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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Follow Your Bliss: Making Your Life Worth Living

Lately, I keep hearing the phrase, “Follow Your Bliss.” I think it will be one of our Family Rules. Mostly people just seem to use it to mean, “Do what makes you happy.” But, it stems from the work of Joseph Campbell. He described a way of living that flows from the core of your being, awakens your complete awareness (your consciousness) and flows toward what gives you bliss and rapture.

His statement, “follow your bliss,” encapsulates this whole notion.

He realized that he may never truly know if he had a proper consciousness or a proper sense of his being, but he felt sure that he knew what would bring him bliss. And, if he could follow that path toward his bliss, he felt sure that he would find both a proper consciousness and a proper being.

“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. Wherever you are—if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time,” p. 150.

The Bible speaks similarly of the importance of following our deepest longings our greatest desires. We are to put off the sin that so easily entangles us and mires us in lies and bogs us down with false promises of happiness.

As we are setting aside the sin, we are told to focus on the prize that is before us. The One that we are longing for. The One that satisfies above all else. The One for which we were created. The One that offers us bliss and is able to deliver. The One and Only One who can provide what is promised. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Joseph Campbell continues,“In the Middle Ages, a favorite image that occurs in many, many contexts is the wheel of fortune. There's the hub of the wheel, and there is the revolving rim of the wheel. For example, if you are attached to the rim of the wheel of fortune, you will be either above going down or at the bottom coming up. But if you are at the hub, you are in the same place all the time. That is the sense of the marriage vow—I take you in health or sickness, in wealth or poverty: going up or going down. But I take you as my center, and you are my bliss, not the wealth that you might bring me, not the social prestige, but you. That is following your bliss,” p.147.

Campbell uses marriage as a symbol to explain following your bliss. Paul uses this image as well in 2 Corinthians 11. He desires that his readers be pure in their devotion to Christ. He desires that we be pure, undistracted, undefiled, giving our full attention to Christ.

Simply put, we get easily distracted. We have so many immoral choices that when we overcome those desires and begin to live moral lives, we tend to think that we have arrived. We begin to believe that this life's goal is to sin less. But, this is just a means to an end. Sinlessness is our of our reach. And, sinning less only provides an opportunity for living from the core of our being with complete awareness (consciousness) of our true bliss, the One who has called us, loved us, died for us, and has been resurrected, giving us a confident hope for eternal life.

If we sin less today than yesterday, we must not think that we have arrived at some end. We must continue to journey toward our true bliss with all that we are. In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus quoting Moses described the path to our true bliss as, "‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’"

There are desires in our hearts other than following Jesus, and these may or may not be leading us toward our true bliss. We can recognize it in others more easily than we can in our own lives.

The boy who bullies other children like his father bullies him. The girl with an unaffectionate father looking for a boyfriend to meet that need. The man who drinks just a beer or two each day to calm his nerves, so that he can keep it together for his family. The recently divorced woman who starts going to the gym, wearing low-cut blouses and high slit skirts.

The desires and needs are real, but they have substituted a lie for the truth and have settled for less than true bliss.

But then there are passions and desires that stem from the core of who we are: a love for art or nature, a need to fix or build something, an eye for beauty or style, a knack for numbers or problem solving, an ease of conversation that allows someone to strike of a conversation. This book and website might help you find what your strengths are.

These are expressions of our true self peaking through.

We can choose to stifle them, ignoring our design, or we can choose to embrace them, to recognize of a bit of our true selves that has been revealed.

Follow your bliss.

For Parents: When asked how parents could help their children follow their bliss, Joseph Campbell answered thoughtfully, “You have to know your child and be attentive to the child.” The best way to do this is through youth centered conversations.

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