If you have been following this thread and are wondering … no, the irony of a coach and spiritual director, whose mission is to help people improve their lives, writing a series of posts on the dangers of improvement is not lost on me.
In When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, the Tibetan Buddhist nun and spiritual teacher, Pema Chödrön, writes:
“To think we can finally get it all together is unrealistic. To seek for some lasting security is futile. To undo our very ancient and very stuck habitual patterns of mind requires that we begin to turn around some of our most basic assumptions. Believing in a solid, separate self, continuing to seek pleasure and avoid pain, thinking that someone out there is to blame for our pain — one has to get totally fed up with these ways of thinking. One has to give up hope that this way of thinking will bring us satisfaction. Suffering begins to dissolve when we can question the belief or the hope that there’s anywhere to hide.”
The most profound truths come to us gift-wrapped in paradox. When it comes to the both/and of improvement, it is this:
Improvement is, to a point, a noble goal insofar as it reduces suffering and makes the world a better place. The human animal has evolved the desire and the ability to improve things.
the danger of improvement is that we seduce ourselves into believing that we can improve ourselves out of our basic human condition, and escape fear and suffering in the process.
The tragedy happens when we fail to hold both these ideas together at the same time: to understand and accept that fear and suffering cannot be outrun or out-engineered. Trying to do so only makes them worse.
The answer is to acknowledge that there is nowhere to hide, and that the ultimate response to fear and suffering is to face into them with acceptance, together.
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