Modelling imperfection

While we may agree that this latest lockdown is necessary, it is still very hard on us all.  Life is quite different now and, while we cannot control how the future will pan out, we still have choices available to us. Have we really learned to slow down this past year? Have we really learned to go easy on ourselves and others? We might have ideas about how ‘productive’ we should be, or maybe used to be, but are we making enough space for ourselves to rest, to spend time with loved ones, and are we giving ourselves time to notice how we feel about that? There is, and always will be, something to be done, always some chore or task, however big or small, waiting to be completed.  Can we choose certain things and leave others for another day? Eckhart Tolle says, “Wherever you are, be there totally”. Can we apply this to our work, rest and play by prioritising tasks and doing them one at a time, being fully with what we are doing?

I decided instinctively and intentionally, in March, that the most important thing was to slow down, look after myself and be there with those that I love and hold dear. This was largely due to that initial fear and overwhelm caused by the pandemic.  Being a mindfulness teacher, I also offered my time and skills to a wider community with my online drop-in sessions, as I knew then that the skills of mindfulness could help keep us steady during uncertain times and indeed, they continue to do so.   

So, like many others, I found myself ‘doing’ less in terms of what we might view as productivity, but ‘being’ more with the people in my life that needed caring for. To let go of the way we used to do things, to conserve energy for the things that really matter, including ourselves, is not always easy.  In fact, it can feel very hard, and involve a long, slow process of re-adjustment and re-prioritisation.   We are in the habit of constantly doing, doing, doing a lot of the time, therefore it can be challenging to make that transition to simply being where you are.

For many months, I really and truly practiced what I preach and sat to meditate at least once, often more, every single day and still do, consistently. I find it makes space in my mind for the day ahead and having that space in the mind, in turn, seems to create more time. I also began cutting out anything, whether personal or home or work-related, that was not absolutely essential to do in any given day, and cleared as much time and space as possible for things like fresh air, swimming, walks, time with my elderly dad and our dog, connecting with close friends and a wonderful community of people practicing meditation online. Like so many others, I will never forget the rawness of last year, with the many precious, joyful moments and memories, alongside the many poignant ones and the people I shared the year with.  

Yet, I sometimes found myself bothered by a niggling sense of somehow not keeping up, of falling behind, not doing enough. I can imagine that this feeling of not doing enough or somehow failing will resonate with others. One of the key concepts from my mindfulness teacher training is the idea of ‘modelling imperfection’ and this really helps remind me, that it’s ok to struggle, to make mistakes, to be a little bit imperfect in every way. So, I made another intentional decision, this time to drop my own expectations of myself, to go easy, and continue to do only what was necessary each day and to leave the rest.  

As a result, my house is much messier than it used to be; my paperwork often piles up. There are cards that will be sent late and overdue calls to be made. But I do what I can, when I can, bit by bit, moving slowly and steadily. I take time to celebrate small or big achievements with a walk or a swim, even a few minutes standing outside the back door taking fresh air in. Life has become necessarily much simpler and more acutely meaningful. When I notice myself feeling I ‘should’ be getting on with ‘more important’ tasks or attempting to barrel through a ‘to-do’ list, I take a pause, a few conscious breaths and I remember that we are human beings, flawed and imperfect. 

I am gradually and gently letting go of that feeling of falling behind. Instead, I’m so grateful to be well-resourced to support myself and others, and that feels so much more than enough. Just as the house or workspace doesn’t have to be perfect, neither do we have to strive to do things perfectly.  When we can allow life to be as it is, even if it’s hard, there’s a great freedom in it and we end up being present where we are, totally…at least some of the time.

Online meditation sessions via Zoom continue on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8pm, please do consider joining in, whether you have tried mindfulness meditation before or are new to it. These small group sessions are personal, down-to-earth, informal and donation based.  Individual sessions are also available.

For more information on upcoming workshops and online courses please like my Facebook page (Mindhaven) or feel free to get in touch by phone: 087 2700572 or by email: 

Susan O Regan

Susan O'Regan teaches mindfulness and self-compassion courses and workshops in West Cork.

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