"Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where before there were only walls." (Joseph Campbell)
Mythologist Joseph Campbell, creator of the iconic ‘Hero’s Journey’ template for storytelling, as used in films like Star Wars, The Matrix, Dances with Wolves, Avatar, Wild and Doctor Strange, was also famous for his mantra for a meaningful life: “Follow Your Bliss”.
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where before there were only walls,” Campbell urged. He taught that if you truly follow what is most meaningful for you in your life (your bliss) - and make this your compass – rather than what you think you should do - it will bring you the greatest happiness, fulfillment and success.
However, many of us find it hard to truly follow our bliss, often due to fears or the expectations of others, or because moving towards it tends to bring up lots of challenges, hence Campbell later said what he’d really meant was “Follow Your Blisters.”
Here are ten tips for following your bliss and finding the joy and fulfilment Campbell advocated:
- Look to what fascinated you in childhood: often what captivated us as children can be powerful clues to our bliss. In Joseph Campbell’s case, his early fascination for reading books about Native American Indians pointed him towards a life-long passion for mythology.
- Notice what makes you feel alive: what makes you feel enlivened will also give you an inkling of where your bliss lies. Many reported that Campbell had a “life force” pouring out of him: his aliveness was shining evidence that he’d walked his talk and lived out his own “follow your bliss” life philosophy.
- Follow your intuition: in Fire in the Mind, Campbell’s biographers explain how Campbell followed “a kind of inner guidance, an apprenticeship to inner powers, to his own intuitions and premonitions,” that led him towards his bliss. Allow your premonitory pulse to steer you where you need to go.
- Do what you love: you will likely to have to work hard in pursuit of your bliss, but it’s the love of the work which carries you through. Think of the activities you engage in where hours seem to fly by in minutes and you get clues to your bliss.
- Follow your blisters: following your bliss, however, is not about being hedonistic or selfish. When you truly follow the push of your existence you’re likely to meet considerable challenges, but it’s through challenges that we get to overcome our fears and grow. Real bliss tends to be “hard-won”, all the greater for any endurances (or “blisters”) suffered along the way.
- Be bold - commit to the journey: once committed to following his bliss, Campbell reported that “unseen forces” seemed to support him on his quest. As Goethe wrote, “Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” When we truly commit to our bliss, it’s as if the universe conspires to come to our aid.
- Face your demons: travelling towards your bliss, you’re likely to encounter stumbling blocks and hard knocks, and at times you may feel lost or overwhelmed. On The Hero’s Journey this stage is called ‘The Road of Trials’. Be prepared to face your fears and any personal demons, and learn to accept unloved and unwanted parts of yourself, as well as releasing any old ineffectual ways and negative patterns. It’s about death and rebirth. The Hero’s Journey is a path of letting go, integration and renewal on the road to wholeness.
- Do the thing that scares you: it’s often fear which stops many of us following our bliss in the first place. People on their deathbeds looking back on their lives are said to regret not so much the risks they did take, but those things they never did. Another major fear standing in the way of pursuing our passion, can be fear of what others think of us. Campbell said, “What they will think of me must be put aside for bliss”. Often we blame parents and others for holding us back, yet in reality it’s often our own fears and resistance that keeps us stuck.
- Act in service to others: on The Hero’s Journey, following your bliss is not just but about finding something for yourself but also about bringing it back in service to others in some way. How can you best share your bliss with others? What gifts, wisdom, skills, experience, understanding or insights can you impart?
- Enjoy the journey: Sometimes when we’re set on achieving a dream or goal, we can become fixed on the end result and stressed about getting there as fast as possible. But remember “it’s about the journey, not the destination”, so be sure to enjoy the ride!
Having lived through the stages of The Hero’s Journey in my own life, I am now hosting retreats sharing my experience of this transformative process, and will be co-facilitating a Hero’s Journey men’s woodland retreat with creative arts psychotherapist Sam Bloomfield, at Cherry Wood in South Gloucestershire, 14-16 September. A mixed retreat will follow in April 2019, watch this space! I will also be co-facilitating a Hero's Journey workshop with Alan Heeks at Bristol's Wild & Well Festival on 20 October. For more info, visit: www.consciousfrontiers.com/upcomingevents