Aug 21, 2008

Embracing Imperfection

Wild Flower

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In Karen Bishop's latest energy alert (just posted), she addresses the shadow work we have been slogging through, with the lunar eclipse of the 16th. Many of us are feeling vulnerable and acutely aware of our flaws.

If you are one who is unusually sensitive and connects easily, you may have experienced the lunar eclipse on August 16th with confusing feelings of low self worth, perhaps self-loathing, and even guilt for no apparent reason. You may have felt just plain icky and you did not know why. Suddenly feeling bad about ourselves for no apparent reason is simply a manifestation of the lunar eclipse supporting us in going deep within and seeing the denser aspects of who we are.

If you don't get Bishop's email notices about new alerts, you're missing out. They always include wonderful bonus material, in the form of relevant book excerpts. Sometimes those excerpts speak more to the moment for me than the alerts themselves.

In today's email, Bishop includes an excerpt from Remembering Your Soul Purpose. It's a fairly well known parable, of unknown origin, so I think republishing it in full here falls well within fair use.

A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on either end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master's house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his master's house. The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, but the cracked pot was miserable, ashamed that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, the cracked pot spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you."

"Why? What are you ashamed of?" asked the bearer.

"I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master's house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don't get full value from your efforts," the pot said.

The water bearer felt compassion and said, "As we return to the master's house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path."

Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming many beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? That is because I have always known about your crack. Accepting what was given to me, I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master's table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house."

Author Unknown

I'm sure I've heard this story before. But reading it today, I am singularly effected by the truth of it.

As one who walks the path of the wounded healer, I know well how my imperfections inform my work. I doubt that I could relate to my clients' struggles and challenges, had my life been effortlessly full.

Many times I have pondered that the greatest writers, musicians, and other artists -- the ones whose work moves me at my core -- are those who have been scarred by life. The ones whose art is a form of healing, both for themselves and for their audience.

Anyone who has ever worked a twelve step program knows that the power of that system is in people sharing honestly about their flaws, fears, and wounds. It is in that sharing of "experience, strength, and hope," that members assist each other in their recovery. The healing that comes from releasing that sense of shame and isolation can be profound.

We can appreciate the wisdom that comes from our injuries and mistakes, when we are ready to embrace life as an ongoing process. One that brings "progress, not perfection."

There is a Japanese term: Wabi-Sabi. It refers to an aesthetic in art, architecture, and life.

Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It's simple, slow, and uncluttered-and it reveres authenticity above all. Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores; aged wood, not Pergo; rice paper, not glass. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet-that our bodies as well as the material world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace liver spots, rust, and frayed edges, and the march of time they represent.

Our truest beauty lies in our imperfections.

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