Discover--or rediscover--your passion for life. What inspires passion in your life and what defeats it? How do you lose it and how do you get it back? In this exuberant and compelling book, Gregg Levoy, bestselling author of Callings, explores how you can cultivate not just a specific passion, but passion as a mindset that helps bring vitality to all your engagements, from work and relationships to creativity and spiritual life. Vital Signs examines the endless tug-of-war between passion and security, the wild and the tame, our natural selves and our conditioned selves, and shows us how to stay engaged with the world and resist the downward-pulling forces that can drain our vitality. Vital Signs also encourages courageous inquiry into our dispassion--where we're numb, depressed, stuck, and bored in our lives--so that we can rework these tendencies in ourselves and claim our rightful inheritance of vitality.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Gregg Levoy is a lecturer and seminar leader in the business, educational, governmental, faith-based, and human potential arenas. He is a former adjunct professor of journalism at the University of New Mexico, a former columnist and reporter for USA Today and the Cincinnati Enquirer, and author of This Business of Writing. Levoy has written for the New York Times Magazine, Washington Post, Psychology Today, Christian Science Monitor, Reader's Digest, and many others. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chase down your passion like it’s the last bus of the night.
I USED TO BE a reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer, back in my twenties, and among my favorite stories was one I wrote about the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus coming to town.
In a fit of journalistic zeal, however—and therefore shortsightedness—I let one of the animal trainers convince me that riding bareback on an elephant at the head of the circus parade through downtown Cincinnati would add color to my story.
Contrary to my jungle-book fantasy of being airlifted onto the elephant’s back while standing on its trunk, the only way to actually get up there was to use a ladder, and the only way to stay up there during the parade was to hang on to the elephant’s ears.
Those who’ve ridden elephants bareback probably know about this already, but elephant ears have an extremely disagreeable habit of flapping a lot, especially when they’re hot. And it was high summer. So the only way to stay up there was to remain extremely flappable, otherwise I’d have been thrown, and it was probably ten to fifteen feet to the ground—a concern that, to be honest, paled in comparison with my concern about how stupid I looked up there, desperately hanging on to this animal’s buffeting ears, wearing my business clothes, because the animal trainer had sprung this brilliant idea on me right before the parade, and with my pants scrunched up above my knees.
I was the first thing anybody saw in that parade, and I’m fairly certain I did not capture the theme of “The Greatest Show on Earth.”
But in looking back on my elephant ride, and on what I’ve learned since then about what’s involved in living passionately and courageously, that experience had a lot in common with the experience of following passions—in that I was caught by surprise and carried off by something much bigger than me; in that it was nerve-racking and thrilling simultaneously; and in that the elephant couldn’t have cared less. By which I mean that I’ve discovered an unsettling truth: my soul doesn’t seem to care what price I have to pay to live passionately.
This seems like a design flaw to me. But my security, my popularity, my vanity, even my happiness don’t seem to matter to my soul. It’s not interested in whether I live a comfortable life. It’s not interested in making me rich or famous. It’s not interested in whether people even like me or not. What does seem to matter to it, though, is staying up on the elephant and being willing to go for the Ride—the one that ensures that someday if my life flashes in front of my eyes, it will at least hold my interest.
· · ·
PASSION IS WHAT DISTURBS and confounds the safe and settled in your life, the tendency to try to lock yourself into geosynchronous orbit around some form of security, no amount of which will ever adequately compensate you for giving up your passions or selling your soul, though it may allow you to suffer in nicer surroundings.
Passion is the impulse toward growth, which, by its nature, protests boredom and ennui, refuses to bump mindlessly along on the conveyor belt, and has little patience for the “been there, done that” attitude that there’s nothing new under the sun. It’s what stirs your interest in life, helping you awaken from the trances and entrapments of the everyday, which block the natural migration of your energies.
Whether passion takes the form of colorful intensity or contemplative alertness, it contributes to a vibrant life, a keen awareness of where the pulse is, and a determination to plug into that place. It helps you stay engaged with the world and enjoy it as a function of the primary calling of all creatures—maximum aliveness.
