Perfection. Isn’t it something we all long for? Perfect lives, perfect body and perfect happiness.
I am always saddened by the huge amount of self-hatred that people feel towards themselves and their bodies. Why does this happen? Celebrity magazine, social media, TV, YouTube. All these types of media are filled with images of flawlessly made-up, perfectly styled, hair free, smooth skinned, wrinkle free, slim women whose images have been airbrushed beyond reality. They represent a fantasy that some will spend a lifetime chasing and never reaching, leading to a dissatisfied life.
This same perfectionism comes through in diet and exercise books and videos. They are full of tips such as, “If you give up all dairy, wheat and sugar….” Or, “if you eat only organic raw food,” you will lose weight and look beautiful. But how many of the authors of these books stick religiously to their own advice? What would be more helpful is if we knew that they too enjoyed the odd glass of wine, or half pint of ice cream when they are feeling stressed or down. Instead we break the diet and then feel guilty and lose motivation to continue. The reason….we feel we can never reach the high standards demanded by the celebrity dieticians and personal trainers.
But there is sadly the same trend, and accompanying stress, in the spiritual arena, via self-help and spiritual books. These books offer us instructions on how we should live our lives, how we can become our ideal of spiritual perfection – never becoming angry, living a pure life, always being understanding, having endless compassion and always listening to and acting upon our intuition, without fear. Sounds great. They also tell us how to become instantly rich, how to step into our own power overnight! Oh I wish.
All of these are admirable aims and it is right that we have these goals.
However, what should be made clear is that becoming enlightened is a life long journey and not one that is concluded when we have finished the book. There is no rush to reach enlightenment, so take the pressure off yourself.
What is frequently neglected in many of these books is a way of integrating all of this spirituality into our everyday lives. It is easy to feel compassionate when we are in our healing space, but less easy to do so in the middle of a crowded supermarket on a Saturday afternoon when surrounded by screaming children. No books tell you how to deal with that situation, nor, more importantly, that you are not a bad person for feeling angry and frustrated. You are being human.
Spirituality only works and has value if you are able to ground it and to make it have meaning in everyday interactions. In that way we become complete people, interacting with life using all of our aspects – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. If we neglect one area of ourselves we lose balance and life becomes more of a chore than a pleasure. We need to realise that we are blessed with a physical body and the ability to enjoy ourselves. We should remember that even the most spiritual people have taken pleasure in the indulgences of the physical world - the Dalai Lama apparently enjoys a good steak tartare and a bottle of red wine and even Jesus drank wine. As important as spirituality is, laughter and self-enjoyment are also vital parts of life and we should never neglect them.
One of the dangers of focusing on spirit, above all else, is that when we do indulge our emotions or our physical side, we can find guilt arising, as we feel nothing should detract from our spiritual quest. Our spiritual quest then becomes another means of self-punishment, of confirmation, that we are a bad person.
Healing too should be a combination of fun and spirituality. Even meditation will become a chore and a burden if we cannot find the laughter behind the practice. Healing and spirituality need to fit into our lives and our routines, otherwise we may tire very quickly of the perceived strict discipline required to be spiritual. Discipline is required, it is true, but if there is no fun and joy at the heart of your journey, then the motivation to practice is harder to find. Above all this life journey is not about perfection. Our journey is to live, love, grow, learn, fall and make mistakes and get up again, laugh and try again. If we slip up in life, we should not chastise ourselves, but realise that this is a part of this wonderful journey called life. We should all be more forgiving, and more loving to ourselves. Forget chasing perfection. The fun is in living in all our glorious imperfections.