Many of our greatest minds understood this. Renowned painter Salvador Dali advised, "Have no fear of perfection, you'll never reach it." Philosopher Immanuel Kant noted, "Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made." If these great icons understood that perfection is not possible, why do we continue to admonish ourselves for not being perfect? To transform our lives, we must liberate ourselves from the myth of perfection. American football legend Vince Lombardi proclaimed, "Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence." This famous coach knew that it was the pursuit that led to excellence. To transform our lives, we must focus on our direction, not our destination. We hold ourselves to impossible standards of perfection, and then disparage ourselves when we don't live up to them. It seems that no matter how hard we try, no matter how successful we are -- it's never enough. So, what do we do? We try harder, work more, push, strive, and judge. Our efforts make the hamster wheel of life spin faster and faster. This pursuit of perfection leaves us feeling inadequate, exhausted, lonely, and besieged by a sense of deficiency. Paradoxically, the harder we try to find happiness by living up to some ideal of perfection, the more elusive real peace, happiness, and connection become. We lose touch with what matters, with what is deepest in ourselves, which is the true source of peace and transformation. All we see is that we're not measuring up. Dispirited and defeated, we give up. I remember one cold winter's day when it seemed the rain would never stop, and my mood seemed just as dreary. Wrapped in a shawl, I was sitting on my therapist's couch, recalling yet again some incident in which I had been reactive and impatient -- not the calm and loving meditation teacher I'd hoped to be. "Why aren't I improving?" I asked him. He looked at me and said, "Shauna, life is not a self-improvement project." I almost fell off the couch. I suddenly realized that my whole life had been focused on self-improvement: an endless quest for some future state of perfection where I would finally be loveable, and I could finally rest.

Worse, I realized I was using my mindfulness practice as one more measuring stick that would inevitably show me falling short. If you do eat animal protein, I recommend steering clear of too much red meat, and filling up instead on fish like wild salmon and mackerel, which are full of omega-3 fatty acids (remember, getting enough fat is crucial for glowing skin!). Tuna, salmon, and shellfish like lobster and crabs are also full of selenium, which, along with vitamin E, helps keep your skin smooth and free of wrinkles. Your skin is composed of 30 percent water, so it figures that if you don't drink enough water, your skin will suffer, right? Yes, but the issue of dehydration and how it affects your skin is more complicated than you might think. First off, dry skin is not the same as dehydrated skin. Dryness means you were born with fewer oil-producing glands, so your skin doesn't produce enough sebum. When you don't have enough oil in your skin, you don't have a strong protective barrier against environmental stressors, and your skin doesn't retain moisture as well as it should. That's why it may look dull, flaky, or rough. Dehydration is a lack of water in your skin, not oil. Your skin can become dehydrated as a result of environmental stress (like not using a humidifier while you sleep in the cold, dry winter), improper use of products (like not using enough moisturizer) or using the wrong products (such as a drying soap), excessive caffeine or alcohol intake, or--you guessed it--not drinking enough water. Dehydrated skin can appear red, inflamed, or irritated and, when pinched, may not bounce back or may tent up in a wrinkly shape. It also may be oily or congested, because your skin produces excess oil to compensate for the lack of water. Because blood vessels constrict when the body doesn't have enough water, the skin may appear ashen, and you may have chapped lips and dark circles under your eyes. If your skin is rough and flaky, though, it's probably because of internal inflammation or, less likely, dryness--not because of dehydration. Research on the effects of drinking water on your skin is somewhat limited, but one study, published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, compared images taken with a sonogram and concluded that adequate water intake improves the skin's thickness and density. The study also showed that proper hydration improves the skin's ability to retain water and helps prevent it from losing water. Hydrated skin cells swell, which makes the skin look plumper, thus reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. But does adequate hydration actually reverse the aging process? Not really.

