Cultivating the Dark Core of Passion

“Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul. If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas.
For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.
Therefore let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion, that it may sing;
And let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection, and like the phoenix rise above its own ashes.”

Kahlil Gibran

I attended a Japanese tea ceremony recently and thought about passion and method while watching and participating in this beautiful ritual. I had not been aware of the numerous micro-rules regarding gestures, bowing and distance that have to be observed during the proceedings. Such a passionate perfection and a refined beauty are achieved through hard work and disciplined observance of rules. It makes a lot of sense to me that the words ‘passion’ and ‘patience’ have the same root and are both related to the word ‘suffering.’ I thought about this while trying to stay for ninety minutes in the same position, which is called Seiza in Japanese and which involves kneeling with legs folded underneath the thighs. Some people may think this is a mechanical ceremony governed by soulless rules but I sensed a deep passion and a predilection for extremity that I have always associated with the Japanese spirit. I feel there is a lesson to be learnt here about the need of a purposeful cultivation of our passions in a manner similar to a dancer who will repeat a single movement tirelessly or a composer who will revise tirelessly individual notes of his work. Discipline, control and rules are inextricable from real passion; there is something passionate and frightening in every work of perfection. For me, reading Dostoevsky or Kafka is a powerful encounter with passion every time but it is worth remembering that both writers spent hours revising their manuscripts, never satisfied with the end result. Their souls may have been in frenzy but their work was full of cold discipline and relentless dedication. The painful extremes of passion are different from the mere madness of an obsession:

“What makes a person refuse passion – or be incapable of pursuing a passion which has already been born, thus transforming it into a mere obsession – is his or her refusal of totality.  Within the lover’s totality – as within any – there is the unknown: the unknown which is also conjured up by death, chaos, extremity.  Those who are conditioned to treat the unknown as something exterior to themselves against which they must continually take measures and be on guard, may refuse passion.  This is not a question of fearing the unknown.  Everyone fears it.  It is a question of where the unknown is located.  Our culture encourages us to locate it outside ourselves.  Always.  Even disease is thought of as coming from outside.  To locate the unknown as being out there is incompatible with passion.”

John Berger, “The Sense of Sight”

Method and discipline are not enemies of passion but rather its true measure.


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31 Responses to Cultivating the Dark Core of Passion

  1. Love 🙂 🙂 🙂


  2. jean raffa says:

    Oh my! I not only “like” but “love” this. Thank you for the extraordinary quotes. They have remarkable insight.


  3. That sound lovely. So graceful and elegant.


  4. Erik Conover says:

    Move forward openly with curiosity and amusement with your passions rather than demands and hopes. Don’t expect it to go as planned but know that the unplanned may lead to the best later. The best is yet to come



  5. Amy Campion says:

    Look within, always, look within 🙂


  6. Don says:

    “To locate the unknown as being out there is incompatible with passion.” It took me a long time to grasp the reality of this truth, Monika. Just a beautiful post on passion and those words by Gibran – sheer beauty. Thank you.


  7. Pingback: Cultivating the Dark Core of Passion | lampmagician

  8. wow– you startled me with this post– a subject and a treatment very close to my heart. wow.


  9. Reblogged this on The Muscleheaded Blog and commented:
    This post grabbed me in a way that’s hard to describe — it makes wonderful reading !


  10. augustmacgregor says:

    Great quotes and description of the Japanese tea ceremony. A balance of passion and discipline. The head and the heart. I felt like there is such good wisdom in your post, on how to approach the things we care about. Thank you for your words.


  11. My passion is usually expressed outwardly sporadically and impatiently. Patience ( Venus perhaps?) and discipline ( Saturn) usually elude me. Great theory though and wonderful word choreography Monika 🙂


  12. Great post. The first thing that struck me was that I have not read enough Gibran. I read the Prophet more times than I can remember, but none of his other works. I was then intrigued by your details regarding the tea ceremony. I have never attended one and would feel honored to do so. In addition to method and discipline, I would add intent. Every action and movement appears to be infused with intent. Kind of makes me think of Castaneda, and Buddhist mindfullness. Anyway, another wonderful post. Thanks for sharing it. — Jeff


  13. ptero9 says:

    HI Monika,
    How wonderful it would be to attend a formal Japanese (Zen) tea ceremony. It makes sense to me that the roots of the ceremony are monastic. Even though the monastery that I work at is Benedictine, and a long ways away from Japan, I am guessing that emphasis on structure and discipline is common to both. I sense from the monks I know that the discipline is paradoxically freeing, at least to those who want a life centered around community, service, solitude and prayer.

    My own experience with discipline has centered more around playing musical instruments. Although far from masterful at any instrument, I have learned a lot about the importance of developing good technique in order to free yourself to play easily. It’s definitely true that hours can be spent practicing control and exactitude of the motions used in playing, some of which are incredibly specific and small. I have spent some very enjoyable time as a student of Scottish side-drumming, a genre of playing that is very refined and almost delicate, a word not usually associated with drumming 🙂 I think of any practice of discipline as something that brings great frustration, but great rewards.

    I was thrilled to read this post and I so agree that passion and discipline work together in the most rewarding work that we do, when we can give ourselves over to its demands.

    Thank you!


  14. Beautifully expressed. Thank you…I love the idea – the necessity – of linking passion and intensity with discipline – Apollo and Dionysius …Hermann Hesse was obsessed with this. I think the great artists intuitively know this need and seek to express it.


  15. christawojo says:

    Reblogged this on My Sweet Delirium and commented:
    This is a perfect mediation for the weekend.
    I have found that without structure and discipline, my passions lead me to chaos and emotional and physical burnout. A solid routine of my mundane activities allows me to access the ‘dark core’ without fear of losing myself in it.

    What are your passions?
    Are you pursuing them?
    How do you tame and refine them, and harness them for inspiration?


  16. Pingback: Cultivating the Dark Core of Passion | My Sweet Delirium

  17. christawojo says:

    I absolutely loved that you chose to expand on this subject. It was just what I needed to read today and I think many others would enjoy and benefit from it too. I reblogged it on My Sweet Delirium.

    I’ve just found and followed your blog. I’m looking forward to more from you!


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