“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas A Edison
Sometimes you have to go back to the beginning in order to be able to move forwards.
I really hate having to do this. It feels like a failure, like time wasted, like all that I have done so far has been pointless. This is the belief that I have acquired but, like all beliefs, it doesn’t mean that it’s true or right, merely that this is how I’ve chosen to view things; this is the message that I have absorbed. And now it is time to check whether it serves a useful purpose, or whether it needs to be discarded in favour of a new belief.
In this instance the answer is a resounding no, it doesn’t serve any useful purpose to view going back as a failure. It condemns me to continue on to the bitter end with my present course of action, with my refusal to accept the need to abandon it, thereby allowing me to start over, choose differently, learn from the mistakes that I’ve made. Doing this allows me freedom – freedom to choose, freedom to grow, freedom to not have to get it ‘right’. And freedom scares the shit out of me.
I have no idea why this is, but I know that it does because I have the material evidence – why else would I refuse to give up and start over?; why would I continue to punish myself by continuing on with a course of action which causes me pain (whether physical, mental, or emotional)?; why would I keep trying to live my life according to someone else’s rules and beliefs?; why would I persist in copying other people, looking to them to tell me how to do everything, seeking out the ‘right’ way to do a thing?; why would I avoid thinking for myself?
The fact is that starting over is not a failure at all – it’s a god-given right, and one of the only ways of learning. How else will I learn except by first experiencing what doesn’t work (the way that Thomas Edison beautifully describes in the above quote)? But is it any wonder I fear this when I have placed such constraints, attached such harsh judgements to the whole idea? And, again, I am abetted by a society which places such high expectations on the idea of failure and success, which rewards only those who succeed in ways that have been determined by someone else (failure to pass exams at school, failure to pass tests, failure to get a job, failure to come up to someone else’s definition of what it means to be a successful, healthy, well-balanced, popular, attractive, productive person, etc).
The only ‘failure’ is to refuse to risk changing direction; to decide that, rather than go back, I’d prefer to blunder on, whilst ignoring the continued chaos and damage I’m doing. Or come to a complete halt, and refuse to do anything at all, but simply give in to the defeatist attitude of “what’s the point?” And sure, I might need to take some time out, to regroup, take stock, and determine a new course of action based on what I’ve learnt, in order to avoid simply blundering off and retreading old ground. This is called being sensible, taking in the bigger picture – two things I’m not known for doing. But hey, I can learn. I may be autistic, but my human ability to change is not defunct – no matter what some people might misguidedly believe.
Starting again is part of the experience of living, so why would I try to avoid it? Why would I constantly aim towards this unattainable goal of perfection, the one that demands that I never get anything ‘wrong’; that I have to get it ‘right’ first time, otherwise it proves that I am deficient in some way, and especially if I keep repeatedly making the same mistakes (which is a talent of mine)?
According to the spiritual truths that I profess to believe in, the world is already perfect as it is, even in its imperfection, because that is how it was created. God never creates anything without there being a reason for it, without it already being perfect, and S/He/It never makes mistakes. The problem comes from man having to then make a judgement about everything, having to define what’s perfect and what isn’t, what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s good and bad, etc.
Perfection, as I understand it from this skewed point of view, is all about everything being flawless – like the air-brushed pictures of models and celebrities you find in magazines. The fact that this kind of perfection can only be achieved through unnatural means, through force of will, is actually a sign of its imperfection. Anything which goes against the natural flow, which seeks to distort that, is imperfect – to use a man-made definition. It has to be – it’s the opposite of how it was designed.
Step Three in Alcoholics Anonymous says, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.” The relevant part here is ‘turning it over’ – which means looking at the other side, seeing the opposite of what I believe, if what I believe in is not working. I have believed one definition of perfection; I have believed that making mistakes is a bad thing; I have believed in the concept of failure. I have believed in a man-made definition of all those things, and more. I am now choosing to turn that over and see it from the other side – from a spiritually directed perspective, God’s will for me, not mine.
So, in light of what I wrote yesterday about my yoga practice having become more like a punishment rather than a joy due to my approach to it, I have decided to go back to the beginning, and start again – having taken stock of where I have gone ‘wrong’. It should be an interesting and, hopefully, enlightening journey. And the journey is what yoga is all about, not the destination – which is why I believe that I was brought to it in the first place, because it has so much to teach me. I just have to be willing to learn, which requires that I have to let go of the idea that I already know everything. And, based solely on the evidence of my experience with yoga, this is patently not true. So, with that in mind, I now happily sound the retreat.