Meditating on Perfection

“[Mindfulness training] it seemed, wasn’t just a way to get better; it was a way to keep from getting worse.” So says the New Yorker blog in An Antidote for Mindlessness, a quick little read on the benefits of meditation—a theme that’s been popping up all around me lately, from my Facebook wall to my therapist’s office.

Three weeks ago, I finally acted on my “that’s a good idea!” intentions and bought a book called Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. I’m really digging it. It’s not as foo-foo as you might expect. (Not that there’s anything wrong with foo-foo…) At $10.11 on amazon, it’s an easy investment in your own wellbeing, if you have also flirted with the idea of feeling more mentally stable but have never taken the plunge.

(Evidence that it’s not a quick-fix miracle: these have been three of the rougher mental-health weeks I’ve in a while. Evidence that it still might be a miracle, just the same: I stuck with it anyway.)

It’s deceptively simple, this meditation business. But, seriously, I can clear my head, gain more focus, feel more content and at peace in-the-now, all from just sitting still a few minutes a day? Cool! Sure! Bring it on! 

Thing is, I think it is that simple, but it’s not that easy. Or else we’d all be doing it by now, right?

via @jaredchapman / instagram

via @jaredchapman / instagram

A lovely lesson I’m learning already is that meditation is about showing up to the present moment, and paying attention to what’s there, without judgment.  (A quick sidebar about “attention.” I read somewhere recently that the word attention comes from the Latin attendere, meaning “to reach toward.” Isn’t that interesting? End sidebar.) When your sole objective is to observe your breath and thoughts, there’s no right or wrong answer, which is music to this exhausted perfectionist’s mind-ears.

(The thing about me and perfectionism is… I question whether I really am one. Because, I think, if I truly were a perfectionist, wouldn’t I be better at more of the things I attempt? …This is an actual belief / cry-for-help of mine.)

I read this listicle online a few weeks ago (thanks to @mara_dawn tweeting it), and it was like these people read my diary: 14 Signs Your Perfectionism Has Gotten Out Of Control.

Meditation is teaching me to let go of that. My first few attempts, I noticed myself trying too hard to breathe. (That sounds bonkers, right?!) But I was! Something about thinking about breathing, and I noticed myself “trying” to breathe. Breathing is one of those do-or-do-not situations, and that’s why it works so well as a centering-point in meditation. It’s something we all do. Every day. Every second.

I may always be a perfectionist. I may always be a little too hard on myself. But I may also have found a way to get better, and to keep from getting worse.

One breath at a time.

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3 thoughts on “Meditating on Perfection

  1. Great post, Sarah. I think perfectionism has its roots in fear. We’re afraid to hit the “Publish” button because we’re afraid of being criticized, humiliated, shamed. It’s debilitating when we are afraid to fail.

  2. Love this!

    I’ve been trying to do yoga, but focusing less on the positions and more on the whole breathing/mindfulness, to ease some major anxiety attacks I’ve been having lately. During one of my first attempts (via DVD), the instructor was talking about breathing, and I practically started choking. Then she said something like, “you’re probably noticing this…” Haha. I think it’s how we all act when we first pay attention to something we do so naturally.

  3. I juuuuuust started thinking more about mindfulness in the parenting world. Good timing to read your thoughts as well. :-)

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