Striving for perfection is the greatest stopper there is…It’s your excuse to yourself for not doing anything. Instead, strive for excellence, doing your best. Sir Laurence Olivier
|Swami Muktananda Santa Monica tent, 1981|
Finally, I had the opportunity for darshan (blessing) and walked up to the podium and looked in his eyes. What I saw was beyond the mind or the material world. This little, old Indian man with the orange beanie was the first and only person I have ever met who was ‘perfected’. From then on I was on a quest to know and to achieve awakening or perfection.
Perfectionism: a personal belief that anything less than perfect is undesirable.
After Swami Muktananda died, stories came out about his less than perfect behavior with underage devotees. Like the rest of us, it turns out he was a bit less than perfect.
Throughout my life I have oppressed myself with perfectionism in the important domains of life: mate, job, home, health. Never fully satisfied, I too often changed the job or the girl because it or she wasn’t perfect. Never satisfied, the grass was always greener. I once had a therapist who admonished me to not drop a girlfriend as long as positives were more than the negatives (providing there were no deal breakers). I dropped him, not the girl.
American culture is suffused with perfectionist ideology; 'winner take all, second place is for losers, die trying. What if there is no perfect, no absolute, and that date or job or house or suit of clothes was good enough. Would it change your life? Would you be happier? Goals motivate us to improve and are important component of happiness. But more and better may lead to constant striving, never arriving.
Let's back up a bit. As Boomers we have been exhorted to live our dreams all of our lives. The Boomer generation was often indulged by parents who had grown up in the Depression and World War II. As youths we felt entitled to be, do, and have what we wanted. We wanted perfection. That zeitgeist fit with the traditional American can do spirit of self-reliance. We wanted decided to work on ourselves. The self-improvement industry expanded into the mainstream in the 70s with the est training which promised instant transformation. Naturally, after you’ve been transformed you want the perfect mate, job, house, and body. Self-help reached some sort of zenith with Oprah Winfrey and her massive following. Not so coincidentally, Oprah ended her show in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Perhaps that shift heralded a new perspective on the search for perfection.
|Rev. Ike, 70s televangelist|
We deserved a perfect life. When one brand or mate turns out to be a bit difficult, maybe it’s time to recycle. After all wasn’t I promised heaven on earth? When a boss tries to get me to come to work on time, shouldn’t I be following my divine right livelihood as an actor? The twin traps of choice and perfectionism ensnares the ungrounded, the gullible, and the dreamers. There is always another slick entrepreneur of optimal living waiting down the street with a new program or miracle mineral to cure all that ails you. With effort anyone can have perfection, just take another seminar or potion.
|Meditation teacher, Akasa Levi|
Pursuing heaven on earth may be as valid as any other life purpose. But after that last seminar/ sermon and that last 'back of the room book table,' I don’t want to say I’ve missed real life in all of its glory and imperfections. These days when I am tired of reading, studying, and workshopping about life, like Kazantzakis’ Zorba the Greek, I get up and sing, play, and dance. That is Good Enough!