I am slowly learning to be comfortable with my own imperfection. It’s not easy. I want to do things well, do them right. I put a lot of effort towards quality. I pay attention to every detail. I try so hard.
And it’s not working for me. I don’t mean that I’m falling short of perfection. What I mean is that it’s not workable, not sustainable, not healthy to try so hard all the time. It’s incredibly confusing and overwhelming when every single thing matters so much.
For example, for yoga teacher training next weekend, I have to create three vinyasas, a series of yoga poses that would take about 10-13 minutes to teach. Then next weekend, I’ll need to be ready to teach one of them to a small group. This is on top of our regular homework. I have been trying to get them finished for the past few weeks, but I’m struggling. I have the vinyasas created, but I think they are too long, and I haven’t had a chance to practice teach them or even practice them myself as much as I’d like.
I’ve done less yoga since I started yoga teacher training than I have at any other time in the past six years. I’ve also been struggling to keep up with a regular meditation practice. Yesterday when I was working, I started to feel that familiar panic — the tightness in my chest and throat, the floaty feeling in my head, the tension throughout my body, the tears that are always just on the verge of spilling over.
Then I remembered the Buddhist approach to renunciation. In other traditions, renunciation is about giving everything up, living a life of lack and restriction, but in Buddhism, it’s not that at all. Instead it’s about no longer rejecting or resisting. Renunciation is about saying “yes” to our life, exactly as it is. Pema Chödrön explains it this way,
The journey of awakening—the classical journey of the mythical hero or heroine—is one of continually coming up against big challenges and then learning how to soften and open. In other words, the paralyzed quality seems to be hardening and and refusing, and the letting go or the renunciation of that attitude is simply feeling the whole thing in your heart, letting it touch your heart. You soften and feel compassion for your predicament and for the whole human condition. You soften so that you can actually sit there with those troubling feelings and let them soften you more.
The whole journey of renunciation, or starting to say yes to life, is first of all realizing that you’ve come up against your edge, that everything in you is saying no, and then at that point, softening.
I’ve certainly been up against my edge these past few months, (years?). As I contemplate renunciation, I look for the places where I can soften, be more gentle with myself. The first thing that comes to mind is my yoga teacher training homework, and how tightening up around that, pushing myself, being critical and mean, beating myself up in relation to it isn’t at all what yoga is about. It isn’t what practice is about.
I let go. I take a breath and come back. I start again. I soften.