Falling Flat on Our Face

In these words of wisdom from Kristin Neff, we learn that falling flat on our face may not be a bad thing. She says that this is how we learn.

Thomas Edison is famous for inventing the light bulb, but did you know that he had 10,000 failures? He said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

In this regard, when we think we are falling flat on our face in our meditation practice, we are also still practicing. We are also testing light bulbs. There is no way to fail at meditation as long as we continue to practice. All we need is a little self-compassion.

“Imperfection also makes growth possible. Like it or not, the main way we learn is by falling flat on our face, just as we did when we first learned to walk. Our parents may tell us a million times not to touch that hot stove, but it’s only after we actually burn ourselves that we really understand why it’s not such a great idea. The learning opportunities provided by failure can actually help us to achieve our dreams. In the words of restaurateur Wolfgang Puck, “I learned more from the one restaurant that didn’t work than from all the ones that were successes.” Yes, failure is frustrating. But it’s also temporary and eventually yields wisdom. We can think of failure as part of life’s apprenticeship. If we were perfect and had all the answers, we’d never get to ask questions, and we wouldn’t be able to discover anything new.”
~ Kristin Neff from Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself

Kristin Neff

Cultivating self-compassion is what Kristen Neff is teaching us to do. When we do this, we recognize that there is no success or failure when it comes to meditation, so long as we practice diligently. I tell my students that it is more important to practice regularly than to not practice because they fear they are not doing it right.

When I failed my oral exams over course work in physics at the University of Chicago, I felt no remorse. I was so choked up that I couldn’t even answer a simple question. My mind when blank of all the physics I had learned over the past six years of graduate school. Somehow, it allowed me to get off the treadmill that I thought I was on. It enabled me to study, practice, and observe the wisdom teachings of East and West. I think I am a better person for it.

Can you think of a time when felt that you were falling flat on your face? What did that failure lead to in your life? Please share in a few words what your experience was.

Books by Kristin Neff

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself

Kristin Neff

Kristin Neff, Ph.D., says that it’s time to “stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity behind.” Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind offers expert advice on how to limit self-criticism and offset its negative effects, enabling you to achieve you… [Read More…]

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