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What Creates Passion and Passionate People, and What Defeats it In Us? Interview with Gregg Levoy

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Rob: Where do you think it comes from? This idea of living a spotless life. It is, it's empty, it's hollow; I think of spotlight and with spotless means nothing happens?

GL: Right, clean, pure. Well, I imagine it might have come from just the desire to have control. The desire to have control over parts of us that are uncontrollable and -

Rob: That's sort of top down.

GL: That's definitely top down, there's no doubt about it. Patriarchal system that tries to control women, a religious system that tries to control people's you know, sexual appetites, things like that. I think it's a control issue. And you know, here's the thing, none of us are above that, you know? I mentioned this in the book, I had a very revealing Freudian slip that I caught a few years ago that to me highlights the challenges of dealing with these two energies that you're dealing with, with the top down, the bottom up. I had gone on the road to do some adventure travel, you know to honor the part of me that just wanted out of the proverbial box. And - but I went at a time that, when I had a lot of irons in the fire. I was juggling a whole bunch of business projects that needed to come to fruition and I meant to leave a message on the outgoing message of my answering machine that said 'hello this is Gregg Levoy, I'll be out of the office until August twenty-fifth,' but what I said instead and didn't find out until I got home was 'hello this is Gregg Levoy, I'll be out of control until August twenty-fifth.' Which explains some of the messages that were waiting for me when I got home, but there it is right there. I was afraid of being out of control and I didn't even recognize it until I got the feedback from my own answering machine.

Rob: Afraid or looking forward to it? It sounds like you might have been looking forward to it. Having read your book, you're a guy who revels in being out of control.

GL: Exactly. And yet the part of me that's attached to some of the top down functions: getting work done, getting it done on time, having it spotless because I'm a perfectionist as well, is also afraid of losing control. You know what I'm saying? I mean I grew up for instance, with a mother who had a spotless house you know, and all of those kind of values are very important so I've still got that in the back of my mind. You know, some of these notions that control -and control is a good thing, I'm not saying that it's not, that's why Malcolm Gladwell's comment really strikes me about mastery requires at least ten thousand hours of dedicated practice. That's control, that's a discipline. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with discipline; it's that it can get out of hand and then the discipline has to come, to stop being disciplined. You know?

Rob: Well the interesting thing - interesting for me is I spend a lot of my life in the world of biofeedback.

GL: Okay.

Rob: Now biofeedback is basically using technology to develop greater control over your body.

GL: Yeah.

Rob: Your physiology, your brain waves, your muscles, your blood flow, your heart rate, your respiration, but the kind of ironic thing is most of the things that people are taught to do with biofeedback is how to control their physiology so they can let go more. So it's really like - and you talk about in the book, learning how to control, control.

GL: Yeah, exactly. You know the fact is our bodies have biofeedback machines of course. We don't necessarily need to rely on technology to feed that back to us. When I'm overworking, my back goes out or I get a cold, you know and the up shot of these things is I am forced to chill out. That's the message in the symptom is stop, you know I was on vacation in Costa Rica last week and vacation, at least to some degree, should be about rest and relaxation. I mean often for me it's just change, is as much of a vacation as lying on a beach reading a book. But I was overdoing it, I was doing a lot of physical activity and I tore the calf in my left leg and I heard it pop. I actually heard a pop, and the upshot was that I had to stop moving forward because it literally hurt to walk and to move forward. And unfortunately I was two and a half miles in the wilderness at the time that happened. So I had literally had to walk backward most of the way back because that's the only way I could physically do it without that excruciating pain.

Rob: I'm sure you're going to get some great lessons out of walking backward. Tell us.

GL: Well you know, sometimes going backwards is going forward, you know, it's like that when you're standing at the edge of a cliff, progress can be defined as taking a step backward, you know. And to me, this is the biofeedback machine, doing its brilliant intuitive native thing, which is communicating to me what I really need even though my top down brain says no what you really need is more adventure, or more control or get another project done or add something more to your resume or you know, another conquest. But the biofeedback machine of the body, the dreams, symptoms, fantasies, this to me is the native biofeedback machine.

Rob: And what you talk about in the book is learning to listen more to these messages. This is also in Callings a great deal as well.

GL: Yeah, right. Yeah, absolutely.

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