“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.