Follow Your Bliss through Commitment and Risk

Written by Dr. Dan Johnston

Following your bliss by balancing your journey between joy and sorrow. Would you like toliving your bliss by giving to others have a more joyous and meaningful life? Just heed the advice of the famous mythologist Joseph Campbell and "follow your bliss."

It sounds wonderful but also somewhat frivolous like, "Don't worry; be happy."


For Campbell, nothing could be further from the truth. "Bliss," as he used the term, refers to following your passion — that which enlivens life. It involves making commitments and taking risks.


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Choosing the path of bliss, surprisingly, may not make you happy. This is because seeking your bliss often takes you off the beaten path. You feel lost as you enter into new territory that is both challenging and frightening.


Following your bliss, you may choose to leave a job, a relationship or community as you venture out on your own, often without support or understanding.


Campbell was well aware that following one's bliss involved much more than the search for pleasure.


"Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world," he said. Sorrows are a part of life and must be accepted. Everything changes, and change always brings loss. You have to learn to let go in the process.


Follow your bliss, and you will encounter moments of happiness, but happiness is not the main objective. The fundamental purpose is to learn that in a full life —joy and sorrow coexist.


While striving for your bliss does not guarantee happiness, it can provide joy. Joy is a deeper experience than happiness and can be found even in life's sorrow.


Such joy most often comes from reaching out to others in need, those who are in their own sorrowful moments, and feeling connected to them. It is the joy that comes from meaning and purpose.


Mother Teresa powerfully demonstrated this teaching through her joyful caring for the sick and dying of India.


The essence of following your bliss means living out one of the oldest, universal, spiritual teachings: "Love your neighbor as yourself." This requires a significant leap of faith.


Campbell sums up the path to bliss with this story: "A bit of advice given to a young Native American at the time of his initiation: `As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think.' "


Dan Johnston, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and director of psychological services at the Medical Center of Central Georgia. He also serves on the faculty of the Mercer University School of Medicine. Johnston is the creator of the Awakenings Web site, offering lessons for living.

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