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The Dharma of Imperfection

Updated: Feb 18, 2019

Photo: Tina Lear

I've been silent for a few days, despite my commitment to a daily writing practice. I've clearly seized up with perfectionism, succumbing to the gnawing assumption that I can't possibly keep up this pace. The quality of my offerings will inevitably suffer. And anyway, what if someone's only exposure to my writing is the crappy post I put up at midnight the other night? This paralyzing worry has got to stop.

It's a clear sign that I've stopped being myself and started trying to be some version of myself that I think you want to see. That version is unobtainable, unbe-able. It's witty, well read, sophisticated, down to earth, articulate, succinct and wildly creative.

AND spiritually enlightened.

And hip.

Every single day.

No wonder I went mute.

Here's something a little closer to the truth. I'm in my plaid Gap jammies, having eaten two more servings than necessary of my gluten free, vegan mac & cheese and suffering the consequent discomfort. I've had my second migraine of the day, and my foot hurts. I went shopping for new clothes and came home empty handed, feeling discouraged, unattractive, and like the whole world has passed me by.

Plus I feel awful about contributing to the environmental devastation with my current lifestyle, vegan diet notwithstanding.

I drive an Audi Q3--great car, but lousy for the planet. I managed to avoid having ice cream today, but I actually drooled over a buttery, $3500 leather coat. Not that I would ever buy it. Or even try it on. But still, I imagined what it would be like. And then I remembered: This thing, this coat was once a sentient being who wanted to be happy just as much as I do.

Heavy-handedness has never won the day for anyone; so don't worry, I'm not going there. But I do want to at least hold myself accountable for the things I profess to care about; and that's where the dharma of imperfection comes in.

To practice this dharma, three elements must come into play: awareness, compassion and action. All three.

So first, awareness: I drive a car that's just plain bad for the environment. Awareness: I drooled over an über fancy leather coat. Just that--without the layers of guilt, shame and judgment. Just knowing what's what. Then, compassion: for that part of my limbic system that wants pleasure (the nice car, the gorgeous coat). For the part of me that doesn't want pain (mine or anyone else's). The part that's trying so hard not to cause harm, and failing over and over again. We're born into an unconsciousness around those drives that's very hard to notice and wake up from. It's not our fault. We're all built to want pleasure and not want pain. But it's what do about that wanting and not wanting that counts. And finally, action: Don't buy the coat. Action: Put yourself on the list for a Tesla so that as soon as the lease is up on the Audi, you're part of the solution rather than part of the problem. (Ok, so if not a Tesla, then at least a better option. A hybrid. Something.) Or here's a thought: don't drive. Use your bike. Use your legs. Or don't go there at all, if it's something that doesn't really make anyone's life better. Make more conscious choices around these issues.

It feels good to wrap words around this practice. Suddenly, I feel the dam loosening up, and water is flowing into a valley that was dry with worry and wrongheadedness. The water of whatever. The water of here's who I am in this moment--unfinished, unvarnished, unrehearsed. Unmasked. The Dharma of Imperfection. Give it a shot and see what flows into your life.


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