Our theme for this sermon is "Living with Passion". However, the idea of passionate living goes against what I have learned to be good and true for one's health and well-being. For life to flow with ease and harmony, I find it best to advocate AGAINST living with passion. The dictionary defines "passion" as: "strong feeling; the emotions - as distinguished from reason; rage & anger; love for an object of affection or sexual desire". Other Thesaurus equivalent words for passion include: "fervor, ardor, obsession, infatuation, excitement, zeal, delight and enthusiasm". Only the last 2 seem desirable to me. I am certainly willing to live with delight and enthusiasm. The word "enthusiasm" comes from the Greek "en Theos" which means "with God" and similar to "inspiration" which means to breathe in Spirit.
Living a life with inspiration and enthusiasm requires the opposite of "passion" as defined above. Living with a sense of Spirit requires that we NOT encourage strong emotions which distract us and send us running toward false goals, momentary pleasure, or in reactive circles and confusion. Finding our connection with Spirit necessitates that we temper rage and anger, and that we not succumb to obsessions and infatuations. Living a life centered in Spirit asks us to forego fervor and ardor in favor of cultivating inner calm and peace. Living a wholesome life asks us to look inside for balance and wisdom, rather than searching externally for things that give us (temporary) pleasure. Living with inspiration asks that we breathe our own Holy Source of Love into our hearts, rather than hinging our happiness on an external love object, partner or relationship. In order to center and listen to Spirit within, we need the opposite of passion and excitement. We need to slow down and take time for inner reflection. We need quiet time to listen to the "still voice within" that knows the way.
I remember a news story of several years ago about a sea lion who traveled many miles up the delta waters and was found by a farmer as he tried to flop his way across a hot and dry levee road. How did that sea lion get so lost and far from home? I'm sure that he or she was following a life passion for eating fish. The delta waters kept providing him with better and bigger fish, so it must have been easy to keep following that passion. How often do we get lost and find ourselves far from our natural home waters by following our passions - by chasing our "big fish"? Whatever brings us excitement and pleasure (or strong feelings, either positive or negative), is bound to be short lived. Since all things are transient and pass away, it is folly to become attached to either the pleasure of positive things or to the negativity of life's difficulties. Buddhist teachings advise us to develop EQUANIMITY. This means not clinging to the good things and not pushing away the bad. It means to take a broader view of life. It means using the stillness of meditation to find this broader view. It means practicing this inner stillness to quiet our desires and aversions, to moderate our attachments and temper our passions.
If by living with passion one means finding worth and value in how we spend our time and energy, I am all in favor of that! I gladly recommend living with meaning and purpose - especially if that meaning and purpose contributes to making the world a better place. To discover what has true meaning or purpose . . . to determine what has value and worth for us, I believe we must return our attention again and again to the inner heart of stillness where we can unite with our own Holy Source. If we are to have passion for something, let it be a passion for remembering Spirit. Let us have passion for cultivating the inner peace and wisdom that shows us how to live in right relationship with ourselves, our loved ones, with all beings and creatures, and with the earth. Let us have passion for building the abiding calm and spiritual strength needed to give beauty and love to the world. Let us give up passions for "big fish" and look into our hearts to remember our own wholeness and holiness. This will be enough to guide the way.