You need more than that. For example, if your skin is dehydrated, you should exfoliate to clear dead skin cells and make way for new cells that can retain moisture. You should use a heavier moisturizer--especially on top of a serum--and try products with hyaluronic acid, which helps your skin hold more moisture. To illustrate for Hanna the importance of forgiveness, I threw down an ~ing metaphor. I compared her reluctance to forgive to waterskiing--the wrong way. As anyone who has tried it can tell you, the first rule of waterskiing is: If you fall, immediately let go of the rope. I first tried waterskiing on Copake Lake, traveling to up-state New York for a day of instruction for my ~ing girl radio segment. I started off great. I tugged along and willfully managed to stand up on my first try. I loved the feeling of flying over the water with the breeze and the spray hitting my face so much that I never wanted it to end. So once I was up, I was unwilling to let go of the rope. Even when I began to lose control, I gripped the rope tightly and tried to continue skiing. My waterskiing buddies who were watching from the boat were screaming, "Let go of the rope!" But I didn't listen. The boat dragged me along, and even though my arms felt like they were being pulled from their sockets, I refused to let go. The waves were smacking me in the face and crashing over my head. My legs were trembling, and I felt battered and bruised. It would have been easy to blame any number of things for my predicament--the speed of the boat, my equipment, the chop-piness of the water. But the truth was, I was my own obstacle that day. After succumbing to the pain in my arms, I finally let go of the rope. And once I released it, I found myself floating freely and 47 peacefully in the water.

I lay back and floated in the middle of the warm lake, fully supported by my life preserver. Happiness and relief washed over me. Holding on to old resentments, habits and situations is just like being dragged along by a powerboat. You might think it's your boyfriend, your mother, your company, your childhood, your friends or your circumstances that are creating whatever state you're stuck in. But you have more power than you realize, or maybe than you're willing to admit. Hanna dug my metaphor, but I could tell she still wasn't totally buyin' what I was sellin'. She understood that forgiveness would lead to release, but she was still unclear on where to begin. Stuck and a bit confused, she blurted, "This is going to require a miracle!" I replied, "That's exactly what it will take!" In response to this I busted out a quote from A Course in Miracles: "Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love." I explained that the miracle of forgiveness stems from an inner shift rather than an outer result. Through the expression of love rather than negativity and fear, the miracle will arise. When you choose to forgive, you release the person and choose a peaceful state of mind over your old chaotic way of thinking. The miracle happens when you change your mind. Though many amazing conditions can result on the outside from the shift, the true miracle occurs on the inside. Thus, each time you forgive someone, you are choosing love over fear and shifting your perception. In Hanna's case, if she wanted to experience more freedom from her family, she had to do her part to set them free in her mind. This concept was tough for her to grasp; therefore, I asked Hanna to let go of the how and start to allow. Basically, what I meant by this was "chill out and ~ing it." In spite of her initial resistance, Hanna was willing to test-48 drive the Equation and see what this "experiencing miracles" business was all about. By committing thirty days to the Forgiv ing Equation, she learned to perceive her family in a much different way. Through her commitment to forgiv ing, Hanna came to realize that a need to forgive is merely a call for love. When you carry resentment, it is a sure sign that there is love missing from the situation.

The forgiv ing process is designed to teach you that the ego's refusal to forgive is based on illusory perceptions. It feeds off of fear from the past and recreates it in the present. In Hanna's case, she was continuing to replay her fearful memories from childhood into her present. Each time her family invited her to Friday night dinner, she thought she would be sucked back into her old life-- even though today that story no longer existed. It only existed in her mind. By forgiving her family for their past behavior, Hanna was able to let go of the old story. She stopped playing the victim. And she began to experience her relationships with the members of her family for what they are today rather than what they were fifteen years ago. With the slightest willingness, you will receive change. Today you have two choices where forgiveness is concerned: One, continue to be angry and miserable, or two, forgive, let go and be happy. Forgiveness leads to joy and peace of mind. The joy may come right away as an overwhelming feeling of relief or a moment of compassion and genuine love. Or it may take you a while to feel the shift. You might recognize this sense of joy and peace when something happens that would normally bother you greatly, but in that instance, it doesn't faze you at all. For example, after Hanna committed thirty days to the Equation, she noticed that her family hadn't changed much, but her feelings toward them and how she felt when she was with 49 them had changed. Her family's expectations and backhanded remarks that used to make her crazy no longer affected her emotionally. She was able to release them in the moment and was immediately restored to a state of peace. As a result of Hanna's peaceful reactions, her family slowly began to shift their attitude too. In time, everyone was choosing to love rather than attack. Obviously, drinking enough water is important for your overall health.