Gregg Levoy, author of Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life, is a former columnist and reporter for USA Today and The Cincinnati Enquirer. He has written for many publications and been a frequent guest on TV and radio. Visit him at

What is passion? Levoy plunges ahead with this vibrant definition:

"Passion is what disturbs and confounds the safe and settled in your life. . . . (it) is the impulse toward growth, which, by its nature, protests boredom and ennui, refuses to bump mindlessly along on the conveyor belt, and has little patience for the 'been there, done that' attitude that there's nothing new under the sun. It's what stirs your interest in life, helping you awaken from the trances and entrapments of the everyday, which block the natural migration of your energies."

The goal here is "maximum aliveness" and to fuel the journey, passion enlists the assistance of a group of other lively spiritual practices such as wonder, reverence, enthusiasm, and gratitude. He observes that one of the reasons why zombie and vampire stories are so popular is that they signify our fears of having our life force and our energies sucked out of us by forces beyond our control. (See the excerpt.)

Using a wonderful mix of personal anecdotes, stories from others, and illustrations from books and movies; Levoy covers the far reaches of passion in our yearning for wonder and awe, in our quest for novelty, in our need for self-expression, in our hunger to reconnect with our inner and outer wildness, in our hope to keep desire alive in relationships, and in the role that risk plays in all of these soulful adventures.

Passionate people are very taken with wonder. They are alive to the report of their senses and open to finding beauty everywhere. They know that there are many wonders in our world; we just need to stay alert and allow them to show themselves to us.

Passionate people are also reverent: they respect and honor the sacred in, with, and under the ten thousand things of the world. We are astonished by the awe-inspiring experiences which give us goose-bumps whether listening to Bach or Beethoven, savoring a perfect sunset or marveling at the joy that fills our being at a wedding or watching a dog leaping into the air to catch a Frisbee. These peak experiences, as Abraham Maslow called them, keep us from the rigidity of becoming "adult-erated" in our ways and responses to the world around us.

How do we sustain this "zest for life"? Levoy advises us to maintain our childlike curiosity, our beginner's mind, and our love of lifelong learning. He relishes enthusiasm which serves as an antidote to boredom, ennui, and depression. Following an impressive chapter on both the positive and negative sides of "Questing," the author examines "the call of the wild" which enchants and absorbs the lives of so many passionate people. Among their number are those who hanker to live in "Primordial Standard Time"; those who want to ride the wild horse of human desire; and those who seek out places where they can explore their Dionysian ecstasies far from civilization.

Just when we are getting into the swing of things, Levoy shifts gears and notes: "Passion is above all the hunger to connect, the desire for union, the capacity for relatedness. It's your deep affinity for and abiding interest in not only a special someone, but in life itself." Readers will be interested in what Levoy has to say about repetition, endurance, inhibition, silence, fame, and courage.

Vital Signs: The Nature and Nurture of Passion does just what it promises: it provides a rounded and enlightening overview of why it is important for all of us to reclaim our passion in times when we feel burnt-out and at the end of our rope. The spiritual dimensions of this quality are brought to the fore when we truly come alive!