I was watching a movie the other day called, “Peaceful Warrior.” There’s a character in that movie called, “Socrates.” He’s a very wise and intelligent guy. One of the things he said really caught my attention.
He said, “Death isn’t sad. The sad thing is: most people don’t live at all.”
Most people don’t live. It seems almost esoteric or new agey to say something like that. But deep inside, I know it’s really true. Most people’s lives flash before their eyes. They go day in and day out just going through the movements. They’re not really… living.
But what are we really talking about with this whole “living” business anyway? I have a good friend who loves scary movies. I find them a bit predictable and somewhat silly, to say the least. But he just loves them!
I asked him one day what makes these movies so appealing. He told me that he thinks most of them are kind of stupid but sometimes he gets really scared while watching them. And being scared makes him feel alive.
And I thought that was just fascinating. I started thinking about the times I was scared and how that made me feel alive: going on a rollercoaster or almost getting into a car accident. All of these things have scared me but have renewed my sense of excitement at the same time.
And then I started to realize that it wasn’t only being afraid that made me feel alive, it was all of my emotions. It’s falling in love or facing a fear that I’ve had for a long time or even experiencing sadness.
It’s the intensity of my emotions that make me feel alive. It’s my emotions that give me a rich life and allow me to experience a sense of meaning and purpose. So why are there so many people who go through their lives without feeling this richness of emotion?
That brought me back to my own childhood. I grew up in white, middle class, Ohio suburbia. And from a very young age, I linked emotions to suffering and weakness.
Like many parents these days, mine didn’t really know how to talk to or communicate with me. I spent most of my time alone playing video games and watching television. And from a very young age, I felt like I was abandoned and isolated from my family.
These feelings that I had caused me to act out and start engaging in behaviors which were completely self-destructive. I was using drugs before I turned 12. I got involved in gangs, stole stuff and got kicked out of stores, and was banned from a couple of middle schools. I eventually was put into a psychiatric ward when I was 13.
In there, I learned to suppress and bottle my emotions as much as I possibly could. I had always learned that emotions are weak and that if I wanted to be a man, I needed to hide them whenever possible.
I spent most of my teenage years numb to my emotions. It wasn’t until one year when I was in college when things completely shifted. In college, I was an excellent student and a very ambitious leader. My junior year of my undergraduate degree, I was voted the top student leader at the largest campus based university in the nation.
In fact, I had won several awards for my leadership that year including community awards, scholarships and recognition. There was one week when I received most of the awards for that year. I remember that week because every day that went home I would cry myself to sleep.
Now, I realize that it seems a little weird to be winning all of these awards and then going home and crying. The truth was that I was having a complete and total mental and emotional breakdown. I wanted to be happy and excited. But I had spent so much time suppressing my emotions that I couldn’t experience the ones I wanted without experiencing some of the ones I had been suppressing first.
It turns out that there’s no way to turn on some emotions and turn the rest of them off. We either feel all of our emotions or we feel none of them. And this was the first time in my life when I started to accept and embrace the fact that I am an emotional being.
It has taken a lot of work to get from that place to where I am today. One of the reasons why I talk to people about the idea of passion is that passion is simply emotion and energy experienced intensely. Passion is the backbone for truly living and being alive.
I know too many people who are just walking corpses. They’re just doing what they think they should do, waiting for one day when they can really live their lives. They’re waiting or saving up so that they can one day be happy. Many people have a mid-life crisis because they become conscious at some point that they aren’t really waiting to live, they’re spending their time just waiting to die.
Nobody needs to live a life like that. I’ve been there and won’t ever be going back. I found out that emotions are what make life worth living. People dedicate their lives to things because of emotions. Children are born and peace is created because of emotions. People sing on rooftops and run naked down the streets because of emotions.
Emotions are completely central to living a healthy and functional life but so many seem to have lost touch with this important aspect of themselves. And even more so, many have lost touch which the emotional experience that we call passion.
So, how do you find passion in your life? I’m so glad you asked. :)
There are actually overwhelmingly large amounts of different ways to pull out passion in your life. One of the most effective and easiest is taking a look at what is most important to you. This isn’t what you think should be important or what society deems important. What is most important to you?
One of the ways I do this is through remembering experiences in the past. Imagine a time in your life when you felt like you were really alive. This needs to be a very specific event. Remember an event when you felt like you were really on top of the world, a time when you were completely full of life.
Once you’ve figured that out, what was it about that event that made you feel alive? Was it the people you spent your time with? Was it the thing that you were doing? Was it a breakthrough that you made or confronting something that you were afraid of? What was it, specifically, that made you feel alive?
If you can figure out what made that experience important and then recreate that again, you can begin creating and shaping more life in the days that you live.
Imagine waking up, every day, and being filled with emotion and aliveness. How much different would you experience your life? Imagine that you woke up, every day, excited about your life, hungry to experience more, and ready to make a difference in the world because you want to. How would that change the way you interact with your life?
Living is about experiencing emotion. Passion is experiencing emotion and energy intensely. What is one of your passions?
Photo by Ali Brohi