Updated: Mar 19, 2021
I was in Torah study this morning (Jewish Bible study) and someone made the comment that life doesn't give participation awards. I immediately had a reaction to this, and it set off this contemplation. My reaction was to say that life does give participation awards - just go watch the sun rise in the morning. And after thinking on it further, I could make a never-ending list of other examples where participating is its own reward: hearing a child laugh, smelling freshly chopped herbs, feeling the warmth of the sun or coolness of shade, just to start. There are an infinite number of ways we can be rewarded by life, especially when we pay attention.
Paying attention is key, but that is a topic for another time. Today, I'd like to talk about standards. According to Merriam-Webster, a standard is "something established by authority, custom, or general consent as a model or example" and "something set up and established by authority as a rule for the measure of quantity, weight, extent, value, or quality". The key here is that standards are established by "authority, custom, or general consent", not by life. Humans are the ones who create all standards, then we decide what is and is not worthy of awards based on those standards. And that's great, but when I start using those standards to judge myself, it is a very slippery slope. Externally, standards are what allow us to operate as a society. Internally however, I have come to the conclusion that standards only serve to tear me down.
I have been working for years to let go of criticism and self-judgment, beginning with an inquiry into the value of criticism and judgment. Eventually I decided that these are tools of society and my work is to let them go. It's incredibly challenging because I have been taught so thoroughly to use my mind to set standards and there is so much support for comparison and judgment of the self in our society. I struggle to think of examples of unconditional love and self-acceptance in mainstream society. Those that exist are made into comic relief ("I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me!") or religious examples that seem beyond the reach of us ordinary humans.
What if showing up and participating in life is all that is expected of us? How does that change things? Can I walk through my day without comparing myself to others or worse, some alternate version of Ellie that doesn't even exist? I believe that letting go of criticism and self-judgment is key to living a life of ease.
Easeful Living is the 10th habit I teach. How can you make your life more easeful today? How can you let go of judgment and enjoy the fruits of participation and attention that are available in each moment?
Thank you for reading, and I welcome your feedback in the comments or on the Intuitive Living Facebook page. Enjoy this picture of this morning's sunrise highlighting the beautiful chaparral in a nearby park.