Home > Uncategorized > Practicing Life With a Focus On Integrity, Not Perfection

Practicing Life With a Focus On Integrity, Not Perfection


I was in yoga class the other day when I discovered that after a two month hiatus from classes, my biggest challenge had nothing to do with flexibility, strength or technique (though all three had regressed)—my biggest challenge was my ego.   My teacher asked us to either practice handstand against the wall (a pose I had done a gazillion times before) or practice a modified version of handstand which, given my current physical conditioning, I knew was in my best interest. A modified handstand meant working into the pose progressively, building strength and improving technique incrementally until I was eventually strong enough for a full handstand.  My ego, however, had its knickers in a twist, it harassd me with thoughts like  “how do you expect to master a skill at this rate?”  “why waste your time with preparation, just get into the final pose – you know you want to!”  “seriously, folks are going to think you’re a beginner . . .”

If you are remotely familiar with yoga you will notice immediately how un-yoga-like  these thoughts are.  In fact, it’s really an antithetical yoga practice, more like yego.  Of course, the opposite of every ego thought I had is true: by practicing slowly at a pace that was in alignment with my body’s strength and ability in that moment, I am truly practicing yoga and gaining mastery.  As for people giving a flip as to what I’m doing in class, that’s just hysterically funny.  I, myself, am so caught up in my own practice and thoughts (see previous paragraph) there’s just no time or energy left over for opinions about others (my ego, of course,  thinks people are always thinking about me, judging me or praising me).  Also, in yoga, mastery is really not the point, it’s about the journey one takes seeking mastery; so, really, I am most proficient when I adopt an open, receptive beginners mind. One of my favorite things about yoga (and I have many favorites about yoga) is how the lessons learned can be practically applied to life in general, for example: adopting a beginners mind allows me to be open and receptive to experience growth  in all areas of my life.

The ego is all about getting us to buy into the phantom promise that we will be rewarded with peace and joy once we acquire and achieve more.  The truth is unless we are already expressing peace and joy–which come from within us, not from without—no achievement or acquisition, no matter how great, will ever truly satisfy our soul.  Take a moment to see where this might be true in your own life.  Remember the car you really wanted and got?  Are you still amped up over the new car smell and the way it handles? Are you more calm and peaceful when another driver cuts you off at the intersection while you are sitting behind the wheel of your dream car? or are you already thinking about how much better you could give the guy the finger in a newer, cooler ride? 

At the end of my yoga class, lying still in the final pose feeling relaxed and refreshed, I was grateful that I ignored the crazy, anxious voice of my ego and, instead, heeded the calm wisdom of my body. This is a practice that I am still learning to master (this is why yoga is referred to as a practice) and as an insightful yoga teacher once told me, yoga is a practice of integrity, not perfection.  And wouldn’ t you know? that is another great lesson from yoga that transfers well beyond the yoga studio: practice life with a focus on integrity, not perfection.  Give it a try, it just may increase the quality and enjoyment of your pursuits exponentially – it has mine.  Namaste.

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