Will Spiritual Practices Make Us Perfect?
Some of us have heard it so many times we do not question whether practices make us perfect. Anyone who has ever tried to learn to play a musical instrument or speak a language knows practice is important. We believe we learn by practicing, and practicing helps us improve our performance.
Do we truly believe spiritual practices make us perfect? Is being perfect even possible? Would we enjoy perfection?
We like to believe, if we work hard enough, we can achieve perfection.
Many of us share the assumption we would like to be perfect. Some of us think of perfection as not making any mistakes, being beyond criticism or the need for correction. Our understanding of perfection may be from a technical, analytical perspective.
We may believe perfection is meeting the expectations of everyone we respect. Perfection may be more of a balancing act to us, a way to make people happy. It might be more of a mosaic or a jigsaw puzzle than the ability to avoid mistakes.
Others of us dedicate our time to physical perfection. Our understanding of perfection is more about power and potential and possibilities. We want to look in a mirror and see perfection. Perfection is keeping ourselves in shape and able to do what we want to do with our bodies.
For a long time I believed knowing the right answers and sharing them was essentially perfection. I wanted to be sure and give other people the benefit of my certainty. Contemplative practices helped transform my understanding of perfection.
Now I understand perfection in new ways. Perfection has more to do with wholeness and completeness than avoiding mistakes or pleasing everyone else.
My perception of perfection has changed. Apparently I did not have a perfect understanding of perfection.
How Spiritual Practices Make Us Perfect
I have been practicing something for almost as long as I can remember. My parents believed practicing and repetition were the best ways to learn things. They knew practices make us perfect. There was practicing multiplication tables and book reports for school. I practiced my lines for plays and programs. When I was in the school band, I practiced.
All with the understanding practice helps us become less nervous and do a better job.
After law school, I practiced law.
Being introduced to contemplative practices drew me into spiritual life in new ways. Taking measurable steps, making tangible commitments showed me how to continue. Practicing helped me become more comfortable with some of the deeper truths of spiritual life. Intentional practice showed me how to go beyond practicing.
As a spiritual coach and guide, I help people develop their own spiritual practices. Sometimes we need to let go of old habits or practices before we can find new ones. Some of us might need to go beyond established, recognized practices to discover more.
We practice behaving our way into new insights.
Our practices are not about earning more spiritual life or working our way toward better performance. We do not practice because we have to; we practice because we can.
Our spiritual practices grow out of our values and the life within us. We do not put our values into practice to impress other people. Our spiritual practices reflect who we are becoming.
Spiritual practices help us become who we have the potential to be. We reach out toward our truest selves, toward the spiritual life all around us.
When Spiritual Practices Make Us Perfect
It takes time for us to learn when contemplative practices make us perfect. We have spent our lives developing our habits and it takes the rest of our lives to establish new ones.
Spiritual practices are like growing flowers. We do the work of preparing the soil, planting the seeds, carefully watering and weeding. Each day we participate in helping the flowers grow even before they break through to show themselves.
When the flowers grow toward the sun they still do not display their colored petals or their fragrances. Their blossoms slowly open themselves, but they are still growing. It takes patience and practice before we appreciate the perfection protected in their flowers.
Each petal in its place contributes to the perfection blooming in each flower.
Perfect flowers show us balance and contrast of depth and shade. Like beautiful, perfect flowers spiritual practices make us perfect.
Our practices begin with preparing the soil, planting seeds, and carefully tending our garden or field. The potential within us slowly grows and opens to reveal itself to the potential all around us. The beauty of spiritual life within us contributes to the beauty of spiritual life in the world.
Each of us has an opportunity to bloom.
Do Spiritual Practices Make Us Perfect?
Spiritual practices are not magic spells. We are not transported in a flash to sacred perfection.
It takes time for spiritual practices to make us perfect. Perfection might not be what we expected it to be.
Each day we take another step or two toward completeness, toward wholeness. We send a new shoot above ground into the sun to continue growing.
Over time our contemplative practices make us perfect by transforming how we experience perfection.
The understanding we have of perfection is too focused on some things rather than others. We have an imperfect view of perfection.
It is important to us to be able to quantify and measure our progress and how we are doing. We like to see ourselves as key, essential participants in spiritual life. The fact is we do not, we cannot control spiritual life.
We practice becoming open to the spiritual life within us and all around us. Our practices make us perfect by reminding us of the potential of our lives.
Spiritual practices help us become perfect and open like blooming flowers.
How will spiritual practices make us perfect today?
When will spiritual practices make us perfect this week?
[Image by trishhartmann]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com, and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.