Changing Your Status to Pure, Perfect and Complete

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Who among us doesn’t have a habitual version of the way we see ourselves? In an uncertain world it offers us some predictable safety. But there is a language we use to orient ourselves in almost all situations. It can be the language of making things problems or the language around making everything a competition.

One that comes up a lot for those interested in self-development work is the default language around spiritualizing everything. It makes us seem terribly good and wise and keeps pain at a distance because pain can mentally be shifted into symbols and away from doing any real harm…but this habit can keep us crystallized where we are.

P came to me with that clear eyed earnestness of yoga practitioner who was working hard to take her yoga off the mat and into her life.

She described to me how she “always dates spiritual teacher types” and all that goes along with that. She knew it was a pattern but mostly she felt like it was a good thing because she was always learning and was generally treated well by her various partners. But her current boyfriend who she “has good patterns with” is “definitely not a spiriritual teacher. He is just a guy.”

Her question?

Should I stay with my current boyfriend?

I listened to P and felt like she had exposed the heart of the matter very quickly. I felt like I could start the conversation with a big question that ran counter to her assumptions presented thus far.

Why do you think that being low status in a relationship is the measure of it being successful? Or worth staying in? In other words, it seems like you only feel happy or comfortable if you are somehow being taught.

Her sunny disposition wilted under the heat of the question. It wasn’t an easy queston to answer.

She half started a response and then sort of stopped it. I saw that she was falling into the same pattern with me as she did with her “good” boyfriends – allowing me to ask deep and penetrating spiritual questions that bend her head and she was the low status supplicant who drank it in.

Lets not replicate that pattern.

So I jumped to bring her into this conversation on equal ground while still respecting the roles we were each playing – me the creative approacher and her the questioner.

I asked her why there could be no flow of the positions? Why fix her in the position of learner and the boyfriend as teacher?

When does she teach?

What does she teach?

When does he receive and learn and bow his head to her?

P picked up her head as we talked about the flow of the sign of infinity and the connection it had to the famed Yin/Yang symbol. These icons of universal forces that embrace change while still representing something even larger started to show P that she simply had a deeply habitual approach to her relationships – low status, eager learner.

But as she was opening she drew back for a moment into the doubt about her current situation. I offered:

The divine isn’t limited in how it will manifest so why are you limiting it? What if he is a teacher but you won’t let him show it? Because you think you are more spiritual than he is?

I told P a story of a dying monastary only four monks left – the abbot and three  others. They all were old men who for years had shuffled around doing their chores, saying vespers, eating, praying and the like. The abbot was friends with a Rabbi in the town and was talking about how the monastary was likely in its last five or ten years of existence.

The Rabbi shrugged and told the abbot about a dream that he had. The dream was that one of the four monks was The Messiah. The abbot was incredulous but he liked and trusted his friend the Rabbi and went back and told the other three. They all laughed and in their private moments they thought about all the old ideas they had about each other that would discount each and any of them from being The Messiah – but on the other hand they looked again and wondered if those good qualities actually qualified their compatriots for Messiah-hood.

Each of them started treating their fellows differently – as if any of them might be The Messiah. And quickly the mood of the place changed and was more dynamic and brilliant and somehow more novitiates seemed to stumble in and stay to this newly joyful place.

So what if P treated her boyfriend like he was a spiritual teacher AND also fearlessly spoke of what she knew and understood? I offered P a counter-mantra to the one she sounded that kept her in her low status mental space. Though she was warming to the new  possibility that came with equality.

I told her to regularly say to herself

Who I am is  pure, perfect and complete

And then see what happens.

She paid me with a bow. And I bowed back.

The hidden mantras we usually have for ourselves so deeply define our relationship with the world. We wonder why things seem to always be the same for us – it is because we have a deeply resonating sound in us that guides us into familiar grooves.

Saying that you are pure, perfect and complete won’t magically shift things for you – but it is an important counter-sound to the one that we usually listen to. Changing our status from high to low or from low to high or from high or low to equal is just as powerfully disruptive and just as valuable as recognizing your inherent purity, perfection and completeness.

I would just add that your filth is part of your purity, your flaws are critical to your perfection and your missing parts are instrumental to your completeness.

How is that for changing your status? What is your secret mantra? What might you shift it to?

