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Mindful : December 2016
I wouldn’t mind being more calm and clear, but I don’t want to be dull. Anger, like now, after Katrina, gets me to act. And I love sex.” His real passion, he told me, was music. He played bass. That’s why he had moved here. His reaction is one I’ve heard before. There’s a perception that to be mindful means that you’re passionless, a heartless robot; that being present and aware somehow dulls the creativity and drive that someone like my new musician friend feels in his veins. Yet a misconception is just what it is. Mind- fulness actually highlights our passions, by bringing us fully into the experience of the pres- ent moment, increasing our focus on whatever is happening, allowing us to enjoy our experience with far greater nuance: the taste and texture of a perfectly ripe plum; the thrill of an Italian word rolling off your tongue; feeling the warm, soft skin of a lover. Mindfulness helps us know who we are, and who we are not. With that comes a pro- found self-confidence, which opens the door to discovering our passion. We don’t become dull—hardly! Our senses become enhanced, our thoughts clearer, our reaction times faster. We can see more clearly what is calling us from amid the many fleeting distractions of our lives. And with a clear, stable mind, we are better able to find ways to balance the demands of our lives—to find a way to live with passion while also paying the mortgage. Through mindfulness we cultivate the ability to see exactly what is there: emotions, thoughts, memories, pain, the whole catastrophe. And seeing who we are without judgment leads to acceptance, and, ultimately, to self-love. When we stop wanting to be someone else, we can finally recognize our distinct talents and passions—and what we want to do with our one precious life. How Passion Leads the Way Passion defined is far less interesting than its lived experience: an intense emotion or a com- pelling enthusiasm. At its core, it’s an appeal that drives us to invest time and energy, again and again, in order to know the object of our passion better and swim in its heady waters. Passion arises in many forms. You might have passion for an activity or interest; for a particu- lar path or way of living; and, of course, there’s the passion we can feel for another. No matter how it reveals itself, I believe passion is an arrow, pointing us to those expe- riences that are about our life’s larger purpose. It hints at the things that make us unique, the preferences and interests that, despite sharing a 99.9% genetic similarity with every other human being, place us on our own distinct path. From graduation speeches to the writings of Joseph Campbell, we are urged to follow this passion to find our true north. Nelson Mandela, whose passion for equality kept him focused during 27 years of imprisonment, famously said, “There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” When Julia Child discovered her passion for French cooking while living in Paris with her diplomat husband, Paul, she changed the experi- ence of home chefs forever. Steve Jobs was as passionate about build- ing tools that would help people unleash their personal creativity as George Lucas is about turning myths into movies. And the late, great American poet Maya Angelou spoke of the passion it takes to master your craft. “ You can only become truly accom- plished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.” But what does it really mean to “find your passion”? (And, scarily, what does it say about us if we can’t readily identify ours?) Some people seem hardwired for passion—like the New Orle- ans bassist, they clearly know what motivates them and they heed the call. For many of us, however, passion doesn’t just pop up, fully formed. It emerges. You get it in hints and tastes—it’s something that makes you → Passion doesn’t just pop up, fully formed. It emerges. It comes in hints and tastes; it’s something that makes you notice. emotions 58 mindful December 2016