Passion and Suffering

For Jill - keep writing

Last month I saw someone ask on Twitter, “What are you willing to suffer for?” My knee-jerk response was, “Nothing. I’m not willing to suffer for anything.” But let me unpack this more.

The root of the word “passion,” from the Latin pasi, means “to suffer.”

After I returned from my 3-month trip to SE Asia in 2011, I realized that I wanted to change my orientation from alleviating suffering (which is predicated on the notion that suffering has to continue) to increasing joy (there can never be too much joy). This was profound for me. I started a “more joy” project, to increase my own awareness about what created more joy for myself.

And in the couple of years since I started exploring this idea, I’ve discovered something along the way, which was made abundantly clear to me when I was walking around Kamakura, Japan last month. I was beyond exhausted, and yet, I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to keep experiencing what there was to see. And it was one of the best days I spent in Japan.

When there is something I feel passionate about, when I am enjoying myself, even though there is discomfort, I am not distracted by it.

I have been searching for a long time, looking for my place, my people, where I might fit in, where I might lose my self-consciousness, but I’ve also been hiding. It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve started to be honest about what gives me joy, to say it’s okay to enjoy life, and to follow the things that bring me joy. Other than my relationships, the only other things I’ve lost myself in is the process of writing.

I have a long way to go to improve my craft, and there are definitely things that are difficult and challenging, but always, always, is the feeling of enjoyment. And now that I think of it, anything that is sustainable and long-lasting for me has to have the element of joy. Otherwise, what’s the point?

What brings you joy? What sustains you through the dark times?

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6 thoughts on “Passion and Suffering

  1. The Good Luck Duck

    More Joy. Yummy! More joy vibrates differently than less suffering. I’m on a more-joy quest myself.

    When pain does insert itself into my consciousness in a way I can’t ignore or spin positively, I lean in like Pema suggests, which seems to quickly dissipate the pain. Or, I go with the premise that there is no “me” to be in pain – thought must be up to some mischief – and that it can slide right off. Basically, whatever tames the pain. I am not willing to Suffer For My Art (whatever my Art might be).

    1. slowbloom Post author

      Yes, it does vibrate differently, doesn’t it?

      Thank you for this reminder. I’m learning to lean in to the pain, or rather, stop resisting and avoiding it, too.

      Joy For My Art!

  2. Elena

    Beautiful and thought provoking post! And bold to share.

    Joy for me is losing consciousness of or better yet finding consciousness in the passing of time. The challenge though is not become too dependent on an ever changing landscape of the external only to temporarily fuel your joy, because after all, whatever you do, wherever you go, there you are. Ideally, learning to take joy in the smallest and most mundane of things – “To see a world in a grain of sand / And a heaven in a wildflower…” – means the effort to sustain “joy” is minimal because all that is required is that you open your eyes and focus, outward for inspiration and inward for understanding. The path to joy then is shorter (in that there is no need to search for or physically travel to “greener” pastures), but particularly difficult in an age which discourages attention and commitment with its ecosystem of distraction technologies, rewiring our brains to crave an unending stream of new things, new experiences and new people. And the danger of the new is that isn’t doesn’t stay new for long, increasing the thresholds for stimulation and joy, ever escalating, like a fire that consumes but gives less and less light. For me, the task at hand is to unlock the joy in the familiar, and to focus and appreciate what is in front of me. My realization was that newness (and joy) is a matter of perspective, often requiring reframing and a turn towards the self but not a change in scene.

    1. slowbloom Post author

      Elena,

      Thanks for your reply. I know it is easy for me to get caught up in distraction, but ultimately, those things only further unsettle me. Relying on the external world to define myself has been incredibly destabilizing. The type of joy I’m interested in is that which is sustainable, as you so beautifully describe. And yet, there is a practice that requires I return to it again and again. The more I practice this, the stronger my focus and satisfaction becomes. This is the not easy pleasure that comes and goes, but the deep satisfaction of being engaged with that which truly calls up the best in ourselves.

  3. Diane

    After many years as a therapist, I came to the realization that although I was good at what I did, it wasn’t good for me. It started me down a similar path of your “more joy project” (love that term!) of finding out what fed my soul and gave me a spring in my step. Exploring my creative side (writing, art) has been both challenging (self-doubt bug bites regularly – smile ) and joy-filled….but the joy keeps me going! Thanks for the post.

    1. slowbloom Post author

      Diane,

      Thanks so much for stopping by to share your experience! Yes, there are plenty of things that I am good at, but don’t necessarily bring me joy. I’m glad you like my expression! It’s one of the few things I think we can all benefit from having more of.

      Writing has been powerful for me. And the self-doubt is high, but I keep plugging away, because I love it so much. Kristin Cashore has said the following about self-doubt:

      I think I’ve said this on the blog before: I imagine my self-doubt/hopelessness/discouragement as this guy who sits next to me in my chair as I’m writing. He’s always there. He is a necessary part of the process; he will never go away; so I may as well invite him to sit in a chair beside me. Sometimes I imagine myself giving him a hug, because he’s so sad and pathetic; he has nothing nice to say to me, he only knows how to insult and discourage; he is, essentially, fear. Poor, sad little guy. I say to him, “You can sit in my company, you can say whatever it is you need to say. I know you can’t help yourself. I know you’re so very scared. So: you are welcome here. But,” I say to him, “you’re not going to stop me from writing today.”

      So invite those voices, that committee, to sit down, have some tea and mutter to themselves. They might always be there, but they don’t have to keep you from your joy!

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