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27 comments
Pena Teeter
Pena Teeter

I like thinking that "not even a little bit okay" is perfectly companioned by pure, perfect and complete. When I am the former, the latter reminds me that all is well, coinciding. ...Giving me space both to indulge the distress and relax into the rest when I'm ready.

Amy
Amy

Matt,

Delightfully mind twisting. It sounds like you did her a great favor by playing with the roles.

As I read how you interacted with her I felt the desire to (also) further explore this side of her that wants to be taught.

Trusting that she does know better than anyone else what she needs, I would enjoy taking her existing momentum and flying into its potential.

Maybe she is meant to go through life with partners who are her spiritual teachers while she teaches nothing, and maybe there is nothing wrong with that, despite it not fitting into the paradigm of equanimity in relationships being 'good.'

Maybe instead of trying on the hat of teaching she is meant to go deeper into learning, in some way. Or, her need to learn may be better served by another outlet. (and this boyfriend may be a dud!)

I trust your instincts were spot on for that moment. These are merely suggestions for future development.

In support of your brilliance and with blessings,
Amy

Amy
Amy

Matt,

Delightfully mind twisting. It sounds like you did her a great favor by playing with the roles.

As I read how you interacted with her I felt the desire to (also) further explore this side of her that wants to be taught.

Trusting that she does know better than anyone else what she needs, I would enjoy taking her existing momentum and flying into its potential.

Maybe she is meant to go through life with partners who are her spiritual teachers while she teaches nothing, and maybe there is nothing wrong with that, despite it not fitting into the paradigm of equanimity in relationships being 'good.'

Maybe instead of trying on the hat of teaching she is meant to go deeper into learning, in some way. Or, her need to learn may be better served by another outlet. (and this boyfriend may be a dud!)

I trust your instincts were spot on for that moment. These are merely suggestions for future development.

In support of your brilliance and with blessings,
Amy

Trista
Trista

Thank you for reminding me of a koan. When I took my post doctoral position of journeyman scientist, I was terrified I would not measure up. It was a scary, stressful time.

A meditation upon waking that helped immensely:

You are a quantum being of endless possibility. Choose your possibilities and become the paragon of yourself. I am. (breaths) Focus on these three things for today. (XYZ)

This helped immensely, and I think I've largely grown into my job.

Still, I haven't thought of that meditation in a while. I've been fighting fears and insecurities again (career, relationships), and this post reminded me that I can learn, overcome, and become. We are all wizards unto ourselves.

Thank you for being you. :)

Trista
Trista

Thank you for reminding me of a koan. When I took my post doctoral position of journeyman scientist, I was terrified I would not measure up. It was a scary, stressful time.

A meditation upon waking that helped immensely:

You are a quantum being of endless possibility. Choose your possibilities and become the paragon of yourself. I am. (breaths) Focus on these three things for today. (XYZ)

This helped immensely, and I think I've largely grown into my job.

Still, I haven't thought of that meditation in a while. I've been fighting fears and insecurities again (career, relationships), and this post reminded me that I can learn, overcome, and become. We are all wizards unto ourselves.

Thank you for being you. :)

Andrea Lewicki
Andrea Lewicki

"I would just add that your filth is part of your purity, your flaws are critical to your perfection and your missing parts are instrumental to your completeness."

Last week I was thinking about imperfection and how without it, so much beauty in the world would be missed. Not because we don't notice beauty without imperfections, we have a hard time relating to something that seems flawless, unlike ourselves.

Self stories are powerful. In my former striving, competitive life, I desperately wanted to be taken seriously. I thought I had to *be* serious to be taken seriously. It didn't work. It took a long time for me to figure that out.

Thanks for writing this - it helped me get through to something I've wanted to write about for a while but just couldn't find the perspective to see it clearly.

Ilana
Ilana

Matt, your posts always make me think (and rethink). I can't say that about most of the thousands of words I read every day. After I read this early in the day, I started noticing my thoughts about myself and realized how much things would change if I shifted from a "needing to fix" mindset.

Jasmine
Jasmine

Whoa...where did you come from? Matthew, I momentarily forgot your total genius, but then I read this post and remembered. Thanks for having more than one sound to sing so that you can offer more than one approach.

Susan Alexander
Susan Alexander

Matt:

I love this post. I think it's your best so far. I read it like a book I can't put down.

Here are the words that most resonate:

"The hidden mantras we usually have for ourselves so deeply define our relationship with the world. We wonder why things seem to always be the same for us – it is because we have a deeply resonating sound in us that guides us into familiar grooves."

