Principles of Growth for a Life of Passion
By Robert Rabbin
Even Buddhists want to live passionate lives, in spite of their equanimity. Passion is life force itself, the very energy whose intensity, love, and enthusiasm for beauty and creativity produced this infinitely exquisite universe, whose mystery is beyond measure.
If we are to honor the ancient stardust within our DNA, we must become passionate, we must allow the pulse and power of universal forces free reign in our lives. For each, this will look different, and yet something in our eyes, something that is friends with wildness and sudden shifting plates of earth and collisions in deep space, will look similar and always familiar, as if when we meet each other, we meet ourselves.
We tend to grow into passion little by little, though we may sometimes take big leaps, because we are not able to take it in all at once. One day at a time, we grow into our truly passionate, authentic self and life. One day at a time, we shed old and useless selves, skins, patterns, fears, and ideas.
Growing into full possession of our passion and authenticity can be supported by certain principles. Here are some I've found to be useful:
- Growth is an archeological dig into the deepest layers of self. We must develop patience and persistence. We need to fall in love with the process, because we may need to dig and dig, haul tons of dirt, sleep in dusty tents for a long time. We should not be put off from deeper digging just because we find a shard of valuable pottery.
- Growth toward passion is a law unto itself. We cannot apply conventional standards of measurement. Neither success nor failure; neither good nor bad; neither right nor wrong exist in the context of growth. If we are on a journey without end, how can we know of our success, of our achievement, of our attainment? We can notice our escalating freedom and joy, and how much happiness we inspire in others. But this is not a goal; we just notice this happening as a consequence of the process of continuous growth. When we apply rigid achievement criteria, we immediately condition the process—we create tension and fear from the beginning. Our path is one of learning, applying, practicing. The more we grow, the more we are able to grow.
- You are responsible for your own life. We often develop the habit of blaming someone for our unhappiness or frustrations; likewise, we hold the hope that someone will come along and rescue us from what doesn't work in our life. Both attitudes are false: they do not correspond to reality. The simple fact is: each one of us has to do our own work. We must create our happiness, our fulfillment, our joy, our passion.
- The point of power is now. The past lives within you as the present. Yes, we are conditioned by the innumerable experiences and decisions that have occurred in the "past." But where is the past now? It is within us as the present. Even if we know why everything happened, we would still have to change what does not work for us in the present. We still have to see clearly into our life as it is now. We must become conscious of those factors within our psyche that drive and motivate us. We must become aware of our fears, insecurities, hopes, and wishes. We must become very conscious and aware of all that happens now, both within us and around us.
- No one is to blame. As we liberate ourselves from past conditioning and patterns of self-suppression, as we discover new reserves of strength and courage, we might be tempted to blame someone for having obstructed our freedom in the past. We might want to confront someone for a past hurt and speak a truth that we had been unwilling to speak. We ought to be careful as we do this. It is not appropriate to blame someone for our lack of freedom in the past. No one deserves to be abused just because, from our new vantage point of clarity and power, we want a different kind of interaction.
- As we change, our understanding of the past will change. We often feel the need to come to terms with the past in a definitive way. This is difficult, and perhaps not necessary. It is important to learn from the past, and sometimes we will need to resolve or heal something that occurred in the past so we are not carrying heavy ghosts. Still, how we see and understand what happened, and who did what to whom, is a function of how we see ourselves now. As we continue to grow and evolve, our interpretation and understanding of the past will always reflect new growth and the perspective of higher altitude.
- We are always free to change our experience of what happens. No one is in the way. We do not need anyone's permission, nor do we need a certain configuration of conditions in order to experience life in a free and joyful way. This may seem untrue, because we associate experience with external conditions, even with our internal states of mind and emotions. Through meditation and growth, we discover a place of equanimity, of clarity, and of happiness that is not a function of external conditions or internal states of mind and emotions. It is like climbing to the highest point on the highest mountain, still on the planet but high above everything. We would be wise to learn how to create the experience of freedom and joy, regardless of external conditions or internal states.
- What we discover, we must express, or it is not real. It is not only good, but necessary, to fully and honestly express one's passion and truth. Expressing the truth helps us stay free from self-deceit and hypocrisy. Expressing our truth implies that our deep flows and swirls of motivation, the creative urges of our soul, penetrate the vital essence of each thought, word, and action. We are like artists, or dancers, who give themselves to powers of magic and mystery, and who bring into the world what no one has seen, but when they do, they recognize what no one has ever seen as being eternal and mundane, personal and impersonal, real and unreal, stunning and glorious, and on and on and on.
- We should try to be fluid and flexible, because nothing stays the same. It is okay to change our beliefs, attitudes, values, priorities, commitments, and patterns of reaction and behavior. Life is growth: growth implies learning, learning implies change. This does not mean we are without a center or core, or that we are irresponsible and superficial. We can have a solid set of values and commitments from which we act. We can have goals and intentions. It is just that we will need to regularly visit these to see if they are accurate and if they reflect who we are becoming as we grow toward passion and truth. In a sense, our life is a series of transitions, with each moment being both a self-contained lifetime and a bridge to new life. We will need to learn how to live gracefully with change, how to negotiate transitions, how to incorporate our new discoveries into the arch of our life, spanning unknowable distances.
- It is important to respect your limits; however, most limits are self-imposed. It is important that we proceed at our own pace. Since personal growth is continuous, we need not be in a crushing hurry. We may need to rest, to take a break, to allow time for the integration of what has been recently discovered. We might not be ready to see something or deal with something. This is fine. There are no requirements, no final tests, no punishments. Life is growth; it is continuous. We need to respect how we need to proceed: the manner, the pace, the intensity. We should respect our limits. At the same time, let us not forget that limits are self-imposed. In terms of consciousness and awareness, we are essentially without limit. But we cannot drink the whole ocean all at once. The limitations that we encounter and go beyond in the process of self-discovery are self-created and maintained within us. Still, let's be kind and gentle with ourselves, and with each other, even as we know the most important thing in life is to grow towards passion and truth, towards life, towards full freedom.
When passion, pulse, and power breach the sea-walls of our language-based seeming reality and our petty patterns of self-imaging and all our concessions and self-betrayals and excuses, we hear within us the roar of the cosmos, the cosmic roar. That's when life begins.