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Basic Goodness - Returning to What Is

by Richard Morrissey(more info)

listed in psychospiritual, originally published in issue 94 - November 2003

The problem of living is that we misconceive the nature of our relationship with the world and with each other. We assume that we are free separate agents but we act, or more usually react, as if we are the products of a conditioned and deterministic universe. For those looking for freedom from physical and mental anguish, life more often than not is experienced as a battle to relieve anxiety and achieve better ends. It is an ongoing search for a Method or Path that will provide us with the tools to free ourselves from suffering and pain.

What most of us find, however, is that this battle is never finally won. We may receive temporary help or relief but the problems return, sometimes the same ones, often in different guises. Why does this happen? What are we doing wrong?


The starting point, and the point of completion for the work I do, is to recognize that there is no linear Path to freedom. There are no esoteric rules or steps, no new psychological or spiritual discoveries that provide the 'key' to release. Basic Goodness spiritual therapy is not a new method of helping people with emotional problems or with unanswered spiritual questions. Rather, it is a means of pointing to 'what is', of helping people awaken to the understanding that by participating in the battle of change, and immersing ourselves in a continuous search of the Answer, we are only reinforcing our flawed view of the world.

This world-view is based upon the notion of a separate, independent self and the expectation that the Answer to our problems lies elsewhere. We think it can be found in books that show us the five steps to emotional freedom, or in the words of the caring therapist or the pharmaceutical talents of the medical doctor. Or we think we can see it in the secret revelations of a spiritual teacher or guru, in the saving graces of organized religion, the next empowerment of a realized Tibetan lama or the healing energy of a Reiki Master.

Of course, all of these methods have their place as well as their successes but they can never, on their own, lead to true freedom from suffering. They are fingers pointing to the moon, rather than the moon itself. Real freedom lies beyond method, beyond the duality of good and evil, love and hate, male and female, or right and wrong. Real freedom is not found in the 'other'; it is rather in the One, in the same Presence that is within all of us. The only way to find lasting relief is to look within and let your basic goodness, your true perfection, unfold of its own volition.

Basic Goodness Spiritual Therapy

The practice of Basic Goodness spiritual therapy aims to help people re-discover this innate capacity to live fully and mindfully, to be completely awake and able to deal skilfully with whatever comes up in life. Experiencing your basic goodness is to know that, despite feelings of anxiety, fear, anger or even hopelessness, you do not need to reject these emotions or feel guilty about them. These reactions, however strong, are manifestations of the energy of basic goodness. The problem lies in the feelings, emotions and habits we have attached to this energy, not the energy itself.

It is important to recognize that this way of looking at the world is not an attempt to tell you where you are going wrong and then get you to change yourself into someone 'better'. Rather, I try to help those who come to me to uncover and embrace the most important truth about themselves: that underneath, the feelings of uncertainty, suffering, ugliness or loneliness is the clear light of basic goodness. It is the energy of a gentle and open person who is capable of living a meaningful life, a life of true happiness.

So how does all this work in practice? What do you do when someone comes to you with an emotional difficulty he or she wishes to deal with? Let's look at a couple of examples of the sort of email interaction I have, which I hope will give you a flavour of what I am talking about. It is important to recognize that these examples are but one small part of a more extensive dialogue that is taking place, rather than one-off or complete responses to suffering. What follows is an edited example of one of a series of email replies I made to a 50-year-old man who has suffered from depression for most of his adult life. Over the years, he has used psychiatry, pharmacology, psychotherapy, meditation and prayer to try to find a cure for this depression, which is a very common experience in our world and one that seems to be increasing, despite all the medical and material advances we have witnessed.

"There are many things that can provide temporary help in life; in my work I concentrate on trying to show you the option of total transformation. There are people who would disagree with this approach, but that is the way I work, and it has in my experience been successful. The most important point I can make to you echoes what I have been saying all along. That only YOU, through the recognition of your own perfection, your own basic goodness (or whatever you would like to call it), can ultimately solve the problems you have, be they depression, guilt or loneliness. Always relying on others for help will not do this. You can spend your time reading 1000s of books on depression, child abuse and religion. You can practice meditation, yoga, talk to lots of people with similar problems, visit Internet chat rooms for depressed people, study Zen koans, undergo psychotherapy and so on, but the problems will more often than not remain in place.

"The reason for this is that we live our lives constantly defined by these problems, by a false view of ourselves. They become what we are, e.g. "I suffer from depression and I have been depressed since childhood due to various horrible things that happened" or "I cannot ever have a relationship because I was raped when I was young". This identification is true of everyone. It is not confined to those who suffer emotional trauma or who are diagnosed as being mentally ill. We ALL have the same problem. We are all reading the books, seeing the psychiatrist, running away, working too hard or not at all, falling in and out of love or becoming alcoholics, because we are not able to see what we really are underneath the conditioned and flawed self we have created. Unfortunately, by battling, talking, fighting, chanting, meditating or studying in order to change ourselves, we are not really solving anything – just providing support for the perception that we are depressed, insane, lonely or sad.

