Perfection, Patience and Practice
There’s a great story of a very revered Thai Monk who came to America in the early 80s. Many of his disciples were excited to bring him to the states and made a very big deal about it. One of them, in particular, was a painter and spent about 12 months painting a life sized portrait of him to exhibit in the meditation hall. There was a grand ceremony for its unveiling upon the the monk’s arrival. But when finally unveiled, the first word’s out of the monk’s mouth were not what was expected…they were not words of praise. Instead, his words were, “Wow, perfectionists really suffer!”
Being a perfectionist myself, this story has always rung deep. There is so much effort to make things perfect, to try real hard, and if they don’t end up exactly the way I want them to be, I’m unhappy. This applies to projects, relationships, and even mind states.
Over the past couple weeks, I have been learning to surf. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been so bad at something that I want to succeed in so much! Yesterday, I was paddling out, getting pounded by the break, losing confidence, when I realized……”This must be similar to what stiff people feel when they first start practicing Yoga. Everything is difficult, none of the poses resemble what you ‘think’ they should like like, and that feeling of failure is so prevalent that after a couple weeks, most people just quit.”
I get it now.
But yesterday I kept paddling, got past the break, and after missing wave after wave, I finally caught one. I timed it right. The wave took me and my board, I stood up, proceeded to lose balance almost immediately, and got thrown right off my board, right into the wave. Major wipe out! After being underwater for a good 6-8 seconds, I hopped back on my board, paddled out to the calm water and reflected……
“Yeah, that kind of sucked……………..But…………..That was WAY better than I did yesterday. I actually felt the wave, caught it, and stood for 2 seconds. OK, not bad, Jory. Now, what’s the next step? What can you do better next time? How can you learn from this moment?”
My mood really changed. I felt good about myself and realized that just like any new thing, this is going to take time. Its a trial and error process that takes a lot of effort!
And so when I woke this morning, I applied all this to my yoga practice. I decided to go after a pose named Ashtavakrasana, a pose I have never been able to do very well. At first attempt, I fell and smashed my butt on the ground. “Oh well”, I thought, “not today.” But then I remembered, “I’m learning something new. Its going to take time.” I got out Light on Yoga, read what Guruji says about the pose, did better in my second attempt and by the third time I nailed it.
The moment we try to go for perfection, we lose the ability to see where we are actually at and reflect. Its that reflection that allows us to grow, learn and change. The negative attitude to “failure” we have all been cultured to, forces us into self judgement and impedes our evolution as human beings.
So I ask you, where do you judge yourself where you could be observing and learning instead? Especially in your yoga practice, are there things you are avoiding working on because you “suck”? Take the time today to step into something that is difficult, and adopt the attitude of observing and learning. Tiny millimeters of progress can be exponential if you simply just allow them to be.
BKS IYENGAR IN ASHTAVAKRASANA
my pose kind of resembled this 🙂
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