Happy Mortal

This life, well-lived.

Inspiring Negativity: Self-Improvement?

Photo 38

“When people start to meditate or to work with any kind of spiritual discipline, they often think that somehow they’re going to improve, which is a sort of subtle aggression against who they really are (TWONE, 5).”

A good friend recently gave the members of our “commune” The Wisdom of No Escape by Pema Chödrön.  I read the first chapter this morning and the above words pulled me into their orbit.  We often think of self-improvement as the nicest thing we can do for ourselves: “I should really start exercising/sleeping/meditating/practicing; I’d be so much happier.”  Against this way of thinking, Chödrön suggests that the nicest thing you can do is to be curious about who you are, and to love that person.  She names this practice maitri.

I resonate with Chödrön’s idea.  Whenever I think about “self-improvement,” I pass negative judgment on the way that I am in this moment.  Because I never perfectly “improve” myself, I end up directing subtle aggression against myself an awful lot.  To me, maitri means: chill out, give yourself a break, and make friends with your self.  The point is not that we can’t improve the quality of our lives.  The point is that in order to improve the quality of life we should ditch the self-loathing, and be kind to ourselves.

So thanks Pema Chödrön, when I find myself, I will throw out the accusations, and give me a big kiss.


  1. Glad she got you at the first chapter. Excellent.

  2. Thanks for the book mate. Looking forward to reading the rest.

  3. Love this blog series. The above idea has been such a discovery for me. I started yoga to help with some health issues as well as “fix” my body. And being skinnier couldn’t hurt either. But I keep practicing yoga because it helps me study myself, my body and learn to love all of me. By accepting myself I am also learning to accept others where they are too.

    Another great book is “Meditations from the Mat” by Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison. I try to read it every morning with a cup of tea before I go to practice. Even if I don’t get to practice my asana’s it helps me think about and focus on myself and the yoga practice of daily living. I highly recommend it.

  4. Thanks for the recommendation, pebble! I will definitely check it out.

  5. I really appreciate this approach to the enrichment of life as well. I’m going to have to check that book out. Thanks for the tip!