"Likewise you say you are praying to God for help, a God that is All Loving, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent. The problem here is that God does NOT know evil or suffering, as He/It is Perfection itself and can only manifest that. Therefore, praying to God on a throne in heaven will likewise be of little use. That's why people who pray for God to change them or remove various 'evil' conditions are not consistently healed or helped. A loving God who knew of their suffering would of course help them, but God, manifested as Christ Consciousness (the person here is a Christian), only knows perfection and it is this perfection of consciousness we have to let unfold in us. It is what you are already, but currently it is obscured. More importantly, it only becomes present in our lives where it is realized. The method of getting back to this state of consciousness is to experience the realization that YOU and everyone else are part of this perfect Presence. That your true nature, your Christ Consciousness, your Divine Mind, your Buddha Nature, could NEVER be depressed – it is an impossibility.

"The reason I asked you to stay with the pain – not necessarily to meditate, but just to sit quietly and not to run away physically or mentally by thinking better thoughts or closing off your mind and body from the pain – was because this is the way of release. Through calm abiding, by fully opening to your pain, you will soon feel a calm Presence unfold inside you. You will get a glimpse, a taste, an experience of what I am telling you, and the depression will fall away as your true perfection comes to the fore. But you have to be brave and let go. You have to recognize that there are no other material aids or people that can really 'fix' you. They may help you temporarily and provide advice or even some comfort from the fact that so many people are willing to listen to your story and seem to care about you, but ultimately you are on your own. Not alone to the extent that you are separate from everyone else (which you are not), or that no one cares about you, but rather that it is your consciousness that must be transformed and no one else can do this for you. It is really a matter of seeing things as they are, rather than changing anything. Only your own recognition of your Divine Perfection can do that. I do believe that this can unfold for you and that one day you will be able to look back and smile when you notice how you have been transformed out of these dark times to a feeling that the past never happened."

Staying with the Feeling

Although it is perhaps not explicit in this exchange, what I had initially suggested he did was to try and stay with the horrible and painful feelings he had as they surfaced, rather than rejecting them, which was his usual response. I am convinced that when we completely surrender and stay with our feelings and truly experience our helplessness, and the shock of no reference points, that is where our release lies. That is the point where all the attachments, the plans, the ego-driven expectations are seen to be of no real help to us. When this happens, we experience a gap in the pain, a fleeting glimpse of the true unattached perfection that underlies our worldly existence.

Another person that I spoke to of this helplessness had contacted me about the shock of discovering that her husband was having an affair with another woman. The wife in question was 35 years old, and her husband was 38 and they have children. Again, here is part of one of my email exchanges with her:

"When an event like this happens it can provide an amazing sense of clarity and sharpness, helping us to shake free from the patterns and attachments we have built up over the years and to look afresh, or indeed for the first time, at how we live our lives. There is a sense of purity in the pain, the recognition that there's no immediate escape and a feeling that we have no choice but to confront and live with the unhappiness. When you get to this point there is often a weight lifted because you know that there is absolutely nothing YOU can do to change the past… all the thinking, worrying, anger, the 'what might have been' and the regrets are completely unable to change what has happened. There is truly the feeling of no way out. And that is the signal telling you to let go… it is the door opening for your release.

"In times past, when I experienced suffering, I have tried to embrace the pain and use it to live a more meaningful and compassionate life. I have tried to put myself in the other person's position and attempt to understand their perspective and actions, however hurtful and thoughtless they seemed to be at the time, however unjustified. The path of forgiveness is indeed a difficult one, but it is, in my view, the best road to take as it frees you of bitterness and resentment. In situations like these, more than one person is suffering even if it appears self-inflicted. By attempting to forgive, you are not saying "no problem, I will have you back if you are sorry". However, by showing understanding you have a better chance of making the right decision, as does he. We never get the certainty and permanence we crave from people or material possessions. The people who are close to us, and indeed we ourselves, are often not as loving or loyal as we could and should be. That's just how life is. We can respond by reacting to this in predictable ways via rejection and resentment, or we can accept this and see how we can be more loving ourselves. How can we be more compassionate towards others, particularly those who have hurt us? I know it is tough and that it in not fair that you should have to be the 'bigger' person in a situation like this. But I believe that if we can focus on helping others, and often their destructive actions are genuine cries for help, then we will be happier people and also ease the suffering of ourselves and those close to us along the way."

Face Things As They Are

What I am again trying to show is that you have to embrace the negative, and stay with it, if you are to move beyond the constant and unwinnable battle of fighting against evil and pain in an attempt to replace them with your notions of goodness and happiness. The significant and even overpowering energy from the apparently negative event that happened here can be used to gain release from suffering if we allow it to be transmuted back into the energy of compassion, which is a manifestation of our basic goodness. That's the opportunity this woman has and it is one that is available to us all.

From the perspective of Basic Goodness, real freedom is the ability to face things as they are, and to give up our ego-inspired fight to get something we imagine is better. By our willingness to visit this dark place, this razor's edge, we discover our basic goodness, which is the light that has always been present, but which has remained obscured until now. Basic goodness is true love. It is unattached, expansive, daring and vulnerable. It is the ability to be open to life as it is. It is a willingness to share our heart, expose its tenderness, and to love more fully and unconditionally. It is the experience of knowing that when we are truly in love, we give up hope of getting something in return.


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About Richard Morrissey

Richard Morrissey practices Basic Goodness psycho-spiritual therapy online at and holds private consultations in London and Wokingham. He was educated at Trinity College Dublin and Magdalene College Cambridge and is married with six children. He can be contacted on Tel: 020-7736 6165;

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