My mother was a passionate person who also admired passion in others. I used to worry that I was not passionate enough, or didn’t have the “right passions.” I’ve come to see that it’s not a question of having the right or wrong passion, or even enough passion, but rather, a question of how we find our passion.
I was thinking about this on the way to Mexico City a few weeks ago to give a talk on philanthropy to a group of wealthy business men and women from Latin America. Preparing to say something that might be of value is a good way to give me brain freeze. So I let my mind wander over the things I’ve been drawn to do in my life, and I discovered three kinds of experience at the root of my passions.
Suffering: The ways in which I’ve suffered have informed my desire to make things better for others and me. For example my loneliness in childhood helped me learn how to connect with others; the stress-induced headaches that prevented me from going to school spurred my founding a national organization in the mind/body health field as well as encouraging social and emotional programs in schools across America.
Love: I am drawn to people and things I love. The work I do has to include people I love or it’s no fun, and while no work is fun all the time, we will work harder and smarter if we like the people. Nature is something I love so much that I spend most of my philanthropic dollars trying to conserve it for the health of our planet and the benefit of future generations.
Gratitude: Lastly, I am motivated by gratitude. Gratitude is a feeling that rises out of us like helium or a really good dream. It has a time of its own, and while we can cultivate it as a practice, we can’t force it. Gratitude is an orgasm of the heart. Its proliferation of good feeling makes you want to run over to someone you don’t know and hug them, or at least tell them what you’re grateful about. When I sink into bed at night I squeak with gratitude at my enormous good fortune to have a bed with comfortable sheets to sleep in and a husband who I love more and more each year. I also feel elated to know that my work for the day is over. Gratitude is a good thing to pay attention to. It warms the platter of life and makes room for passions to proliferate.
What are your passions?
When did you first know you felt passionate about something?