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Enlightened Imperfection

Dear Integral Meditators,

Are you on a quest for enlightened perfection? This weeks Integral Meditations article explores what enlightened perfection looks like (or doesn’t look like) and how we can start to use it to embrace our own imperfection and the imperfection of the world.
It is kind of a complementary take to the midweek article on “That Which Solves All Your Problems and None“.

Yours in the spirit of the perfectly imperfect,


Enlightened Imperfection

There is a lot of confusion around the idea of perfection and enlightenment. Many people seem to think that, when you attain a ‘spiritual’ enlightenment you become in some way perfect. Actually, what the realization of enlightenment points out is that there is a part of ourself that is already perfect, they always have been and always will be.

When we realize enlightenment we also realize that all things including ourself are totally imperfect and not just that, they always will be.

Let me explain what I mean, starting with what spiritual enlightenment is. There are three domains or aspects of our moment to moment experience:

  1. Our outer physical and sensory experience
  2. Our inner mental experience based around thoughts and images
  3. The experience of awareness itself which is the formless timeless ‘ground’ upon which the rest of our outer and inner experience is based.

To become spiritually enlightened means to gain practical experience of this third domain of formless timeless awareness, and base our core identity around this experience. Thus, enlightenment has nothing to do with what one believes or philosophizes about, and everything to do with what one discovers through meditation and other related practical methods of investigating our moment to moment experience.

In the state of formless timeless awareness (that is number 3 of the above list) there is perfection and only perfection. This is because in such a state of no-form and no-time there is no-thing that could possibly be imperfect. It is the dimension of each moment of our experience that is perfect, pristine, and flawless. You could be blind drunk, be in the middle of nuclear war or have just married to the person of our dreams, it doesn’t matter; the part of that moment that is simply formless timeless awareness is perfect and always will be.

Classical spiritual enlightenment is a discovery you make about this pristine, formless, timeless state that is already there. You don’t create it, you discover it, and it is absolutely perfect.

As for the rest of you, your life, and the rest of the world, it is completely imperfect. Not just that, it always will be. In the physical world and in the world of our everyday mind there is always imperfection, there will always be difficulties, there is no point of final perfection; there is just a changeable present and future extending to the end of our life, to future generations and to infinity.

To be enlightened is to stop looking for perfection in your life, because you understand that it is already there.

To be enlightened is also to commit to responding to the dance of imperfection in your life in the best way you can with curiosity, courage and care. It means not being afraid to make mistakes, to be vulnerable, and to occasionally and when necessary be seen as a bit of a fool.

Enlightened perfection is not something that you can achieve, it is something that you come to know and recognize. From this space of ‘already perfect’ the challenge is then to launch yourself into the imperfection that will always be there, and commit to making it better.

Over the next week or so if you want to start working with this idea, you can try this:
Simply focus on the statement ‘Everything is already perfect’. Allow your mind to rest in this recognition for as long as you wish. Just relax, let go and feel your way into a space of timeless awareness where everything is always perfect, immutable, pristine. Allow yourself to regenerate your energies in that space.
Now bring your attention back to yourself, back to your world, back to the endless beautiful and tragic imperfection. Now smile to yourself, open to your imperfect reality and commit to participating in the most enlightened way you can.

© Toby Ouvry 2014, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website