The Principle of Perfect Fullness
When I was a child, I had a board game called Perfection. It was a plastic puzzle board, and the object was to fit 25 plastic pieces of all different shapes into their place on the board within a certain amount of time. ‘Perfection’ was getting everything in its place before time ran out because if you ran out of time, then the board would blow up and pieces would shoot out all over the place. So the message I got from that game was: “Achieve perfection or your world will blow apart!”
In our achievement-oriented culture many of us are striving for perfection in our appearance, our work, even in our leisure and relaxation. This achievement mentality often leaves us feeling that if we’re not going to be able to get it perfect, why bother? Even in yoga we find ourselves striving to achieve the ‘perfect’ pose, and if our hamstrings are tight or our shoulders are stiff then we think we can’t do yoga.
I’m a big fan of alignment in yoga for a number of reasons, but none of them have to do with outer form. Having perfect form in a pose doesn’t bring you any more fulfilment than having the perfect house, the perfect job, or the perfect nose. Making a nice shape on your mat doesn’t make you a better yogi any more than wearing the perfect outfit makes you a better person. When we think of perfection at the relative level, it means ‘without flaw’, but there is a kind of perfection that embraces our so-called flaws and speaks to a fullness that emanates from within. Perfection is an inside job.
This is the definition of perfection we find in yoga philosophy. Inspired by tonight’s full moon and by some recent challenges in my own life, I’m revisiting the concept of Purnatva, or ‘The Principle of Fullness and Perfection’ (purna =fullness/perfection, tva=principle). This fullness or completeness is the experience of feeling perfectly content; of receiving exactly what is needed, no more or no less, in any given moment. It is a sense of having enough, the feeling of being in flow; supported, relaxed, at home. Perfect fullness is not something to strive for, and it does not depend on our circumstance. Purnatva exists at the very core of who we are, even when we aren’t feeling it.
Purnatva is the concept that life is full and perfect as it is. There are no accidents, no mistakes. This principle means that you are work in progress, that expansion is always happening, and that the present moment, even the uncomfortable present moment, is exactly as it’s meant to be. It’s easy to trust this principle when you’re feeling joyful or fulfilled, but can you accept that when you feel frustration or lack this might also be the principle of fullness and perfection at work? When times are challenging we have a tendency to view ourselves or our lives as defective or incomplete. But there’s a trust in the process and a quality of attention you can cultivate that will allow you to remember that you are always perfectly full, no matter what kind of moment you are in.
We use both internal and external cues to help us to savour the fullness of our experience. One of the greatest gifts of a yoga practice over time is that our intuition and inner sensitivity become more refined and we fall into step with the rhythms of our experience with less resistance. Yoga doesn’t change you. But the process of yoga, of connecting deeply with ourselves and with life as it is, ensures that we keep on the path of becoming more fully who we are.
Photo: Pete Longworth