Notes on idealism, perfectionism, humility

01Mar10

Perfectionism kills spiritual endeavors. This almost seems like a strange thing to say, because in large part spiritual endeavors are guided by the idea of the Absolute, the Divine, which implies perfection. However, any attempts to make ideal versions of ourselves, or even merely better versions of ourselves, skirt dangerously in the territory of spiritual materialism. What we end up with is the ego gussying itself up in “spiritual” clothes, rather than a seeing through to the truth of the ego’s follies and its lack of existence/illusoriness.

As long as we are trying to make a “better” version of ourselves, then we have a reference point with which to compare ourselves to others– “I” am better than this person, I am worse than that person. Look at that poor person, what a shame that they are not as virtuous or as spiritually evolved as I am. It’s too bad that those people are not privy to the esoteric truths that I am. It’s a shame that those people’s bodies are not as yogically correct as mine, that their mindstreams are not as spiritually correct as mine.

These ways of thinking and their consequences serve to further enforce the sense of separation from others and painful felt isolation of the sense of self that is the hallmark of our egoic experiences. Furthermore, on a more practical, kitchen sink level, what can these types of attitudes possibly have to do with genuine religion? Since when is true spirituality about following some boutique path which makes us feel special and results in us feeling a sort of contempt for others? This sort of spiritual aggression and ambition leaves no room for the rest of humanity. It has little whatsoever to do with reality or the truth of our existence here and now, but more to do with a project wherein we try to eliminate our faults and negativities in pursuit of a more perfect version of self that we can obsessively think over and further measure and judge in accord with ego’s standards.

In the meantime, tremendous swathes of reality are left out of the equation, our world gets smaller, and we have less and less room in which to relax and relate to our natural sense of compassion and generosity and love and warmth. A vision of the world driven by spiritual ambition leaves no room for our faults– no room for our anger, our rage, our tantrums, our dislikes, our fears, our insecurities, our depressions, our doubts, etc… if we are unable to lovingly deal with these feelings inside of our very selves, then how can we possibly expect to deal with these kinds of things when they manifest themselves in other people’s expressions and responses to life?

Perfectionism and idealism are the very antitheses of compassion. They are expressions of violence and aggression which would thwart the very notions of loving-kindness and acceptance. Without acceptance of the emotional turbulence in our minds, without acceptance of our confusions, without acceptance of others, and acceptance of others’ similar phenomena, then there is no true religion or spirituality. Without an openhearted acceptance of our own and others’ imperfections, flaws, and insecurities, there is no true spirituality, no true religion. As long as we imagine that we are more special or more important than others because we are conversant with such-and-such knowledge or practice such-and-such a path or have had such-and-such extraordinary experiences, there is no true religion, no true spirituality. Instead there is mostly just us wrestling with the endless frustrations and ambitions of our egos. Anytime this activity is dropped, however, and we open up to accept how we presently are and how others are, and thus invite others to share in the endless reservoir of love that is present in our moment-to-moment experience, then heaven begins to make itself plain before our very eyes, with love and peace and ever deepening wisdom as its calling card.

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