In a world full of propaganda with images displaying wealth, health and an ideal lifestyle, an unattainable ideal has been created.
“I don’t have those hips, shape, body, looks, clothes, purse, make-up, car, gizmo… and I have to change myself or do something to be beautiful and loved.”
There is growing awareness about body image, and how human and unique each body is. People are waking up to how false the physical ideal is and the harms caused by it.
The spiritual community could benefit from similar maturation.
An idea pervades religious and spiritual thought about a perfect, spiritual ideal.
When a person does all the right things, acts the proper ways, thinks the right ways, then they are a good and godly person. When that is not happening, they are not spiritual, and must change themselves to be better and more perfect.
Is judging a mental / emotional / spiritual body any different than judging a physical body because of an ideal presented by society and media?
Personalities expressed as examples in the spiritual and religious worlds are like super models. They are the ideal. How many people look like super models? Why are people expected to act and be like spiritual supermodels?
In being human, in not living up to the ideal, one has the opportunity to learn something far more important. It has to do with the message brought to us by every one of these exalted personalities.
They all taught love.
The need to self-improve is often founded in self-criticism, self-judgment and an absence of love.
Having a drive to self-improve will take a person far, yet it has limits. A bible verse comes to mind, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” ~ 1 Cor 13:1
This illustrates no matter how much knowledge, wisdom, experience a person has, the pinnacle is love.
In my yogic lineage is a phrase, “You do not need to change yourself or others. Love yourself, love others. Love will bring transformation.” Before improving oneself, know how to love oneself. Be at peace with oneself first, and from this space make the decisions to self-improve. It’s amazing how much a person who lacks self-love will do to gain love.
And the actions can remain hollow, the results yearned for never arrive. All the books, gurus, training, knowledge, non-violent communication attempts, clothing, and right actions all remain lacking. Self-improvement without love remains a cycle of endless grasping.
In the name of self-improvement, great harm can be inflicted. Self-improvement is not necessarily loving improvement. It can be a vulnerable place—the person who lacks self-love and who seeks improvement remains vulnerable to misguidance and false gurus.
Intention guides actions.
In loving oneself, the actions are loving. The intention is love. It’s a solid foundation.One has compassion, understanding, faith and grace in oneself and life. There is no need to change. One simply grows and adjusts as life presents itself.
A tree does not improve itself. It is present, and grows. The environment shapes it. Nature remains present, and transforms.
Self-improvement remains a noble endeavor to engage in.
The question remains, what is one hoping to accomplish? Who does one wish to be? What is the intention? What is the cause behind the intention?
To close here is a poem I wrote in my journal.
“Before improving oneself,
Know and Love oneself,
Absent criticism and judgement,
Transformation then transpires
with understanding and wisdom,
the hearts full yearning,
unveiled and realized.”
Author: Keith Artisan
Editor: Catherine Monkman