Thoughts on slowing down. Part 3.

It seems to me that one of the keys to slowing down is taking a stance against perfectionism. These two concepts may not seem directly related, or even like opposite ends of a spectrum, but I think they are. Because the pursuit of perfection is a cheap, ugly hamster wheel. It’s fruitless. It’s not mentally sustainable. And it can work people into a damaging sort of pace in life, or in other words, a desperation. And desperation without a worthy cause can get ugly.

When we aim for perfection, we miss the goal in a deeper way. We cut the value out of the act and miss the journey. We see beauty as less than. We strive for an empty illusion. It’s so easy to get swept into perfectionist ideology. It’s so rampant in our culture. One could even subconsciously aim for perfectionism in their journey of letting it go. 

This brings to mind my morning meditation practice, which has changed dramatically since last fall. Because we adopted a cat in November. Seriously, that’s why. 

My previous meditation practice worked like this: Wake up, pee, get back in bed, meditate for twenty minutes. Now it looks like this: Wake up, pee, get back in bed to meditate, get nuzzled and purred on by one-year-old kitten Javier, and continue to get harassed for cuddles while attempting to meditate. At first, I was a little boggled at what to do. My morning meditation practice is (I suspect) 50% of what keeps me sane. But how can you not cuddle a (gorgeous) soft, gray, rescued orphan who wants your love? You can’t. You must cuddle him.

And so I meditate and also pet Javi, sometimes opening my eyes, sometimes giving him kisses. It’s not what it used to look like. In a way, you could say I’m less focused. But I walk away from the practice with the same presence of mind that I used to when there wasn’t a cat vying for my attention. It turns out that it’s just as valuable, though far less perfect. I’m not sure what the zen tradition would say about my amended practice. And I’m at peace with that.

When it comes to disciplines and spiritual practices - things we know benefit us on a deep, ancient, natural level - it can be hard to find a balance. Meditation, for me, is about letting go of predisposed images of myself, of making friends with the bits of me that I used to ignore or shelve in the back with shame. My mind feels calm because I’m sitting at peace with all the messy facets of it. So what is there to be said about strictly upholding a practice as traditionally sacred as this one?

It makes me think of one of my meditation teachers. He says this thing about one’s practice being “not too tight, not too loose.” Javi keeps my meditation practice “not too tight.” His animal instincts probably urged him to cuddle all over my tight, little practice until it was just the right amount of loose.

Sustainability is this way as well. When we shoot for perfection, we can become bogged down. We might start comparing ourselves to others instead of accepting inspiration from them. We might find ourselves resenting those who aren’t making the efforts we are. None of this is productive. It is, without a doubt, counter-productive. 

I think the strategy lies here: show up in good faith. Show up to your practice of slowing down, of meditation, of sustainability - or whatever it may be - with the faith that you will be yourself and do your best, and that it will have a positive effect. A powerful energy (one that rides with the winds of change) will meet you there. 

Perfectionism is not a worthy goal. But knowing what you love, and showing up for those things, is what makes life valuable. Show up for yourself, show up for your loved ones, and show up for the earth. That is all that is asked of you.


Photo by Hana Oliver on Unsplash