I find different reasons for practice at the levels of who I am (this human self) and what I am (that which experience happens within, to and as).
At the level of who I am, the reasons for practice are healing and maturing. And at the level of what I am, inviting what I am to notice itself, the motivations are truth and love.
Right now, it seems helpful to differentiate the two.
At the level of who I am, I practice to heal and mature, and this reduces suffering and sets the stage for happiness. It invites in both, in a genuine way and to an extent that is sufficient for most of us.
The world is a mirror for me, so I find in my own human self what I see in the wider world. There is a sense of wholeness, embracing the (evolving) fullness of who I am, of self-reliance. I am not looking for people or situations for happiness, but carry it with me in my own wholeness.
So this alone is a pretty good reason for practice, and – as mentioned – quite enough for many of us.
But for some of us, finding this approximate wholeness as who we are, is still not quite enough. We see that it is an approximate wholeness, no matter how much we work on it, and there is still a sense of I-Other, of a subtle separation, of something not quite right, of something missing, of not quite being home yet.
So then there is the practice at the level of what we are, inviting what we are to notice itself more clearly. The motivation here is truth and love, finding the truth of what we are, and acting on our inherent love for existence itself. (Said in a glib way, there is the love of truth, and also the truth of love.)
I am not practicing to get, compensate for, attain, or escape from anything. I am just practicing to find what is really true, and to act on and deepen my love for existence itself. (Aka God, Brahman, Tao, etc.)
The good news here is of course that the practices – the tools – we use in either case often are the same.
The Work, the Big Mind process, allowing/being with experience, exploring the sense fields, choiceless awareness practice, and many more practices, all work on the levels of who we are (inviting in healing and maturing) and what we are (inviting what we are to notice itself more clearly). The relative emphasis of the two depends somewhat on how we do the practice and our intention.
And even if we start with motivations at the who level (healing, maturing, release from suffering, fining happiness), it may shift (or not) into the motivations at the what level (truth and love).
So for myself, when I see motivations relating to healing and maturing – and reducing suffering and finding happiness, I know they are motivations at the who level. And when I find motivations of truth and love, I see that they belong to the what level.
This is quite different from what I see in most spiritual groups and traditions I am familiar with, and I am not sure if it is just a matter of preference or if I am missing something here.
For me, if I saw someone wanting healing/maturing, I would recommend finding increasing wholeness as who they are. That in itself gives a quite deep release from suffering, and invites in a stable happiness. It may not be “complete” but it is really quite good.
And if I saw someone with truth and love as their main motivation, I would point them in the direction of inviting what they are to notice itself. Of course also including the who level, since working on that level makes it easier for what we are to notice itself, it makes it easier for our human self to function in the world, and when what we are notices itself, it makes it easier for it to express itself more fluidly through our human self.
I would not promote a practice with the intention of what we are to notice itself, if what the person seeks is release from suffering, and happiness. It wouldn’t be honest, since a practice aimed at wholeness at the who level is more than sufficient for this.
Come to think about it, that may be why most Buddhist groups – although their “mission statement” is at what level awakening – often emphasize healing/maturing at the who level. Most people come from the motivation of seeking healing/maturing, and that is exactly what most groups and teachers emphasize.
For the few suckers (like me, it seems) who can’t help it and really want to find the truth and act on their love, there is always the additional teachings, and the additional work that invites what we are into noticing itself.
There are the few more steps beyond the healing/maturing at the who level.