I’m not sure what it is that causes this – but I feel a constant pressure to be better than I am. As if I could be perfect, or maybe that what I am now isn’t good enough. Does everyone feel this way? Is this a normal side effect of our western culture and our commodification of everything (can you name anything we don’t try to commodify? I hate to oversimplify)?
Not only are my self-perceptions stalked by a billboard perfect glamazon, I feel a sense of failure if I’m not the perfect yogini (practicing everyday, in the morning, yada yada), or the perfect parent (I’m upset but I should only feel happiness and joy!), the perfect daughter (has it really been two weeks since I last called?), or __________. The list goes on and on.
All of these areas of my life which I strive to make ‘perfect’ can manifest themselves on the outside, obvious to the outside world. But this perfect ideal makes its home in other parts of my being too. The yogic kosha model gives us a great language for talking about this.
The Kosha model posits that we have these 5 layers of being. I understand them as experiential layers. Traveling inwards to our subtlest layer of experience towards our true Self, we have the physical layer, the energetic layer, the mind layer, the discernment layer, and the bliss layer (also called bodies instead of layers).
So when I say that this ideal of perfection makes its home in other parts of my being, I mean that I experience it in different ways at different layers of my being. This makes intuitional sense, right?
One really important way that I find the idea of perfection taking root is in my relationships. I find myself holding other people accountable to my idea of what perfect is, and I judge them based on this, let’s face it UNIMPORTANT, schema.
But here’s another important piece. There is actually one very true definition of perfection that I happen to believe in and would like to see myself act on. And that is this: EVERYTHING IS PERFECT. The way it is. People are perfect the way they are. Sitting in the present with the weight of the world, I am able to understand this, that each person is a unique and fiery star in the universe of our human reality. (When I say this, I don’t mean to say that horrible actions are perfect, either, people do terrible things. Stay tuned for another post on balance).
This idea is so contradictory to the commodity-complex version of perfection that I seem to suffer from.
I feel myself, my Vijnanamaya Kosha, having to discern between acting on these two different understandings of my reality. I know that this is energetically taxing to me, and that it keeps me from experiencing the true bliss of communing with others on a deeper level.
So how can I better accept myself? I use this mantra, “it’s good enough and life is messy”. I practice letting things be “good enough” all over my life – in my yoga practice (I could take this deeper, but it’s good enough where I am), in the mirror (I could pluck my eyebrows, but they’re good enough), in my parenting (it’s ok to feel tired and upset, let’s get out of the house to feel good enough), etc. This practice of good enough doesn’t feel like slacking off – it’s not blowing off my morals, or the things that I find important. What’s really happening when I accept myself and I meet myself where I am is that I create space for my experience. Instead of having this expectation of perfection, a measuring stick for everything I do, I’m free to feel out where and how I’m effected by the life that I am living. This way of being, I have to say, actually feels pretty, well, perfect.
Yoga teaches me that I am the microcosm. If I make changes within myself, the butterfly effect will take hold and I will experience these changes in ever-broader ways. If I can truly accept my own present state of Perfect, rather than always reaching for the newest commodified version of it, I will be able to see this Perfection in others, I will help them to see it in themselves, and the ripples will continue.