We do indeed cling to the familiar. Luke Williams writes in his book, Disrupt, that people prefer the familiar so much that they will choose it over something better and easier.

I know this to be true. Here's an example: I first learned to draft on my blog in HTML mode, i.e. with all the text surrounded by code. Then I discovered Visual mode, where the text is clear and unencumbered - much like conventional word processing. By that time, I was so used to the clutter of HTML that I preferred it, and still do, even though visual is easier, clearer, faster, etc.

It's metaphorical. In countless contexts, when familiarity is up against new, different, better, and easier, familiarity will often win out. It's what we'll choose. If we let it.

So, how do we go about not letting it? Your course is a brilliant one: creating a counter-sound to the one we usually listen to.

For me, saying I'm "pure, perfect and complete" might be problematic, because I really don't believe I am those things. To me, they're things one can work toward but never achieve. So I think I'd choose another mantra, like "I'm massively O.K." I think I'll give that a try, starting, like, now.

You've really nailed it here. Things stay the same for us, mainly because we keep listening, over and over, to our preferred (familiar) soundtrack. Changing it is the first step in bringing about change in our thoughts, perceptions, beliefs, and actions.

Way to go!!! What a great read, especially for a Monday morning.

Susan

Susan Alexander
Susan Alexander

Matt:

I love this post. I think it's your best so far. I read it like a book I can't put down.

Here are the words that most resonate:

"The hidden mantras we usually have for ourselves so deeply define our relationship with the world. We wonder why things seem to always be the same for us – it is because we have a deeply resonating sound in us that guides us into familiar grooves."

We do indeed cling to the familiar. Luke Williams writes in his book, Disrupt, that people prefer the familiar so much that they will choose it over something better and easier.

I know this to be true. Here's an example: I first learned to draft on my blog in HTML mode, i.e. with all the text surrounded by code. Then I discovered Visual mode, where the text is clear and unencumbered - much like conventional word processing. By that time, I was so used to the clutter of HTML that I preferred it, and still do, even though visual is easier, clearer, faster, etc.

It's metaphorical. In countless contexts, when familiarity is up against new, different, better, and easier, familiarity will often win out. It's what we'll choose. If we let it.

So, how do we go about not letting it? Your course is a brilliant one: creating a counter-sound to the one we usually listen to.

For me, saying I'm "pure, perfect and complete" might be problematic, because I really don't believe I am those things. To me, they're things one can work toward but never achieve. So I think I'd choose another mantra, like "I'm massively O.K." I think I'll give that a try, starting, like, now.

You've really nailed it here. Things stay the same for us, mainly because we keep listening, over and over, to our preferred (familiar) soundtrack. Changing it is the first step in bringing about change in our thoughts, perceptions, beliefs, and actions.

Way to go!!! What a great read, especially for a Monday morning.

Susan

mstillman
mstillman

You are 100% right. Going completely into receiving spiritual knowledge can be perfectly good as long as you are giving somewhere else. There is a great story of a disciple who perfectly followed the guidance of a false teacher and the Gods bestowed enlightenment on the student.

Blessings accepted O, great co-player!

mstillman
mstillman

We are indeed wizards with endless possibilities. Which is fortuitous because all the work we have done on fears, stress, insecurities et al...get to be done again in new incarnations.

mstillman
mstillman

Yes, lodged in "being taken seriously" is the idea "If I am serious nobody could ever suspect me of not being serious. So I need to be serious because I don't think I am."

Yikes. We feed the beast even though we don't mean to do so.

I am thrilled that it helped you get through something that might have been stuck.

mstillman
mstillman

Ilana, thanks for your praise of what I wrote here.
Noticing those thoughts is remarkable. How many of us let them slip by? Hardly noticing them. Just thinking that is the way the mind is.

That "needing to fix" is sticky one. It feeds the idea "I am broken" and projects into the future "I'll fix it at some point"... it takes you way of the present. But luckily you found a way back - noticing, bringing conscious attention to the present moment.

that is the work.
or the play.
depending on your need at the moment.

mstillman
mstillman

Ilana, thanks for your praise of what I wrote here.
Noticing those thoughts is remarkable. How many of us let them slip by? Hardly noticing them. Just thinking that is the way the mind is.

