Perfectly Imperfect

Yesterday was the first nice weather day all week, and I was given permission to pick apples at a small, private orchard where the apples aren’t sprayed. They just grow. They aren’t as pretty as apples you would buy in a store. They might be a little misshapen or have small holes in them, and their skin is splotchy. But the fruit inside is just fine.

These apples have character. They are not perfect.

One apple in particular caught my eye.

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It ended up being the image of the day – the one I was most intrigued by. It commanded my attention. And when that happens, I have to ask myself why. How does this image speak to me?

There were two directions I could go with this one – two captions I could give it. One is “The Apple of All Colors,” for it contains every color an apple can be. But the one I’m going with is “Perfectly Imperfect.” It’s the imperfection of this apple that I really connect with. Its exquisite imperfection.

It reminds me of Pema Chodron’s teachings on Getting Unstuck regarding not beating ourselves up when we fall short. When we are imperfect (like everyone else). Pema Chodron encourages us to cultivate a response of “sheer delight” upon noticing we are hooked or feeling we have failed in some way. We can rejoice that we have the wisdom to recognize we’re not living up to our potential. Yay for us because we want to do better and have the intention to do so! Intention is a first step toward liberation from our unhealthy habits and patterns.

After intention comes awareness. When we can recognize that we did it again, double yay! because then we can exercise choice to either continue doing the thing that diminishes us and ultimately causes us to suffer or we can take a deep, conscious breath and make a healthier choice.

With intention and awareness, we can cultivate discipline. But if, in our quest for discipline, we catch ourselves falling short of our intention to do better and then feel badly about ourselves, we end up making the whole job more complicated. It doesn’t help anything to add self-loathing to the mix. It just makes it harder and takes us further away from connecting with our wisdom and acting in accordance with it. Embracing our imperfection is a way of empowering us to deal with “failure” rather than become overwhelmed by it. Instead of focusing on our perceived failure and getting down on ourselves, we can delight in acknowledging we have both the intention to improve and the wisdom to notice.

Of course, the apple image and the advice above could also speak to the way we feel about our physical appearance and our efforts to care for our body by eating well, exercising, etc. And with regard to our body, we can celebrate that we have one to begin with, especially if we can move around without pain. How many people in this world would give anything this moment to have a body that is pain-free? Having a human body is a precious opportunity for experiencing and experimenting with the physical world. It’s our vehicle for doing the work we’re here for.

The image of the mottled, multi-colored apple reminded me that we’re not supposed to be perfect. We’re supposed to be authentic and work with our unique qualities and challenges. Smile at our delicious imperfection, and regard it as our teacher, our path to freedom, and our raw material for practicing  personal alchemy.

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