I feel like a failure. For years I have been meditating, going to temple, reading books. and more recently reading your blog and advice column. In many respects my life has changed a lot during this time. I have found much peace and happiness. However, it frequently happens that I am not aware when my ego-mind arises and so I don’t stop and return to my breathing, etc., and am left with yet another teachable moment when I meditate the next day.
I know you’ve written why this keeps on happening, and yet I can’t help feeling a failure. And I have hurt people I love and care deeply about because of my ego-mind’s interference with listening deeply and speaking with loving kindness.
Feel Like a Failure
Dear Feel Like a Failure,
If you are practicing daily and following the suggestions I have made, there is little more you can do to stop the constant activity of your ego-mind. This is part of our suffering. And as with all aspects of our suffering, you need to have unconditional love and compassion for yourself. You are not a failure in any sense of the word ... forgetting for the moment that that is a cultural label which should be excised from your mental vocabulary.
Perfection is not something that is realistic or even healthy to strive for. All you can do is the best that you can. Take comfort in the fact that a teacher as learned and esteemed as Pima Chodron has moments when her ego-mind arises and takes control, and certainly lesser teachers such as myself experience this frequently.
What I would suggest, however, in the type of situation you describe ... where you feel you have harmed someone ... is consider making amends to that person, apologize for not listening deeply and not speaking with loving kindness. Unless you sense that making such an apology would make the other person feel very awkward or in some other way would be discomfiting, making amends is a good spiritual practice.