Kaizen means “improvement” in Japanese, and this word gained worldwide usage when Toyota established it as a key part of their workflow process. In that context the meaning specifies “continual improvement”. Everything and everyone has room to grow, clarify, correct, and become more effective. We all have the power, authority, and reason to make those improvements in ourselves and the world around us, for as long as we live.
You might wonder what this could possibly have to do with Demons; we assert that our purposeful exercise of that power, exalted by aesthetic and ritual, makes potent spirit creatures of us.
First we set a higher bar. We want to sleep better at night and live better while awake. We want our actions to have greater positive effect. Each of us wants to feel respected, appreciated, and desired; yet we also want to fulfill ourselves in those ways without needing external validation. Just as importantly, we want other people to feel that way too.
Even if you think you don’t deserve to “want” so much, try reaching for it anyway. Even if sabotage and disappointment have plagued your life, to the point that such a high bar of respect and desire seems like a pipe dream, you have the power to make one small change after another that will eventually add up to a less awful experience.
Secondly we catch ourselves whenever we slip up, and correct our course back to the direction we wanted. Bruce Lee said “mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.” We own our missteps honestly and openly, and we apologize or make reparations as needed. That does not indicate any weakness — in fact it takes a truly strong person to do so and then follow it up with positive change. That follow-up exemplifies kaizen.
The sincerity of our admission will show in whatever we do next. Redressing a bad move doesn’t mean just saying “sorry”, out of guilt or resented obligation, like a child; it means learning a better course of action to take instead, and taking it.
Ideally we will correct our path on a regular -even frequent- basis. Everyone loses their compassion momentarily, like when tired or hungry or stuck in traffic. Everyone has buttons that get pushed. We all make biased snap judgments that turn out wrong. That’s no big deal, assuming of course you didn’t kill or or seriously injure someone in that moment. What we do about it, how we clean up our mess, makes a much bigger difference.
A mindful approach means we witness all of this striving and slipping without passing judgment. We observe, decide how to do it better, and keep moving. When driving, if your car drifts a bit to one side of the lane, you simply adjust your steering, you do not freak out. Life requires continual steering adjustments. You don’t need to feel bad about any part of this.
By the same token, everyone else who tries their best to do the right thing will also slip up, and it serves no purpose to shame them for it. Too many “social justice warriors” hold each other to impossible purity tests, and ostracize anyone who fails to keep up some absurd level of performed perfection at all times. Not only does their particular cause suffer from the infighting, but the individuals involved in it become fearful and unable to work together, which critically hobbles the entire population of supposed “warriors” for positive change. We need to have compassion for each other, even when one of us screws up, in order to achieve our goals.
Demonkind continually grow and change. We dump apathy into the nearest waste bin, it does not serve us. A path of kaizen and mindfulness guides us to better things, no matter where we start.