Perfect is the Enemy of Good

by Clark Zimmerman, L.Ac.

Years ago my wife and I spent a month in Tibet.  We traveled to a sacred mountain called Mt. Kailash in the far western part of the country.   It was remarkable being in the thin air and the barren landscape of the high Tibetan plateau.  The natural beauty of the Himalayan mountains was breathtaking: bright colors adorned the temples, the people, and even the yaks as they plowed the fields.  It was all so foreign that it was almost as if we had been transported to an entirely different world.  With all of these unusual sights and experiences, the thing that stood out the most to us was the grace and apparent comfort of the Tibetan people.  When I say comfort I don’t mean that they lived comfortable lives–rather, they were comfortable in who they were.  With no mirrors or Facebook accounts, people didn’t fixate on how they looked.  The lack of dentistry meant most people past a certain age were noticeably missing teeth, and people were wrinkled and weathered by the elements.  With the constant wind and yak dung fires that provided warmth, along with the lack of showers, most people were covered with dust and smelled of smoke.  Despite all of this, the people were so kind and welcoming.  They really were comfortable in their own skin. 


  When I contrast this with so many Americans that I know, it amazes me how different our cultures are.  Though our culture is so abundant, so many of us are preoccupied with a sort of perfection that was absent in Tibet.  As we have become wealthier as a nation, we are becoming increasingly fixated on image and appearance.  Social media feeds show us a never-ending procession of perfect bodies, meals, and vacations.  They encourage us to compare our insides with everyone else’s outsides.  So many people get caught up in how to craft and maintain an image that is bigger than life.  We pursue a certain look, a perfectly manicured lawn, or a shiny car, but it doesn’t bring us more happiness.  It doesn’t improve our quality of life.  In fact, rates of anxiety and depression are increasing at an alarming rate, as are the use of the medications that treat them.  People are also spending more money in an effort to “keep up with the Jones’s.”  We are chasing a state of perfection that doesn’t exist, and we are making ourselves sick doing it.  While adults are struggling, kids are having an even harder time.  Without the reference point of a childhood before the constant messages of social media, children and young adults have been taught to believe that image is the most important thing.  How you look, how appealing the package is what gets you the most “likes.”  It’s like those Hollywood facades that they used in the old western movies:  The front is put together, but there is nothing inside the saloon. 


  So what is the solution?  As a society we need to reevaluate our priorities.  This involves finding ways to encourage substance over packaging.  People who don’t know any better are fooled by the package and the bling.  Reality stars whose claims to fame are how good of a shopper they are or how they apply their makeup, need to be turned off.   People who teach of patience and presence need to reclaim a place in our daily lives.  This involves turning off the phone or the computer once in awhile, and tuning into things that teach peace of mind.  For some, this is a good church that preaches the real gospel of love and service.  Others find it in a yoga, meditation class or a good self help book.  Wherever you find it, peace comes with the realization that none of us are perfect.  We each get to acknowledge our human flaws:  each wrinkle, pimple or bad mood.  We get to see ourselves as a true reflection of the divine, living in an imperfect body and mind.  The work involves witnessing each of our imperfections and finding a way to embrace them and using them to catalyze growth.  When we remember that life never was and never will be perfect, we get to put our energy into acceptance and growth.  In Tibet crooked teeth aren’t crooked, they’re  just teeth.

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Why Meditate?

By Ann Zimmerman, LAc.

Despite our best efforts, most things in life are beyond our control. If we depend on the the world outside of ourselves to comfort us from our personal sorrows, anxieties, fears, and boredom we will not live a very pleasant life.  Meditation is a tool that allows you to take responsibility for your own state of mind and to change how your mind effects your experience of life.

Commonly people think of meditation as something that you are either good at or not. Many people will say they can’t meditate because their mind is too active. However, meditation is not achieving a completely quiet mind, but the practice of noticing the active mind and learning to not take it seriously. The mind can be compared to the weather. The weather is always changing and we do not expect it to stay the same.  Meditation can teach you to watch your mind like you do the changing weather patterns.  Your mind will continue to change from thought to thought, but you can practice staying unaffected by its weather. 

The practice of watching the mind is not unfamiliar to any of us.  For example…. you have the thought while you are working that you wish you were outside hiking.  Generally there will be a feeling of longing for that hike and wishing you could do it right now. Then the thought passes and you move onto the next thought.  The thought of hiking and not being able to do it did does not have to ruin your work day….it simply came up and left, just like the clouds passing.  Meditation helps give us breathing room in our mind. It is a kind of climate control for keeping your well being running at 75 degrees, allowing for space between the thoughts so you do not lose yourself in one of the passing clouds and spend the day or years in a stuck thought pattern.

Meditation practices are techniques that help you develop concentration, clarity, emotional positivity, and a calmer vision of the nature of life.  Just as we do not expect to be in great physical shape without regular exercise, we cannot expect to have a quieter mind if we do not meditate.  Meditation is an essential practice to help you manage the ups and downs of life.  During the easier times, we will be able to enjoy more of the peace and gratitude of life and during the more challenging times, meditation allows you to breathe deeper into the suffering without losing yourself into a unpleasant thought pattern.

Meditation offers many health benefits and research shows it can be helpful for the following conditions;

• Anxiety

• Asthma

• Cancer

• Chronic pain

• Depression

• Heart disease

• High blood pressure

• Irritable bowel syndrome

• Sleep problems

• Tension headaches

Most meditation techniques include focusing your attention and relaxing your breath and body. There are many different meditation practices. Finding the one that you enjoy and are able to be consistent with is the goal.  Commonly practiced forms of meditation include: guided imagery, sitting meditation, yoga, dancing, qigong, and tai-chi.

I have personally found meditation to be one of the most important things in my life.  I feel like having a regular meditation practice allows me to be a more resilient human. It gives me an anchor in the storminess of world events, personal growth, and relationships, allowing me to keep an open-heart while living in uneasy times.

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A Little Light

Darkness is merely the absence of light. I am inspired by this thought. It reminds me that all it takes to dispel darkness is to shine a little light on a situation, and things begin to improve.

Ann and I were fortunate to recently spend some time with an Indian saint named AMMA (or Mata Amritanandamayi devi) . She is a living example of God’s love in human form. She travels the world for most of the year giving out her blessing in the form of a hug. She also tirelessly raises money to give to her various charitable organizations.

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