The Desire For Perfection

You probably know we all have been reading David Garrigues’ post on perfection. Maybe you also happen to read Chris Courtney’s  Yoga for Perfectionists over at They appeared on my FB news feed on the same day. Maybe you should not be reading the opinions on perfection from someone who started her practice around 10:45 AM today, but here are my two cents. Desire for perfection (or any other damn thing/situation) comes from unmet needs. Why do you want perfection (in this particular instance)?? Be careful how you answer that because I have recently discovered that as soon as we give ourselves permission to go after what we want most of us realize we don’t actually know exactly what we want. Maybe you do so in that case proceed. Perfection becomes a non issue when there is a foundation of self trust. Trusting your impulses without judgement determines whether any learning or improvement project is going to be approached as war against the faulty self or as a discovery that transforms the already pretty good self. Notice how much practice it takes to use the term pretty good on yourself honestly. In public. Anyway, I just noticed that one post was approaching desire as benign and the other was noticing desire as compulsion. Perfection can be sought through war against the self, or through peace with the self. My guess is both get it done. Only one way with less carnage.

I suggest that you check to see how I filched everything here from Charles Eisenstein’s chapter on Struggle from his book The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.


17 thoughts on “The Desire For Perfection

  1. David’s post made me roll my eyes. but I get that reaction to him a lot. I like what you said “Perfection becomes a non issue when there is a foundation of self trust.” better than anything in his post.

    Chris Courtney seems a hell of a lot wiser! ““Its not the size of the load that breaks your back, its how you carry it.” ~ Lou Holtz”

    • Ha, I like his style. he is kind of a cool dude like David Williams is that kind of dude. He visited my shala last year I think it was. I did not take the whole workshop but I hear that he extracted every ounce of available sweat in the room. He gave the best explanation on how to negotiate with your brain when you found obstacles or fears during practice. I enjoy an earnest, wide eyed & intense kind of speaker.

      • Ya it’s always a challenge, negotiating with the brain. In my own case I tend to count it a victory if I 1) get on the mat and 2) make it through all my asana. Granted I don’t have a “room” which makes it 200x easier, but either way, I like to file any of the good stuff into the “extras” category.

        Personally I think getting attached to yoga as synonymous with achievement to be just asking for trouble, but I might just be insisting on mediocrity 🙂 LOL.

        Hey, I’m going on a field trip to Pure West next week.

  2. I loved the way David said, “To court perfection is to court failure and at the same time to create an insatiable longing to extract the best from yourself.” Best effort is many times an epic fail..but is it really a failure? Perfect has such a negative construct, like being selfish does. It’s all in context of what is meant by it right? I love to practice, and yes I am my own worst critic (at least I think so..gods knows, maybe not! Ha) but it’s just being with yourself, trusting, breathing, striving beyond the endless thoughts that tell us we can’t or we shouldn’t or to fear, it’s moving past all that, that leads to perfection, not a snapshot of a perfectly executed asana.
    As I say to my kids about grades in school. I’m upset with an A- if I never saw you crack a book before a test, but thrilled with a B- if I saw effort, trying, struggle, study. We all have different gifts, strengths, and weaknesses. Do you squander your gifts or work at them and accept them with gratitude? Do you give up on your weaknesses, or better yet show them compassion, and work around them, or try to find a better way to approach them, slowly progressing. It’s never how many asana, or where you are up too that makes you wise or better. Some 4 year olds can read advanced text like a parrot, but comprehend and retain nothing…others can’t read yet, but understand so much more…I’d rather be the latter:-)

    • Context is the thing. I hear DG runs a really exciting room, but ashtangis are notoriously OCD & it’s ridiculously easy to tip many into fixation. To each their own of course! I’m reminded, though, of a friend noting something Sharath said to a student leaving in Mysore, “Remember, two meals only!” She said something like, “And so an eating disorder was born.”

      • Well Sharath is going to have to get more specific with me- I have black coffee in the AM then eat the world for lunch and the moon for dinner, that’s “two meals only”! But really,like I said: control or liberate, choose your outlook and begin to explore.

      • 🙂 I like your outlook. Anyway if one practices long enough you can find time to hit ALL the angles. I’ve certainly been obsessive and crazed, such as the month of 11 practices per week in India. It’s something I had to go through. I’ve flipped myself over in chairs & hit the bookshelf. All sorts of misguided adventures. Now, Honey Badger just don’t give a shit. Here’s the thing about “progress”… sooner or later you have to let go of it anyway.

      • I’ve certainly done my share of bouncing around like a pinball. I was very disappointed when, during my first trip to India, people would get all concerned and tell me to CALM DOWN with my ferocious intensity. Annie Pace rolled her eyes at me, with how much I was practicing. Later on of course I tried unsuccessfully to quit. LOL. I didn’t talk to Chris that whole winter cause I had to be sure it was 100% my own decision, whatever it ended up being.

        I think Chris is still a bit disappointed I chucked 3rd & 4th series proper, but designing my own hybrid works for my fully existence.

        Sorry for hogging your blog today. I promise I’ll make my own soon! And remind me to write about directed topics please! 🙂

    • Maybe I’ll finally write something in the blog I set up! You know… it hadn’t occurred to me to go up there until a friend suggested it jokingly. She said she’d heard that anything goes & it’s a total circus. I’m like, “Hey! Wait a minute…” I can do my hybrid! I can store my Manduka AND have a shower (with toiletries, plenty of space to get ready and unlimited towels to boot). Why not check him out?

      My former yoga adviser is still there. He was thinking I wouldn’t like the new guy because he’s not certified. My response was, “You have no idea how little orthodoxy matters to me.” In those days I was practicing 3rd & some 4th and doing so very, VERY intensely. Jack was new to ashtanga & was probably (mistake!) impressed with this.

      I’ll see if the cowboy & I get on & what the rate would be for a 6-month commitment w/ mat storage. Last time I didn’t pay for the latter, but that was because so few brought their own mats they weren’t policing the space. I got 9 months of free storage 🙂

    • Yes Paula, Like B said, it is how you carry the load. Effort can be delightful or it can be distressing. both work at the end. Just like cleaning the bathroom, you can whistle or you can curse while you do it but in the end it is best to have a clean one right? P.S. the Zipkis kids are very lucky.

      • Thanks Maria<3 don't know how lucky they will feel next week when I leave for India! excited, and terrified! I'm chuckling at what I find so funny in all the exchange, especially with taking something so literally like the food with Sharath..when I was last having a physical, my doctor asked how much coffee I drink. I laughed and told him 1 cup. He said wow that's great, I looked at him then and said, would you like to know the size of the cup!? Haha…I drink quite a bit of coffee in a rather large cup. Taking things too literally never really works;-) there is no one size fits all in anything.

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