Yes You're Basically Good...And You Should Take Care of Yourself

At one point the Zen master Suzuki Roshi turned to his students and said, “All of you are perfect just as you are…and you could use a little improvement.” That seems to be the case with all of us. We are already perfect. We are already Buddha. And we need to stop acting from the basis of our own confusion, (read: acting like a jerk). The slight shift toward improvement that Suzuki Roshi mentions is based in developing unconditional faith in your own ability to be awake. It is recognizing that the mess aspect of who you are is transitory while the awake quality is always available and present. 

The more we deepen our meditation practice the more we discover what we call in the Shambhala tradition "basic goodness." This is the understanding that we are innately whole, complete, and okay as is. We don't need a lot of external factors to make ourselves whole - that's our birthright. It's just part of who we naturally are. Every time we sit down to meditate we are offering ourselves a precious opportunity to explore the good, bad and ugly of our humanity. The more we see, acknowledge, and embrace our humanity, the more we realize this fundamental notion of basic goodness.

Yet, while we all possess basic goodness, we sometimes feel basically shitty. We go out too late and don't get enough sleep, or we eat junk food until we feel bloated and sick, or we fall off the treadmill (figuratively) and stop exercising for a few weeks. When this happens, we might feel a bit sad or depressed. 

One of my favorite things about meditation is that it reminds us that we can always start fresh. You sit down and that first breath you're focusing on has so much potential. We can truly be present. Then we drift off and start planning our day, catch ourselves, and come back to the present moment. That is the fresh start aspect. That is the new "first breath" of our practice session. 

In the same way, when we neglect taking care of our bodies we can take a fresh start approach. We can drink some water (I'm delightfully obsessed with this water bottle from Rituals these days), we can eat some healthy food, we can go for a short run - anything to mobilize us beyond our hesitation and laxity. I can't remember doing any of the above and immediately regretting it - it's always been a positive way to hit the refresh button on my attitude and view about my life.

You may even find that taking better care of your body leads to a more pleasant experience on the meditation cushion. When you don't feel physically sluggish you can lift up through the spine and feel a sense of dignity as you sit. This translates into a more spacious relationship to your mind and thoughts. The more space we create for ourselves, the more we connect with our own innate goodness and the sense that we are already perfect, just as we are...and the improvement aspect may not be as big a thing as we thought.