Follow Your Bliss

“Follow your bliss."

This was the advice that mythology scholar, professor and author Joseph Campbell used to give his students at Sarah Lawrence College, and the words that millions heard through his posthumous 1988 PBS special Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth. What does it mean to “follow your bliss?” Simply put, it’s to do the thing you love the most. According to Campbell, “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 you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be.”

I know this is true because it happened to me.

Three weeks before starting my graduate studies in film at UCLA, I was late-night channel surfing, when I came across an old French movie, Rules of the Game (1939), directed by and starring Jean Renoir. I had never seen the film before and was completely captivated by what I saw. I spent my first semester reading and watching everything I could about Jean Renoir. On the first week of the second semester, I learned that his widow, Dido, had recently passed away and had left all of Jean’s papers (letters, scripts, unproduced projects, book manuscripts, etc.) to UCLA. The Special Collections department needed a student to catalog the collection – and, yes, I got the job. That led to two of the most fascinating years of my life, including my living in Renoir’s Beverly Hills home for two summers, getting to know his son, Alain, his cousin, Jean Slade, and several of his good friends, both in California and France. It was a magical time, because what else but magic can explain how my then-boyfriend and I got a book deal to publish Renoir’s letters in less than two weeks? All because I followed my bliss.

Campbell spoke about being “on the path,” when coincidences and the right people show up in your life. It’s when things start to fall into place. At around the same time that Jean Renoir showed up in my life, so did Joseph Campbell, once again through channel surfing – this time, on a Sunday afternoon. As I watched Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth, I began to see that what I was experiencing was being “on the path.” What I wish I’d understood then, but understand now, is that we don’t always stay on the path once we’re there. I’ve had my share of magical moments and, like everyone else, I’ve had utter failures and wrong goals that wasted a lot of time. One thing is for certain: just because you’re off the path doesn’t mean you have to stay there. You can find your bliss again. It may be something completely different than before, but it can lead you to where you are meant to be, now. You just have to be open to it.

So, how do you find your bliss? The answer isn’t out there; it’s inside of you and it’s different for all of us. Use your intuition. What feels right to you? What do you love to do above everything else? What is your passion? Find that and you’ll find your bliss. My friend Craig loved old American-style diners and France. Some people thought he was crazy to do it, but he followed his bliss and now owns and operates two American diners in Paris. Perhaps there are people in your own life who followed their bliss with incredible results. Maybe you already have. If you haven’t, I hope you get to experience it at least once in your life. It's sheer bliss.

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