One afternoon, about seven years ago I was driving with my boyfriend at the time to LAX airport.
And I'll never forget that moment when he turned to me with wide puppy-dog-like-eyes and said in awe: "You're perfect!" It was as though the world stopped for a minute and I thought to myself, "wow, finally, someone gets me. I've arrived!"
I smiled a huge smile and the words that came out of my mouth were, "I'm sorry but you're going to be disappointed, I'm perfectly imperfect."
For a while this man couldn't see my flaws at all. I could see his but I loved all of them. It was the first time I loved someone's flaws and it was liberating.
However, there came a day when we were no longer able to see each as perfectly imperfect and our relationship ended. From this I learned a valuable lesson: I can love imperfection and I can also be seen as perfect.
It made me wonder, what is this viewpoint that makes someone seem perfect?
When I was little my parents told me if I got straight As they would buy me a horse, something I wanted more than anything in the world. I realized at that young age that if my grades were perfect I could get what I want.
So I strived and worked hard but I never could accomplish the straight As. I almost got them when I was a senior year in college. When all my friends were partying, I was staying up late at my last attempt to hit straight As. And I did get As in all classes except for my favorite one where I had received a D on a test because I didn't give myself time to study because I was counseling a friend who just split up from her boyfriend and I was too exhausted. How perfectly imperfect is that?
For the majority of my life, I wore multiple masks to appear perfect and I was driven to get the best time in track, the next promotion at work, and well -- you already know about my love life!
But this game was exhausting and it wasn't until I got my Master's degree in Spiritual Psychology in 2009 that I decided to stop.
What I learned at USM is there are blessings in perfectionism.
I learned that the outcome of a goal achieved is temporarily satisfying but that true fulfillment comes from enjoying every single day of my journey to the best of my ability.
I learned that humanity's core wounding seem to be feelings of unworthiness. So I practiced new beliefs and behaviors that honored my inherent value. I found what I call my sweet spot of enough-ness.
And I also learned about acceptance. There is a beautiful quote by the Sufi poet Rumi that goes "Out beyond ideas of right doing and wrong doing, there is a field, I'll meet you there."
So I became focused on creating more of these fields and loving the what-is-ness of life.
And most importantly, I learned that my true nature is as a divine being having a human experience.
But it wasn't until the last few years that I started to embody these truths which have deeply shaped my way of being and my work.
This is when I made a choice to be in nature a few days a week. I saw a great image the other day that said "The closer I get to nature, the farther I am from idiots" and this is exactly how I felt.
I started to do more of what I love and found my calling as an equine-assisted life coach. I was surrounded by incredible mountains, trails with multiple wildflowers, butterflies, dragonflies, coyotes, deer, red tailed hawks, dozens of horses, and even a resident mountain lion.
Each time I was there, I would look out in awe at nature and its expansiveness, its presence, its natural way of being and expressing.
And I realized something... I accept nature. I love it. I appreciate its beauty.
Think about it for a second, when is the last time you looked at something in nature and wished it was different?
Do you often think, wow I wish that branch was in a different spot on a tree or that sunset needs a little more yellow?
When is the last time you looked at bunny or the ocean and thought it was ugly?
My guess is never.
Yet, when was the last time you judged yourself or another human?
Some of you have probably already judged me in the last few minutes. It's okay you can forgive yourself.
So here is what my recovering perfectionist learned from being in nature and working with the majestic creature called the horse.
I learned that a horse is never trying to be anything other than a horse.
A horse doesn't care if you think its fat or skinny, it just glows from the inside out.
A horse doesn't care if you drive up to the ranch in your clean Maserati or your messy Ford Focus.
Horses remind us of who we truly are... they require our presence, evoke our joy, celebrate our authenticity, and return us to our innocence.
See nature understands that growth is a process. In fact it's a natural law. There isn't a commitment to perfection; there is a commitment to evolving. And nature can be our ever-present mirror for us to see our own true nature.
Nature can help us to see the beauty in the imperfection, the incomplete and the impermanent.
The caterpillar struggles as it becomes a butterfly but it doesn't wish to have different colored wings. It's just ready to fly. It also accepts it's extremely short life span because that's what-is. It knows how to travel and really see the world in the short time it has on this precious Earth.
The oyster makes it's pearl after its injured or attacked and when a grain of sand enters into its shell and causes a disturbance so crystals are perfectly formed around it to protect it.
The spider creates a seemingly perfect web to catch its meals and will re-build from an endless supply of silk whenever it needs to create.
And as I write this there are millions of leaves from the birch and oak trees changing color and taking flight to the ground as the seasons change and they prepare for winter in New England. Their innate intelligence knowing how easy it is to let go and that nothing is truly lost.
So why is that only humans are freaks of nature? Why are we the idiots?
I believe it's because of our protective personality. Our fear based thoughts that keep us separate rather than in states of connection. We look at others with our egos not with our souls. We are quick to point out what we don't like rather than pausing to find what we do.
And this is dangerous. Because the more we let fear run the show, the more we have issues like climate change and GMOs and we stop protecting our Earth. We stop protecting our own true nature as well.
So what is this special viewpoint that we seem to hold with nature? How can we also hold that for ourselves?
I believe it's seeing through the eyes of love and acceptance. We can practice seeing the true nature of a spirit in a body having a human experience.
What if you left here tonight and committed to seeing everyone, and most importantly yourself, the way you see nature?
To see the light that glows from within and to love yourself and others as perfectly imperfect creatures.
I dare you to embrace and express your true nature.
In what ways have you become a butterfly?
What are the pearls in your life?
What are the webs you have spun?
What are the leaves you are letting go of?
This has been my journey; it's a daily practice because sometimes I forget. Luckily, I have the horse to remind me. And I have been blessed with the world's most perfectly imperfect Thoroughbred mare. Her name is Lindsey and she is both sweet and difficult and an incredible healer who has health issues. Come Dec. 1st I will own a horse for the first time in my life. I never got the straight As, I don't feel ready, and my finances are certainly not perfect yet this horse has chosen me and through my Wabi Sabi decision she gets to live rather than being put down.
So I leave you to contemplate this...
Another Sufi poet Hafiz (why are those guys so smart?!) said...
All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,
"You owe me."
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky."
- Thank you,
(Note: This was a talk originally given at Soiree D'Illumination Salon in Los Angeles and their theme was "Wabi Sabi" and is an update to my TEDx talk. This was originally shared as a blog post on Conscious Rockstar.)