You do not have to be good

 

sunflowers by yovkoSatya writes: All week my husband has been on Buddhist business in India.

I had planned a solitary retreat day on Monday. I had it all worked out – virtuous food, no television, reading holy books, gazing wistfully into the distance as I contemplated the great mysteries of life… you know the sort of thing.

Here’s how my retreat day actually looked. Glued to email and Facebook. Far too many muffins. Trashy television (I’m ashamed to tell you what I watched). Agitated. In denial. To bed too late, fizzing with caffeine from all the chocolate I’d guzzled. 

Before I went to bed I emailed Kaspa a long confession, detailing the extent of my failure. When I woke in the morning he’d sent me a single line. 

“You don’t have to be good.”

We think we do. We think that in order to be acceptable, we need to try harder. Do more spiritual practice. Be nicer. Build up multiple passive income streams. Post more beautiful photos of our beautiful lives on Facebook. Get rid of all those snitty and mean-spirited thoughts. Work out every last psychological tangle. Improve improve improve!

We don’t have to try and be good. We just need to notice what is there, offer it up, and turn towards the light. 

We can be curious too – that helps. Oh, I’m eating another muffin. Oh, I seem unable to stop myself from checking my email. What is that about? Does this relate to the dream I had last night where there was garbage covered over with plastic? 

What process am I currently engaged in? Where is my soul heading? How can I be kind to it as it transforms? How can I be more patient, more understanding?

Oh, I’m checking email again. There’s a feeling in my stomach too. Is it loneliness?

Let me remind you – real change is slow. Deep down transformation – not the change of affirmations and stuck-on smiles. For it to happen, we need to get out of the way. It’s counter-intuitive, I know. But it’s a great relief. We can hand it all over, and get on with the job in front of us. Do the washing up. Call a friend. Write in your journal. Weed the garden. Chop wood, carry water. 

In the meantime, you do not have to be good.

True grace comes when we let go of this endless self-building project and allow the love of the universe to enter us. It’s just there – take your eyes off yourself for a minute and you’ll start to feel it.

Deep bow _/\_

(PS This post is from my archives, but it feels like it could have happened last week! Change is slow… and change has happened.)

(PPS If you’d like to practice letting go, we’ll be offering Writing Ourselves Alive, our self-study e-course, for half price at the end of Feb – watch this space.)

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And here is Mary Oliver reading the beautiful poem from which the title of this email is taken. Much gratitude to her, for her luminous and loving presence in the world. 

Comments & replies

22 thoughts on “You do not have to be good

  1. r

    Thanks, that was just what I needed to hear! Having returned from lovely 2 week retreat in Wales i couldn’t resist watching tv for about 2 hours a day for first 2 days. Felt uncomfortable about it but enjoyed it too! Not doing it today as busy with other thingsn seeing friends.
    Like the advice about ‘getting ourselves out of the way’ , I sense it’s the right way to go
    And be patient in the meantime.!

    Reply
    1. Satya Robyn Post author

      Glad it was what you needed. And just to be clear I’ve nothing against trashy telly – definitely has its place! Just not, for me, when I’m using it to avoid other things or in a way that isn’t actually enjoyable… Yes, lots of patience required! Happy landing.

      Reply
  2. Daphne Radenhurst

    Thanks again, Satya, for another timely message. I love your humour and your honesty, and the fact that you express just what we all do. Yesterday I watched a German biopic, Rosamond Pilcher, for two hours and felt vaguely guilty. I am going to watch the conclusion today. (But I am not going to feel guilty about it). After the film I made some brown sugar fudge, which I started guzzling, but managed to stop myself. I hope to enjoy it piece by piece, or perhaps give some away. It seems these tussles never end, whatever age we have reached. Never mind, it means that we are still alive and striving.

    Reply
  3. JulesPaige

    We do have to please ourselves first. That adage of helping yourself first so you can be fit to help others comes to mind too. But really my question is why does it take so long to learn to say ‘no’. We don’t have to say yes to every task or request set before us. Pleasing other people is fine and dandy – but if you aren’t happy with yourself that feeling will translate to a half done job. Or at least one done with half a heart.

    One doesn’t have to be taken advantage of to be a good person. Sometimes that extra muffin and checking on our friends through modern social media is the little boost our self confidence needs to help us on our way.

    Be well and enjoy the sunsets, sun rises and the time you take to stop and smell the roses…and muffins 🙂

    Reply
  4. Exploding Mary

    After a stressful week’s beginning with my in-laws, who are lovely in many ways but don’t respect my rights in my own house, followed by a crazed session with my critique group, I settled down to do my morning pages today seething inside, unable to focus, unable to let go the fact that I had only reacted adequately to all of these challenges, instead of perfectly. I had managed, but not brilliantly.

    Your message is right on time. It’s a great mantra, in fact, one I shall adopt for daily use. “You do not have to be good.” Thank you, hope you have a peaceful day, too.

    Reply
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  7. Tamsin Grainger

    Great, thanks. Beautifully written and apt. I was just this minute saying to my lodger ‘wow! it’s 8pm. I sat down to mark homework and instead wrote my blog for 3 hours – where did that time go? Why didn’t I mark homework as I was supposed to?’ Here’s to watching my soul transform in its own, special way! 🙂

    Reply

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