“My practice is teaching me to embrace imperfection: to have compassion for all the ways things haven’t turned out as I’d planned, in my body and in my life; for the way things keep falling apart, and failing, and breaking down. It’s less about fixing things and more about learning to be present for exactly what is.” Anne Cushman in “Living From the Inside Out.” Click here to see more of her article.
This is, for me, an almost constant dynamic–even when I don’t want to admit it. I launch into a day with some sort of agenda in my head. It becomes an image of the flow of the day. As the day progresses, even from the early morning part to just the morning part, I begin to expect things to happen the way I have thought them, the way I have imagined them. Honestly, many days, things do unfold that way–which only reinforces the false notion that because I have an agenda, because I have imagined it, things in life, people in my life, will unfold, show up and behave the way that I want them to. The way that I need them to. Need them to because I have imagined them that way.
Except that many days things don’t unfold the way I expect. Suddenly, this has become a “bad day” or a “bad week” because people and things are not conforming to my thoughts, to my imagined way in the world.
It’s not uncommon to hear a teacher complain that “students these days are just not like they were when we were kids. We were polite. We did what was expected of us. We were interested in learning.” Teachers who says this are caught in this thing, too. They have an imagined world of students who are always polite, do what they expect, who show up fresh and eager to learn every day. These students all existed only, ever in their heads, but they have bought that as the reality against which the real students will be measured.
The spiritual practice is this: to be willing in any moment to let go of the expected thing, or person, and sink into what is really real right now–and embrace it. One thing I am becoming clear about: when I hold tenaciously to the way things and people are “supposed to be” I become the architect of my own misery.
There is nothing wrong with creating an agenda for the day, with having hopes and expectations for how things will unfold, for the people that will show up in our lives. To cling to these thoughts and images, however, when things work otherwise is to begin to live into a lie, to prevent us from receiving what is real, right now. Sometimes, what unfolds and who shows up are actually better than we ever imagined.
I’ve learned to say to myself especially in those moments when my agenda is not working out: “I’ve lived my whole life for THIS moment.” And then, I breathe it in.
Love these words today. They speak directly to my heart.
Thank you, Bob. I needed to hear what you said in your message today. Actually, I went to surrender my need for perfection in the labyrinth at school today. I have been expecting a lot out myself with a 4.o GPA, and it just isn’t happening for me this semester. I want so bad to do well, with the notion that it will get me a great job later. The truth is, I need to enjoy this ride called an education, and see it’s potential to make me a better person. It’s the connections I make that are most important. That will help me at work more than anything. Thanks again, Jen