“We are called to live a life of passion, as Jesus Christ says in John’s Gospel, ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’”
-Adam Storey, Holy Family Catholic Mission speaker
What does it mean to live a passionate life? Usually, when we think of someone who has a great deal of passion and lives a passionate life, we think of someone filled with enthusiasm, zest, vigor and joy. That person has this strong sense of purpose and meaning and is full of intensity for living or playing basketball or meeting people or accomplishing something.
S/he is a person “on fire” so to speak. S/he is driven to do whatever, within ethical limits, to fulfill or complete that passionate desire. It often becomes an all-consuming venture in that person’s life. S/he talks about it; dreams about it; gets up in the morning filled with the desire to act in any way possible to satisfy that passion, to quench that desire.
Living a life of passion becomes challenging, though, because there is another dimension to the joy and enthusiasm that accompanies one’s “full life.” There is suffering involved in every passionate endeavor. The word “passion” comes from the Latin verb “pateo, pati, passus,” which means “to suffer.” That’s why the word “compassion” means “to suffer with” (pati cum). Suffering is an inevitable by-product of a passionate life in our normal everyday look at passion. Why do I say that?
When we talk about living a life of passion, therefore living a meaningful life, we have to draw the distinction between the physical life and the spiritual life. If we live a life of passion and focus on the physical outcomes of our passionate life, we will constantly suffer because things will never go the way we want all the time. When we desire and crave, as the Buddha says, we will suffer because things always change. Whatever our desired outcome is will never completely fill the desire we have. We will continue to crave for more.
A perfect example of this is the NCAA world of March Madness. All of the players on the 64 plus basketball teams in the tournament are passionate about their sport and yet only one team with great effort and great passion will feel the joy of that tournament. And even some of the players on the championship team will suffer because they didn’t make a shot that was important to them or didn’t play up to their expectations.
The only way a passionate life is experienced joyfully, peacefully, and meaningfully is to look at life’s journey as a spiritual journey, a journey in which we passionately experience yoga, namely union with our divine, whole self. In order to do this, the Yoga Sutras say that we must practice detachment. We must practice “vairagya.” Practicing vairagya means “letting go of the outcome.” It means putting the result of our passionate activity, of our meaning and of our purpose in life and our intense longing for the outcome into the hands of the divine, God’s hands.
A passionate life means doing what we passionately love to do and doing what we intensely desire and crave and then surrendering the results to the Divine Mother, letting God determine the outcome.
In our physical and mental journey in life that means suffering to almost all of us. But, when we passionately surrender all our intense work to The Divine Mother (my name for God), the suffering subsides and our life is passionate and a pure joy and filled with peace!