I notice that when I observe others who have achieved amazing things in their lives, that I have a great tendency to compare myself to them. Which, inevitably leaves me drowning in a mire of inadequacy. The truism ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ is confirmed. And yet, I seem to fall into this tendency very naturally. Of course, it is natural for us to compare, to help us make sense of our position in the world, to identify our strengths and weaknesses, to define ourselves. But when I notice that my mood is affected, I know I need some fine tuning.

Difference, not worth

I’ve been playing with some ways to work with this. I picked up a little gem of wisdom on a television performance competition (I know right, is that possible)? But I like it. Essentially, it’s about not being intimidated by the competition. Seeing them as amazing, and, at the same time, recognising that you are completely different to them. So, it’s a slight tweak. Focusing on the definition of difference rather than the attribution of worth and value.

Our own garden

My meditation teacher makes reference to ‘our garden’. He says that we all have our own garden to tend. He’s talking about the particular mission that life is manifesting in each of us. It’s unique of course. Who I am and what I do is absolutely unique, and it is in recognising and honouring this, that I can feel those first tendrils of relief from the need to measure my worth against something external. I’m trying to tend that inner garden. Internally knowing my own worth and feeling it. I feel it in the simplicity of my life; going about my day, doing familiar things with familiar people. It feels very new and vulnerable, this sense of the sweet peace of an ordinary life. How could that be enough?

Mostly I’m ok. I run into trouble out in the world (even though it might have been via a screen lately). My aim is to be able to appreciate beauty and excellence without feeling diminished in their presence. I want to be nourished by the diversity of human expressions and celebrate them, not mourn my shortcomings.

A seismic shift

I’m taking my first steps. I’m on training wheels. With a slower pace of life in my third stage of life (according to the yogic ashramas – the vanaprastha – translated as ‘retiring to the forest’ stage), it’s taking a while to adjust to not being busy all the time. Throughout the ‘householder’ stage, I had such a strong drive to achieve, to become, to overcome. Which was always accompanied by a longing for more time. It feels so odd to have stepped off that treadmill. Now that I do have more time, I don’t quite know what to do with myself.

I do feel more peaceful though. There are just these ‘hangover’ feelings of not measuring up, not being enough. I know how the world measures success. And, I’ve kind of bought out of that game, and I do not measure up. And that’s ok. To stand outside the system of capitalism (even though of course I really can’t) but to reject its foundational values; win/lose, superior/inferior, perpetual growth, to not play that game in an environment where it’s the only game in town? It’s a bit weird.

To be satisfied with what I have (completely acknowledging my privilege here) to know I already have enough, is very different work. Life is no longer about growing, gathering and getting more. It’s a seismic shift for these things to suddenly matter so little and to no longer be a source of identity or joy.

Making something of my experiences

I’ve lived the life I have, had the experiences that I’ve had. The question I’m asking now is, ‘how can I be creative and make something of these experiences (the good and the not so good) rather than wanting someone else’s life?’ I think it’s the bravest thing I’ll ever do, to internalize that I am perfectly ok, just the way I am, that all my failures and foibles are supported and indeed shot through with the love and peace of my true nature. That my biggest challenges have been my best opportunities for inner change and growth. And, that they have led me down my own unique garden path towards where we all meet, at home, in our true nature. To trust that the inner work is enough, without needing the external validation from a world who’s values I am disavowed of.

An inner authority

This little voice inside (which is voiceless by the way) has just become so insistent. It matters more to me now than any external stuff or approval. My inner authority is taking the wheel. It’s scary and weird and yet there is not a skerrick of doubt in me that it’s what I need to be doing. Well, there might be a skerrick, but I have no desire to step back on that treadmill.

I’ve got to say, relying on my inner sense of worth, dispensing with comparison and competition as a means to reflect my value, is not easy. It means that I live a little on the outside, but little by little I’m becoming more comfortable with that.