The ‘Right Way’ Part 3 – The Way of Love

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.


The Right Way Part 2 – The Wholeness of Imperfection

In my last blog, I talked about the concept of doing things the ‘right way’. In my last post I wrote about the obsession with doing things the right way and where this obsession originates. In this post I’m going to write about wholeness  and the practice of appreciating imperfection.

Though it may be counter-intuitive there is a difference between perfection and seeking wholeness.When we seek perfection we tend to value only our positive experiences and discard our negative ones.

When what’s happening matches the idea we have in our mind we are WINNING! but when they when it doesn’t we are FAILING! This simple view of progress doesn’t take into account all the complexity of growing as a being.

Take a moment to reflect on your life, Are you certain if you changed any event, whether success or failure, if your life would be the same? You might think if you could change a few things you’d be better off, but are you sure?

Maybe you wouldn’t have met your wife or your best friend. You might have ended up in a much worse situation then you are now. You might even have died. There is just no way to know.

Everything you’ve done has led to where you are now. If you eliminated your ‘failures’ then you wouldn’t be where you are or who you are. If your whole life, good and bad, has given you the gift of your current existence is there really a ‘right way’ to do things?

Often when I suggest that their really isn’t a truly ‘right way’ to do something people object. What about math or engineering? Maybe in some areas there isn’t a right way, but what about for logic. There can only be a yes or a no, 2+2=4 no matter how much you may love 5. Of course there is truth here, the ‘right way’ does not exclude reason or a desire for excellence.

This isn’t to suggest you should be lazy, sloppy, and indifferent  Not only do these things not embody excellence, they don’t embody the wholeness of the ‘right way.’

Often we think that to make something whole is to make it match the standard in our minds, but our own standards are very limited. We are limited in perspective, by our location in the world, in our lives, in our karmic patterns, in our place in time, and in our understanding of the nature of truth. How can our limited perspective hold all the aspects of wholeness?

Wholeness has to hold both the good and the bad. It must hold 2 + 2 = 4, but it must also hold all the answers to that equation that don’t fit into our idea of the ‘right’ answer. 2 + 2 = 4 is the most useful part of that whole when we are trying to figure out how many apples we have, but to think that 2 + 2 = 4 fulfills the scope of wholeness is so limiting. This becomes clear as we look at our own lives.

When we are learning to ride a bike, does the wholeness of learning contain only the time we are in balance? At first we fall constantly and it’s very clear that falling is part of learning, but when we become an excellent cyclist is that not true anymore?

First off, I can assure you that even being a halfway decent cyclist means falling on occasion, but more importantly even when we are riding with skill we are still falling.

Riding a bike is a act of falling and adjusting, going into and out of balance. It is not a static state of riding a bike the ‘right way.’ Thinking of it like that hides all the subtlety that exists while riding a bike.

Excellent cyclists move and flow with the nature of change, they make thousands of little adjustments that fall within very small margins. It is their unity with the flow of change, not their  connection to some static standard which makes what they do truly amazing.

It’s a dance with this constant flow, and the ‘right way’ to ride is not something you can own, but instead something you must join with.

When we look at our lives from this perspective it’s easy to see, how both balance and imbalance are part of the whole.

Take a moment and reflect on some of the things in your life you wished at some point you could have changed. How have these events created the whole person you are today? What lessons did you learn and how have you grown from these challenges?

Without the struggle to break free from the cocoon a butterfly can never fly. Without the challenges and trials of walking all the ‘wrong ways’ we would never learn to navigate our lives.

The wholeness of our lives contains all the flawed and perfect aspects of our being. Don’t forget to appreciate all the scrapes and stumbles that taught you how to walk the path.

Thanks For Reading, Be Well


The ‘Right Way’ Part 1 – Where does it come from?

I was recently talking with a friend about the idea of doing things the ‘Right Way’. It’s something we often obsess about in our culture.

Perhaps it come from the Judeo Christian background of the western world, or perhaps it’s just a side effect of striving for excellence and happiness; in either case it can very easily become a trap that limits our imagination, our ability to grow, and our happiness.