That "needing to fix" is sticky one. It feeds the idea "I am broken" and projects into the future "I'll fix it at some point"... it takes you way of the present. But luckily you found a way back - noticing, bringing conscious attention to the present moment.

that is the work.
or the play.
depending on your need at the moment.

mstillman
mstillman

thanks for remembering that I am still here.

mstillman
mstillman

Thank you so much for your kind words Susan. Believing that you are pure, perfect and complete is hardly the point. It is a sound that is the antithesis of the other sound that P was listening to.

You saying "I am massively OK" is basically your familiar mantra pretending to invent a new mantra for you.

What got you here won't get you to there. That is why the best actors can put aside their own thoughts, feelings, opinions and reactions and enter into the thoughts, feelings, opinions and reactions of the character.

Get off your usual script and for the sake of play try a new sound out.

Susan Alexander
Susan Alexander

But what if my old script was that I'm not O.K., not even a little? Then isn't the mantra, "I'm massively O.K." the antithesis of the usual script (yet still grounded in reality)?

I'm not sure I follow the reasoning behind telling yourself you're pure, perfect, and complete, when no one is. Don't those 3 things set an impossible bar?

I know people who seem to think they're pure, perfect, and complete. They're obnoxious.

If I believe I'm a work in progress, and that I'm doing my best growing and learning, then what's wrong with adopting a mantra consistent with that? What's the idea behind trying to get into character whose thoughts I don't believe and don't see the point in believing?

Susan Alexander
Susan Alexander

But what if my old script was that I'm not O.K., not even a little? Then isn't the mantra, "I'm massively O.K." the antithesis of the usual script (yet still grounded in reality)?

I'm not sure I follow the reasoning behind telling yourself you're pure, perfect, and complete, when no one is. Don't those 3 things set an impossible bar?

I know people who seem to think they're pure, perfect, and complete. They're obnoxious.

If I believe I'm a work in progress, and that I'm doing my best growing and learning, then what's wrong with adopting a mantra consistent with that? What's the idea behind trying to get into character whose thoughts I don't believe and don't see the point in believing?

Susan Alexander
Susan Alexander

Matt:

Not sure why your last reply to me doesn't itself have a "Reply" link. I'll write my thoughts here, but anyone reading should know they appear out of order ...

It's been a few weeks since we exchanged thoughts on this post. I want to tell you that I've been thinking about it a lot since then. It took me a while to get my mind around it. Now I think I have, and it's been transformational in how I view myself and the world ...

... which just goes to show that those famous Grateful Dead lyrics are dead on:

"Once in a while you can get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if you look at it right."

I truly believe that, which is why I have that very quote printed on my business card.

Just want to THANK YOU for the HUGE enlightenment.

Susan

mstillman
mstillman

Here is a classic Koan from the Zen tradition. Mumon gives famed short commentaries on the koans.

Two monks were arguing about a flag. One said: `The flag is moving.'
The other said: `The wind is moving.'

The sixth patriach happened to be passing by. He told them: `Not the wind, not the flag; mind is moving.'

Mumon's Comment: The sixth patriach said: `The wind is not moving, the flag is not moving. Mind is moving.' What did he mean? If you understand this intimately, you will see the two monks there trying to buy iron and gaining gold. The sixth patriach could not bear to see those two dull heads, so he made such a bargain.

Wind, flag, mind moves.
The same understanding.
When the mouth opens
All are wrong.

If you think you are Susan Alexander you are only partially right. That is not incorrect, but it is a limited view of who you are.
Similarly if you think Susan Alexander is or is not pure, perfect and complete. Not incorrect but limited. Who you are is much larger than your conception or even your common experience of your self.

Things like a koan may help to a) have the mind fall back and b) open up the door to a larger experience of yourself or c) neither .

Pure - unmixed, without taint
Perfect-without fault or defect
Complete- having all parts, fullness

that is you. You are on the wavelength to be sure. You just may not be practiced at it.

Susan Alexander
Susan Alexander

Thank you for trying to clarify, but I'm afraid that what you've written is over my head.

I know nothing about the tradition of Zen the koan.

Without knowing more, I can't make sense of these words:

"People who think they personally are pure, perfect and complete have associated their identities with the smallest and most local expression of themselves .... Indeed you are a work in progress – perfect in every step along the way. Perfection exploring its manifestations over time."

I suppose I'd need definitions of the main words (pure, perfect, and complete) and some examples.

Sorry not to get it. It's pretty clear I'm not on this wavelength.

But I'm open to it. Any suggested reading?

mstillman
mstillman

Oh so much to unpack here my good friend!

