Moving toward wholeness, not perfection

This part of Ireland has quite a lot of interesting early Christian remains,   so last weekend I visited the ruins of the monastic settlement in Castledermot.  It is a site which is left somewhat untended, so that the crosses and tombs have a certain craggy beauty in a natural setting.  Rough stones, some seeming unfinished.  And yet, unfinished or ongoing does not mean “not right”, much as we tend to prefer tidyness and a clear direction or order.  We often think we have to be the finished product, or have everything resolved and clear, so that other people will give us the feedback that we are doing OK.  Seeing this “lack of completion” reminded me of these words from  Jung  – which echo the idea from Pema Chodren posted last Friday. We never really arrive at “perfection” (even though the mind thinks in terms of it) but rather at a wholeness which is more like a continual “coming together and falling apart”.  When we give up that notion of  the idealized life we wish we had, we allow ourself to work with the life we actually have.  Each moment may not be perfect, but it is, in some way, complete.

The realization of the self….leads to a fundamental conflict, to a real suspension between opposites …and to an approximate state of wholeness that lacks perfection. . . . The individual may strive after perfection . . . but must suffer from the opposite of his intentions for the sake of his completeness.

Jung, Christ, A Symbol of the Self,

photo of ancient Celtic cross Castledermot, Ireland, taken from dialogue ireland website.

4 thoughts on “Moving toward wholeness, not perfection

  1. Apt since i’ve been going through inner conflict today ………so I understand that we should accept conflict and “just be” rather than resolve it …… all will be revealed/ resolved in time.

  2. This is a great post and its subject resonates deeply. I suffered for years with a very debilitating sense of perfectionism and its been extremely difficult shaking it off. But I am doing much better with it now.

    Bringing it to a very practical level as an example I made a curry last night. It is a real challenge for me to cook now because of MS but I keep trying and unfortunately last nights curry was far too hot. A few years ago this would have been a disaster but I just said it was hot and maybe could be helped along by a little yoghurt to cool it down. Nobody complained! I still saw it as an achievement and left it at that. A few years ago it would have gone in the bin.

    I can use exampes like this to help me along toward wholeness, and knowing I will keep falling apart and it’s ok.

    By the way the curry was far too hot or me and I ended up with a packet of crisps!! 🙂

    1. Hi Christine,

      Yes, I think it is more a case of being able to hold the different parts of our life, good and bad, without judgment. We only get things together for moments. And that starts with daily things, like cooking, which we used to beat ourselves up over.


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