The Examined Life

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Monday, March 17, 2008

What do I have to do to get an "A"?

I attended a workshop over the weekend to help me develop skills in group dynamics and collaboration. As part of the workshop we were asked to do an exercise in listening. One of the aspects of good listening is of course "reflection", the ability to listen to what another person has to say such that you can repeat back to them either verbatim or in such words that they get that they have really been heard. To do this exercise we split into small groups of two or three people.

It was my turn to go first and describe some aspect of my life that was "bugging" me while one of the other participants listened. My partner in the exercise was a woman who had worked as a consultant for many years. I was really quite impressed with her ability to virtually memorize everything I said and repeat it back to me flawlessly. As part of the exercise I was required to give her feedback about how well I felt she had listened. As I began to relate my experience I got that she had no idea what a masterful job she had actually done. So after I finished my glowing praise of her I told her I was giving her a B+.

Astonished, at the apparent contradiction in what I had said, she asked me, "What do I have to do to get an A?". I told her that the only thing that I saw that was missing was her ability to see and acknowledge the perfection in herself. I told her that all she had to do to get an "A" was to simply accept herself exactly as she is and see the perfection in all that she does and that would be reflected in how she was being with the people in her life.

When it became her turn to talk about something that was "bugging" her in her life, she shared with us that she had not at first been able to think of anything to speak about but after my feedback she realized that this area of being critical of herself had been with her all her life. So as she got a chance to talk about how this had driven her in her life, she told us that she had always felt that no matter how many courses she took it always felt like it was "never enough".

I am so gratified to have been part of, and witness to this "ah ha" moment. I have come to realize that this lifetime I am an epiphany addict. I not only enjoy having an epiphany myself but also am gratified when others have them too.

Part of getting that perfect score, that is the "A", is getting that we are already perfect just as we are, there is nothing we lack and that we are always in the perfect place right now in the present moment. Life is already filled with tests and people who test and evaluate us and it is a good thing that life is ordered in this way because it keeps us striving for more [life]. It is only when we give ourselves a failing grade that we have lost sight of who we really are behind all the judgments we have about ourselves.

We all need to have people in our lives who love and accept us just as we are and as we are not. These people will remind us to see the perfection in ourselves. It is easy to get caught up in a world of judgments, to inadvertently surround ourselves with people who insist that there is always something wrong. It is no wonder we begin to think this way about ourselves. The truth is that it is not necessary for something to be wrong or missing for us to desire to reach beyond where ever we may be at any moment. In fact, I believe that a sense of perfection is the most ideal place to create from. This is the paradox and the irony. Our most creative moments and impulses come when there is a sense that there is nothing to do and nowhere to get to.

I believe we all deserve an "A" just for having the courage to show up in life. Give yourself an "A" right now by just getting that what ever is happening is perfect, that you are perfect just as you are, that the universe has a perfect plan for you (that frequently differs form your plan) and that everything that happens reflects an unfolding that is beyond understanding.