If your old script was that you were not O.K - not even a little bit then then the mantra "I'm massively okay" is just further along the linear progression of OK. So it is perhaps more developed but not opposite. It isn't the counter sound to "I am not okay even a little bit".

Basing things in reality (as you speak of it) has built into it a certain mindset that has certain limitations.

Being pure, perfect, and complete hardly sets an impossible bar. They shine like steady beacon in the night or ring like a clear bell that challenges us to arise and awake. They are our very nature - but they aren't personally associated.

People who think they personally are pure, perfect and complete have associated their identities with the smallest and most local expression of themselves.

Indeed you are a work in progress - perfect in every step along the way. Perfection exploring its manifestations over time.

In the tradition of Zen the koan is offered up as a tool for the mind that is ineffable, unreasonable and challenging to our beliefs at every level. The purpose of it is to have the mind fall back and then have new insight arise from that space.

Purity, perfection and completion live there.

Susan Alexander
Susan Alexander

Matt:

Not sure why your last reply to me doesn't itself have a "Reply" link. I'll write my thoughts here, but anyone reading should know they appear out of order ...

It's been a few weeks since we exchanged thoughts on this post. I want to tell you that I've been thinking about it a lot since then. It took me a while to get my mind around it. Now I think I have, and it's been transformational in how I view myself and the world ...

... which just goes to show that those famous Grateful Dead lyrics are dead on:

"Once in a while you can get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if you look at it right."

I truly believe that, which is why I have that very quote printed on my business card.

Just want to THANK YOU for the HUGE enlightenment.

Susan

mstillman
mstillman

Here is a classic Koan from the Zen tradition. Mumon gives famed short commentaries on the koans.

Two monks were arguing about a flag. One said: `The flag is moving.'
The other said: `The wind is moving.'

The sixth patriach happened to be passing by. He told them: `Not the wind, not the flag; mind is moving.'

Mumon's Comment: The sixth patriach said: `The wind is not moving, the flag is not moving. Mind is moving.' What did he mean? If you understand this intimately, you will see the two monks there trying to buy iron and gaining gold. The sixth patriach could not bear to see those two dull heads, so he made such a bargain.

Wind, flag, mind moves.
The same understanding.
When the mouth opens
All are wrong.

If you think you are Susan Alexander you are only partially right. That is not incorrect, but it is a limited view of who you are.
Similarly if you think Susan Alexander is or is not pure, perfect and complete. Not incorrect but limited. Who you are is much larger than your conception or even your common experience of your self.

Things like a koan may help to a) have the mind fall back and b) open up the door to a larger experience of yourself or c) neither .

Pure - unmixed, without taint
Perfect-without fault or defect
Complete- having all parts, fullness

that is you. You are on the wavelength to be sure. You just may not be practiced at it.

Susan Alexander
Susan Alexander

Thank you for trying to clarify, but I'm afraid that what you've written is over my head.

I know nothing about the tradition of Zen the koan.

Without knowing more, I can't make sense of these words:

"People who think they personally are pure, perfect and complete have associated their identities with the smallest and most local expression of themselves .... Indeed you are a work in progress – perfect in every step along the way. Perfection exploring its manifestations over time."

I suppose I'd need definitions of the main words (pure, perfect, and complete) and some examples.

Sorry not to get it. It's pretty clear I'm not on this wavelength.

But I'm open to it. Any suggested reading?

mstillman
mstillman

Oh so much to unpack here my good friend!

If your old script was that you were not O.K - not even a little bit then then the mantra "I'm massively okay" is just further along the linear progression of OK. So it is perhaps more developed but not opposite. It isn't the counter sound to "I am not okay even a little bit".

Basing things in reality (as you speak of it) has built into it a certain mindset that has certain limitations.

Being pure, perfect, and complete hardly sets an impossible bar. They shine like steady beacon in the night or ring like a clear bell that challenges us to arise and awake. They are our very nature - but they aren't personally associated.

People who think they personally are pure, perfect and complete have associated their identities with the smallest and most local expression of themselves.

Indeed you are a work in progress - perfect in every step along the way. Perfection exploring its manifestations over time.

In the tradition of Zen the koan is offered up as a tool for the mind that is ineffable, unreasonable and challenging to our beliefs at every level. The purpose of it is to have the mind fall back and then have new insight arise from that space.

Purity, perfection and completion live there.

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