If Life Is Perfect, Why Do I Want Mine to Change?
How spiritual truths are misunderstood and misused, and keep us stuck.
Posted May 30, 2017
Your life is perfect exactly the way it is. Imagine offering this to someone who’s child was just killed in a terrorist attack. You already have everything you need. Tell this to someone who just lost their health care or is going through a divorce. Only you can make yourself happy or unhappy. Huh?
Lisa, a client, was in a bad relationship when she showed up to see me and it was the first thing she told me as she sat down in the chair. Almost immediately after telling me, she explained that she knew she had everything she needed to be happy. So, she was here to work on herself since if she was unhappy and specifically, unsatisfied with her partner, she had only herself to blame.
Peter is a seasoned meditator. He has been deeply disturbed by the political happenings in our world as of late. In a recent conversation, he expressed feeling angry and frightened by the direction our country is heading. At the same time, he was sure that the world was evolving in exactly the way it needed to be. And so, it was best not to be angry or fight for what he believed in, but rather, just to trust that what’s happening is exactly as it should be, because it is what’s happening—even if he doesn’t like it or thinks it’s utterly wrong.
I too for many years shamed myself for imagining that a different life situation could make me happier. I believed there was something wrong with my desire or need to change my circumstances, so that I could feel more satisfied and happier. I was confused by the you have everything you need to be happy mantras and blamed myself for needing or even wanting anything outside myself for a sense of wellbeing. I was supposed to be able to feel joyful regardless of the contents of my life. Contents and life situations were for spiritual sissies.
Spiritual truths like the ones I’ve mentioned are thrown around in yoga class, on social media, at the bar, in casual conversation…everywhere. And yet, these mantras are being turned into platitudes that are misunderstood and misused. What makes this troublesome is that, as such slogans gain cultural traction, they are being used to shame and blame us for feeling the way we do, thereby cutting us off from our actual experience. So too, they end up stymieing us from being able to create change in our lives and pointing us away from the very peace that they are meant to guide us towards.
Feeling sad, angry, frustrated, confused and whatever else is perfectly okay and sensible when life is not how you want it to be. You feel pain when bad things happen in your life; that’s just the way it is. Wanting to change what’s not working is a part of self-care and sanity. People often use the life is perfect mantra as a form of spiritual bypassing. That is, to avoid the feelings that come from not knowing how to fix the situation they’re labeling as perfect or to not feel the suffering that what's wrong is actually creating.
We exist at both a relative and absolute level. On a relative level, we are affected and impacted by our life situation. We feel better when we have connected relationships, financial comfort and health, better than when we are isolated, poor and sick. We want our life to contain elements that make us feel good. Such is the human condition.
At an absolute level, there is a perfection in what is, simply because it’s the truth (whether we like it or not), because it’s the way life is manifesting at the moment. From an absolute perspective, we have all that we need because our peace lies within us and not in anything we attain externally, all of which will soon pass and change and thus cannot be relied upon for lasting happiness. All is well as it is because our deepest wellbeing arises from knowing that we are not our current situation or the thoughts and feelings it creates, but rather the presence within which our experiences happen, the awareness which illuminates all that we experience.
If you look at spiritual leaders like the Dalai Lama, Jesus, Mother Theresa, and so many others, they embodied joy and a deep sense of wellbeing while at the very same time lived their lives as fierce agents of change in the world—working to make the world better.
Whether you are pulled to activism and changing the outside world or drawn to change your own personal life, being that fully, the truth of who you are in this unique embodiment, is part of the inherent rightness in this present moment. If the truth in this moment is that you desire change, then acting from that truth is the same thing as accepting that this moment is perfect as it is. This perfect now includes who you are within it; if that you is someone who wants to make things better then working for change is precisely how the perfection of this moment is manifested.
To try and improve your life is an aspect of psychological health; it is a form of agency, which we need to be well. And yet, because we try to make things better does not mean we must wage war with the way things are. We can try and create a better tomorrow while simultaneously allowing the truth of today to be so. The two are not contradictory.
So too we can seek to change our life without the belief that the life we want to create is the life we’re supposed or entitled to have. Removing the idea that we’re missing out on a better life that exists in some parallel universe we can’t access, we work towards change knowing that what is right now is what’s supposed to be right now, because it’s the only is. There is no other life that you are missing out on, only the life you are in.
And, we can effort for better circumstances without believing that those new circumstances, should they come, will provide us with lasting happiness. Whatever new situation arises, it too will change and pass, and thus cannot be relied upon for our deepest wellbeing. We work to improve our lives even though we know that all situations are impermanent.
We are far more than just the contents of our life, we are the mystery that is life itself. And still, we work on behalf of the embodied human being who lives an earthly, contents–centric existence. We can know ourselves as the infinite self while still taking good care of and fully experiencing the relative self.
Life is a network of paradoxes. Wanting your life to be different and knowing that your life is perfect in this moment, because it is your life in this moment (and thus can’t be any other way), creates a perfect handshake. Feeling the heartbreak that comes with being human and knowing the joy and miracle that it is to be alive no matter what our life situation contains, again, a perfect handshake. We live in the relative human plane and the absolute divine plane both at once. We are spiritual beings on a human journey and also human beings on a spiritual journey.
All that said, feel what you feel, fight for what matters to you, work to make your life better, be who you are. All of it is in perfect alignment with knowing that things are exactly as they need to be, for now.