I’ve always found the idea of following your bliss unhelpful, especially as a way to find your life purpose.
It’s caught on in spiritual circles, though, and it’s a common idea among coaches.
I get it. Sounds like a nice way to live!
But here’s why ‘following your bliss’ isn’t half as fun as it sounds.
If you insist only on following what feels good, there’s no way you can live an authentic life. You will always feel like you are running from something.
To be whole, and to build a solid foundation for your life, you need to get to know and befriend all of yourself.
Is that always blissful? Hell, no!
I didn’t know until the other day that the phrase ‘follow your bliss’ – 423,746 Instagram hashtags and counting – was first coined by the famous mythologist, Joseph Campbell.
This is what he said:
“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.”
That annoyed me. Campbell was a respected spiritual teacher, and I felt it was irresponsible of him – as well as just wrong – to suggest that simply following what brings us joy is all we need to do to live our real lives.
After I’d had a nice cup of camomile tea and calmed down, I decided to do some more research.
What did Campbell really mean by ‘bliss?’ There had to be more to it.
And without too much digging required, I discovered what Joseph Campbell actually meant by ‘bliss’. In his words:
If your bliss is just your fun and your excitement, you’re on the wrong track.
When you follow your bliss, and by bliss I mean the deep sense of being in it, and doing what the push is out of your own existence—it may not be fun, but it’s your bliss and there’s bliss behind pain too.
You follow that and doors will open where there were no doors before, where you would not have thought there’d be doors, and where there wouldn’t be a door for anybody else.
There’s something about the integrity of a life. And the world moves in and helps. It really does.Joseph campbell
That made me feel better. And it matches with the spiritual path as I’ve experienced it. For several years now, I’ve consistently followed my inner guidance, and it has led me to people, places, healing and experiences I never could have imagined for myself.
It certainly hasn’t been blissful much of the time, in the conventional sense of the word. But as Joseph Campbell used the word, yes, I have followed my bliss.
It’s not always easy. But once you start living this way, you’ll never want to go back.
Our real lives can only begin when we have the courage to listen to something within. And usually, in order to get to our real lives, we have to go through the difficult, painful experience of looking at ourselves, warts and all.
That’s because our soul – that deep part of us that is both human and divine – wants us to evolve and to learn, so that we can contribute in some way to the evolution of humanity. So it will bring us the lessons and experiences we need to do that.
As a result of growing up in a society that doesn’t honour or even really recognize the soul, most of us are completely disconnected from our authentic selves.
We have developed defences and unhelpful beliefs about ourselves and life, which have become part of the lens through which we see the world.
We have been taught to work hard and build security, when what that involves may run directly counter to our deepest truth.
Probably we have lost touch with who we really are – so completely that we no longer know what our deepest truth is.
All of this needs to be made conscious and healed in order for us to live our real lives. We have much to unlearn, as well as much to learn. When we do that deep work, we are more empowered, more compassionate, more self aware and more loving. We can be of more help to the people we love and to the world.
Buried in your soul is the unique blueprint for your life on Earth. Your soul knows what will give your life meaning. It knows your purpose.
If all you do is follow what feels fun and joyful, you may never access the rich depths of your soul’s deepest longings – the treasures and the wisdom that lie within.
If we are really to live our soul’s purpose, we have to look within. Until we know who we really are, beyond the conditioning of society, the desires of our family and friends and our own desires for security and belonging, we may never live the life that is truly ours.
Until we heal and befriend our wounded egos, they will get in the way of us becoming who we really are and who we are meant to be in the world.
And if you follow your inner guidance – yes, when it feels blissful, but especially when where it’s leading you doesn’t – you can’t fail to live the life that is uniquely yours.
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