What are you passionate about? How are you innately creative? What gives your life a sense of purpose?

What are you passionate about? How are you innately creative? What gives your life a sense of purpose?

These are questions I have been exploring for years in classes, retreats and workshops in Ashland, Mexico and Greece. Teaching is one of the ways I express my own passion for the lifelong journey of self-knowledge.

We are all unique in our expressions. Even the answers we find within change as we age.

This is why we need respect for the mystery of life, an evolving, loving relationship with ourselves and a certain faith in our own stories — faith in how our joys, grief, losses, successes, failures, insecurities, strengths, wounds and gifts weave into a larger story we value. This faith regenerates and sustains us in times of loss and transition.

Having a sense of internal grounding is essential to being able to retain a balance with the energy outside ourselves. As Andrew Harvey wrote in "The Direct Path," "nothing that happens on the surface of the sea can alter the calm of its depths."

As a singer-songwriter and poet, I have a passion for words and a curiosity about where they were born. Words have their stories, too. What they mean now is often sewn into their infancy. For example, the French word "blessure" means "wound." It is also the original derivation for the word "blessing."

I am continually in awe of how this connection between wound and blessing plays itself out. The very things we feel are flawed about us often are the very things that make us unique, talented and sensitive to the world in ways that no one else is prototyped to be.

When what we keep in shadow (a term psychologist Carl Jung used to describe the parts of us we try to hide or disown) becomes more integrated in our lives, transformation happens in three predictable ways.

First, we realize those parts of us are not the shameful, irredeemable monsters we have built them to be over the years. Some of us keep amazing, creative talents in shadow, like an innate ability to draw or to sing.

Second, the pain surrounding what we have kept in shadow is a tuning fork to the hearts of others. Our joys and our griefs are deep human connectors of the heart. It's ironic that we more often are loved for our vulnerabilities than we are for looking cool.

Third, the door is opened to see the other side of what we have considered unlovable about ourselves: our passions, how we can manifest out of the wound (blessure), the legacy of our own story, the blessing. Exploring authenticity and self-love in a group environment not only supports this transformation but creates more vitality and spontaneity.

I often hear people say: "I am not creative" or "I'm not passionate about anything." Everyone is creative and has the potential to love. Finding what sparks our passion is not a journey of finding things outside ourselves to light our fires but a process of presence and removing internal messages.

Much of the misery in our lives comes from our inability to be present in the moment without judgment. Over a lifetime, we tend to take on negative beliefs about qualities that are innate to us. Sometimes this comes to us in the form of abuse or other people's desires for us that may have been given out of love but which get in the way of us seeing our true loves.

We often re-experience what ignites our passion by returning to childhood. When you were a child, what made time stand still? This is often the door to one's passion. If it has been closed for a long time, it may take some coaxing. One's passion may be standing hand in hand with one's grief, long dismissed, requiring a willingness to let both in.

As Anais Nin, the French-Cuban author, wrote, "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."

We often think of passion as masterful, charismatic and bold, but passion looks and feels different in different people. Passion is simply our authenticity put into action.

We are all interesting works of art, and when we get fascinated by what kind of medium we are and what kind of medium others are, we naturally connect more deeply, evolve in self-knowledge and discover ongoing ways to contribute to the world with our own innate gifts. It is this expression that sustains us most consistently over time and gives us faith in the beauty of our own story.

Zan E. Nix taught a summer class at Southern Oregon University called "Women & Passion" and is teaching a fall course titled "The Psychology of a Passionate Life: Self Exploration Through Poetry. Her book, "An Ocean of Fierce Loving: Poems on Love & Transformation," is available on Amazon.