LEAVING OURSELVES ALONE
September 17, 2010 § 1 Comment
People often talk about living in a ‘state of grace’.
To me, on this day, that means loving what one does.
We all have things we love to do, those creative acts which bring us joy and fulfillment. For many of us, those passions have turned into career pursuits, carrying with them dreams, ambitions, goals. For others, these passions may never turn into lifelong professions, instead residing only in our private lives. Lastly, there are many, I suspect way too many, who simply yearn to do something but never take the first step.
The question is, outside of our everyday responsibilities which of course have to be met, why is it that we don’t always do what we love to do, engaging in those activities which consistently lift our spirit and give us the most joy? It is a given that at times our concentration and focus will become captured by other, more pressing concerns- if we are tackling issues of our very survival, for instance. But in the absence of obstacles to our self-expression and the practice of the rituals and tasks we love to do, why should we avoid them? Why should we resist their silent call to us? We all know that voice , that whispers crazy things to us, that urges us to expand, to express and propel our unique ideas, thoughts and feelings out into the world. This is the same voice that has inspired your greatest heroes in their respective fields to go out into society and make their singular contribution.
From what I can tell, the primary thing, aside from oppressive outside forces, that stops a human being from making that contribution is self-criticism and faulty paradigms around success and failure. When we have very specific ideas about what success means and how it must be manifested, anything not fitting that paradigm will cause discomfort, pessimism and even great degrees of shame. Many of us were taught at a young age that no meaning can be found in failure. On the contrary: failure can be of profound meaning, if we’re willing to look at it without judgement. Even better would be to experience it without judgement.
What a productive and joyous life we might lead were we to embrace the entirety of our journey, learning to love and be interested in our entire spectrum of experience as human beings. My most creative periods have occurred when I was willing to be non-judgmental about what I was producing. Not only that, my happiest days came when I made the choice to love what I was doing and everything that came with and from it.
I can already hear a doubting voice that might speak up and say, “that’s all wonderful, but what about when there are goals to be achieved, objectives to be fulfilled and deadlines to be met?”
The paradox is that those very same goals have the greatest chance of being attained in the most successful way when we are able to let go of resistance that comes in the form of self-criticism and judgment. By being unconditional with ourselves and the results which come from our creative work, we find a greater ability to be honest without being self-flagellatory, to be able to be constructively critical without condemning ourselves.
Small children can teach us. Their creative prolificity can be awe-inspiring. We’ve all seen the parent who shoves a piece of blank paper in front of their child with a stack of crayons, saying “they’ll be happy for hours.”
So can we. Next time you’re feeling stuck while working on an especially meaningful project, I urge you to step back and love whatever work you’ve done up until that point. See the results of your labour as you would your own child’s, and that will hopefully lead to passionate encouragement of yourself for more.
The aphorism holds true:
“When we love what we do, we invariably end up doing more of what we love.”