Prime Spark Membership Community is designed for women 50 (or close) and older to support one anotherWe learn and grow together while furthering the mission of Prime Spark. Membership currently is closed. If you’re interested in joining, please send an email to [email protected] and ask to be placed on the waitlist.


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