Our Sad History at Self-Improvement

Compare the serene and simple splendor of a rose in bloom with the tensions and restlessness of your life. The rose has a gift that we tend to lack: It is perfectly content to be itself. It has not been programmed from birth, as you have been, to be dissatisfied with itself, so it has not the slightest urge to be anything other than it is.

That is why it possesses the artless grace and absence of inner conflict that among humans is only found in little children and mystics. Only the adult human being is able to be one thing and pretend to be another.

Think of the sad history of your efforts at self-improvement, that either ended in disaster or succeeded only at the cost of struggle and pain. You are always dissatisfied with yourself, always wanting to change yourself, always wanting more. So, you are full of violence and self-intolerance which only grows with every effort that you make to change yourself. Thus, any change you achieve is always accompanied by inner conflict.

Now suppose you desisted from all efforts to change yourself, and from all self-dissatisfaction, would you then be doomed to go to sleep having passively accepted everything in you and around you?

There is another way besides laborious self-pushing on the one hand and stagnant acceptance on the other. It is the way of self-understanding. This is far from easy because to understand what you are requires complete freedom from all desire to change what you are into something else.

You will see this if you compare the attitude of a scientist who studies the habits of ants without the slightest desire to change them.  He has no other aim. He’s not attempting to train them or get anything out of them. He’s interested in ants; he wants to learn as much as possible about them. That’s his attitude.

The day you attain a posture like that, you will experience a miracle. You will change — effortlessly, correctly. Change will happen, you will not have to bring it about. If what you attempt is not to change yourself but to observe yourself, to study every one of your reactions to people and things, without judgment or condemnation or desire to reform yourself, your observation will be nonselective, comprehensive, never fixed on rigid conclusions, always open and fresh from moment to moment.  Then you will notice a marvelous thing happening within you: You will be flooded with the light of awareness; you will become transparent and transformed.