Thursday, January 14, 2010


My husband and I were channel surfing the other night (something Bo Lozoff sagely recommends NOT doing) and caught an excellent documentary on WTTW's Independent Lens series. It focused on the Young@Heart Chorus from Northampton, MA.

If you've never heard of this group, not only is it worth googling them to find more information, but I highly recommend you find some means of watching the documentary by Walker George. Both the group and the film are life-affirming, humbling, and inspiring.

I have been thinking about the film for several days now, and different elements keep echoing back to me, offering insight and sparking further contemplation. It is easy, while watching the film, to meet each member of the chorus and think, "I want to be like that when I'm 80!" (or 90 as the case may be). The vitality of each member is striking - an unmistakable joie de vivre - expressed in myriad ways: biking, driving, exercising, flirting, performing, loving, surviving.

A message of passion dominates the film. Parallel to purpose, but more joyous in its expression, passion seems to be the overriding message dominating my thoughts. And so, the reverberation of this theme offers an opportunity for reflection and potential clarification... both of which might lead to positive change.

My issues of stuckness and control are linked to a lack of passion in my life. Rather, I seem to hold myself back from exploring or expressing my passions. They are there... and in my quieter and more honest moments, I know exactly what they are... but I remain too cowed, too stifled, or too afraid to unchain whatever part of me remains bound so I may fully express them.

And I know it is easy an easy switching of perspective to flick between yes and no, go or stop, nothing or something. But as with so many elements of Zen, there is knowing... and then there is knowing. Understanding. Grokking. Practicing. The span between the two can sometimes feel immense.

I'm not sure many Buddhist texts or teachings address passion, nor is it clear how the two intersect. Buddhism advocates letting go of attachment, and to some passion may seem like a form of attachment. Perhaps it is.

And yet, I do believe such focus and mindful attention is integral to fulfillment and personal peace. Ideally, in its best moments and truest form, passion is an authentic expression of self in the absence of ego.

Ultimately, the middle way provides guidance. Be passionate... but don't let your passions blind you to the wellbeing of yourself or others. Devote yourself... but not so much as to lose sight of who you are or the importance of those around you. Pursue your joy... but not at the expense of another's happiness or peace.

May you know your passion and pursue it freely. May your passion inspire others and bring joy.

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