Do you have to be perfect to be enlightened?
By Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on March 31, 2015
Psychologist Abraham Maslow called them “peak experiences.”
These are defining moments for people who are self-actualized. They feel flashes of overwhelming beauty and truth. They are far from alienated and a part of a whole that’s imbued with love and harmony. They are one with self, and self is all.
They know who they are, why they’re here and where they’re going.
Apparently, in order to reach this pinnacle, it’s advisable for me to remedy all my issues first. That’s a tall order.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a Psychology 101 staple and very (very) similar to yoga’s chakra system.
Maslow’s roadmap has morphed since its original 1940s incarnation, but this self-actualization yellow brick road begins when your physical needs are met. Once you are grounded in safety, you can move on to experience love and belonging and vibrant self-esteem. Then, welcome to Oz.
Maslow’s general theory mirrors the chakras. In this yogic system, there are vortices of spiritual energy throughout the subtle body that process and move life experience. The lower chakras deal with basic needs of survival and sexuality before moving up to higher functions of drive and will, love, communication and intellect. When chakras are aligned, open and unhindered by trauma or faulty thinking, the energy to higher states of consciousness can flow unimpeded.
It’s probably a good idea to have our acts together, but there has to be wiggle room. Where would our world be without mad scientists, nutty professors, hopeless romantics, reclusive philosophers and manic and self-destructive artists, poets, novelists and musicians?
People have quirks and issues, and the backlog seems infinite. Is being self-actualized a selective club, only The Perfect need apply?
Hardly. Neither system, Maslow’s nor the chakras, is necessarily intended to be a linear process where if you don’t pass one exalted state you can’t experience the next. I’m going to reject inflexible interpretations of both. No doubt when we attempt to actualize and fulfill our potentials, insecurities and brutal realities are going to throw up roadblocks.
The bottom line is that our yoga and meditation practices should empower all of us to recognize and transcend those roadblocks. We can fulfill our potentials even if we’re not perfect. But how?
Give yourself these four beginning tasks
1. Ask, “How can I serve?”
Divide a piece of paper into three columns. These are your passion points. In the first column, write down your best personality traits. In the second column, write down every task you do well. In the third column, write down what you love to do. Don’t sweat it if you don’t know which column is most appropriate.
Repeat after me: “I will apply my (first column) to share my talent for (second column) so I can show other people the joy of (third column).
If you say something like, “I will apply my sense of humor and loyalty to family to share my talent for horseback riding, knitting scarves and scrapbooking so I can show other people the joy of working out, reading good books and eating Thai food,” you’re interesting. And that’s a start.
2. Silence your mind. When you are pondering your life’s purpose, it is essential to begin a meditative practice. Begin by sitting in stillness and silence for two minutes each morning. Build to 20 minutes.
These beginning meditations are important because your mind will wander. Take inventory. Where are you going? What’s distracting you? Be mindful, and journal all your destinations and look for patterns.
With daily practice, your mind will quiet. Remember that meditation won’t snap open your eyes with sudden Eurekas. It’s psychic maintenance so you can be more sensitive to self and truth. Have faith that all you need to know will come to you.
3. Continue your practice into your day. When you are attempting to focus on your passion points, notice any mental roadblocks: fear, guilt, shame, grief, denial, illusions or irrational attachments to things that don’t serve your higher purpose. Be friendly because these ghosts will visit again. Greet them, and let them pass.
4. What if you’re still paralyzed? Connecting with self through meditation may offer a GPS, but it isn’t your only tool. When you’re stalled on your karmic path, don’t think about the harvest. Enrich your soil. Read books. Take classes. Expose yourself to new people and hobbies. Work your body with strength-building exercise.
Then sit, be silent, and listen to the wind.