Do not doubt your goodness

Often individuals who have experienced insecure attachments in childhood have high shame and self-criticism as companions in adulthood. The dominant role of their overdeveloped threat and protection system means that they have an underdeveloped capacity to use the soothing and safety system, whose function is to allow them feel safe and cared for.

In order to communicate very openly with the world, you need to develop fundamental trust. This kind of trust is not trusting “in” something, but simply trusting. It is very much like your breath. You do not consciously hold on to your breath, or trust in your breath, yet breathing is your very nature. In the same way, to be trusting is your very nature. To be trusting means you are fundamentally free from doubt about your goodness and about the goodness of others.

Dr. Jeremy Hayward, First Thought

Being driven is not always a good thing

On the day after being nominated among the 50 best blogs “on the planet”, these thoughts on striving and becoming which I had written for today seem even more apt…

One reason we practice mindfulness meditation is to strengthen our capacity to “be with” what is here,  rather than always nurturing the deep-seated dynamic of “becoming”.  And “being with” does not just mean that simplistic idea of mindfulness – being with this beautiful flower or cupcake –  but also being with the life or personality we have, rather than always wanting to be better or be like others –  “If only I was this….. if only he or she wasn’t like that – then I’d feel satisfied”. Ideals of perfect relationships, perfect holidays and even perfect wellness make it easy to feel that one isn’t good enough. These can be false friends, pushing us to do more and achieve more, rather than finding rest in who and where we are:

Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: “If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.” Perfectionism is defeating and self-destructive simply because there is no such thing as perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal. Additionally, perfectionism is more about perception – we want to be perceived as perfect. Again, this is unattainable – there is no way to control perception, regardless of how much time and energy we spend trying.

Perfectionism is addictive because when we invariably do experience shame, judgment, and blame, we often believe it’s because we weren’t perfect enough so rather than questioning the faulty logic of perfectionism, we become even more entrenched in our quest to live, look, and do everything just right.

Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Another week begins: it doesn’t have to be perfect

Sometimes Monday mornings can be a challenge, and what is not going right comes to mind more easily, as we start back into work after a relaxed and sunny Sunday.  So we remind ourselves that  one does not have to be completely satisfied with everything before one can be content. Similarly, everything does not have to be just as you would like it in your life for you to be grateful.

Meditation is a process of lightening up, of trusting the basic goodness of what we have and who we are, and of realizing that any wisdom that exists, exists in what we already have.

Pema Chodron, The Wisdom of No Escape

The wilderness constantly reminds me that wholeness is not about perfection….

I have been astonished to see how nature uses devastation to stimulate new growth, slowly but persistently healing her own wounds. Wholeness does not mean perfection: it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life. Knowing this gives me hope that human wholeness – mine, yours, ours – need not be a utopian dream, if we can use devastation as a seedbed for new life.

Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness

What cows do you need to let go of?

The area where I live, south Kildare, has some of the finest pasture land in Ireland and it is a lovely place for a walk at the weekend.  So it is easy to be reminded of this old story about cows, retold here by Thich Nhat Hanh. Like all parables it can speak to us in different ways at different moments in our lives.

Today it reminds me that I should stop trying to hold onto my idea of what life should be like, and instead move towards what life actually is like.

This can become a simple daily practice – we can repeat the words “let go” –   letting go of what we think we need for happiness and the external conditions we believe must be fulfilled in order for happiness to come.

Hopefully it may speak to you in some way today

One day the Buddha was sitting in the forest with some monks when a farmer approached them. The farmer said, “Venerable monks, did you see my cows come by? I have a dozen cows and they all ran away. On top of that I have five acres of sesame plants and this year the insects ate them all up. I think I am going to kill myself. It isn’t possible to live like this”  The Buddha felt a lot of compassion toward the farmer. He said “My friend, I am sorry, we did not see your cows come this way”.

When the farmer had gone, the Buddha turned to his monks and said “My friends, Do you know why you are happy? Because you have no cows to lose”

I would like to say the same to you. If you have some cows you have to identify them. You think they are essential to your happiness, but if you practice deep looking, you will see that it is not these cows that have brought about your happiness. The secret of happiness is being able to let go of your cows. You must have the courage to practice letting go.

Thich Nhat Hanh, You are Here

Not trying to get somewhere

The physical universe is basically playful. There is no necessity for it whatsoever. It isn’t going anywhere. That is to say, it doesn’t have some destination that it ought to arrive at. It is best understood by the analogy with music. Because music, as an art form is essentially playful. We say, “You play the piano” You don’t work the piano.

Why? Music differs from say, travel. When you travel you are trying to get somewhere. In music, though, one doesn’t make the end of the composition. The point of the composition. If that were so, the best conductors would be those who played fastest. And there would be composers who only wrote finales.…  Same way with dancing. You don’t aim at a particular spot in the room because that’s where you will arrive. The whole point of the dancing is the dance.

If we thought of life by analogy with a journey, with a pilgrimage, which had a serious purpose at that end, and the thing was to get to that thing at that end. Success, or whatever it is, or maybe heaven after you’re dead.

But we missed the point the whole way along.

It was a musical thing, and you were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.

Alan Watts

A bigger container

Wordsworth invited his readers to abandon their usual perspective and to consider for a time how the world might look through other eyes, to shuttle between the human and the natural perspective.

Why might this be interesting, or even inspiring?

Perhaps because unhappiness can stem from only having one perspective to play with.

Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel