If the little-engine-that-could plugs boldly onwards by repeating: “I think I can, I think I can”, then my inner critic’s engine used an opposite mantra: “Not there yet… not there yet….not there yet…” In my quest to make it up the figurative mountain of self-fulfillment, it seemed that I was always coming up short.
And what was my quest? Nothing short of “following my bliss”…
“Follow your bliss,” the term coined by mythologist Joseph Campbell, is a quote that I have held so dear as a slogan of my life that I wear the beloved saying on a chain around my neck. But in what cases can our desire to “find” or “follow” that which we name our “bliss” become a wild goose chase? And furthermore- what is our bliss, anyway?
Personally, I define my bliss as the circumstance when what I do is aligned with who I am and what I believe. I have trusted for a long time that I will ultimately thrive when the actions I take on a daily basis are an expression of my core values and essence. In addition, my aim became to seamlessly connect what-I-do with who-I-am and to make my living solely from offering my innate gifts and talents.
But why then, did it never feel that way? For years, every job I took, every relationship I had, and every home I inhabited, however perfect at the time, usually ended within 6 months to a year, shortly after the honeymoon period inevitably lost its traction. Over time, the relentless insatiability of my desire to answer the call to “Follow My Bliss” gave way to transition after transition, as nothing was ever ‘good enough.’
If I was working for a meaningful organization, rather than seeing it as a stepping stone, I felt dismayed that I was in my mentor’s shadow. If I was dating a successful entrepreneur, rather than building our dreams together, I feared I wanted to be him more than I wanted to be with him. And as far as living in the same place, fate itself took care not to let me experience any stagnation, uprooting me more times that I could count in the midst of all the other changes…
But through it all, I remained determined, like a dog gnawing on a dry bone with resilient hope or useless dedication. Underneath it all, I hung on to the ride for dear life, working my “hustle muscle” and persevering bravely despite the figurative horses’ efforts to buck me off its back.
What kept me going? The commitment to “follow my bliss”, and the belief that with enough purpose, persistence, passion, pluck, patience, and pizazz- I was going to make it!
Meanwhile, time whizzed by and my life was often a reaction to many moving parts and circumstances. I was often very excited and happy, but when things inevitably went awry or I had the rug pulled out from under me, it felt like all that I was working towards had been rendered naught- leaving me back at square one.
I was not following my bliss, I was chasing it down – hard. The very phrase “to follow” implies that we are not in our bliss, but rather a seeker of it. The very fact of having a quest meant I felt an inherent lack- something was missing, something I had to long for and seek out…. I was not thriving as I’d hoped, but struggling to “strive and to survive.”
And then- I got tired. And then- I got fed up. And then- I let go. And then- I surrendered.
There came a time when everything I’d worked for, identified with, and built towards came crashing down around me- when several relationships, work opportunities, and housing situations all shifted suddenly all at once. And in that time of being left seemingly with nothing – empty handed- was the time I realized that I was trying to clutch sand between my fingers, and grasping at straws.
I realized that everything I thought I wanted so badly was actually not something I needed to be complete, and in fact – if I looked deeply enough- everything I sought had actually been present all along- if only in my desperate thirstiness I had not been too blind too see.
I started to understand that the journey is not about “finding” “following” or “seeking” your bliss, but rather about surrendering deeply enough to the present moment to live it fully, and become it.
There is a part of a poem I adore: “Everything is quite all right; our worth secure and true. Everything’s not quite all right; we’ve worthy work to do…” This statement I believe speaks to the fact that we are both a perfect flower, so whole and complete in this moment, and simultaneously, we are a bud- brimming with infinite potential that will always seek the option to evolve and to grow.
So- my question to you is: can you hold both? Can you navigate the terrain of the present and the future, balancing being here now and seeing situations for what they are while also looking forward to ways in which you can continue to blossom? Can you stop often enough and long enough to appreciate the beauty all around you, and within you? Can you notice that on your way to “there”, you are already here?
What are the ways that you express gratitude for the journey as it unfolds, and what are your favorite practices for cultivating presence? Mine include: yoga, meditation, reading, listening to music by candlelight, writing out gratitudes weekly, dancing in my room to my favorite songs, and sharing my day’s highlights with friends, even encouraging them to think of one thing they are grateful for and leave it in their voicemails when they get my answering machine!
As I incorporate all these daily habits and more, my new quest is to have no quest. It is to wholeheartedly surrender with appreciation for everything that is unfolding before me, while feeling empowered to respond with courage and confidence. It is to do what I love and to be who I love to be…. It is to know that the adventure of living is to experience your bliss, not to follow it…