Seeking perfection

Spiritual paths are demanding aren’t they? They’re almost impossible to stick to all of the time. They seem to demand perfection and while we might have the notion that advice and guidelines we strive to follow are in some way good for us, another deeper part of our nature wants to rebel and kick off the shackles of all these rules and regulations.

So we become part-time spiritual seekers, trying to balance our inner yearning for truth, with work, family, friends, the need to have some relaxation and fun. It can become a paradox and at times this inner juggling act can get us down. We might find ourselves becoming self-critical and this rarely helps.

It’s important on our spiritual path to be a friend to yourself. In fact I would say that one of the most profitable approaches is to not think about it, just grind on with it in the background.

I used to have real trouble with my meditation. I’d wake up in the morning and I knew I wanted to meditate; the night before I’d gone to bed determined to get up and meditate. But in the drousy dark and cold of the bedroom, so warm and snuggly under the covers it was hard to see what all the fuss was about meditation. And didn’t Buddha say you could meditate lying down? Maybe I’d try that for a bit, it would be nearly as good as sitting wouldn’t it? Of course I inevitably fell back to sleep until it was time to get up for work.

We could of course beat ourselves up over our shortcomings and failures on the spiritual path. But I think it can be a mistake for us to do so. Take for example the attempt to acquire equanimity. In life there will always be situations that provoke in us a reaction and some that provoke a negative reaction. Is it really possible to monitor oneself so closely, to be so fully mindful at all times so that we never react inappropriately when provoked? I don’t think that it is and I don’t believe it’s necessary either.

It is important for us to be mindful or aware in the present moment, but not until there is a full realisation of no-self will we attain complete equanimity and this should be understood. Otherwise the attempt to become perfect will become nothing but another obstacle. If we attach to these standards, well, it’s just another attachment. So, I suggest, aim to be good, but don’t become obsessed with aiming to be perfect. Understand that the personality cannot be perfect. Perfection is only attainable after the realisation of no-self.

In the meantime, be a friend to yourself and with encouragement and gentle understanding, try to find your way along this spiritual path. I suggest you may make swifter progress.

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