Sunday, October 30, 2011

Progress not Perfection

I've learned that I'm a slow learner.  Making any change is a huge challenge for me.  Thanks to recovery, though, my whole attitude toward change has matured; I used to try to change in accordance with some arbitrary rules I learned somewhere.  I was trying hard to be "a good person" so that I could feel all right about myself.  I was pretty much a complete failure at that.  I couldn't possibly live up to what I thought I should be.  So eventually I just gave up on myself.  In recovery, though, I learned that change takes place with the help of a Higher Power and it occurs in the here and now, one day at a time.  After some period of time, I can look back and see that I have changed - not perfectly but definitely for the better. 

I've also learned that arbitrary rules that I learned somewhere are not good guides to change.  Soul searching for how to live my life, meditations on kindness, reading other people's ideas and adopting the ones that fit with kindness, are better guides for me.  I read once that the Dalai Lama's religion was kindness and my sense of it is that all religions have that as a central tenet.  In recovery there's a saying - when deciding what to say in any situation, ask yourself, "Is it necessary?  Is it constructive?  Is it kind?" 

A big part of kindness is learning to be kind to myself, so "progress not perfection" is what I apply to my efforts to live the life I want to live.  For example, I have tried many times to establish a meditation practice that is truly a meditation practice.  I go along for awhile and then forget the whole thing.  Now that my life is not so busy, I'm working at this again.  I'm pretty good now with the morning meditation, but I forget to do the evening one.  Also, I do not yet have anything like a quiet mind, so I've adopted what I think is a Buddhist meditation where I focus on my breathing, saying to myself as I breathe in, "May I be free from suffering" and as I breathe out, "May I be at peace."  (This is not a prayer.  This is me giving myself permission to be free of suffering and to be at peace.)  Boy does my mind really hate that.  It wants to think about my to do list, what I ought to do about some problem, etc. etc. etc.  It could be discouraging if I were trying for perfection.  Luckily I'm not - the goal is progress and I'm seeing some of that as I persist every day.

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