The ‘Right Way’ can become a beacon for us to shoot for, but also very often it is the standard by which we constantly judge our inadequacy. I’m going to take a few posts to really look at how this fixed idea of ‘Right Ways’ and ‘Wrong Ways’ effects our lives.

These won’t be posts that relate in a direct way to fitness, but I think very much apply to the mind that arrives at the gym or in the park every time we work out.

First off, Where does this idea of the ‘Right Way’ come from?

I once got into a discussion about the ‘Right Way’ to determine the difference between stuffing and dressing. Even though it’s very silly in retrospect, I gave what can only be described as a passionate account of the difference between stuffing and dressing.

I spoke with the conviction of an attorney working for Stovetop Inc. In the midst of my defense, of the purity of breaded poultry fodder, I realized that my entire knowledge of this difference, was based solely on a single article I had read the previous day on the Internet.

My conviction was unwarranted and the conversation, though clearly silly to begin with, had lept the bounds of absurdity, because of my forceful perspective.

So why did I argue for the ‘Right Way’ to define something of so little importance? When I reflect on this, I realize that holding this ‘Right Way’ in my mind gave me a sense of power, of confidence, of safety.

I felt validated and justified in my actions. Knowing the ‘Right Way’ gave me a clear identity. I was the person who knew the identity of stuffing. I was the sole arbiter of stuffed bread products (cue the heroic music).

There is something so satisfying about knowing the ‘Right Way’ to do something. It says so many things about me. I am competent, capable, and knowledgeable. Who am I? I am the one that knows.

It is easy to see why we can easily become obsessed with the ‘Right Way’ to do something. There is so much comfort for our anxiety, our fears, our doubts, and our fears.  Put simply, the idea of a ‘Right Way’ comes a very human need to know and understand themselves and the world around them. This ‘Right Way’ situates them at the center of a known universe they have drawn the borders around.

The only problem is, this ‘Right Way’ doesn’t reveal the truth about myself or the subtlety of the actions I undertake. Instead it trades the complexity that makes life beautiful, for the certainty that makes us feel safe.

I became so fixated on the ‘Right Way’ to describe stuffing, I lost all perspective on the absurdity of the conversation. I wasn’t connected to the person I was interacting with or my own intentions. Worst of all I became unable to take in new information and new perspectives.

Striving for excellence is great and visualizing can be very valuable, but when we get fixated on the ‘Right Way’ to do something, we lose what we sought. What makes us truly unique among the animal kingdom, is our ability to take in new information and greet new situations with curiosity and imagination.

If the ‘Right Way’ comes from a fixation on a particular idea or way of being, how right is it? If on the other hand, what if the ‘Right Way’ comes not from an idea of the end, but from the connection to the process? It’s all a matter of putting the emphasis on the ‘Way’ and not the ‘Right’.

This is the key salvaging excellence from the concept of the ‘Right Way’.  Our focus must be on the path, that leads us in the direction we want to go. Often our destinations rarely look how we expect them to and of course we as travelers have changed. The path on the other hand is intimate to our every step.

Excellence in self, in body, in mind is possible, but this excellence doesn’t come from seeking some outside standard, but from believing in the flawed footsteps it takes to get there. It’s faith in the path and the way, even if the scenery doesn’t match the post cards.

Take some time to reflect on what fixed ideas of doing things the ‘Right Way’ is holding you back.

What qualities are embodied in achieving that standard? Write them down. Then instead of comparing yourself to this Holy Grail standard, walk the path of the pilgrim. Do your best to embody the qualities that that standard holds.  Take up this practice of embodying qualities instead of embodying standards for a week and see what effect it has.

Your expression of compassion, of wisdom, of joy, may not be the same as those you admire, but its the way behind them, that is the same. Your act of kindness will not be there’s, but the quality of kindness is something almost anyone can recognize.

In this way you become one with all the great people who have gone before; not because you will do the same things, but because you will be walking on the same road.

Thanks for reading and be well,