Follow your bliss or follow your blisters?Posted August 31, 2015 in Spiritual Psychology
Joseph Campbell’s famous phrase, “Follow your bliss” is often quoted to inspire individuals to courageously break free of a life of mediocrity and live with authenticity and passion.
Yet, during his life Campbell noticed his famous phrase misinterpreted as a self-serving hedonistic permission slip to chase immediate pleasures and avoid pain (otherwise known as spiritual bypassing). Frustrated by this common misinterpretation, he purportedly remarked, “I should have said follow your blisters.”
Some believe that if we bravely ‘follow our bliss,’ we will be surely rewarded with money, happiness and even fame. There are many ‘spiritual teachers’ literally selling this myth for profit. Without significant study or training, a host of positivity experts with genius marketing are benefiting by selling miracles and manifesting.
We are told that if we follow our desires, success is inevitable. With enough yoga, green smoothies and positive affirmations, we guarantee ourselves happier, sexier, more ‘spiritual’ lives.
But then I receive the calls from disheartened clients; the positivity bubble has burst and the unsettling news sets in: (after the huge graduate school loan comes due or the surprise relationship break up), “I followed my bliss and now I am cynical. Why didn’t it work out for me? Where is the easy money/successful relationship/six-pack abs I was promised?”
This inevitable crash is where Soul waits for you to join Her. It is not that Soul wants you to feel like a depressed failure, but that Soul desperately wants you to be truly YOURSELF. It often takes an ego crash to humbly turn us towards listening to our True Self. The Latin ‘passio’ (the root of passion) literally translates as ‘suffering’ or ‘enduring’.
The Soul wants you to follow your bliss, but to do so with spiritual maturity. When you listen to Soul, you grow beyond the ego addiction of short-sighted childish pleasures. Soul work develops the spiritual heft necessary to experience the bliss of a strong internal connection to your deepest meaning and purpose of being alive. Mature bliss-following survives beyond the inevitable death of immediate gratification. Its long-term sustainability and endurance relies on the long-term lens of Soul. To follow your blisters means to trust the tedious, arduous, challenging aspects of the Soul journey–knowing the valleys are just as beautiful as the peaks in the landscape of the Soul. Achieving the summit of Soul bliss often results in some blisters for the ego.
Campbell, heavily influenced by the work of psychologist Carl Jung, was extremely aware that avoided or bypassed Soul or Shadow Work inevitably comes back to pop inflated ego bubbles. It is the consistent daily reckoning with our humanity which grounds and integrates the lofty light of spirit. Without this essential Soul-birthing through the ego, we remain spiritually immature, addicted to the sugar high of the promised cosmic lollipop.
We need to be clear about our priorities. Are we following our bliss for an external reward? A head pat from God or society? Or are we motivated by the experience of Serving big Love on the planet and waking up to feel wholly Alive and yourSelf on a daily basis?
In the iconic PBS special, “The Power of Myth” Campbell spoke with Bill Moyers about his life work. I agree completely with these final powerful words from Campbell:
The adventure is its own reward — but it’s necessarily dangerous, having both negative and positive possibilities, all of them beyond control. We are following our own way…There’s something inside you that knows when you’re in the center, that knows when you’re on the beam or off the beam. And if you get off the beam to earn money, you’ve lost your life. And if you stay in the center and don’t get any money, you still have your bliss.
If you 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.