Self-punishing asceticism aside, it is not frivolous to say that “feeling good” is sometimes considered a measure of our spiritual condition. On the other hand, “feeling good” emanates from the self’s contentment with being comfortable, secure, loved, healthy and happy with the conditions of one’s life. This “feeling good” is not so much a measure of our spiritual goodness but rather a certain selfish defect that affects our spirituality in consoling but not nurturing ways. If we are stuck in these feelings we may be spinning our spiritual wheels.
There is another kind of “feeling good” that has more to do with “good feelings” than feeling good. There is a certain good feeling when we make ourselves uncomfortable for the sake of the comfort of another. There is a certain good feeling when we risk our own security for the security and well-being of another.
And there is a certain good feeling when we abandon trying to get love in order to give it to others, etc., etc. The difference between “feeling good” and “good
feelings” is in the discernment of the grace to be willing to give up feeling good for the good feeling of having done so for others.
So, it’s a good thing and a measure of spiritual progress to have good feelings about sacrificing feeling good for the good of another.
All this being said, there is, nevertheless, a certain “smugness” in my case with which I struggle – a smugness that is something like patting oneself on the back
when I give up my own “feeling good” for the “good feeling” of having done so for the sake of another. It therefore seems that my actions are often calculated to ultimately massage my self-image; and this seems to run contrary to my efforts and desire to erase the self.
It is terribly difficult for me to be totally unconscious of self when I have done or am doing something I have chosen to do because I think it is good. Even that tiny residue of self refuses to unglue itself from what I do.
At the same time there paradoxically seems to be some kind of a need for an awareness of self in order to work on erasing it. Despite the wonderful meditations provided by Bernadette Roberts in her works, for me a state of pure “no-self” is a good worth striving for but unattainable except sporadically and in a mystical sense.