Let us, therefore, learn to pass from one imperfect activity to another without worrying too much about what we are missing. ~Thomas Merton
I was sitting with a client and she was letting me know how great our last session was. How I said just the right things, the healing was marvelous, she had profound insights on the way home, etc..etc.. I felt satisfied and complete for all of about thirty seconds. And then the conversation continued and she said something and I said something and she said something and I said something and then I suddenly I realized that I had just said the wrong thing and instantly my moment of perfection was over. I was back in the real world of learning to pass from one imperfect activity to the next
I think in private practice (I’m an acupuncturist) and perhaps in life in general we must, in the words of Thomas Merton, learn to pass from one imperfect activity to the next. Its hard to say just the right thing all day, its hard to choose just the right points all the time, it’s hard to get the timing just right, its hard to be perfect. Perhaps in the spiritual plane there is perfection, but here in the human world there is trial and error, rupture and repair, excellence and then falling short. Sometimes I wish that wasn’t the truth. But alas, I’m pretty sure it is.
I regretted saying the wrong thing to my client. (it wasn’t a big faux pas, just a minor, shoot, I wish I didn’t just say that sort of thing.) I like when I’m wise and insightful and tuned in and say and do all the right things. But, here on the human plane that sort of perfection just isn’t sustainable.
And so for now I must learn to be content moving from one imperfect situation to the next. Sometimes being the wise and insightful healer, sometimes being the novice who says the wrong thing at the wrong time and stumbles about. Sometimes I am the one who can listen deeply and listen to understand and say and write just the right things at just the right time, and sometimes I forget to listen and speak to soon, get opinionated, say the wrong thing, and listen to simply reply.
We are all a work in progress and the sooner we accept that both for ourselves and others the more peace we will find on this planet. We will often make the same mistakes over and over again, and yet still,, once again, in the words of Thomas Merton, the repeated experience has value.
And so perhaps this week we can learn to let ourselves and others a little off the hook. Perhaps we can allow ourselves to be works in progress who are aspiring to be our best while at the same time understanding that we will stumble many times through out the day. Perhaps we can extend this same grace to those around us. Learning to give them space to be a work in progress as well.
In the spiritual realm perhaps thee is perfection, here in the human plane, it gets messy.
And so I write this for you, and I write this for me.
A plate of compassion all around as we learn to nurture our strengths and embrace our imperfections and learn to pass from one imperfect activity to the next.
For now I’ll leave you with my all time favorite quote from Thomas Merton’s book No Man is an Island. Perhaps it’s the theme song for my life:
“Let us, therefore, learn to pass from one imperfect activity to another without worrying too much about what we are missing. It is true that we make many mistakes. But the biggest of them all is to be surprised at them: as if we had some hope of never making any.
“Mistakes are a part of our life, and not the least important part. I f we are humble, and if we believe in the Providence of God, we will see that our mistakes are not merely a necessary evil, something we must lament and count as lost: they enter into the very structure of our existence. It is by making mistakes that we gain experience, not only for ourselves but for others . And though our experience prevents neither ourselves nor others from making the same mistake many times, the repeated experience still has a positive value.”