Very few people will say that their life is perfect. But what really is perfection? Is it outside ourselves in our external circumstances or does it come from an inner understanding of who we are. That may sound esoteric, but bear with me.
I used to think my life was far from perfect because there were things that happened to me that definitely were not perfect. My father had his first heart attack when I was 10, and died 5 years later from a stroke. I was 15. My life didn’t unfold in a straightforward manner and like most everyone else, things didn’t unfold according to my expectations.
There are still moments when l find myself thinking what most of us have been taught - that something or someone needs to be fixed before I can love my life. But after doing some serious reflection over a period of time, I can say that I do, indeed, love my life, even though how it may look is definitely not “perfect.” And I no longer need to believe those thoughts that insist upon perfection.
You may be thinking this perspective is neither possible or even realistic, that there must be something wrong with me to love my circumstances when so much of what goes on both in the world and in my personal life isn’t perfect.
As I’m seeing it, the problem with this need-to-fix-first attitude is that both the experience and expression of love and happiness become conditional. Which means I can’t or shouldn’t express love or be happy until I take care of those things that need to be fixed.
There’s a lot that doesn’t make sense in this kind of thinking. For one thing, it means that good feelings are dependent on external circumstances and are only warranted when the right things (perfect partner/job/health/finances) happen to me. For another, this notion of perfection is a moving target - it changes depending on my state of mind and my definition of perfection.
All the wisdom traditions say that who we are, our essence or our true nature is love, peace and happiness - we’re born as that, prior to our circumstances or how we define them. But if your experience is like mine, as soon as I was taught that only certain conditions deserve my love and happiness, I began to withhold them, not only from the world but from myself.
I suspect this withholding of our naturally-occurring love and happiness is not only the cause of our lack of authenticity and genuineness but a great deal, if not all, of our suffering. I know that was true for me.
When I withhold the expression of happiness and love, I isolate myself and my actions come from an unnatural and adversarial reaction rather than an open, honest response. That withholding doesn’t serve anyone and it prevents me from coming up with new ways to do things or solve problems or simply do what’s needed in the moment.
What if those natural expressions of love and happiness are not dependent on anyone else’s behaviors or the conditions of the world?
I’m not suggesting that we ought to express our feelings in a inappropriate, saccharine or overly overt way. There is a natural wisdom in love, and although we may not directly acknowledge that our actions stem from love, the wisdom contained in love will automatically be reflected in what we do. And that expression can even be done in secret. No one needs to know why, but everyone will feel it.
Any notion of perfection implies that there’s a flaw or defect in who we are, what we’ve accomplished or achieved. Which then means there’s something we can or should do to make our lives perfect. We have a funny way of thinking that life should conform to our wants and desires. But what if how life unfolds is totally beyond our opinions or beliefs or expectations?
These are the questions I’m sitting with now: if I let go of my preferences and go back to what I already have, already am, is there any need for a definition of perfection? Is there any need to withhold that natural expression of love and happiness that comes from within? What if the answer to both those questions was no? How would it change my experience of life?
I’d love it if you’d share your responses to those questions with me.