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There is Nothing Wrong with You (3 ways to discover this truth)

Many awakened teachers of the past and present have expressed this seemingly identical sentiment that there is nothing wrong with us, nor any sentient being for that matter.

The late Zen master, Suzuki roshi famously said during a talk to his students in the 1960s, “Each of you are perfect the way you are.”

The eccentric spiritual teacher, Sri Nisargadatta Majaraj said, “You are already perfect, only you don't know it. Learn to know yourself and you will discover wonders.”

Spiritual leaders of all traditions make bold claims that YOU ARE love! You are light! The Vedas claim that you are the universe, and that the universe is god, which is to say, again, that you are perfect. You are whole.

More mainstream/”secular” voices have echoed these sages, as well. The mindfulness thought leader, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, said, “Right in that or any moment of non-doing, you are already OK, already perfect, in the sense of perfectly who and what you are. And therefore, right in that moment you are already at home in a profound way.”

For years, I actually found these statements quite frustrating and eye-roll-inducing. I desperately wanted them to be true; however, my subjective experience only seemed to show the opposite. As if these audacious proclamations have been dangled above me, tauntingly, just beyond my reach. A golden sun lost behind gray clouds. Only reinforcing the learned belief that I was imperfect, flawed, that there was - and is - something wrong with me.

What had I been missing? In the last decade I have been exploring this question. And this is what I have discovered so far!

It does not seem to be enough to believe that you are perfect just the way you are, or even to be told that you are. Though, I feel these are still good ideas, worthwhile practices. I trust we can “go further” when we understand wholeness on an experiential level. Reading about goodness - or just thinking about it - is not enough. So, how can we experientially “taste” our innate goodness?

If we are serious about being happy, increasing our well-being, we have to look first at what (inside of us) is getting in the way. In the process, we have to be willing to become best friends with ourselves. We have to be willing to open our hearts so much that it hurts.

Uncovering Innate Goodness

Holding a newborn baby, looking up in the Sistine Chapel, coming upon a family of deer in a quiet wood, or watching the sunset behind the Pacific Ocean. The pure, genuine feeling felt in those moments is what I mean when I say, understand innate goodness on an experiential level.

Yet, such moments are transient. I contend that instead of going out and chasing such moments, we instead focus on altering our interior world in order to transform the mundane into…something perfect. The soap suds sliding between our fingers at the kitchen sink. The morning bird song. The sound of your mother’s voice. Biting into a carrot.

At this point in my life, I am firmly convinced that I will never know - nor live from - my own innate goodness without a serious and diligent meditation practice. Meditating offers the possibility of suspending the noise of the thinking mind, dropping from the level of the intellect to a direct sensorial level.

Before I continue I want to make perfectly clear that I am not trying to make any metaphysical claims about the cosmos, or “woo-woo” existential platitudes. All the practices I offer here are available to anyone with an open mind; they are testable, not owned by a specific spiritual tradition, and meant to be practiced with a spirit of pragmatism. Okay, continuing on…

Meditation practice can be thought of as no more than simply being here with what is, with gentle nudges here and there toward open-heartedness, relaxation, and wakefulness. While this is so much easier said than done, I have found this practice to be far more worthwhile than the alternative: continuing a life stuck in cyclical habit loops leading to pervasive struggle and dissatisfaction.

The second part to that Suzuki Roshi quote after, “Each of you are perfect the way you are,” is “and you can use a little improvement.”

In that spirit, here are some “self-improvement” practices. (Not a comprehensive list).

Body Awareness

Returning to wholeness invites the rich practice of awareness of bodily sensations. It dissolves the fabricated belief that the mind and body are separated. It also increases our emotional perceptiveness, since emotions manifest as embodied experiences.

Mindfulness of the body is very direct, relatively uncomplicated, and non-mystical. Most of us live a great majority of our lives “in our heads.” The simple - but not always easy - practice of maintaining non-judgemental awareness of one’s present-moment body sensations, gets us out of our heads and connects us to the wisdom of our body and heart.

