Are you following your bliss? Do you know what your bliss is?
If you do, and you are following it, that’s wonderful!
For those of you who perhaps are not so sure, please read on. 🙂
‘Bliss’ is not superficial, temporary pleasure. A nice warm shower, a piece of Godiva chocolate, a delicious home-cooked meal- all these are certainly enjoyable (maybe even ‘blissful’) but that’s not the bliss I am referring to. 🙂
Bliss is also not just doing whatever you feel like doing when you feel like doing it.
Bliss is a calling of the heart that you just cannot resist. It is a deep yearning to express yourself in a way that lights you up like a Christmas tree- where you feel fully alive, fully present and fully creative. Following your bliss is not selfish but selfless. When you do follow your bliss, this not only profoundly nourishes you but usually results you in sharing your gifts in service of others.
Joseph Campbell, the world-renowned mythologist, writer and lecturer, first coined the term ‘follow your bliss.’ He came to this idea after a deep exploration of Indian spiritual traditions and mythology. The ancient rishis, or sages of India more than 2000 years ago, referred to our True Nature as Sat-Chit-Ananda. Sat refers to the truth, or being. Chit refers to consciousness. Finally, Ananda means bliss or rapture.
Joseph Campbell thought, “I don’t know whether my consciousness is proper consciousness or not; I don’t know whether what I know of my being is my proper being or not; but I do know where my rapture is. So let me hang on to rapture, and that will bring me both my consciousness and my being.”
— Joseph Campbell1, The Power of Myth
In India, we have a popular saying in Hindi. A dancer must dance. A singer must sing. And we are all here to follow our bliss- because it is the most natural thing for us to do. Yet often we don’t do this because we are simply not aware.
Let me illustrate with a beautiful story from the Indian tradition.2
Once upon a time, a baby lion was left by its dying mother with a flock of sheep who raise the baby lion and provide him with shelter and food. The baby lion grows up eating grass and saying ‘Ba-a-a’ like the other sheep. This becomes natural for him because he knows no other way.
One day, an elder lion walks by the flock. He is amazed to see this ‘sheep-lion’ bleating with the other sheep.
“What are you doing here?”
“Ba-a-a,” says the sheep-lion. “I’m a sheep. I’m a little sheep.”
“Nonsense!” roars the elder lion. “Come with me! I’ll show you who you truly are.”
And he takes him to the stream nearby, pointing to his reflection in the water.
“See, look at yourself. You’re a lion, like me.”
The sheep-lion sees his reflection in the water. Slowly he realizes the truth.
“It’s true. I don’t look like the sheep. I am a lion!”
Once he recognizes this truth, he roars so loudly that even the hills begin to shake.
In truth, we are all brave lions pretending to be sheep.
Yet how does one follow one’s bliss?
Joseph Campbell found a pathway that he called ‘the hero’s journey’ that was common to all the mythology and spiritual traditions he studied throughout the world. He shared this with George Lucas and this theme was used in the Star Wars movie series.
There are three parts of the hero’s journey- separation, initiation and return.
Yet we need not be Luke Skywalker or know how to use a lightsaber to be a hero. 🙂
We each have a hero’s journey. At times, we choose this journey when we leave a ‘stable’ job to pursue our passion. Or we leave our birth country to make a life for ourselves in another country. At times, the journey seems to choose us. We may face an unexpected life challenge- a grief or other loss, an illness or perhaps a divorce that ‘separates’ us from the world we used to know.
Once we ‘separate’- from a job, from a country, from a person- or even from our experience of our body as we used to know it- for example, in the context of an illness, this creates ‘growing pains’ for us. Our old ways no longer work. The hero’s journey has begun and we enter the ‘initiation’ phase. We need a new way to understand ourselves. We need to redefine the meaning and purpose of our life. Perhaps we need to learn new skills, and dig within for inner resources that we are not even sure we have. This means grappling with our inner demons and dragons so that we may find gifts of strength and courage – that are usually hidden and obscure. Yet once we find these gifts, our journey is not done. We need to return and share our gifts. This is the final phase of the hero’s journey- our ‘return’ so we may inspire others. And the cycle continues.
So, are you following your hero’s journey? Are you following your bliss?
If you would like to go deeper with these ideas, watch this YouTube video that I created last year that talks about a wonderful movie called Finding Joe- a documentary that shares about Campbell’s work and teachings and their influence on many others including Deepak Chopra MD, and George Lucas.
You can also watch a trailer of the Finding Joe movie here.
I would love to hear about your experience in your hero’s journey and following your bliss!