I first read Joseph Campbell’s famous advice to “follow your bliss” when I was in my twenties, living in New York City and working as an editor for a trade magazine in a job that had begun to feel like drudgery.
I wasn’t sure what my bliss was, but I knew it wasn’t the hellish two-hour commute each way to my fluorescent cubical in the middle of Long Island nowhere (when I started, two years earlier, the magazine had been in Manhattan’s funky Chelsea neighborhood). It seemed Campbell was telling me it was okay to quit—which I eventually did, but mostly because I got pregnant and was just too darn tired to get up at 5 am and haul my belly from lower Manhattan to Penn Station for the dawn train).
But somewhere along the line, I got confused about this bliss thing. Stay at home motherhood was a job—not gruelling, but certainly not bliss. In fact, the journalism jobs I worked at over the years all felt, well, like work. By contrast, bliss was surely a perpetual laser beam of extreme glee. In search of bliss, I became a spiritual seeker who stalked the idea of being “blissed out” in a lotus position, or flat on my yoga mat, riding a spiritual high that never plummeted back down to earth.
Then, one day almost two years ago, in the wake of an awakening to true nature, I realized bliss wasn’t a noun. It was a verb. You know, a doing rather than having. I didn’t need to get bliss, I needed to do bliss.
Now, some spiritual teacher might well say, “You are bliss. Bliss is your nature.” And yes, I suppose ultimately that’s true since everything that is, springs from the eternal part of us (even the parts of reality we don’t like). But in my experience in the tangible world, bliss is not a giddy state of being, but a joyful state of doing.
Just after this revelation, I started naturally blissing. I found myself drawn to writing, after more than a decade hiatus from the craft. I created a blog called the Awakened Dreamer, and then doors opened. I was suddenly writing for elephant journal, then for Huffington Post, Origin Magazine, the Good Men Project and more. My bliss was swinging doors wide open, where before there had been not walls, but simply nothing. It wasn’t as if I had been trying to write and publish and hitting obstacles. Rather once I became aware that writing was blissing, or that blissing was writing, life said “Yes, come this way.”
My little sister is following her bliss. Thirty years after her multiple sclerosis diagnosis. she blissed her way into creating a blog called Still Sexy After MS, a site that has been hugely popular. She called me recently, clearly blissful, to let me know that former talk show host Montel Williams (an MS sufferer) had retweeted on of her tweets. The MS Society and MS groups have been encouraging her, sharing her work. My sister is simply following her bliss. Not chasing after a state of well-being, but rather doing the very thing her soul calls her to do. And from that, comes success, joy and well-being.
I am still learning to bliss.
Every now and then, I get off track in doing something that begins to feel like work, or a chore, or even hardship. Or even doing something that feels pretty good in the moment but that keeps coming up against those dead ends and walls, instead of wide-open doors.
One of those missteps was a project called Rebelle Sex, an online magazine I’d hoped to launch this fall but that encountered such a fierce obstacle course I surrendered. (The final straw: Facebook, in a system wide raid on adult content, deleting a fan page for the magazine that took 6 months and 3K to build to its 20K fans/100K weekly reach).
Yesterday, my little sister reminded me, “Lori, you just have to follow your bliss.” She said this as I pondered the practicalities of something I wanted to do. I got off the phone with her, and headed to my oracle deck corner of the house and from the Gateway Oracle Cards randomly pulled….you guess it, a card called Following Your Bliss.
So for those of you who might hesitate in the blissing department, here is another wise Campbell quote, from Reflections on the Art of Living,
“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. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”
Sometimes I clearly derail from that track that is mine to travel, but it doesn’t take long before I notice that bliss is missing in action and I find my way back. Right now it looks like writing this blog for Be You Media, cup of amazing coffee in hand, view of the park outside my house on a sunny Monday morning. This feels like action that is on track. This feels like bliss.
So today, if you are reading this perhaps it’s your timely reminder from the “universe” that blissing is your way back on track. Or if you are on track, let this piece cheerlead you for following your bliss.
And on that note fellow traveller, Bliss on!
Lori Ann Lothian is a sexy daring writer who challenges assumptions about love, sex, relationships and enlightenment in her columns at Huffington Post and elephant Journal and in feature articles at the Good Men Project, Origin Magazine, Yoganonymous, Better After 50 and more. Former editor of the relationship section of elephant Journal, she is now on the editorial staff at the Good Men Project where she works on new writer development. Her memoir, How to Love: An Almost Fictional Handbook on Sex After Divorce will be published in the fall of 2013. You can Tweet her at Twitter or sign up for Lori’s mailing list here.