Try it! What are you feeling in your body now? Now, breathe into that feeling, and invite a long exhale. Better yet, try a body scan meditation. And see how even three minutes of body awareness can evoke presence.

The cultivation of compassion and loving-kindness, in addition to forgiveness, joy, and gratitude, are indispensable when it comes to experiencing our wholeness. Compassion and loving-kindness traditionally, are known to be limitless heart qualities. Which means there is no limit to how much love and compassion we can extend to ourselves and others.

That negative voice so many of us have that says, I’m not good enough…I suck at this…I should have done ________ instead…I’m not lovable, worthy, or _______…Self-compassion - little by little - challenges and extinguishes these fiery (and untrue) beliefs. In sitting meditation, we can short-circuit these narrowing beliefs by simply ceasing to add to them or entertain them in any way.

When and where does your negative self-talk tend to come up? Can you meet that voice with gentle words of kindness? Is there a need for forgiveness to break down those walls around the heart? What about a simple, intentional wish for happiness?

In my experience, the deeper I have gone with heart practices, both in everyday life and in sitting meditation, the more connected I have felt to my inherent wholeness, and thus, the wholeness of others around me.

And we don’t have to wait until we are holding a newborn baby or looking up at Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. We can feel our own perfection right here, right now. When else could it happen? Where else could it happen?

Choice-less Awareness

One of my favorite practices. Here are the pithy instructions given by meditation teacher, Shinzen Young: “Let whatever happens, happen. When you notice the intention to control your attention, drop the intention.” Again, easier said than done. But in a world of constant doing, what a relief to give ourselves permission to do nothing!

In this practice, there is no object of meditation deliberately chosen (like the breath, the body, a mantra, or a vast sky). Whatever arises in awareness arises, whatever passes away, passes, without any interruption or interaction from the one meditating.

In my experience, five key things occur on their own during this practice. (1) The perceived boundary between body and mind breaks down. (2) The perceived boundary between inside and outside breaks down. (3) Concentration improves, expands, and deepens. (4) Egotism decreases. And (5) the ability to accept things as they are improves greatly (equanimity).


So, if we are whole, complete, perfect, innately good, then why do I so often NOT feel that way? Why do I so often feel flawed, like a broken down car that constantly needs tune-ups and new parts?

It bears repeating: We can NOT think our way into believing we are fundamentally whole. This is not a journey of the intellect. It is a path of attention, awareness, and heart. This path recognizes and breaks down the barriers of unskillful habits that keep us from waking up to our fundamental wholeness. The practice then becomes a continual (re)discovery of what is already here. With time, short moments of wholeness lead to longer moments, which lead to more frequent ones.

When Else Could it Happen?

Innate goodness is not something that is cultivated, created, gained, or even strengthened, though, our sincere efforts will make it more readily accessible. Likewise, it is not something we attain by, say, winning an award, gaining the approval of others, or earning a six-figure salary.

Such accolades may bring happiness, but wholeness is not the same as happiness. It is something that has always been with us since the day that we were born. It is only that the obscurations of intellect, afflictive emotions, and traumas have obscured this wholeness from us.

If we are serious about being happy, increasing our well-being, we have to look first at what (inside of us) is getting in the way. In the process, we have to be willing to become best friends with ourselves. We have to be willing to open our hearts so much that it hurts.

This, I believe, is how we can glimpse what the contemplative masters of the past have been telling us all along. But we don’t need to become Zen masters or Indian eccentrics to understand this.

And we don’t have to wait until we are holding a newborn baby or looking up at Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. We can feel our own perfection right here and right now. When else could it happen? Where else could it happen?

American writer and modern-day contemplative Byron Katie, poignantly reminds us: “Just keep coming home to yourself, you are the one who you’ve been waiting for.”


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