Joseph Campbell who studied and taught comparative mythology / comparative religion, once proclaimed, “Follow your bliss.” Good advice, I think, as long as your bliss is on the good side of human endeavor and not the evil side. I do not advise on how people who have undetermined or shy bliss should proceed. Happily, it is not my job to figure that out.
Bill Moyers 1980s and ’90s interviews with Joseph Campbell can be found at the Bill Moyers website via this link.
For my purpose, I am going to deal with definition one from dictionary-dot-com for bliss: . Note: I find it interesting that utter joy is combined with contentment, since most of my life’s utter joy moments are/were rather loud, noisy and active, while my contentment moments were fairly calm. But I love juxtapositions, so lets have at it.
What did Campbell mean follow your bliss? My take: if you follow the calling of what is core to your life, what brings you to a state of bliss, you are living the life you ought to be living and success will naturally attend you. This does not mean it will be easy or without plenty of diligent work or lead you to monetary success, but you will live a fulfilled life and be more than satisfied.
Some people seem born knowing what they are to do, what is at their core. Other people figure it out on the way to adulthood or shortly after entering adulthood. Others simply make a choice and the choice engineers its way into being their bliss—their bliss may be doing something with great skill no matter what it is. Some people never determine their bliss or they choose to ignore their bliss for a variety of reasons both good and bad.
As I look back at my life, my bliss I recognize, unfortunately, did not turn out to be career oriented. So, before retirement, I worked a forty to forty-plus hour week, then followed my bliss on my time. In other words, I tried to pack a lot of bliss into my evenings and weekends.
My bliss is in those minutes to hours when everything lines up and living is automatic, because you are part of something larger than yourself, reintegrated back into the universe and the universe flows through you, guides you. Or so it seems and these are the words I have that best describe it.
How do I get to that blissful state? One way is through physical activity: baseball, bicycling and hiking. When young and playing baseball I often entered what is called The Zone. When you are in the zone, it is like time slows down and focus sharpens and you just know what to do with the baseball, with your legs, your arms, and so on. In both hiking and bicycling after a mile or two I often enter a state of walking meditation or bicycling meditation. Maybe it is those moments when through practiced activity I fully let go of ego? I don’t know, but I like the sound of that.
A second way I find my bliss is through creativity. My university degree is in art with focus on drawing, painting and print making. Later in life I shifted from visual art to poetry. During my creative time I often find myself in a state of being where the creativity flows through my heart and soul and out my hands as if guided by another force. It is in those times that I am able to create my best work. I am able to reach farther into myself to say or illustrate what I need to say. The voice I sometimes hear that I mentioned in a previous blog entry can be part of this.
From first sight, I have loved the surrealists: Magritte, Miro, Tanguy and others. I especially love the juxtapositions they make in their artwork. Part of surrealism’s goal is to explore the dream, the dreamworld. I use to create visual art with a lot of juxtaposition. I find it easier to accomplish this in poetry. Words are a marvelous paintbrush. Wikipedia entry on Surrealism.
If you ask, Kenneth why did you not do the starving artist gig when you were young? My answer is that immediately after university I met a girl, fell in love, married and discovered bills had to be paid, living in a studio was not acceptable, and workable compromises had to be made with my partner’s life and life goals.
A third way my bliss made itself apparent was moving every few years to a new town near a national park or national forest, or near family in a city. I find moving energizing as I discard old stuff (physical items or habits), get to meet new people, new landscapes. Moving, for me, fills me with a sense of spring promise, the potential for growth and openness. An acquaintance of mine once suggested to me that I have an explorer’s soul, but the age of land exploration is over—a mountain man who missed his century.
Something I suggest everyone do if they live near nature, is to pick a trail and a day of the week to walk that trail. Walk that trail once a week for 52 weeks to see how the trail changes with the seasons. It helps maintain my sense of wonder as I view the progression and diversity of life.
My moving bliss has taken a back seat to staying in one location since I met Dianne eleven years ago. Sharing life with Dianne is a form of bliss in my life now—I did not expect this bliss. She does not wish to move, so there is periodic bliss-conflict when the desire to move swells inside me—we work our way through it.
One thing you will notice is that my bliss does not include other people for the most part, not until Dianne, who I met at age 50. I think this is due to a childhood with many traumas which turned me away from groups or caused my behavior to be odd enough that groups pushed me away—we were kids. I simply developed forms of bliss that were individual and did not learn bliss in conjunction with other people until later in life.
You might point out I played baseball, a team sport. Baseball has a duality (juxtaposition) of being team and individual simultaneously. There is a lot of space in center field between you and the closest players. The bench always has an end that is sparsely populated. When you are at the plate as a batter, it is mostly individual skill applied to the team’s situational goal.
My observational-guess is that animals are their own bliss. I think this, because when I had dogs they seemed to me blissed-out on being everything that is dog. Maybe human bliss is those times when you master or give in to simply being?
If you have a bliss, please feel free to leave a comment in the comment section and share what it is, even if it is small, like a dark chocolate melting in your mouth bliss—I partake in this small bliss.