06/26/2010 10:46 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Finding Passion and Purpose in Suffering

What causes you to feel suffering? The oil spill? The war in Afghanistan? Whose suffering touches you? Do you suffer the slings and arrows of your own self-criticism? I can certainly raise my hand on that one. What is it that you care about most deeply in the world around you?

The conditions you notice in the world outside of you may be reflecting a conflict you have within you. For example, what about the oil spill is disturbing to you? Is it the loss of innocent life? What in your own life are you losing or missing? Or is it a sense of powerlessness or lack of accountability? How might you become more powerful, or accountable? You may not be able to do anything about the oil spill, but you can reclaim aspects of your own life that are in some way being masked or denied.


From a dictionary:
Origin: Middle English: from Old French, from late Latin passio(n-) (chiefly a term in Christian theology), from Latin pati "suffer."

In the 1980's, I gave retirement seminars including one for employees of a children's charity, approaching the end of their career. They did a symbolic drawing exercise to understand more about their motivation and vision for the future under the headings "Meaningful events and experiences from the past," "Who I am now," and "What I want in the future."

One lady drew a picture of a child lying in a hospital bed. She explained that as a child, she had had many stays in hospital and had a deep feeling for children deprived of their home lives. It was this experience in her early life that had led her to her fulfilling work with the charity. The passion she experienced led to her compassion for others.

Next month, it will be 40 years since I returned to England from six months as a hippie in India. I had left London on a cold January day, not sure where I was going, but with a sense that I do not belong in this world, unable to find my place in it. I landed bemused in the teeming masses of people that was Bombay waking up. I was a long way from home.

Many fellow travelers studied in spiritual centers, followed gurus or got hooked into drugs -- cannabis or hash, then opium and heroin. It hurt me that through their addictions, people were killing themselves and throwing away the gifts of their lives.

As I traveled, I wrote journals. The energy of India I found very powerful. India was a spiritual awakening for me. I resolved when I returned to England to write a book about my experiences to prevent others going down a self-destructive route. It was a passion for me.

As it turned out, I was not ready to write the book then. Twenty years and many personal and spiritual development courses later, a publisher invited me to write my book. When I sat down to begin the first chapter, I was choked with the same passion I had felt all those years ago.

In my recent blog, "Passion, Mission and Heart Skills," I wrote more about how that passion evolved for me over time. One reader commented:

I love the way your sense of discovery, adventure and learning is still as alive and vibrant today as it was 40 years ago when you were first discovering. What do you think it is that keeps this alive in you? It seems as present now as it was then.

It is just as present. Deeply felt passion does not die. Passion is a powerful fuel.


Passion becomes purpose because you will have a natural empathy with those who experience a similar dilemma. You can become a resource for others through sharing the understanding and wisdom you gain.

What I saw in 1970 was that I would not be able to make any positive changes in the world as a drop out. If I really wanted to make any changes in the world, I would need to reconcile myself to living in my country of origin, and then go to the "center and the top" -- meaning leaders in government, industry, health and education. I returned to England with a purpose.

However, center and top grew to mean my own "higher consciousness." I am no longer sure about changing the world as such. Big job. The purpose that grew for me was to first of all, learn how to manage myself in this world, such that I might enjoy health, wealth and happiness. Then through writing and speaking -- I happen to love doing both -- assist others to find their own meaning and purpose for living, especially now in these turbulent times.

Negative conditions are there on purpose,
and with learning and growth they serve a purpose that is divine.

- John Morton


Intention is recognizing a vision for your purpose. The vision will direct and guide you towards fulfilling your purpose, bringing an even deeper healing to you. Out of your pain, you may well find the seeds of your purpose and intention for a more meaningful, rewarding and joyous life.

My own intention became to inspire fresh hope and confidence in my readers, listeners and viewers. I aim to sew seeds of greater possibility for choosing to lead a more fulfilling life. This intention guides and informs what I do.

The human spirit within you is so much greater than the disorders and dilemmas that are your pain and suffering. When you awaken to the greater truth of who you are, your vitality and joy can take wing.

As you come into reconciliation with yourself,
you free up energy that you can use
to focus on your intention.

- John-Roger

What are the changes you would like to see taking place in the world? How can you effect those changes in some aspect of your own life? How has passion played a part in your life so far? I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a comment below, or contact me at

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