A bit of faith, every day. And I can be happy.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to hold myself to high standards, and often fall short of them.
I want to practice positive habits every day and am pleased when I manage it for a reasonable stretch. But not accepting that I am human, and flawed, and will inevitably fall short of my own ideals – that’s perfectionism, and it’s counter-productive to happiness.
I was feeling super-proud (and yes, a little smug) to manage my 30 day yoga challenge and at the same time I realised I had also meditated every day for 100+ days. In my head, I felt like ‘I’ve arrived! I’m now a confucian machine of positive daily habits. I’ve finally cracked the code!’
Then I came crashing down to earth and all it took was a single sleepless night to knock me off balance and shake my faith in the value of it all.
How can practising these daily habits be working? I asked myself. Because if it was, I wouldn’t have had this random sleepless night, throwing my whole routine into disarray.
What I forgot about was Newton’s Third Law: that ‘For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction’.
We all have to deal with the inner and outer resistance that rises up in reaction to positive efforts. In Buddhism, this would be seen as working through and facing up to our karma. Every choice we make contributes to our karmic bank account – and most of us have made some questionable ones along the way. There is work to be done to overcome that shit and it’s going to take a while.
Of course my negative, self-destructive tendencies weren’t going to be vanquished forever just by doing some yoga and meditation. The more you go towards the light, the more the darkness claws at your heels and yes, sometimes it succeeds in grabbing hold of your ankles and dragging you back into the pit of apathy and despair. Or to be less dramatic – the mundane and mediocre.
Like those days you (I) waste binge-watching another throwaway show on Netflix.
But once you know that positive light is there, you can always reach for it again and – like a lantern rising rapidly in the night sky, it will lift you clear of the swamp, back into a world where hope exists and progress is possible.
As the stoics would argue, to expect an obstacle free life is to expect something unfeasible, unreal, fantasy, false. There are unlimited obstacles in this world, and within ourselves.
Like a video game, each time we overcome one thing, we move on to the next level and the next end of level boss.
If we keep building our strength through positive habits and practices, we can deal with it. We might come perilously close to defeat multiple times, but with a bit of faith we can persevere and progress.
However perfectionism is not an end of level boss. The resistance – our cumulated karma – is not an end of level boss. Depression and chronic fatigue and loss of faith are not things to be overcome once and forever – we cannot set up permanent camp in the green fields of freedom just beyond their iron gates. These things are a constant presence, a ghoul, a circling vulture, a pervasive black dog, snapping at our heels.
I carry them with me like a soldier in training carries a backpack full of bricks.
I stand tall anyway. I get up if I fall. I continue to walk in the direction of my dreams, despite the weight of my past karma and doubts and fears. I ask the unseen powers of the universe to help me with the load, and I step forward into the unknown trusting that I can make it another day.
A bit of faith goes a long way.
Listen to this post on Soundcloud.
Photo: Flying hot air lanterns by Kamil Porembiński (Creative Commons)
10 replies on “Perfectionism is not an end of level boss”
You lead us into a sense of happy security, listing your achievements, along with the slightest hint of foreshadowing. I like that we are picked-up again at the end with your humble optimism.
Having come very close to “defeat” several times this year, your words are comforting.
“I ask the unseen powers of the universe to help me with the load, and I step forward into the unknown trusting that I can make it another day.”
… another day!
Hi Jessica, thanks very much for your feedback.
I’m glad you found it comforting. I think I will need to read it often myself as a reminder!
Hope the humility outweighed the ‘listing of achievements’ ( a list of my failures would have made the article too long).
Very nicely said, and ironically … the perfect thing to read today! I consider this post a little bit of good karma coming my way. : )
That makes me happy Sally! Great to hear from you 🙂
I do think dusting ourselves off and being willing to start again is a key. And yes maddening its not a once only thing…
Definitely Mary. Glad you relate!
Loved the post, Milo and the new look of this site.
here’s my fav line: I carry them with me like a soldier in training carries a backpack full of bricks.
We just gotta keep going despite the falls, the breaks in habits and the procrastination. As someone who writes regularly, this message is a good reminder. Some days like last couple weeks I knocked out 20,000 words fora new book. Some days like this week, I can’t write a comment. I’m still trying to show up and write though. Thanks for the shot of inspiration.
Congrats on the yoga challenge and meditation practice – you deserve to take off a 100 days now (haha kidding!)
Thanks Vishnu! Glad you like the new look. I read your comment on my phone and forgot to reply until now!
I liked that line too 🙂
Definitely. I’ve always been impressed with your consistency at writing so you must be doing something right!
I’m on day 23 of my 100 day holiday from being good 😉
Awesome writing, Milo – and I mean that in the true sense of the word, for your words have inspired awe within me. There is some different quality about this piece that I can’t quite put my finger on … maybe a sense of freedom I am detecting in your writing? I would like for somebody to sit by my bedside every night and read this to me as I sleep!
If we’re talking favourite lines then I’d have to go for: “- we cannot set up permanent camp in the green fields of freedom just beyond their iron gates.”
Thank you Paul, I’m blushing! Alas, this was a one-off and the writing will go back to the normal quality next time.
Maybe I should record an audio version though… unfortunately neither Samuel L Jackson or Morgan Freeman are available.