We all have a perception of perfection. We carry with us an idea of how everything should be and because of this spend huge amounts of time and energy trying to arrange conditions to match this idea. Our family, friends, partners and colleagues, our work and social engagements. Nothing falls outside our desire to be happy by controlling all the things we think we need to produce that happiness. It is a constant struggle.
The blueprint for perfection against the realities of life.
However perfection, as it is usually understood, is just an idea. It is a concept, and not only can it not be realised in any real and lasting way, our perception of it is always changing anyway.
What made us happy once may not have the same effect a second time and so we change our requirements. Our mind is always moving. Thoughts, feelings, moods and emotions come and go without end, and so what was necessary in any particular moment to fulfil our concept of perfection is always changing and adjusting itself to fit our needs and desires.
And even if we do manage to contrive and manipulate a situation where everything seems to be perfect, there is always something that interferes with it. A telephone call when we finally managed to sink into a hot bath at the end of a long hard day, or the need to get up and make a cup of tea when we are relaxing, or simply having to go to the toilet in the middle of our favourite television programme. The perfect state, even if it can be touched, is fleeting.

Meditation practice can be like this. Trying to arrange circumstances, so that they are perfect for us. A time when we can be alone, in comfortable surroundings, and not be disturbed. Then we can really get on with our practice. Then we can really watch the mind. But the mind that we see in meditation is not a special mind. It is not something that only appears when we sit quietly. It is the mind, that is always with is. Sitting quietly or not, it comes and goes by itself, filled with thoughts, distractions, pleasant feelings and unpleasant feelings - and the desire to make everything perfect!

If we are dedicated to the spiritual path of self investigation, we have to realise that whether we are sitting in meditation or not, this awareness practice can still continue. Physical posture in the end, counts for very little.

At one time in India, a young teacher trained in a religious form of Buddhism was asked if it was possible for whales and dolphins to become enlightened. These are highly intelligent creatures, and so the question seemed a valid one to the student.
However, after a long pause, the teacher answered, “No whales and dolphins cannot become enlightened, because they are not able to sit in the full lotus posture, and they cannot bow to the Buddha.”

It is better to be silent than to give such an answer as this.

The Buddha said that awareness is everything.
To notice the nature of the mind and to be at peace with it is the fruit of this practice. Not constantly seeking to fulfil an limited idea of how everything should be and be at peace with things as they are, creates perfect practice. Of course this attitude demands something from us. It demands surrender.
In common usage, the word surrender means to reluctantly give up something that we really want. We feel the need to hold on to a particular object, an idea, or feeling, or emotion, and because of circumstances beyond our control, it is being taken away from us. Like soldiers on a battlefield. When the bullets have all been fired there is no choice but to give in. To surrender.
However, in spiritual terms surrender means something different. It means to let go. To be in harmony. To give up the struggle with life and to be easy. Making choices and decisions when they are available, but not suffering when we have to accept circumstances we cannot change. Surrender means to be centred. To be in control of our life. Real control. Not of the external world, but of the internal world. Of our responses and reactions.

Everything we experience happens within our mind. Anger, fear, frustration and all our negative mental states begin and end within us. No one gives them to us and no one can take them away. We do it to ourselves. As we begin to understand this, we can peacefully let them go. Not attempting to drive them away with an attitude of, ‘I shouldn't feel like this,' but to see them for what they really are, impersonal movements of mind, not ‘me,' not ‘mine,' not what ‘I am’.
They are like visitors to your house. Perhaps you don't like them, but you can still be kind and polite. You don't have to ask them to stay, but you don't need to throw them out either. Eventually, and without any fuss, they will grow tired and leave by themselves.

Happiness is the same. It begins and ends within us. No one gives it to us and no one can take it away. But if we feel we are dependent upon certain circumstances for our happiness, then it can always be lost. Someone or something can take it away from us.
This type of happiness, established in our quest for perfection, is truly superficial and naturally has no sustaining power. If someone can give it then someone can take it away again.

True happiness comes from Dhamma. When peace and acceptance are our starting points, everything else flows. Whatever the circumstances, we can be happy. Not trying to create a world where everything is the way we think you should be, but being at peace with things as they are.

No fight. No struggle.

The leaves falling from the tree is not the problem. Seen them on the ground and wishing they were not there is the problem.
Whether others see things our way are not is not the problem, feeling the need to make them do so is the problem.

Open your heart through practice, letting go of the desire to create a perfect world for your self, and be easy. Perfection is only an idea anyway. It only truly exist when we see that everything is already perfect, just as it is.

Author's Bio: 

Michael Kewley is the former Buddhist monk Paññadipa and now an internationally acclaimed Dhamma Teacher conducting courses throughout Europe, India, Thailand, Israel and the U.S.A.
He began his meditation life forty years ago at the age of 18, and trained in the Mahayana schools of Rinzai and Soto Zen. However, because of his attraction to the profound teaching of Loving Kindness (Metta Bhavana) he gradually moved into the Theravada tradition and cherishes his relationship as a close disciple of the late Sayadaw Rewata Dhamma, both as a lay man and a fully ordained monk. This relationship lasted for more than twenty five years until the death of Rewta Dhamma 2004.
Michael teaches solely on the direct instruction of his own Master, to share the joy and beauty of Dhamma in the spirit of the Buddha so that all beings might benefit.
His method of teaching is by sharing stories both traditional and modern, each one suffused with wisdom, love and humour. During any of his courses and meditation retreats, his evening Dhamma talks are filled with the sound of joyful laughter.
At the special Buddha Day celebration in May 2002 at the Dhamma Talaka Temple, England, where he was the guest speaker, he was awarded the title Dhammachariya.
Michael still travels extensively, but lives quietly with his wife and three cats in a forest in the South of France.
For a full biography of Michael and videos of his teachings, visit www.puredhamma.org