It's very rare to be in a state where there's nothing in, where you have no attachment to any idea or concept about yourself. In that state you've immediately raised the mind of compassion, because if nothing is in, everything is in, and you are now free to experience yourself as the world.
I always have this red nose in my pocket, and if it looks like I'm taking things too seriously, or the person I'm talking to is taking them too seriously, I put the nose on. It doesn't matter what we're doing or talking about, it doesn't matter if we agree or disagree, the nose changes everything.
When you care about perfection, you care about an expectation. But there is also caring for where I am right now, for what's happening right now. When I spend time with students, they tell me that they've read something in a book or heard something from a teacher that they don't think they're living up to. And I tell them, “Take care of yourself right now. Befriend what's happening, not just who you're supposed to be or what the world should be like. This is where you are now. So how do you care for yourself this minute?
Sometimes you come to a fall and sometimes you come to white water. Your rowing has to adapt to the situation. You can't do the same stroke coming down a small stream as you would coming down Niagara Falls. Even if you're only rowing down a stream, different things happen: maybe the wind changes, maybe the current, and suddenly everything's different. So gently is really important. Don't power yourself or blast through; rock with the way things are.