For Pagans, the darker side of the year is a time for internal work–for choosing a battle, digging in, and working your way through. The combination of myth cycles, sunlight and weather that keeps us indoors serves as grease for the wheels, if you let it. This year, I’m working on Perfectionism. I have an ideal inside my head of what my life is supposed to be like–what I should look like, how I should act, what I should do. And when I fall short of that ideal, I wrestle with a lot of guilt. The guilt feeds into my anxiety disorder. I redouble my efforts, this time stressed and anxious, and ultimately manage to screw myself up. I end up getting sick, overextended, neurotic…it’s an ugly cycle. And it goes on almost constantly.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about ways to overcome my Perfectionism. I’ve been working on self-acceptance, on the idea of ‘enough.’ That I do enough, have enough, am enough. This evening I’m doing a releasing ritual with my wonderful working partner to further this cause. I’ll be creating a new mala for use in prayer and yoga practice.
Yoga practice. So many ideas come together here. The one that really crystallized for me this past week was the idea of Perfect Expression. A phrase often uttered by instructors at my studio is ‘Find your perfect expression.’ By that, they mean to listen to your body when you’re working on a pose. To find out where you, personally, need to physically be, what you need to cultivate. Not to worry about reaching the peak of that pose–Perfect Execution–but what is exactly right for your body in that moment.
For example, I have tight hamstrings. I’m extremely strong, but not very flexible. It seems to run in the family–we have very dense muscles and tissues that keep mobility a little pinned down. So, for me, the Perfect Expression of Downward Facing Dog means my heels don’t touch the floor. Yet I still get as much out of that pose as someone whose heels do touch–i.e. a great hamstring stretch/shoulder opener/lower back expansion. That slight difference in execution becomes meaningless since the beauty and benefit to the body are equal. Even if, 20 years from now, my heels still don’t touch in Down-dog, it will still be the Perfect Expression of the pose for me.
Perhaps there is a Perfect Expression of the Self as well. We all have an ideal we strive for, whether given to us by our family, the media, our culture as a whole or some combination of those sources. That ideal is Perfect Execution–beauty, health, wealth, a stable, loving relationship, enough time to help those in need, clean house, nice cars, etc, etc. A perfectly executed life. Yet the same way all our bodies are different, our minds and lives are different, too. We have tight hamstrings, bad shoulders, trick wrists. We accumulate little dings and dents along the way and must modify that Perfect Execution to fit the needs and limits of our unique, individual self.
And perhaps that modification is Perfect. Perfect for us in that moment. Perfect for our reality. Perfect for the soul, the personality, the life we lead. Perfectly expressed for who we are. That expression doesn’t look like the ‘peak pose’ of the life we imagine–it doesn’t look like the ideal inside our head. But the resemblance is unmistakable. Although the images aren’t identical, we still cultivate the root of that ideal. We reach toward it. And that Perfect Expression is exactly where we need to be.
So I haven’t saved the world yet. I haven’t completely balanced house-work-music-health-life. I haven’t figured out the Mysteries of the Universe.
And it’s Perfect. The things I think of as flaws, as failings, are just modifications. I have tight hamstrings. I have an anxiety disorder. I modify Downward Facing Dog. I modify my life. And the beauty and benefit of those modifications are the same within me as Perfect Execution would be. I do not feel guilt in my yoga practice. I don’t beat myself up for not being able to flawlessly move through Standing Twisting Triangle. Instead, I find that place within me that benefits most from the energy of that pose and I breathe into it.
As in yoga, so in life. As within, so without. As above, so below.
A blessed New Moon to you, and to your Perfect Expression.