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You, and your spiritual practice, are perfect just as they are.

If you read that and rolled your eyes, you’ve got some work to do.

We live in a culture of criticism. Our moms told us to stop sucking our thumbs; our teachers circled (in red!) every mistake we made; our friends and the media constantly remind us that few people are sufficiently thin or attractive; and every time we leave a movie, the first question we’re asked is, “What did you think?”

So it isn’t surprising that we fall into the habit of judging ourselves. What’s more, we constantly judge our progress as we amble down our sometimes rocky spiritual path. If we had a terrible meditation—or heaven forbid, didn’t meditate at all—or haven’t been to a yoga class in ages, we beat ourselves up. If we get angry or agitated at other people, we question whether we’ve made any spiritual gains at all.

I recognize this spiritual sabotage because I’ve done it myself. But when you think about why we’re trying to live spiritually in the first place, this makes as much sense as cutting off a flower bud because it hasn’t yet showed us its bloom.

The goal for spiritual seekers is to spend as much time as possible connected to your highest essence. That essence is pure love, acceptance, appreciation and bliss. Anyone who has touched that state, whether in meditation, gardening, running, or staring at a beach at sunset, viscerally knows this. But whenever you criticize and judge yourself, you sharply disconnect from that.

I was reading an article on meditation the other day. The author suggested sitting first thing after you wake up for whatever time you can spare, focusing on whatever word or object appeals to you. Her flexible approach inspired me, especially since a few weeks earlier I had decided to add a morning meditation to my more regular evening one, but I hadn’t been too consistent.

Then the woman stated that in 30 years of morning meditations, she has never missed a session. Immediately, I had to fight the urge to judge myself as lacking, because that’s not even close to a standard I can achieve. I finally reminded myself that even in a “five or ten minute, on-again-off-again, whenever I remember” practice hooks me up with my source, while berating myself for not doing better doesn’t aid my spiritual growth at all.

What I’m learning is that the truest state of grace is to accept, embrace, and adore yourself regardless of where you are in a given moment. Screamed at your kid? Ignored your partner? Screwed up at work? Can’t remember the last time you nurtured your spiritual side? So what. The instant you make all that okay, you immediately plug in.

The next time you find yourself ready to pull the self-judgment trigger, tell yourself that this moment—and you—are perfect just as they are. Love yourself, including your missteps and unspiritual behaviors. That doesn’t mean you can’t do better. In actuality, it means you’re now on the way.

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Meryl Davids Landau is the author of the new spiritual women's novel, Downward Dog, Upward Fog, recommended by the Yoga Journal and Everything Yoga blogs as a fun, uplifting read. Science of Mind's national newsletter says, "[main character] Lorna's struggles are sure to resonate with anyone on the path of conscious awareness." An award-winning writer, Meryl has been published in O, the Oprah magazine, Reader's Digest, Huffington Post and Whole Living. She is also a certified yoga teacher.

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