Whew… don’t have to have a passion…

Gilbert sharing some interesting view on creat...

Elizabeth Gilbert  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a widespread assumption in the spiritual community that we’re all supposed to “find our passion” or “pursue our passion”.  It’s implied that without passion and its pursuit life is somehow lacking.  I always feel a bit flummoxed when I encounter this opinion as I don’t feel I have a passion.

The “Shame” of Not Having a Passion…

I’m not too inclined to toe the line with such opinions so I won’t say I’ve suffered because of it, but it certainly has caused me to think about my interests and whether I feel passion for them.  And sometimes to worry that I’ve lost my verve.  To wonder whether I should be trying harder to determine a passion.

It isn’t that I haven’t had one.  As a child I was pretty single-minded about pursuing music and, more quietly, I always wrote.  My passion for music fell by the wayside, particularly when I realized I don’t really have the right skill set/talent for the type of music I’d prefer to make.  But I remember what that felt like to have a burn to do something.  Which is how I know I don’t particularly have one now.

So I felt relieved and pleased when I finally played my recording of a Super Soul Session with Elizabeth Gilbert.  She told a story of speaking about passion and the need to have one and then receiving a letter from an attendee, describing how badly the talk made her feel since she didn’t have a passion.  Elizabeth examined the idea of pursuing passion and concluded that some of us have many interests and our path is to follow curiosity in whatever direction(s) it takes us.

That’s more or less what I’ve been doing for a long time. I’ve followed a variety of seemingly unrelated threads and over time I realized the threads have been slowly forming a picture; each thread I’ve been led to follow connects with one or more others.  Quietly something is unfolding and I’m content to follow each beckoning trail until the tapestry reveals itself.

I like that she was able to step back from a conviction about passion based on her own experience and to realize not everyone has the same path; not every one has a passion.  Some of us have some meandering to do.  Some of us are drawn to many things and no one of them calls more strongly to be pursued.

Sometimes the exhortations to find a passion and follow it feel a little like bullying to me since I don’t have one.  If you have a passion or ardor is important to you, you may find such advice is helpful.  But for many of us the assumption that everyone must have a fanatic devotion to some particular pursuit is hurtful because it makes us wrong for failing to single-mindedly pursue one course.

The Video

The “embed” feature on the video doesn’t seem to actually put the video in the post but this link immediately opens the video of Elizabeth’s talk here:


Choosing Words…

I’ve also sometimes felt like “passion” is too strong a word for me.  I used to live on a roller coaster of emotions and one of my favorite things about years of spiritual practice is the greater equanimity with which I live; melodramas used to be constantly playing in my head as I exaggerated emotions and turned everything into a drama and I DON’T miss that.

Passion always feels to me like a word that belongs on the roller coaster ride.  I kind of like “follow your bliss” better.  And I really like Gilbert’s quiet hummingbird, flitting along the paths of its curiosity.  Those words feel like they fit better with my hard won state of balance…

Don’t forget it’s time to set aside 10 or more minutes to pray or chant for peace!

10 thoughts on “Whew… don’t have to have a passion…

  1. I saw this episode and found it interesting. When Oprah featured Diane Sawyer for Master Class, she said that it was always important to be curious. So I wondered if Gilbert borrowed from Sawyer here! I do not have a strong passion right now ( funny as Mars is in Scorpio now, which is all about passion in action.) I have always be incredibly curious about life and this has not faded. Passions can fade or change. Having some internal spark is necessary to be alive and we can decide how to follow that spark. Before this comment becomes a mini-post, I will stop here.

    I like that you once felt passion for music, so you know you have felt that intensity. You are absolutely fine as you are 😉 xo Linda

    • Yes, I think of passion as often being short-lived and more about an emotional high than a calling; another reason I’m not that fond of using the word in the sense of life’s purpose or calling, such as Elizabeth’s calling to write…

  2. Something for me to consider. Leigh, I am not sure I ever had a passion when I think about it. I was curious about so many things and loved to read. Had the hardest time choosing a major in college, somehow ended up in engineering, when I probably would have enjoyed a vague multidisciplinary liberal arts degree more. As I have grown older, I feel so much more freedom. Hadn’t really thought of this in term of having the freedom to not have a passion or single direction. Thanks for this post.

    • I’ve always been impressed by the variety of paths you have followed and done well with. Seems like pursuing your curiosity has led to good things. Glad the post spoke to you.

  3. Thanks for sharing her idea. I’d already seen the talk, and I too, love that she was able to step outside herself and come to a conclusion that doesn’t even apply to herself. I too have spent a life following my curiosity, and it’s led me to some very meaningful experiences. If I have and singular passion, it’s taking photos (mostly of nature). That has been with me longer than anything else (over 40 years). Being the hummingbird is fine with me.

    • I suspect there are more of us hummingbirds than the passion advocates realize. I have things, like yoga, that I’ve done for years — I guess one of my questions in all this is whether being committed to something for a long time equates to having a passion for it….??

  4. Thanks for this post. I’ve also felt as if I was lacking or missing something because of not having a strong one-minded passion. I too, seem to be weaving a tapestry from experiences that seem mostly unrelated. Thanks again!

  5. Passions have come, and then gone again for me all my life. One thing after another. Now I’d just rather try to be present and see what now wants of me. It’s enough. Thanks for posting this.

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