In fact, passion is a survival mechanism, because your attachment to life depends on your interest in it, your sense of wonder and reverence, enthusiasm and gratitude, participation. It also depends on your ability to resist the torpor of dailiness, with its hypnotic routines and its soothing illusion that there’s always tomorrow—a lamp of Aladdin merely awaiting your caress—and that you have plenty of time to make your dreams come true and your passions come alive, even though years may continue to slip by Rip Van Winkle–like and you occasionally awaken with a growing uneasiness and a sense of being unrecognizable even to yourself.
Part of the reason so many people are fascinated nowadays with vampires and zombies is our collective fear of being sucked of our life force, drained of our vitalities, and left in a bloodless and catatonic state.
This fear may not be so much one of dying, or even being eaten alive, as much as one of being turned into a zombie. And most of us know, or have known, the experience of feeling like the living dead. Being at a job that, like a vampire, sucks the life out of you. School years spent staring zombielike into space and dreaming about the pleasures of the flesh or perhaps about freedom. Evenings spent clocking your statutory 4.8 hours of daily television. Being in a relationship in which you feel like a mere ghost of your full vital self. Long, dull stretches of life through which you’ve staggered like the walking dead. And most of us also know the fear of losing our minds and our identities that can come with simply growing old and suffering dementia. Given enough time, life itself devours our brains.
But even if we haven’t sent out a new shoot in years, or haven’t strayed much beyond the cadaverous light of the television and computer, the hunger for passion reminds us that we’re still vivid with life force, our souls shouting at the turned backs of resignation and boredom and time being torn off the calendar unused.
Just as there are parts of us we put to sleep over the course of life—passions ignored, pleasures denied, emotions censored, powers hidden—there’s another part that wants to bend down and kiss our sleeping selves awake.
During the aerial bombing of London in World War II, damage to the Natural History Museum allowed light and moisture to enter the buildings, and mimosa seeds that had been brought over from China in 1793 and stashed in wooden collection cases suddenly awoke from their 150-year sleep and began sprouting. We, too, are revivable. No matter how long or deep the sleep, the soul is always willing to awaken.
Granted, the work of coming-to is formidable, whether individually or collectively. A lot of people feel deeply disengaged from life, from themselves, and from a sense of purpose or passion. A 2012 Gallup poll of employees in 142 countries found that, on average, 87 percent of them are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” (63 percent and 24 percent, respectively), and only 13 percent were “engaged.” In the United States alone, this adds up to roughly $550 billion a year in lost productivity.
Passion equals productivity, and lack of passion sabotages it, and that goes for both work and non-work modes of expression—which makes you wonder what the engagement/disengagement figures would be on school life, family life, social life, and spiritual life. “While complying can be an effective strategy for physical survival,” says Daniel Pink in Drive, “it’s a lousy one for personal fulfillment.”
“Not engaged” means you’re checked out, but “actively disengaged” means you’re busy acting out your unhappiness and dispiritedness, spreading the virus among your colleagues, family, and friends, to say nothing of the body politic of which you’re a cell. What it means, as one business columnist puts it, is that if you’re part of a rowing team out on a river, one of the team members is rowing his or her heart out, five are just taking in the scenery, and two are actively trying to sink the boat.
But while dispassion is contagious, passion is equally catching. Some years ago, I was invited to facilitate one of my Callings workshops (based on my last book, Callings) for the environmental organization Earthstewards Network. As I was unpacking my car in the parking lot before the workshop began, a man pulled in, parked his car, got out, and motioned me over. He told me that he’d taken one of my workshops a year before and wanted to share with me the passion that had emerged for him as a result. “I’m going to start my car,” he said, “and I want you to bend down and smell the exhaust.”
This was certainly among the stranger requests I’ve had in my time, but the exhaust that came out of the back of that fellow’s car smelled exactly like a McDonald’s. He explained that he’d recently invented a process capable of turning used french fry oil into nonpolluting fuel for automobiles. In fact, he called it “McFuel.” And he was about to embark on a one-year pilgrimage driving his car around the country to drum up media attention for his new breakthrough, which, needless to say, relies on an abundant and renewable resource.
It reminded me that people—their enthusiasm and ingenuity—are amazing and that you never know who’s watching you. One person’s passion can have a profound effect on the unfolding of another person’s passion, without the first person even being aware of it. So, it thus matters greatly that every one of us is out there doing our proverbial thing and expressing our passion for life, interconnectedness being what it is, the Web being what it is, the mechanics of inspiration being what they are.
