Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Follow Your Bliss

I really appreciate Joseph Campbell on many levels, but I am particularly drawn to his concept of following your bliss. Here is a excerpt from an interview with Campbell shortly before his death:

BILL MOYERS: Do you ever have the sense of... being helped by hidden hands?

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: All the time. It is miraculous. I even have a superstition that has grown on me as a result of invisible hands coming all the time - namely, that if you do 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....

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.
-- Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, pp. 113, 120

To "follow your bliss" is not to live an indulgent life, satisfying our ego's every whim. Rather, it is to find and pursue what fills us with passion. To fully be ourselves. In so doing, we will naturally fill needs in our community and bless it. As a parent, I see my role as helping my children become who they are. I think it is beautiful to watch passionate people do what they do.

For several years I thwarted my ability to follow my bliss. When I became a parent, I became hyperfocused on that part of my role and identity. My inner world shrank drastically. Even though I worked part-time, I wasn't investing any real emotional energy into that aspect of my life. I became thoroughly bored with myself and didn't want to be in the same room with me. Then, I dared to do things for myself instead of my kids, just because I wanted to do so. I read for fun and intellectual stimulation again, I reignited my sense of humor, I listened to music I liked (not just the Wiggles or Raffi). Over time, I felt alive again, passionate, which infused life into my marriage and allowed me to connect better with others. Without deliberately trying, I have become happier with myself and have been a greater resource to others. When I am following my bliss, I am neither absorbed with myself, nor engaged in self-denial. The universe feels centered and right at these times.


  1. I can relate. I left science trying to be a "good" mom. I jumped on the whole shepharding a child's heart bandwagon at our church but that wasn't me. I tried to be a good cook and a good decorator, fit into that stay at home mom stereotype (and my husband didn't expect it at all, it was something I felt I had to do). I hate the faith struggle I'm in, but I definitely feel like I'm more like myself.

  2. I wondered what it was like for you being a full time stay at home mom after just completing your PhD. I had my son one month after completing my fellowship. I took a few months off and then began part-time work. I still only work part-time but I've increased my hours. I'm just not meant to be a full- time-stay-at-home mom. I enjoy the balance I have with work and home. Do you see yourself returning to science professionally at some point?