Art and Pain seem to be the accepted relationship we have with our work.
Our practice is supposed to hurt, seems to be the unspoken, unconscious mantra that we operate by. We believe that we need to come to our art begging and praying that our muse will show up. And if it doesn’t, we curse our work as if a hex or evil spell has been callously wished upon us.
But our art shouldn’t have to be a painful struggle. It shouldn’t be something where we only experience joy after we’ve created our final masterpiece, completely used up. The majority of our time logged shouldn’t be drudgery sprinkled with fleeting moments of joy and inspiration.
I’m not sure where this idea came from; that our work should be married to pain.
I just know one thing… I’d like a divorce.
Art + physical expression
One of the biggest underlying causes behind this stigma comes from the way we approach our work. If we think we must do something, we resist. But since we think we should we do it anyway, that causes resentment. Resentment = pain.
The only way around this is either choosing different work, or changing the way you approach the work you already do. Usually, it’s a combination of both.
I’ve recently experienced this quite powerfully with fitness. A little over a year ago I used to see exercise as something painful. It was a chore. Something that had to be done; something to get over with. Going to the gym was just another required fixture in my routine. Not something I intentionally, or joyfully placed there.
That has changed completely for me now. I stopped going to the gym, and stopped lifting weights. Gymnastics, hiking, and martial arts are now my primary means of exercise.
I changed the type of exercise I did. A typical workout for me now might be include a 2-3 hour hike (mostly barefoot, or wearing minimalistic shoes) and strength training on gymnastic rings (hung from a tree on the trail). The ring training might consist of planche, front lever, back lever, pull-up, and handstand work. On some days I’ll do more strength training and less hiking. And on other days I might do very little strength training and go for longer hikes, trailrunning, and flexibility.
In that way, I changed the content of my practice, but I also changed my approach. I now see exercise as not a chore, but a practice. I think about it as the art of expressing the human body. It’s become more then something I should or need to do, it’s a practice in the physical expression of self development.
In this way, I changed both the type of exercise I was doing and the way I approached it.
Needless to say, this has been very liberating for me.
No more discipline
To practice our arts, we often think that it requires a lot of discipline and self-control. I’ve found this to become less and less true. When I do what I love (the content of my practice) and love what I do (the way I approach my practice), I find that discipline usually becomes a non-issue.
Sure, effort is still involved. There will always be that. I always have to make the effort to show up. I always have to make the effort to do my best.
But I desire to show up, and I desire to do my best because I do what I love and love what I do. Love for my art, love for my practice, is my greatest motivation. The word workout has been removed from my vocabulary. I don’t see it that way anymore.
Any practice can be made into an art if we follow what we are attracted to. And any art can be made into something joyful if we show up with gratitude and come from a place of love.
I’ve started to apply this approach to all areas of my life; seeing each aspect of my life as an art that can be met with love, instead of a duty of sacrifice. We don’t need to suffer to be great.
Right now, I know I am exactly where I need to be, on exactly the right path.
When I meet my art as a celebration, things unfold naturally, with energy and aliveness. When I try to control and obsess over it, I suffer. My aim is to move more in the direction of celebration and to divorce art and pain.
I’ve found this path to be very rewarding. I’d love for you to join me.
Introducing… Bodyweight Renegade.
I’ve been working on a new website the past few weeks that’s all about exceptional fitness through bodyweight exercise. No gyms, no crazy equipment. Just simple bodyweight movements that create real-world, surprisingly impressive strength.
If you’ve ever thought that working out was a pain in the ass, or wished you could get fit at home without paying gym fees, this website is for you.