As the Zen teacher, Suzuki Roshi put it, “enjoy your problems”.
Considering what we face in the news of the world, that statement seems wrong, or at least uninformed, and perhaps impossible. But I will speak about my experience of testing this idea in the context of what is required to be a maker. The pattern of the hero faced with insurmountable tasks or sorrow is reflected in the universal stories. The stories all have a situation, a dilemma and a solution. The way through feels unimaginable until the discovery of a different way of operating– a new perspective.
This is not new age fancy– the stories are timeless, transcend culture and have practical implications hidden in metaphor.
You don't have to believe an idea to try it on, like a piece of clothing, and see how it works...
Begin with the difference between operating from expectation, and operating from adventure. The former means I am doing something and I want something specific in return. The latter that I don't know what will happen, and I am open to what comes. Adventure creates an atmosphere where everything that happens– mistakes, spilled paint, doubt, obstacles, rejection– all of these things are only a necessary part of the story that leads to the fulfillment of your work. It requires something of us, often more than we think we have. We don't inhabit the potential of our work without being willing to engage these pesky "interferences".
Enjoy your problems means being willing to be uncomfortable, to embrace the paradox. Whether it is a painting, a situation or a person, the first impulse is often to push discomfort away. But gentleness or compassion can replace that first impulse– and this transforms what happens, or even what has already happened.
I don’t expect this perspective is new to you, but I hope you will find for yourself a way to make it come alive. Play with this idea the next time you are presented with an obstacle, irritation, rejection or problem. Try to enter the perspective of the other person, or your painting–
This is the paradox of something impossibly difficult and utterly simple.
“…we must believe that whatever happens to (us) is an instrument”; everything has been given for an end. …everything that happens, including humiliations, embarrassments, misfortunes, all has been given like clay… one must accept it. For this reason I speak …of the ancient food of heroes: humiliation, unhappiness, discord. Those things are given to us to transform, so that we may make from the miserable circumstances of our lives things that are eternal, or aspire to be so.” (Jorge Luis Borges)
The next time an obstacle appears in work or in your life, what happens if you welcome it? I'd love to hear from you.