September has always been a significant month for me. A time when I have started new things and made big changes, a lot of which have altered my life in big ways.
Recently I was reflecting that it was in September, 24 years ago, that I went to my first meditation retreat and learned to mediate. I’d love to say that since that day I’ve been a dedicated meditator but that’s not how my story goes. I was an on-again, off-again meditator. I would meditate and things would get a lot better in my life – I was happier and felt less stressed. Then I would stop meditating, and more and more stress would creep in. And so it went like this for years.
When I finally committed to a regular meditation practice, boy was I committed! I took it very seriously. I wanted to be perfect at what I was doing and I really wanted to be really spiritual. (I’m laughing as I write this. What does really spiritual look like?). So it’s funny – I started to meditate to reduce stress and experience more peace and then I started to take myself and life way too seriously. I was in a trap.
The ego mind can be very sneaky and create all kinds of stories. It disguised itself as a spiritual voice, a higher knowing. This voice was very critical. My meditation was never good enough, I was never good enough, and I would never be spiritual enough until I got it all right.
I had the passion and focus but the over-serious part was counterproductive.
I was on a mission. I wanted to know if I meditated for this long every day, how long it would take for me to experience peace. The catch? This serious approach was the very thing that was keeping me from the peace and connection I longed for.
Peace can never been found in a future moment. It can only be found right now - even in the messy, annoying, busy meditations that I was experiencing.
Each meditation is teaching us to let go of attachment, let go of the good or bad and be with our experience – whatever that may be. It’s not always easy. In fact, sometimes it can be downright painful, ten minutes can feel like ten hours. Other times we’re in the zone and experience a great sense of stillness and calm. What happens then? We judge the more challenging meditation and we get attached to the blissful experience, and if we have anything less than this, we are disappointed.
The quest for perfection seems to be a popular one these days. We are constantly receiving messages that we need to be perfect in our relationships, how we work, how we look, how we parent, basically how we are as a complete person.
This quest does not fit into a mindfulness practice. That is why it is called a mindfulness practice not a mindfulness perfect. If you are longing for peace or fulfillment, it does not come in a gift wrapped box labelled ‘perfect’. On the contrary.
Our life will have ups and downs and our meditations will have ups and downs, and there’s great beauty in that. Mindfulness practice allows us to practice being with all of it. Letting go of attachment or aversion. It is an ongoing moment to moment practice.
Today, I don’t aim for perfect. I am more passionate and focused than ever but with less drive for perfection. This has created more room for love and compassion. It feels more real and is definitely more fun. Embrace how multidimensional we are as humans. Trust that we have the capacity to be serious, driven, and ambitious, and also relaxed, accepting, and fun.
A tip? The most powerful anecdote for the pesky ego mind that is almost always serious, is laughter.
If you want a good laugh watch J.P. Sears video, ‘How to be Ultra Spiritual’
Have a wonderful week.