There is a Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or sometimes mixed with powdered gold, it’s a beautiful and powerful concept of embracing the flawed or imperfect.
A bit like the Leonard Cohen line -
I think the scars and imperfections we bare have extraordinary power of being turned into beauty.
From them, can emerge the wisdom that transforms.
We all bare the brokenness of past wounds, of life’s disappointments, sometimes our circumstances and experiences mark and scar and make us feel less than.
But this can also be the birth of a new story, it does not erase the past - the bowl is still cracked open - however it can let beauty and truth emerge from the brokenness, just like the gold "seams" that stitch the "wound" in the ceramic.
The work of therapy is about looking in a new way together, it’s about bringing curiosity and a different perspective where things have gotten stuck in a brokenness pattern.
Were there is possibility, there is hope.
And where there is hope,
There can be a new sense of meaning.
Chris Staley, Penn State Laureate has a series of moving messages in his video series, where he explores big questions of meaning in life expressed through the art making process, design, nature and teaching.
They are simple in their approach yet impacting - and I think relatable.
This one, "Liking Mistakes" gets me every time - such heart, authenticity and beauty.
More Life Giving Mistakes
A beloved mentor told me the story of a Nobel Prize winning scientist's acceptance speech that included this anecdote -
Once, when he was very young, he spilled a pitcher of milk all over the kitchen while trying to serve himself a drink. Instead of yelling at him, his mother helped him clean it up. She then filled the pitcher with water and took him outside and said -
"The way you did it before didn't work very well, how else can you hold and pour so you don't spill?"
In the scientists acceptance speech, he thanked his mother for helping him win the prize by teaching him to try new approaches when his attempts failed, and not to fear mistakes.
While I can't recall the name of the scientist, nor verify I've told the story accurately, I remember the life lesson was clear,
Playfully and fearlessly approach new things.
Why? Because by doing this -
irrelevant of the outcome
done with a spirit of curiosity,
is more likely to lead to learning
... perhaps even groundbreaking discoveries.
Importantly, this can occur because the atmosphere is safe to learn.
True creativity can't emerge from a fearful place.
It emerges from freedom, an ability to take risks, respond and play.
The therapy process is actually one of creativity in the truest sense, by 'living' into places that may feel stagnated or resistant to change. Something new gets created by opening to the possibility of seeing, thinking and feeling in new ways.
Can you think of a time where you felt supported to play without fear?
Take a creative risk?
Experiment with expressing yourself in a new way?
What did you enjoy about the process?
And what was challenging?
You could write down your reflections or share them with a trusted friend.
Some years ago now, I had the chance to collaborate on an article titled "When to Fail is to Succeed" with a skilled educator - focussing on the concept that 'positive failures' are actually key to learning and 'consolidating' knowledge. If you're interested, you can read it here.
The actress Lisa Kudrow talks beautifully here about what seemed like apparent failures in her own life, actually became the threshold or catalyst to her profound success. There are many more examples of this, Albert Einstein was not able speak before he turned 4 and his teachers did not believe he would amount to much!
More to do with flexibility and openness to life changes - rather than mistakes - but this book "Who Moved My Cheese" by Dr Spencer Johnson is a little gem, and gives a great insight of how to "be with disappointment". A 3 min book summary can be viewed here. It's rather cute and the message is looking to 'higher wisdom' in situations beyond our control and remaining "agile" in the face of a "perceived defeat".
May you see your gold today!