“You are perfect just as you are, and you could use a little improvement.” —Shunryu Suzuki
(Photo Courtesy of http://www.deviantart.com/art/Perfectly-Imperfect-Day-77-297171517)
Sometimes, I am really surprised and amazed at how the stars seem to align. How I always seem to receive the messages I’m meant to receive at just the right time. Maybe it’s the books and magazines I’m reading, or the Podcasts I’m following, but I’ve been hearing so much lately about HAPPINESS. It seems that many throughout the health and wellness industry are doing a lot of research around the subject of happiness, and to tell you the truth, I couldn’t be happier (no pun intended). It seems that more and more emphasis is being placed on helping people understand what happiness is and how to find it. I think this is critical, as what I hear on the news regularly is that there are WAY too many people who just don’t know what happiness is.
Think about it. So many stories about kids being bullied for a variety of reasons, who then go to sometimes drastic extremes in order to be accepted, because they think THAT would make them happy. How many of those stories have a happy ending? Many of these kids end up committing suicide because it just gets worse, or they end up getting themselves into a situation that has dire consequences. I heard such a sad story on a Podcast this morning about a teen who is so desperate to “fix her body” so that she “can be happy”…but the personal trainer she went to couldn’t understand at all why she thought her body needed to be fixed. She was strong, healthy, had great muscle tone, and was in a good weight range. But for some reason unknown, she desperately felt there was more to be done…more she could do to become “perfect”. The trainer, at a loss for what it was she was truly looking for, could only say he thought she was already right where she should be, and the girl left in tears because he couldn’t “help” her. So sad!
What’s my point, you may be asking? My intent is certainly not to bring you down, but to lift you up.
Hey, I am no saint when it comes to building myself up. I constantly catch myself picking on the way I look (“I wish my hair was straight.”, “Why can’t I be skinnier?”), putting myself down (“I’m not smart enough to do this or that.”, “I let people walk all over me.”), and comparing myself to others (“I’m not as good of a yoga teacher as HER.”, “I wish I had her body.”). And every time I do those things, I put myself into such a downward spiral, it’s ridiculous. When I realize I’m doing it, I try my best to reverse it, but it takes a lot longer to build something up than it does to tear it down.
One of the reasons I love yoga so much is because it’s been a wonderful tool for me in building myself back up. As I’ve gone through teacher trainings or been a student over the years, these are the messages that I constantly latch on to:
- Don’t compare yourself to others.
- Don’t judge yourself.
- No expectations.
- This is not a competition.
- No matter where you are, if you’re listening to your body and your breath, you’re in the perfect pose.
- Yoga is a journey, not a destination.
- It’s OK to take a break.
- Let the pose help you find your inner smile.
Whenever I teach a class, I try to make sure my students understand these messages, as they are truly what yoga is all about, in my opinion. It makes me so sad when I see students pushing themselves into options without listening to their bodies, just because they think that’s what they need to do in order to get that “yoga body” they’ve been dreaming about. To me, getting a great body shouldn’t be the reason you get on the mat. It might be a nice “side effect”, but get on the mat because of how it makes you FEEL. You should walk off your mat, EACH AND EVERY TIME, feeling good about what you just did. If you notice you’re walking off the mat counting up your calorie burn or whether or not your muscles are “sore enough”, then take a moment to check in with what you’re really doing to yourself when you make that what it’s all about.
I love the quote above by Shunryu Suzuki. You really are perfect just as you are. God made you YOU for a reason, after all. Your uniqueness is beautiful and perfect. I don’t know the context in which Suzuki said or wrote these words, but here’s what it means to me:
We all could use a little improvement, because none of us realize that we’re already perfect just as we are. We are perfectly IMPERFECT.
There is no definition of the perfect person. Well, you can Google it, and I’m sure many results will come back. But guess what? They will ALL say something different from one another! Each of us truly is unique inside and out, so how can there possibly be a universal definition for the perfect person? If there were, then wouldn’t there be only ONE person who is perfect? So, the improvement we must work towards is realizing that we are already inherently perfect. We just need to dig in and discover who we are and work with what we’ve been graced with. When we can realize this, THAT is when we find true happiness.