You Do Not Have to be Good

4 Mar 2021 2:27 PM | Catherine Duffy (Administrator)

by Tim Burnett

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Right. Remembering these lines I feel something in my gut unclench a bit. I find it easier to breathe. I hadn't realized my breath felt so constricted. I feel my jaw soften a bit. I feel a little more ease.

These opening lines from Mary Oliver's well known poem "Wild Geese" are a deep comfort to me. What comforts you?

Lately I've been feeling overwhelmed. Feeling like I can't quite keep up with my responsibilities. Even when I ignore the to-do list items that I decide are less important, I don't feel like I'm keeping up my end of the bargain. Bargain between me and who? I'm not sure but it feels like a bargain has been struck and I'm not doing my part. Am I getting lazy? Am I just not efficient enough or smart enough?

And I've been making mistakes. Not huge mistakes - I can give myself some room there - but mistakes. Being sloppy in communication with people mostly. Creating some unneeded stress and angst. The mistakes feel unkind and I dislike myself when I feel unkind.

And I suspect that at the root of it all there's an underlying fear that I'm just not good enough. Not good enough to pull it all off. Not good enough to be the person I'm supposed to be.

I know it's not that bad. I know I'm essentially fine. And I remember my privilege. Living in a community with so many folks experiencing homelessness, I remember I have a comfortable and secure life in all of those basic ways. I do know I'm one of the lucky ones.

And yes, I do my mindfulness practice daily (well close to daily anyway). And I exercise. And I eat well. I get out in nature. And I know it'll be okay. Part of me knows full well it is okay already.

And yet this human life includes hard times.

This human life includes feelings and moods that swing. Includes doubt. Mine does anyway. It's hard to accept this. For the most part, I don't compound these tough moods by telling myself that as a mindfulness teacher I shouldn't be having bad moods - that I should be balanced and at peace - deeply accepting everything and using the tools of mindfulness to find steady and lasting peace.

But I'm human. And a deep part of this particular human's condition seems to be an unrelenting desire to be good. To do it right. To always be doing it right. And that's a set up. And sometimes I suffer.

And so I listen to Mary Oliver's words and take comfort. I don't have to be good. I don't have to be perfect. Whatever 'letting the soft animal of my body love what it loves' means, it has a feeling of ease and release. And I do know it's all right.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

How do you find comfort when your world closes in?

For me, a community of practice helps. Like last weekend: I was fortunate enough to help lead a Day of Mindfulness. Even over Zoom these are such powerful and healing experiences. Part of why I'm inspired to write this vulnerable piece about my own fears and doubts is the deep honesty expressed and the courage of those at the Day of Mindfulness. We spent our time together deeply just being with what is.

And all with the support of a community of practice. It's hard to fully appreciate, I think, how much the community piece helps until you experience it. Practicing steadily for a day does help; practicing together helps even more. At least that's been my experience.

I hope Mindfulness Northwest's programs can be one of those deep and important comforts for you, too. There is so much more to this work than learning new skills and slowing down a little. When we come together to learn and practice mindfulness something important happens. Internal and external barriers can soften. New perspectives and insights can emerge. Please read on to learn about upcoming offerings.

I hope you have access to what's deeply comforting to you. I hope it helps.

All best,

Tim


Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software