It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. This is my new mantra. It started when I read these words in a book written by a vegan on eating less meat. It was a light turning on and it has been reverberating in me ever since, quietly asserting its influence like the ripples of a stone tossed into a silent lake.
I would have quit trying to eat less meat by now without this wise mantra. I would have given up with a shrug of unsurprised disappointment in myself and my lack of conviction, self-control and integrity. I would have chalked it up to another failure to add to my list of perceived inadequacies. But instead, I remind myself gently that learning to eat less meat is a very good thing, that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If I eat meat from time to time, I am still mostly vegetarian. I am still doing real good for the environment, for the creatures themselves, for my own peace of mind. I am on the path, even if I haven’t gotten to where I never eat meat or it’s by-products.
And it ripples outward. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing is beginning to touch more areas of my life and thinking.
I dropped one of my internet classes. Before this mantra, I doubt I would have had the sense to do that. I would have forced myself to take a class I wasn’t really all that interested in and that looked to be an awful lot of work just to prove that I was able to work and do school full-time. To drop the class would have felt like failing. But instead, I feel a tremendous sense of relief because I know it was the right choice for me. Now I can concentrate on the other 3 classes, each of which I am enjoying. I’ve been chanting this mantra often regarding the grading to come because receiving less than an A was not acceptable to me in the past. I’d like to let go of that type of “all or nothing” mentality there, as well, so that I can be more relaxed and study for the sheer joy of learning.
This new mantra manifested as I was considering how to be more disciplined about having yoga practice each morning. I decided to begin doing a short 10 or 15 minute practice. Not too challenging, doing the postures I most enjoy. Getting back into the feel of my body, back into listening to what it needs and wants from the practice. This has been a real breakthrough for me. Not feeling like I must have an hour with challenging postures to be satisfied has set me free to enjoy yoga again. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
I wonder how many things I’ve not done, not even tried for fear of not being able immediately to do them and do them well? It doesn’t have to be all or nothing gives me permission to fail, to be lousy at things, to suck for a bit until I get my feet under me. What freedom! It feels like taking a deep breath of crisp mountain air after a lifetime of shallow city breathing.
Sogyal Rinpoche said, “Learning to live is learning to let go”. I am learning to let go of my perfectionism and fear of failure in all of its permutations. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing has made me feel as light as a cloud and as hopeful as a child.