When I was at Yoga Teacher Training at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health this was my favorite thing to hear, and I got to hear it, often. Now you have to hear this in your own head with the most delightfully, lilting Singapore accent, because the speaker was Jovinna Chan, one of our teachers, and that is what she sounds like. Every time I heard her say these words it was like all the bones went out of my body. Ahhhh....I would just sink into that delicious release from the slavery of perfection. How long had I waited to hear those words? To be given permission to be "imperfect"; permission I would never fully give to myself? A very long time.
Perfection is a hard task-master. It keeps our nose down on a grindstone with singular purpose, believing in the end we wil grind out something of beautiful, polished perfection. But, all we end up with is a sore nose and a pile of grit.
On and off the mat, yoga is a great way to become, like myself, a "Recovering Perfectionist". Anything you carry with you will show up on the mat, and as you work with it you take the awareness, and the biological changes that occur in your mind and body, into your everyday life.
Dinabandhu Garrett Sarley, the CEO of the Kripalu Center, says that, "There is a physical analog for every spiritual experience." (You can read more about this in Dinadandhu's article in the current issue of Yoga Bulletin here).
Our work on the mat is transformational, bringing us in very concrete ways closer to our own humanness. And humans aren't perfect.
So, let's just let that one go... all together now...
one...two...three, deep breath...I N H A L E... and...E X H A L E.
Hmm...perfectionism can be stubborn. So, if you feel some residue of that grimacing task-master left behind, maybe this offering which we read so often in Yoga Training will speak to you, as it did to me. Maybe you can read it to your task-master.
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
May you be happy, May you be free from all suffering,
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
from Dream Work by Mary Oliver
published by Atlantic Monthly Press
© Mary Oliver
P.S. Check out the two related articles below, they are excellent.
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