On following one’s bliss

Joseph Campbell said to follow your bliss. But let’s face it…. Following ones bliss is absurdly situational.

First, a bit more on Campbell’s statement:

He derived this idea from the Upanishads:

“Now, I came to this idea of bliss because in Sanskrit, which is the great spiritual language of the world, there are three terms that represent the brink, the jumping-off place to the ocean of transcendence:Sat-Chit-Ananda. The word “Sat” means being. “Chit” means consciousness. “Ananda” means bliss or rapture. I 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.” I think it worked.

He saw this not merely as a mantra, but as a helpful guide to the individual along the “hero journey” that each of us walks through life:

If you follow your bliss, 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. Wherever you are—if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.

Campbell began sharing this idea with students during his lectures in the 1970s. By the time that The Power of Myth was aired in 1988, six months following Campbell’s death, “Follow your bliss” was a philosophy that resonated deeply with the American public—both religious and secular.

Apparently, later in life, Campbell found that “follow your bliss” was being loosely interpreted as a green-light for all-out hedonism, which was not his intention. It wasn’t meant to be a go-ahead for doing whatever you like, and certainly not doing simply as you are told. To follow one’s bliss was to identify that pursuit which you are truly passionate about and attempting to give yourself absolutely to it. In so doing, you will find your fullest potential and serve your community to the greatest possible extent.

I’m lucky in that, should I choose to (and I have) follow my bliss, I’ve got a support system in place to encourage me. Lets face it, most people don’t get to follow their bliss. They are too busy scraping by or wondering where the next gallon of water will come from or if they are a girl, how and when they are going to marry.

But if Campbell was right, this journey will ultimately make me a better and more productive human being. If he was wrong, well, I’ll just be that super lucky girl who got to bum around the world untethered for a while because I was privileged enough to get to follow my bliss for a short period of time. But here’s hoping Campbell was right.

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