This certainly goes for anyone in a position of leadership or stewardship, especially relative to children and young adults. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, minister, mentor, manager, coach, counselor, politician, or CEO, this much is certain: your passion is critical to their engagement.
There’s a reason some of the world’s great stories, like Sleeping Beauty and King Arthur and the Holy Grail—of which there are versions all over the world—speak to the idea that when the king or queen sleeps, those around them also sleep, and the kingdom sleeps. But when the king and queen awaken, those around them also awaken, and the kingdom begins to flower. It’s an idea embedded very deeply into the mythologies, and thus the psychologies and philosophies, of the world, and what it tells us is that our individual work is also the work of the world, and that when we insist on our own aliveness, we stake a claim for everyone’s.
Among my favorite stories from the Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez is the story of a man trying to solve the world’s problems. His young son comes into the room and asks if he can help. Touched by his son’s concern but impatient to get on with his task, the man takes a map of the world, rips it into little pieces, and gives it to the boy, telling him that he can help by piecing the world back together. The boy doesn’t have a clue what the world looks like, but he takes the pile of paper off to his room.
Two days later, he rushes into his father’s study. “Father! I’ve put the world back together.” And indeed the shreds of paper have been meticulously taped together. His father is stunned and asks how he did it. The boy turns the map over and says, “On the back was a picture of a person, Father. I put the person back together and then turned it over and the world was back together!”
· · ·
VITAL SIGNS is about what inspires passion and what defeats it. How you lose it and how you get it back. And ultimately it’s about the endless yet endlessly fruitful tug-of-war between passion and security, the wild in you and the tame, your natural self and your conditioned self.
My prior book, Callings, is primarily about finding your vocational passion, and Vital Signs expands that exploration into the art of living passionately in all arenas of life—adventure and discovery, creativity and self-expression, relationships, service, and spirituality. While Callings is geared to doing what you love, Vital Signs is geared to being in love with life. Not just attaining a passion, but cultivating the skill of passion. Not just passion as a place you get to, but a place you come from.
Vital Signs also speaks to those who’ve been living through years of a Great Recession and a Code Orange world, which has driven many people to batten their hatches and hunker down. Those stresses highlight the many downward-pulling forces of everyday life that can siphon your vitality and make it hard to keep your fires burning.
The restorative lies in determinedly tapping into those places where your life force wells up to the surface even during dry spells and downturns, so you can not just survive but also thrive—and crucially, take your power back during those times when you feel disempowered, starting with a clear sense of what choice in any given moment will lead you toward or away from your sense of aliveness.
Each chapter in Vital Signs is a core sample, an intimate biography of one of the strategies you can employ to gain or regain passion—including the search for wonder and awe, the quest for novelty, the urge toward self-expression, the hunger to reconnect with inner and outer wildness, the desire to keep passion alive in your relationships, and the role that risk-taking plays in the ripening of passion.
In exploring what’s healthy and essential about these strategies, as well as what’s potentially unhealthy and maladaptive about them, this book offers a kind of mug shot of passion—so we’ll know it when we see it—and an expansive menu of possibilities for how to discover and rediscover it.
The book also affirms the importance of courageous inquiry into our dispassion—when we’re numb, depressed, stuck, or bored—so we’ll recognize that when we see it too. Because behind these debilitating conditions is our rightful inheritance of vitality and our incredible capacities.
Vital Signs is also a kind of natural history of passion as it expresses itself in the human experience, following its tracks back to the dens of family, culture, religion, gender, genetics, and primal reflex. It looks at what psychology and science, as well as spirituality and myth, art and literature, history and philosophy, have to say about passion. And of course it shares the personal stories of people who’ve claimed and reclaimed their passion and aliveness, propelled by the understanding that being alive without feeling alive is like eating food with no taste to it and that we should insist on living in a world—on creating a world—that enlivens us rather than deadens us.
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Blackstone Audio. Book Condition: BRAND NEW. BRAND NEW Audiobook on Library CD - Unabridged A Brand New Quality Audiobook from a Full-Time Veteran Owned Bookshop in business since 1992!. Bookseller Inventory # 2224976
Book Description Blackstone Audio Inc, 2015. CMD. Book Condition: Brand New. unabridged edition. 6.25x7.00x2.00 inches. In Stock. Bookseller Inventory # zk1469061279