In my last two posts I talked about doing things the ‘Right Way’. In the first post I talked about the things that underlie the desire for doing things the ‘Right Way’. In the second post I talked about wholeness of imperfection and how ‘Right Way’ contains, both perceived success and perceived failure.
In this post I’m going to look at whether ‘Right Way’ (as it is conceived by the critical mind) can exist and examine how intention can transform the skillfulness of our actions.
Usually, the critical mind thinks of doing something ‘Right Way’ as our ability to replicate others skills or actions with a high level of precision. The question is ‘Can we ever really replicate another actions? We know that no two people ever do anything quite the same way, for quite the same reasons. Everyone does things in their own unique way. Perhaps some actions are functionally repeatable, but the thoughts, motivations, emotions, and karmic causes of those actions are as different as fingerprints.
The idea of a ‘Right Way’ as a replication of others skills, creates an illusion of unity. If we act in this prescribed way, we are one with others who do the same. We have the same energy, power, and connection that they had. That is the power of ritual in our lives, but it’s a mistake to think that it is the accuracy of the execution that creates that unity.
To move as someone else moves is impossible. We do not have their same hands, eyes, and ears. What we can have is a unity of intention, a unity of the heart. Many cultures spend hours practicing rituals so that they are very precise, but if it comes from a love of precision itself the point is lost. It must come from a love of ritual, love of the expression, love of the tradition, or a love of the intention and energy behind the ritual.
When I cook something my mother cooks, my goal is not to produce the same dish exactly, but only to produce it with the same love a care with which she cooked. I can even hear her saying to me, “It’s not brain surgery.” The message my mother gave me when we have cooked together is that it’s about the intention, the process of cooking.
If your intention is good and you cook with love, then the results are likely to reflect that. It’s important to remember that the results aren’t just the end product. Whenever we try to do something, how we do it, how we feel about doing it, and the attitude we hold while doing it, are all part of the results.
With fitness this is especially true. To achieve a balanced life we must produce more than a leaner, stronger, and more confident body. We must also produce peace, wisdom, and compassion.
If working to do things the ‘Right Way’ helps us do this, then it is liberating, but if it only serves to make us feel inferior then is it really serving anyone? For me the ‘Right Way’ is the way that opens the heart. The ‘Right Way’ is the way that leads to love.
When I follow the way that leads to love, as opposed to the way that leads to perfection, I can see the results of my labor. I see those results not just in the end product of my efforts, but in every aspect of my effort. Even my perceived failures take on an energy of love and acceptance.
One way to practice with this is to reflect on an area of your life where the ‘Right Way’ has lead you to focus too much on the end product. What if instead of focusing on some external standard you focused on how the activity made you feel?
What if you paid close attention to each detail of each activity and tried to find the beauty in how you do it? You could try bringing in a feeling of love and compassion. Make dinner with loving hands, read a book with loving eyes. Does this change the end product? Does it change how you feel while doing it?
Setting goals can be effective and striving for excellence can be motivating, but they can also become a trap. Goals and standards can be especially sticky if they become fuel for the critical and judgmental aspects of our nature. It’s important to find a way to discern the difference.
The way of love starts within ourselves and grows out from there. If you make your ‘Right Way’ the way of love then everything you do will be the work of growing compassion in the world. When we let go of outcomes and focus our energy on intentions the change can revolutionize not only the outcome, but more importantly the way we feel about ourselves.