Thousands of years ago, a wise person named Lao Tzu said the following:
“Fill your bowl to the brim, and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife, and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security, and your heart will never unclench.
Care about other people’s opinions, and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back– the only path to Serenity.”
I imagine most people have had the experience of over-sharpening a pencil until it looks absolutely perfect. Then, try to write with it and have the point ‘bink’ off soon thereafter.
There are many such examples, but they all point to a desire for perfectionism. A desire to be perfect in the world, whatever you’re working on.
Ultimately, that desire cannot be fulfilled because perfection doesn’t exist in the world that most people experience. And it leads to a place where you’re never satisfied.
As he said, “Your heart will never unclench.” You can’t get enough security, money, approval, or perfection on that level to give you Serenity. All you can do is “Do your work, then step back.”
So what is your work? Your work is to be present to whatever you may have created in front of you. But, be present to it with love so that your heart is open and you can accept whatever is in front of you.
It doesn’t mean you have to like it. It doesn’t mean you have to follow it. But it does mean that you give space to the people and the things around you to do what they’re doing, be what they’re being, making the choices they’re making. And you’re making a choice as well.
There are so many things now to pull you towards them, offering a kind of perfection– the perfect diet, the perfect medicine, the perfect ‘simple trick’ that you can do that will prolong your life, increase longevity, help you lose weight, counteract the effects of aging. The list goes on and on.
And many of these are in conflict with each other. One will tell you how poisonous oil is for your body, and another will say that oils (like olive oil) are fabulous for your health.
There are so many experts. There are so many people who either want your attention, your money, or both. Many are quite sincere and have had a personal experience of being helped by what they did. So, not everything should be ignored.
But, you have a responsibility to do your work. Part of your work is to accept yourself, where you are on your path, and what you need to do at this moment to help you accept life as it is.
It will not serve you to compare and compete (as tempting as that is). There will be people who seem farther ahead and others who seem farther behind.
Give them all their due. Everyone is doing their best on their particular level of consciousness… and so are you.
Take a deep breath. Forgive yourself for not being perfect in the worldly sense and relax into the perfection you are in the heavenly sense.
Give yourself permission to make the choices that you make. Learn what you learn and grow deeper and deeper into the appreciation of who you really are. This is your work.
Just do it! Step back and let this be your path to Serenity.