It is better to do one’s own dharma, even though imperfectly, than to do another’s dharma, even though perfectly.
I saw this quote on a poster in the stairwell every time I walked from my room to the dining hall when teaching at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health two weeks ago. This ancient wisdom brought ease to my “comparing mind” which can often run away with me when I’m teaching among other highly respected teachers.
“Comparing mind” has its place when we look to role models for inspiration and aspiration, finding incentive to stretch and try a little harder, or with more skill, or with more perseverance. But there is also an ease that comes with “good enough,” whether the dharma of the moment is teaching or parenting or gardening.
The exercise below helps us reclaim our “good enough-ness” and settle into being perfectly imperfect as we journey through our unfolding life.
Do this exercise in a moment when you are not in comparing mind. You’re relatively at ease and happy and proud of who you are, you can already rest in a sense of “good enough.” This exercise will create a valuable resource for those times when the comparing mind engine starts racing.
1. Identify one aspect of yourself that is already “good enough”. An aspect or trait like being focused and clear-minded, or loyal in your commitments, or well-organized and disciplined, or tolerant of other people’s flaws and foibles, or patient, or generous, or kind. Write down the trait and why you value having that trait, what it says about you to have this trait, honoring that in fact this trait is true for you and already plenty good enough.
2. For this trait, write down three specific memories of moments when you actively expressed this trait. Maybe you were generous to a coworker, your neighbor, or your brother; you were prudent about paying your utility bill on time, driving within the speed limit, filling up the gas tank, and so on. For each example, consciously acknowledge that indeed you were exhibiting that trait that you value in a way that was more than good enough.
3. Remembering when you have expressed this trait, begin to identify and gather symbols that represent you expressing that trait. They might include
* a photograph of you and a person to whom you are loving
* a postcard from a trip where your flexibility really showed up.
* the printed agenda of a city council meeting where you found the courage to speak about an important neighborhood issue
4. Gather these symbolic reminders of your good enough-ness in a box or display them on a windowsill, a bookshelf, a kitchen counter, or your desk.
5. Visit your collection of symbolic reminders once a day for a month to strengthen the felt sense of you already being good enough in expressing this trait that you value. Then revisit your collection whenever you want to strengthen your sense of yourself as good enough in this particular aspect, even more than good enough.
6. Whenever you notice yourself tripping into comparing mind, visit your collection again and settle into the intention of doing your own dharma imperfectly, embracing the truth and wisdom of that practice.
7. You can add to your collection as you choose to consciously honor more and more aspects of yourself that are honestly good enough. Naturally spilling over into honoring your entire self as good enough. Which is very, very true.