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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 16, Number 5, April 2004

On being well: What is your passion?

by Julia Johnson

There are many ways to think about the word passion. The dictionary specifies six situations for its use, most of which relate to emotions. In general conversation, passion is often used in the context of intense enthusiasm for a cause or an object. In the classroom, teachers are highly motivated and passionate about the subjects they teach; they are uniquely creative and passionate about the methods, strategies, and techniques they use to facilitate the learning of the curriculum; and they are empathetic and passionate in their interactions with their students. Outside the classroom, many teachers passionately engage in activities regarding social justice, health and safety, working and learning conditions, politics, and professionalism. In the larger world, individuals work untiringly and passionately on saving the rainforest and the oceans, protecting flora, fauna, and the ozone layer, granting amnesty for political prisoners, raising money for medical research, exposing corruption in all levels of economic and political structures, and fighting for human rights in Third-World countries. There are many things and causes to be passionate about, and during one’s lifetime, one’s passions change.

In my youth, I was passionate about play and the time I spent with friends. When the age of responsibility dawned, I became passionate about my teacher training, my new husband, and the subsequent family we created. Over time, teaching became my passion, along with the diverse personal interests I pursued as an adult. Recently, a chance encounter with a recovering addict made me ponder the things that become one’s passion.

The gifted classical musician, without fear and with frank openness, described to me his current unhealthy state, and during our conversation, I was deeply moved by the passion with which he spoke of his commitment to regain his health. Very simply, gently, and with directness, he said, "I am doing whatever I can to be healthy again. It is a full-time job." Those words have been playing in my mind. "I want to be healthy again. It is a full-time job."

The World Health Organization and the media let us know regularly that personal health across all age groups is today’s global issue. Strange how our health, our lack of it, has become a global issue, when one considers that most of us entered the world with good health. So, how did our health become a global issue and maintaining good health a full-time job?

In the beginning, with the gift of life, we were given an awesome body to house our unique abilities and spirit. We had a responsibility to respect, to preserve, and to protect our gifts. But no one told us that. No adult, in our lifetime of education or mentorship, has impressed upon us the message that one’s body is a sacred place. Instead, we have grown up believing that our personal desires and our ambitions have greater value in our life’s journey than the value we give to our body. As a result, our body has suffered from neglect, ingested toxins, and emotional and physical abuse that, over time, has damaged our cells, organs, hearts, minds, and souls. We ravage our body with no thought to its sacredness as we live the drama of our lives pursuing careers, causes, things, and passions that take us away from caring for the very thing that gives form to our life.

What I have come to understand from this reflective journey about passion is this: We are on the wrong path. We take the health of our body for granted even though we know that without healthy bodies, minds, and souls we will not be able to use the talents and creative energy we were given to do the great things we were born to do. No passion, cause, or thing is as important as our body’s need to be well. It seems, however, that this message speaks to our hearts only when disease comfortably makes a home in our body.

In light of the fact that personal health is now a global issue and heart disease, cancer, AIDS, and obesity are its greatest threats, it is time to give some thought to living our lives differently. Paraphrasing Dr. Wayne Dyer, it is our very best thinking that has got us to this place, so in order to get a different outcome, we need to change our minds.

If we were taught from the moment of our birth to value the sacredness of the body we’re given, then our greatest passion would be to take care of it. With the house of our heart, mind, and soul in order, we would be better equipped to use our special abilities to change our sick world to a healthy one. If our personal health becomes a priority in the choices we make, then it will make sense to teach everyone we know, and especially our young, about the sacredness of our bodies, the sacredness of life, the sacredness of relationships, and the sacredness of all life on the planet we share. If we do this, then we will learn to walk and talk the path of reverence in all that we do.

Julia Johnson, a learning resource teacher at Red Bluff School in Quesnel, is a BCTF PD wellness associate, johnsonj@abccom.bc.ca.

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