The other day, I was sitting in a hot tub, frustrated at what I was perceiving to be an extended plateau in my own personal and spiritual development. It felt as though I hadn’t had a new insight in ages, that my work was in danger of stagnating and that I had nothing new to offer myself, my clients, or the world.
As I was wallowing in my own insecure thinking, I suddenly had a brand new thought – one I could not recall ever having crossed my mind before.
“What if,” my thought went, channeling my inner Jack Nicholson, “this is as good as it gets? What if I never get any smarter, any wiser, any more evolved mentally, emotionally, physically, or spiritually?”
I began to enumerate my many remaining faults, from shoddy listening to sloppy administration to an overwhelming fondness for high-carb foods and occasional lapses in my dental hygiene regimen.
And I realized something interesting. If I never got any better as a human being than I am right now, I could live with that. In point of fact, I’ve been living with it for years, but I’ve been battling against it, sure that I was only one short burst of willpower away from becoming the man I’ve always dreamed about being.
In You Can Have What You Want, I wrote about my early struggles with living up to an image of perfection:
|So many of our efforts to ‘better’ ourselves are born out of this conflict – the tension between who we are and who we would ideally like to be. And when part of you wants to look great naked and another part of you wants cheese fries, it can be difficult to be at peace with anything…In this sense, the only thing wrong with you is the idea that there’s something wrong with you – and the sooner you begin loving and accepting what’s here instead of obsessing about what isn’t, the sooner you’ll become more of who you’d really like to be…But remember, our habit as humans is to try to turn everything we think might be fun, positive, important or ‘good for us’ into a new rule to live by. And that can even include an idea as radical and as wonderful as loving yourself as you are.
If you really want to – if it really, really, really, really brings you joy – you can still work on yourself. There are any number of inner rewards that will come your way.
But here’s the thing…
Even if you win the battle against an inner enemy,
To my surprise, what I realized is that the battle for a better me had continued raging quietly in the background throughout my life. Only the battlefield had shifted over the years, from trying to make myself more like I thought I should be to trying to make myself more loving and accepting of my failure and unwillingness to do so.
So here’s the conundrum:
How do we reconcile these two seemingly opposing forces? Is acceptance a desirable gateway to happiness that brings us deeper and deeper into peace and the present moment, or a seductive siren luring us into our own comfort zone where over time we will silently drown in a morass of boredom, lethargy, fear, and sameness?
What I’ve come to realize in my more reflective moments is that I really don’t need to know the answer to this or any other dilemma. I don’t need to resolve the unresolvable, work on myself or not work on myself, practice acceptance or cultivate “divine discontent”.
There is a power beyond us that seems to work through us in the direction of health and well-being – a sort of psycho-spiritual immune system that will bring a return to peace the moment we step out of the way. I wouldn’t even think of trying to heal my own cut finger; I needn’t try so hard to heal my wounded psyche.
Because perhaps it isn’t wounded at all. Perhaps, just perhaps, I only think it is.
Have fun, learn heaps, and enjoy your week!