I spent decades believing that I had to improve and develop myself. According to where I was working, who I was admiring, what I was watching or reading, how I was being told to be, I knew I had to be stronger, cleverer, wittier, funnier, fitter, better dressed, more ambitious, beautiful, creative, decisive, organised, articulate, charismatic and on and on… There was no end of flaws to correct and a deluge of self help books, self development courses and self denigration to the point of self obsession followed.
And then I came across an understanding that has put an end to all of that for the rest of my life. This understanding is called the Three Principles and it describes how we experience ourselves, our lives, other people, the world through our thoughts. The more aware we are of the creative power of thought the more arbitrary and transient we realise our actual thinking to be. When we live in this awareness instead of in the actual thoughts themselves we give space for fresh thinking, inspiration and our natural well-ness. This is how we were designed to flourish.
Through this understanding I have come to realise that, like any thought, a ‘flaw’ or an ‘imperfection’ in ourself or another is simply an opinion at that moment. And that the opinion changes from person to person, moment to moment, mind state to mind state. Porridge can be too hot too cold or just right and all of those judgements depend on whether it is Goldilocks eating it or someone else and what Goldilocks is thinking at that exact moment.
If we think we have flaws – in appearance, character, ability, mentality – then we can set out, as I did, on a lifetime to correct them and the multi-billion dollar self improvement industry gets a new recruit. Or we can set out on a lifetime of pretending ‘self acceptance’ I have this flaw but I’m pretending to myself that it doesn’t exist. And none of it works because the more we try to accept or correct these ‘flaws’, the more real we think they are. The more real we think they are, the more we think we have to do something about them, the more real they seem.
Let’s not underestimate the power of this vicious circle of believing critical thoughts. A person can believe themselves so flawed that they act on the thought that the world would be better without them. Or we can believe other people to be so inferior that they deserve disrespect, ill-treatment or even to be killed. A world of violence to self or others is held in thought and can disappear the minute we realise the illusion of it.
If everything we think about ourselves and others is a simply a thought that can change then we are left with the enormous question: what am I?
In the truest possible sense I am nothing. I am not a fixed entity in any way. I am a presence that experiences and lives a life according to what she is believing and thinking at that moment. There is nothing that cannot change from one thought to another. No fixed self, no fixed personality or identity, no fixed character, no flaws, no imperfections. In my clearest state of mind I am witness to the beliefs and thoughts about all those things. I am never those things.
And while I am nothing, I am also everything. Everything I experience about the world, myself and other people is my own unique version. My version has come through the infinity of influences, experiences, thoughts, beliefs, people met, places seen. There is no one on the planet who can experience the world in the way that I experience it or who can create, speak, act and love in the way that I can. None of this would exist without me. I am everything.
Nothing and Everything.
Impossible even to define.
Improve on? Ha.