3 Keys to Discovering Your Life’s Passion

One morning in early May of 2006, I sat drinking strong coffee on the patio of the Maison Dupuy in New Orleans. Feeling the sun on my skin and listening to the sound of a nearby piano, I read from Andrei Codrescu, “This is the time when the part of you that is music overcomes the part of you that is silence.”

Indeed. Sun and jazz and water falling from a fountain of stone dolphins ridden by small naked water children. Cupids with harps. Wrought iron balconies, like fine Indian filigreed jewelry. The part that is music—six months after Hurricane Katrina.

There was no way I couldn’t come to this first International Jazz Festival after Katrina—an event that almost didn’t happen this year. One of my life passions is seeking out opportunities to experience the growth, wonder, and delight of being among people who are different from me; realizing how much we humans all share in common while marveling at our differences.

New Orleans embodies this better than anyplace I know. There, a gumbo of ages, races, and ethnicities co-exist and intermingle probably better than any other place on Earth.

The energy and synergy created in this melting pot is infectious. Who can resist the intoxicating combination of music, food, and art; of Allen Toussaint and Laissez les bons temps rouler; of sweet, sticky air and the brackish breeze off Lake Pontchartrain?

The previous day’s concert was a joyous confirmation of this fact: More than 100,000 people flocked to the still-dazed city—a fierce show of support and commitment that said, Yes, we can overcome.

With a neighborly openness I came to expect there, a guy at the next table said hello and asked me what I do. When I told him I teach mindfulness, his response was immediate. “That’s not for me,” he said. “I don’t want to be mindful. I am a passionate person. I don’t want to lose that.

I wouldn’t mind being more calm and clear, but I don’t want to be dull. Anger, like now, after Katrina, gets me to act. And I love sex.”

His real passion, he told me, was music. He played bass. That’s why he had moved here.

His reaction is one I’ve heard before. There’s a perception that to be mindful means that you’re passionless, a heartless robot; that being present and aware somehow dulls the creativity and drive that someone like my new musician friend feels in his veins.

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