It was after I’d moved back to Melbourne from London where I’d worked and partied my way to exhaustion that I first came across the phrase ‘follow your bliss’. I had a good job in publishing, but I hated working fulltime for someone else. I’d had another relationship breakup and I was distraught and lonely. My body was showing the signs of wear and tear of eight years in London overdoing it. I’d travelled to India on my way home and got Dengue Fever, and my body was not recovering well. I wanted to write but I didn’t know what to write about. I didn’t want to keep living like that. I was looking for a new direction. I was looking for meaning and integrity in my life.
I loved reading biographies about fascinating people, talented people, people with interesting lives. At the library one day I picked up a book about Joseph Campbell. I’d never heard of him, but the phrase ‘follow your bliss’ on the cover caught my eye and attention.
This blog was born in that moment – over a decade ago. I became fascinated with Joseph Campbell: I read his books and watched the PBS series of interviews conducted with him before he died. This man in his 80s was fairly bursting out of his chair with excitement and passion about his work. He gathered together the myths, the stories of the world and its people. What a life’s work, I thought.
In The Power of Myth, he said:
“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.”
I knew I needed to put myself on that track. It was something to do with writing and gathering stories too. I started to talk to people that I found interesting about what following their bliss meant to them.
I wasn’t sure why – maybe to write a book about it? I took the idea to a publisher once I’d gathered a few stories together. They told me it needed more of me in it. So I spent the last 10 years working on me – finding that meaning and integrity I left London to find.
I started listening to my dreams – we all have an inner story teller in there spinning our own personal mythology if we just care to listen. I left my fulltime job in publishing and started my own professional writing and editing consultancy, Zest Communications. I left the city and went looking for a place I could put down roots. I found it on the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia. I met Adam, and we got married.
Now I’m also a step-mum and a foster-mum. We live in a shack by the beach which we are renovating, and I write from my caravan-office amongst the gum trees. It’s a much quieter life, but one that feels right for me.
So, a decade on, I’m ready to share my ideas as well the stories of the inspiring people I meet when I interview them for magazines and books. These people are lit up by an energy from within – much like Joseph Campbell was – that carries them forward in their own unique direction – they’re on that track Joseph Campbell talks about.
I’m also interested in why so many people don’t find that track, what pain and fear holds them back.
The Reverend Tim Costello, the CEO of World Vision, was one of those people I interviewed in the early days of this project. He said: “It takes a lot of courage to stick it out. Courage is the biggest thing – a lot of people have strong inklings about what they want to do in life, but in the end there’s too many other, utterly reasonable, but at the end of the day, quite deadening, reasons why you don’t follow your bliss.”
This blog is for anyone who is interested in finding the courage to ‘stick with it’… who might find some inspiration in the stories of others who are on the ‘track’ Joseph Campbell talked about and how they found that track. Who might find comfort in the fact that others (read, me!) are working it out as we go.
Why should we follow our bliss? It’s not about doing whatever you like in an egocentric or selfish way – it’s about finding your fullest potential so that you can offer it in service to the people around you. I wonder what a world might be like if we were all living like that, “enjoying that refreshment, that life within you”?
Heather Millar is a writer and editor. You can read more about her and her work at www.zestcommunications.com.au