Tuesday, February 22, 2011

what I learned about passion

So it turns out that one of the things I'm most passionate about is passion! I was generous with my generosity in January, so who knows? Maybe in March I'll surrender to surrendering.

First I'd like to thank the participants who showed up for the call this weekend. I learned a lot from them, and was really fascinated by where our conversation took us.

The first highlight is the difference between healthy passion and unhealthy passion. Healthy passion was defined as the fire that comes from a conscious engagement with what aligns you. It's the energy of being on purpose, and can sometimes take determination and willpower to manifest itself. And unhealthy passion is the kind of whirlwind energy that, like an addiction, can take you over and point you in directions that don't serve you. They have that driving force in common, except that healthy passion drives you to where you want to be, where you're meant to be, and unhealthy passion drives you over the cliff -- kind of fun on the way there, but in the end, it wrecks your car and you have a hard time walking.

It's easy to get sidetracked by unhealthy passion because it mirrors and mimics healthy passion; as healthy passion ebbs and flows, unhealthy passion tends to just flow. So it's easy to ride that wave -- whether it's a relationship, a drug, obsessive thoughts, what have you -- because it feels just like the flow of the healthy passion. It's the ebbing that's more difficult.

We also talked about the similarities between "passion" and "passive" -- essentially they both involve being taken over by something outside yourself. Passion tends to move you forward, passive tends to keep you static and move things around you.

We talked about how passion, oddly enough, can take work. That it's one thing to sit around and claim to be passionate, and it's another thing all together to get out there and make things happen in the areas where you are passionate. For example, it's one thing to say "I'm passionate about writing music," and another thing to regularly put in the time it takes music to be written. Many people are passionate about the goal, but fewer are passionate about the journey to reach it.

I asked the question, "What can someone do when they aren't feeling passionate? How do you get passion back in your life?" And here are a couple of the answers:
-- be aware of what your passions are
-- have courage to pursue your passions
-- adjust your belief system so that being passionate is valuable
-- spend time with passionate people
-- be careful how and where you spend your time
Essentially, it was agreed that there was little an outside person could do about somebody else's passion except leave it up to that person to bring back his or her own fire.

The most interesting and exciting part of the call to me, however, was when I asked the participants to use a three word combination to describe their understanding of passion. Here's what came out:
1) deep interest, commitment, engagement
2) heavy, complicated, light
3) excitement, transcendence, irresistible attraction
4) joy, purpose, transcendence
5) aliveness, alignment, yes!

These definitions led us to a discussion of passion as something that flourishes in the face of a struggle. If what you're passionate about comes easily, it's not as rewarding as it is if you have to struggle to attain your passion. One participant called the struggle "suffering," and I agree with that in the sense of not-suffering-fools (as opposed to suffering-torment (or suffering-succotash)). And I think that my struggle to understand passion has helped me feel more passionate about understanding it. Kind of a never ending cycle, actually!

Finally, we discussed the sliding scale of passion, which enables me to be passionate about connecting with people and about reading books, but where my passion for people is about a 47 (out of 10) in intensity, my passion for books is about a 9 (out of 10). Probably because "connection" or "communication" are my umbrella passions, and theatre, books, and linguistics all fall underneath it.

It's been really exciting engaging in this study so far. I really had a hard time with it at first, but after a month of putting in the work, I'm starting to see the rewards.

And just in case I haven't done enough, the Passion of the Christ is at the top of my Netflix queue. Just because.

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