For the love of the process: Aparigraha
It’s funny when I think back to all the Gourmet Magazine photo shoots we did with the great chefs of NYC (think: Marcus Samuelsson, Eric Ripert, “Nobu” Matsuhisa, to name a few) where we had a full prop team, stylists’ on set, and an 8-person crew in the kitchen doing the actual cooking, how fun and exciting that all was!
The chef arrives on set, gets a dab of make-up, stands in front of a superficial set with food plated and provided in front of them. Cue to my own shoot: I buy all the props, do my own styling, shop all the groceries (usually requiring 4 different grocery stores), schlep everything to a location, do all the mise-en-place, cook and bake all on my own, and then hustle all day to squeeze it in for my photographer, as I have only budgeted for a one-day shoot. When you are in this process there are two things that happen:
One: you love the creative burst and the excitement of bringing your vision to life
Two: you wonder what the hell you are doing and who you are doing this for, how much is this costing, and is anyone ever going to see this?
It’s a difficult thing this artistic process. We have all been trained to work towards the goal, to get somewhere, to attain the end result and hopefully be admired, or at least have it deemed worthwhile. A pat on the back or a ‘job well done,’ response from whomever we are trying to impress or appease. At first it was probably our parents, then our teachers, then our peers and our bosses. It’s never-ending. So back to this moment where the doubt creeps in about who will see this, will they think it’s good, will it have a purpose…or shall I just quit while I’m ahead.
“To make living itself an art, that is the process.” Henry Miller
In the last Yama of the 8 Limbs of Yoga*, Patanjali writes about Aparigraha, non-attachment. This is one concept that most of us struggle with — how are we supposed to live meaningful lives or create anything of meaning without attaching to it? Isn’t it supposed to be, “what you reap, you sow” and “you get out what you put in”? If we look more closely we realize that what we are attaching to is the end result, not the process itself. Shifting our perspective from ‘what this will yield,’ to seeing the process of ‘sowing’ and ‘putting in’ as the essential part we need to concern ourselves with. Do the process part of it with all your heart without worrying or wondering about what will come of it; don’t attach to any expected result, but follow your artistry in creating.
Now most of us want the whole ‘happy ending narrative’ where we create without thinking about the end result, and lo and behold, our work was a critical and a commercial success…and we had so much fun doing it! Cue a Hollywood smile and The End. But, what if that isn’t the ending. What if no one cared, no one read it or saw it, and you move onto the next thing. If you have enjoyed the process, immersed yourself — your whole heart, mind and soul into it, then YOU will have enjoyed it. You will have gotten something out of it, regardless of the end result. Work for the love of it (the process itself) and relinquish the need to have someone else determine your happiness through their subjective opinion about it.
It’s within the process that the alchemy of evolving and expansion happens. My teacher always says that the first student in the room is the teacher. If only the teacher is giving their all and enjoys the class, then at least one student got something out of it. Most likely, the energy the teacher is displaying through passion, wisdom and engagement, will thereby also reverberate out to the students in the room. Just like you fully immersed in the process itself will reverberate through the art that you are making. Isn’t it worthwhile to give yourself more leeway to make art out of your whole life, than to reside only in the end-result? As Henry Miller quotes above, what if we practiced non-attachment to results or destinations, and made an art of LIVING out our lives instead, enjoying the unfolding of the beauty of living abundant and happy lives, in the actual process of unfolding. Now back to my pots and pans!
* In Yoga, Patanjali sets out moral guidelines to guide us in our roles to ourselves and to others, called Yamas.
This is a guest post. Any opinions expressed are the writer’s own.