Thoughts on Difficulties, Challenges & Perfection

A pervasive misunderstanding says that when someone becomes “enlightened” they cease to have problems and challenges in their lives. Related to this, when we have problems or challenges that we struggle with, we criticize ourselves or are disappointed and feel defeated … This isn’t supposed to happen to me! There must be something wrong with me … or What am I missing? … or Why am I not happy? … or When will I ever get there (inner peace)?

2013-02-map-basrah-300Everyone has challenges and difficulties, whether considered to be an “enlightened” person or not. The quality or state of mind with which you view the challenge and difficulty is, in my opinion, what differentiates “enlightenment” from the “normal” mindset.

I put the word “enlightened” in quotation marks because I dislike the word. It implies that this person is in the light, and that person is not; this person is wise and wonderful, and that person is not. In fact every single person on earth is “in the light” – is an essential and beautiful part of the Universe, God, Source, Allah, Jehovah, All That Is, Goddess, whatever name you want to use. We can’t be otherwise. You cannot lose that no matter what you do or experience. And we all have the wisdom within us, it’s just a matter of learning to access and accept that, which is in large part (or totally) learning to love and accept ourselves exactly as we are at any given moment. We all have that capacity, too. We each have the capacity to know ourselves, and to answer our own best questions, step by step.

So I’m going to switch from using the word “enlightened” to using the phrase “inner peace.”

Challenges and difficulties … if we think of them as problems, why do we think that? What beliefs are supporting that self-criticism, that self-judgment, that subtle violence against ourselves and our experience? What expectations did we have that make us judge this experience as “wrong” or “imperfect”? What if we used the word “adventure” instead of “problem.” What would that imply? How might that change our experience?

Emotions are not changed without changing the perspective (thought, belief) that gave birth to the emotion. If you want to stop being unhappy, look at what beliefs or thoughts support that that emotion.

The people that we judge as at peace (inner peace) only use a different perspective to look at challenges and difficulties. They don’t avoid them, they don’t resist them, and they don’t NOT have them. They practice a different perspective. They might say, “Here is a difficulty. I may not want to experience this, but here it is so I’ll try to find or create value in it. Who I am is not defined by this difficulty. I am a whole and complete, perfect being having a difficult experience. How will I handle this?”

They may not always be able to do this, but they try. They practice it.

They have released self-judgment, and set aside expectations. Their idea of their own perfection (affection and compassion for, and forgiveness of themselves) is not dependent upon not being human or upon not having human experiences. They understand that their perfection is never diminished by difficulties or challenges (- or by experiencing anger, frustration, envy, disgust, etc). They understand and accept that there will be moments when they’ll shine, and moments when they’ll feel they’ve fallen short, acted from what looks and feels like less than perfect inner peace. They understand that even that is perfect. That the expression of themselves through this human experience in this physical world is not always going to be some ideal version of perfect, yet it is always perfect just as it is.

An inner peace comes with accepting yourself whether you live up to your own expectations or not … or better yet, letting go of expectations. It comes with liking yourself no matter what experience you’re having. And that inner peace is a practice.

Very few people have one overwhelmingly transformative experience, an instant of profound enlightenment … and people who have that sort of profound experience still have to practice what they’ve learned.

Practice: 1. the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method as opposed to theories about such application or use. 2. repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.

Sound bytes and inspirational sayings and advice from religions, philosophies, dogmas or theories can be useful reminders, but just sucking up all the wise advice one can find is not going to change one’s life. Trying to be who we think we should be is unlikely to bring us inner peace – it may just cause us to criticize ourselves and judge ourselves all the more. Transformation and change and ease comes with making the core precepts (which are based first on accepting yourself) your own through practice. Application. Experience. That will change your life, your mind, and ultimately your experience.

No one lives a perfect life free of challenges and difficulties, but if we begin to take a little quiet time to ponder our own experiences, to apply these ideas to our own thoughts, expectations, and to our language, we may find that we begin to become acquainted with ourselves in a new way. And as we do that, we may find affection and compassion and even amusement for ourselves. And as we do that we may find that forgiving and understanding ourselves is easier. And then we’ll find moments of inner peace and within that, some answers.

The beliefs that support judgments of experiences as good or bad are not true. Every experience has value. When that idea is applied, practiced, there is the possibility of quietly and privately recognizing our own divinity, our own perfection (joy, happiness) even when we’re in the midst of difficulties and challenges. We’re all perfect even when we’re acting fucked up.

Happiness: accepting our own perfection – and accepting even our inability to always express that perfection within our human experience. Accepting that we may not always feel happy, and being okay with that.

4 Comments

Filed under Explorations, Musing

4 responses to “Thoughts on Difficulties, Challenges & Perfection

  1. Natalie, stunning explanation, as usual. Often a student will tell me that he or she wishes he or she could be instantly “enlightened” (at peace) just like so and so (fill in the blank). I remind them that no one knows how that person has arrived at the place of peace they appear to be exemplifying; that you can only see the other person in that moment. Comparison removes one from the availability of inner peace. And, as the word says, we are each in-light-ined. All we have to do is accept it.

  2. Amazing post, thanks so much. It’s been really helpful to me.

  3. Really excellent, Natalie. Bob O’Hearn just shared this in the Tao & Zen Community and now I will share from the FB page Tao & Zen.
    🙂

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