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Serenity Hacker

Keeping passion at bay or surrendering blindly to it - which of these two attitudes is the least destructive? I don't know. ~Paulo Coelho

Keeping passion at bay or surrendering blindly to it - which of these two attitudes is the least destructive? I don't know. ~Paulo Coelho

I’ve posed this question to myself for the past week, since Lisis’s post Networth vs. Selfworth: The Passion Paradox at her blog QuestforBalance. There’s been a slew of great posts this week in response, all of them listed at the end of hers, so I would recommend heading over there and checking them out. They’re all worth a read.

Ultimately I began to wonder whether passion is really required for a meaningful life. After all, that’s what most people are ultimately seeking, not necessarily the passion itself. And that’s where marketers mostly seem to cash in on the passion principle.

Peddling Passion

Passion is a necessity, or so we’ve been told (and sold) over and again. Passion is something we should have regarding our work, at least says the title of many best-selling books. This idea presupposes that we have a passion to “follow” or “cash in” on, and that this is the best way to live. And if you don’t have one? Well, there’s help out there for that, too! There are countless books on how to “find” your passion and thus live your life’s purpose.

Passion and Purpose

So far, the assumptions go like this: we must have passion (or “a” passion), and if not we should find or discover it. This will give us purpose (which is associated with meaning). So, passion equals purpose. Also, if we’re particularly lucky or skilled, we get to have even more purpose because we turned our passion into work. Now we can experience passion with more frequency, so our lives are even more meaningful. If you really don’t buy this formula, there are plenty of salesman out there willing to convince you (but then you will buy it… literally).

So the path is as so:

Find Your Passion -> Live a Meaningful Life

(and further down the “path to fulfillment”):

Sustain Your Living from Your Passion -> Live an Even More Meaningful Life

So What is Passion, Anyway?

Before I could go any further thinking about this promised path, I really needed to get a clear handle on the meaning of passion. According to Merriam-Webster, passion is:

extreme, compelling emotion; intense emtotional drive or excitement; and or a strong liking or desire or devotion to some activity, object, or concept

So passion is mostly emotional, and or a state of strong desire. (It’s worth pointing out here the etymology of the word, its Latin and Greek roots, have to do with suffering and agony. Just food for thought.)

What’s the idea behind this passion requirement, really? Are we to find something that causes us to experience extreme and compelling emotional states? Are we better off living with a strong desire for (or devotion to) that activity, object, or concept? Is this really necessary in order to live a meaningful life?

Emotional states are fluid and changing, and extreme emotional states usually aren’t sustainable, nor should they be (for the sake of our mental health). Yes, excitement and extreme pleasure feel good and we like them, but strong desires for those extreme states often lead to suffering when they can’t be fulfilled. (Interestingly, that brings us back to the root of the word…)

A Deeper Look: A Psychological Needs Study on Passion and Activities

A recent psychology study on passion (in which the authors reference the very scant amount of research in this area) defines passion toward an activity as: Keep Reading…

The true miracle is not walking on water or walking in air, but simply walking on this earth. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

The true miracle is not walking on water or walking in air, but simply walking on this earth. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

How good are you at keeping your focus and sense of inner peace when you’re busy?

Do you stay clear, maintain your center and ability to concentrate, even when there’s a lot you need to get done? What about when time or a lack of it adds to the pressure?

During busy times many of us adopt a frenzied, scattered pace. But a scattered mind cannot be present, and does not lend itself to peace, efficiency, or focus.

Wouldn’t it be better to deal with busy-ness from a place of inner calm? When you’re calm and centered you don’t feel so busy, even if you are.

  • Being present increases inner peace.
  • Inner peace keeps us calm and clear.
  • With clarity, focus becomes more effortless.

Keep Reading…

This is a guest post by Melissa at Mindful Construct. Follow her on Twitter.

Feelings

Feelings are for the present moment… It is by being fully present now that we reach the fullness of tomorrow. ~Melody Beattie

Emotions are like the current of a river. They’re in constant flow. Sometimes they’re turbulent.

But emotions can slow down too. They can take on the serenity of a calm lake tucked away in a meadow.

It’s the serenity that you strive for, because serenity means that your mind is clear and connected to your heart. Serenity means that you can be present in your life, mindful of each precious moment that is yours to experience.

But how do emotions go from being turbulent and fast-changing to calm and serene? It seems that most of the time, the negative emotions cause more harm than good. They interrupt your life, cloud your thinking, and some of them are really painful.

Keep Reading…

mother_theresa_with_armless_baby

There is a terrible hunger for love. 
We all experience that in our lives – the pain, the loneliness. 
We must have the courage to recognize it. 
The poor you may have right in your own family. 
Find them. 
Love them. ~Mother Teresa

Sometimes it seems that all the positive psychology out there tends to neglect one very basic thing: We all suffer. If we are human, we will suffer, and to deny that is denying a very important part of our existence.

Sure, we don’t want to suffer, but alas, we do, and sometimes there’s nothing we can do to avoid it: things happen that are beyond our control, and we hurt because of them. If we take the positive psychology movement at its initial face value, it negates something very vital. Something that’s very much a part of the human experience, and we cannot live a rich, full life without acknowledging it.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to cultivate a positive attitude, but not to the point where we become desensitized. The relentless pursuit of happiness, the focus on it to the exclusion of pain and suffering, is very limiting. It may initially feel safe, but the insulation required trying maintain this state in the face of all things becomes suffocating, both for ourselves and the world around us.

When we judge our own pain or that of others as not valuable or negative, we deny part of our humanness. And in doing so we live in a fragmented state, disconnected from ourselves and from others.

Suffering is a common thread that is shared by all of human existence. And being in touch with our own suffering helps us cultivate compassion, for ourselves and for others. Yet we try so hard to disconnect to that which makes our existence wholer and more meaningful. Where is the compassion for ourselves, and for our neighbors? Do we really, as the human race, want to continue to disconnect from something that unites us all?

Listen to how the news is conveyed. Machinegun style, bulleted facts about death, accidents, horrific and disturbing events. Behind those news items, real people are hurting. Families have lost loved ones. Our very human brothers and sisters are suffering. Where is the emotion? Where is the compassion?

The content of the news is negative, we all know that. But the very way the news is communicated sends a dangerous, inhuman message for society to internalize: Do not connect with suffering, do not connect with compassion. Disconnect from your emotions if they are not positive, and disconnect from others, too.

If Mother Teresa delivered the same news stories, or Jesus, the Dalai Lama or Buddha, would they be able to convey them in the same manner? How different would they sound, and what effect would that have on those of us who watch and listen?

I think we’d be moved.

Keep Reading…