A friend of mine just had her book proposal accepted by a major publisher. It was incredibly exciting to hear her news. After we had finished jumping up and down I started thinking about the conversations we had as she wrote the proposal. Doing that work was hard for her, she never really thought of herself as a writer but this book was calling to her. So even though the process was challenging there was a quality of ease present because this book is her story to tell.
Whether or not you self identify as an "artist" (struggling or otherwise) the message of having to struggle for what you want is pervasive in our culture. The idea of ease is completely foreign to many of us. Think about that for a moment. Isn't that just weird? Why would we choose struggle over ease? Why would we elevate struggle to such a lofty place? Why are we dismissive of those things which come easily to us? Why do we think so little about the quality of ease?
When I say, “struggle” I'm not talking about working hard towards something that is important to us. I'm talking about struggling without joy, pushing against the tide of our own interests, talents, and nature to do something that we think we should do simply because we think we should do it. Not because it calls to us, not because it expresses something important about and for us, but simply because we think we should.
Struggle can be involved in doing something we love; learning a tricky bit of choreography, a new painting technique, or finding the soul of a character. We can struggle with those things but that experience is qualitatively different from the struggle most of us are familiar with. Like subjects in school that were a slog from beginning to end (for me that was all maths), to jobs that we pursued because they fit within parameters laid out by others, to relationships that aren't working but we feel as though we must make them work. Once the quality of ease isn't present neither, in some significant way, are we. Oh you may show up for the class, the job, or the relationship but, don't kid yourself, some important part of you isn't really there. How could you be? What you're doing isn't you.
What the quality of ease is not is being lazy, irresponsible, or dishonest with yourself or anyone else. It isn't phoning in the work that you are doing, your relationships, or any part of your life. It is doing that which calls to you with attention, focus, commitment, and passion... just no struggling. I struggled through high school geometry, it was torture for me; I didn't get it and I didn't care that I didn't get it. Now there are times when I am writing and it is really frustrating; I search for the right word or just a good idea. But even when the writing feels hard I know that, unlike geometry, I am doing what I am meant to be doing. When we do the work we are called to yes, sometimes it's a struggle , but it's the right kind of struggle. The kind that you engage in because it enhances what you are doing. The kind of struggle which, at the end, leaves you feeling exhilarated, not depleted.
Paying attention to whether the quality of ease is present in what you are doing is a great way to see where changes may need to be made in your life. Noticing what feels like hard work with no joy present may be a sign that something needs to shift. Noticing where that quality of ease already exists is just as important in bringing more of that to your work and the rest of your life as noticing where it is absent.
The quality of ease is about bringing your talents to whatever game you are playing. It's what we admire when we say that someone is a "natural" at something, whatever that might be. We recognize and admire their connection to their gifts and their truth. We all have that capacity, it is right there for each of us when we embrace the quality of ease.