November 20, 2017.
While trying to fight off an illness that had me coughing, tired and without much use of my vocal cords, I found myself watching that comforting cooking show “The Great British Bake Off” (called “The Great British Baking Show” in the U.S.). Rewatching episodes that had seen me through recovery after a surgery on my foot, something new caught my attention this time around. Finalist Kimberley Wilson, during an earlier episode, mentions the Japanese word “kaizen” and explains it as “continuous small improvements,” saying that you can always be just a little bit better. This is an oversimplification of the concept, but it’s not too far off, and it was her attitude that caught my attention. Kimberley was happy about getting accolades, allowing celebration, but she knew that she wasn’t finished learning all she could as a baker. This caught my attention because it so mirrored the perspective I hope to bring to my own life, whether it’s learning a new skill, polishing something I’m confident about or how I approach spiritual practice.
Some days, just showing up is a small improvement. As I ease into the task or practice, I can notice the continuous shifts toward adding deeper understanding. Allowing myself to celebrate where I am without allowing myself to get stagnant. This permits a fluidity to life and abundant awareness of the life that’s right here – gentle-yet-strong, caring attention that lifts up where I am and notices where I might go.
It is so tempting to try and take big leaps or turn life around all in one go, and some things require an all-or-nothing approach. But for the most part, we humans aren’t meant to always be “on.” As with many of the burdens of society, the stress of pushing for changes that are life-affirming has fallen to those who are already pushing. What amazing shifts could we bring if we all took on the idea of continuous, small improvements? Celebrating what is, knowing we can awaken to more. Would that allow some of the larger burdens to shift?
May we all breathe and feel the life that is here now.
May we make continuous, small improvements, with care, so large shifts can happen.
If you’re a fan of “The Great British Bake Off,” may you be free of soggy bottoms.