I was staring recently at a wall covered in other people’s dreams. They were written in the style of manifestation, as if they had already happened. People had described their dream home by the ocean; their perfect partner; their beautiful children; their deeply fulfilling, luxurious job.
And I thought, But what’s so wrong with the life you have now? What’s so wrong with reality?
I write this as someone who loves to indulge in visualisation. My own dream involves a white-painted, light-filled beach shack with a kitchen and writing room that overlook a back garden, a separate room just for yoga and timeless days that stretch out before me to accommodate all of my favourite things.
I also write this as someone who has engineered my life to allow for more passion and freedom, and I know people who have manifested truly great things in their lives.
But as I looked at this wall, I was overcome by a new thought. It was a clear and unshakeable sense of the importance of pouring energy into loving what’s already here—what is—instead of setting my sights on creating a carefully curated Instagram grid or Pinterest board of a life.
Because what about those mornings when we wake up and we don’t like our partner, or someone is sick, or our kids are doing our head in, or we don’t feel like writing, or we have too much or too little work? Are these not common occurrences?
And what about the surprisingly resonant moment you shared with your barista this morning, the way it felt to have your bare feet on the grass while hanging out the washing, the insightful conversation you had with your small niece? Are these events not also threads in the fabric of human existence, and worthy of our attention?
To ignore life’s less Instagrammable moments is to disrespect its beautiful complexity. What if we recognise the ways in which life is already a dream? What if we grow our capacity for experiencing joy—as an attitude—rather than striving for the monolithic and illusive beast of a perfect life, or what we think a perfect life looks like? What if instead of aiming for a perfect life we aim for a big life, a colourful life, a fulfilling life, a contented life?
Of course there is a place for dreaming and striving, and for changing things that don’t work. Life is a practice of reviewing and renewing; a dance of tweaking and transforming. But I’ve noticed lately just how much time and energy I spend striving for betterness—both in myself and in my life. In a culture of insidious not-enoughness, it’s essential to cultivate our ability to see and appreciate what’s in front of us right here, right now. Because if you don’t love your life now, how will you ever?
You could call this a yin-yang approach to life. In Taoist philosophy, yang energy involves the qualities of ambition, improving, aspiring, creativity and productivity, while yin is more concerned with accepting, yielding and surrendering: being rather than doing. The yang part of us pushes us to achieve more. The yin reminds us that we already have everything we need. We need both to exist in a state of equilibrium (walking this middle path is referred to as the Tao).
When I recently trained with the American yoga teacher Sarah Powers, she articulated this balance as, “Being with what is and envisioning what could be.” She also shared a poem called Perfection Can Be Built from the Tao Te Ching that hit me square in the heart (I strongly recommend you seek out the full version):
If instead we see
the imperfect events
and the ordinary people
as the movement of the Tao,
life becomes perfect as it is
We must remember, while reaching for more, that there is a galaxy already nestled in the palms of our hands. The magic is here, and here is the only place it can ever be.
You will never have a perfect life. And you always had one.