Wonderfully wonky by design

Here, and in coming articles, Jen Ayres reflects on her experience in ZL1 in the French Alps – November 2019

Sitting zazen (zen meditation) on the final morning of last month’s Zen Leader 1 program, one thought kept dragging me out of my count: wonky vegetables. 

A 2017 report estimated that 25% of apples grown in the UK are wasted for cosmetic reasons, yet 4 million children in the UK were thought to be undernourished due to food poverty last year. Somebody decided that only straight carrots were appealing and completely altered our view of what a carrot should look like. If we can reject something picked straight from nature because it doesn’t fit a particular mould, our desire for perfection has reached truly ridiculous heights.

This is what kept pulling my mind away during zazen. The topic of perfectionism had come up a number of times over the weekend in relation to how damaging it is to our sense of achievement and self-esteem. In this driving need to be better, have we lost the art of being ourselves?

When I wince at my own behavior, it’s usually because I’ve been trying too hard. Trying to hide the chips, cracks and misshapen bits that create the person I really am. Maybe instead of striving for the remastered version of myself, I should trust that I was made this way for a reason. When I look at the people I love and respect, it’s often their idiosyncrasies (and mine), the bits that are uniquely ours that have created the genuine connection between us.

I left the Alps determined to relax into being myself. To do this, whilst striving to minimise any negative impact I have on others, I simply need to remember some core advice from Ginny: 

breathe, listen and feel the rhythm

Six weeks later and I’m really starting to feel the benefits – less stress, more openness and joy, and more connection with others. It’s a great place to be as we enter the craziness of December! 

Wishing you a relaxing end to the year and a wonderful start to the new year.

Jen x

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