Most of us know the famous quote “Follow your bliss….” coined by the great mythologist Joseph Campbell. I’ve always loved this idea but have honestly NEVER practiced it.
I have a fairly practical orientation to life. I have responsibilities, a schedule, businesses to run, children to raise, appointments to keep, and an ongoing barrage of household tasks that never end. In the last year, I began to see how my ingrained pattern of efficiency, control and organization distances me from who I really am.
This insight surfaced loud and clear during a trip last spring to Sedona. I signed up for a spa treatment called “Soul Seeker” at our resort. The description of the service said that a master therapist would provide techniques to support a new perspective or reconnection with your inner self using imagery, soul journey, emotional release and breath work. (Only in Sedona can you find things like this!) I had no idea what to expect but was curious and open. Little did I know that this session would bring me to a brand new vantage point for my life.
After “reading my energy” the therapist suggested we do some work with imagery and communication between different parts of myself based on the work of Fritz Perls. After guiding me into a state of deep relaxation, the practitioner had me begin a conversation with 2 competing parts of myself. What emerged was a part named “Kate” (amazingly the name seemed to emerge automatically from my unconscious), the task-focused part of me that honored control, focus, hard work and success. When I connected to this part I felt a lot of constriction in my throat, like I was wearing a straight jacket, and it literally felt like the temperature in the room dropped.
The other part of me that wanted to speak up was named “Selene”, the wild, free spirited, creative, artistic part. When I connected to her, I felt buzzing, relaxation, movement, and intense warmth that flowed through my whole body. As this work progressed, a conversation between “Kate” and “Selene” emerged, and although I thought they might be at odds, they were amazingly respectful of each other. Kate, the structured part with lots of control and also lots of success, admitted that she was tired and worn out. She had been in charge for over 40 years, and she was willing to step down to let Selene run the show a bit more. The good girl was deferring to the wild girl! When asked how much power she was willing to give up, the part of me called Kate said it should be a 30/70 split. Make sure 30% of me has some control, structure and organization, but let the other 70% part that is creative, fun-loving, intuitive, and free-spirited take the reigns.
I heard the message: Less control, more feistiness. Less repression, more freedom. Less tightness, more ease. Less work, more fun. As my friend Cathy repeatedly tells me….”Be the disciplined wild woman.”
So, I’ve been tweaking things, and cut back on my work load, created more down time and space for creativity, and vowed to not open my computer at night. I’ve been playing lots of board games with the kids (our new favorite is Catan) and started a netflix series (I never watch tv but am now obsessed with Outlander and Stranger Things!) More time with friends, going to musical events, and hosting dinner parties are all things I’ve added. I’m dancing more. I’m saying no to activities that simply don’t sound like much fun. I’ve let my kids play hooky to have a day at home with me. And no surprise, my happiness and lightness has increased. I’m enjoying my life in a new way.
Although Campbell wasn’t a yogi, his idea of following our bliss was actually born from the yogic concept “sat chit ananda”, which is translated to mean “truth conscious bliss”. Campbell acknowledged that it can be hard to figure out our truth and master our consciousness, but that finding our bliss is often easier (and fun). Campbell believed that if we can hang on to what brings us bliss and rapture, then we might have greater access to higher states of consciousness and truth.
Here are some key suggestions if you choose the path of bliss.
1) Create “sacred space”. Campbell was a firm believer that you needed a room or a certain hour in the day where you could just be. A space for uninterrupted reflection is essential for creative ideas to bubble up. It is in the downtime that flashes of brilliance arise about how to follow our bliss.
2) Embrace uncertainty. If you are willing to “live the questions”, and dance with the uncertainty of turning away from always doing what is required of you, you might just find your own adventure. Campbell says following our own way rather than repeating what we know or blindly following the path our family of origin set forth is definitely scary but has its own inherent reward.
3) Take the risk. Campbell is clear in his writing that we all get caught up in those “fail-safe” pursuits that stymie us and make our lives small. Get out there on the leading edge.
4) Recognize your own depth. We are having experiences all the time that tune us into this larger source of inner bliss. In fact, because the bliss has been there all along within us, we just have to dive down a little deeper to align with it.
The promise of living your bliss according to Campbell is this: “You put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living.”
I now see that Selene, the free-spirited and open hearted part, has always been within me, just pushed down deeply. By reconnecting to her, honoring her wisdom, and giving her the rightful place at the helm, I have arrived at a new life as Campell suggested. It is the life I ought to be living. It is a more authentic, nurturing, happy life with a bit of wild thrown in.