I was recently reminded of an important concept that we all too often block out in favor of surfacing and projecting the positive experiences in life. The concept - explored by the Tantrics thousands of years ago during their own yogic journey - is that without negative experiences, we would have no non-negative, or "positive" experiences. We may never find love because we wouldn't know what it meant to have our hearts broken. We may never experience pleasure because we wouldn't know the sorrow of pain. And, we may never feel the joy of laughter without knowing the sadness of despair.
In order to find the "non-negatives," we recognize the negatives for what they are, honor them for their existence and meaning in our world, then - with loving acceptance and forgiveness for the experience - let them go. If we stuff the negatives away into a place where they can never again be found, our "positive" emotions - or outward display of perfection - become almost forced. Our friends no longer recognize us for who we are, but rather the story we tell the world. Our "happy place" becomes a farce.
In yoga, we spend a lot of time searching for our "happy place," be it in a posture, the breath, or the mind. When you notice the breath and the mind start to wander even during the easiest of poses, it is not that you are suddenly imperfect. Rather, you have found your own perfection just by noticing the distraction, acknowledging it, then welcoming the breath and the mind back to the present moment. It does not matter if you have to do this 10 times or 100 times - your redirection is your own perfection.
Off the mat, when we claim that there is no such thing as perfection, we are casting off the negative in favor of the non-negative in order to disassociate from the judgment and standards of what perfection means. Yet, perfection exists. We are always seeking it out: the perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect mate. What we lose in this definition of perfection is the concept that it is not defined by that which surrounds us but rather by that which is in us. Finding your own true definition of perfection - your perfect job, your perfect house, your perfect mate - free from outside influences that tell you what it should be, is no different from definining your purpose and path in life.
The next time you hear someone say "there is no such thing as perfection," allow it to be what it is: a declaration about their view on the world and a choice to deflect the "negative." Then, stay open to what perfection means to you. If you have found your own stride at home, at work, or maybe in your yoga practice - welcome that in as your own perfection and rejoice! You need not broadcast it to the world, lest you begin to shape someone else's definition of perfection. Revel in the experience of achieving your goals, understand that there may come a time when you might wish to redefine your perfection - know that it is okay - and welcome your new "non-negative perfection" in.