Thursday, December 9, 2010
This post is dedicated to Shirley.
When I was around fifteen years old, I came across Joseph Campbell's teaching, "Follow your bliss." I remember holding the magazine article, printed beside an image of two people paddling kayaks. I tried to show it to my brother, but he was not too interested. For me, however, it was as if something had just been shown to me, as if something had just been revealed. Upon receiving this information, my teenage worldview cracked, and opened a little wider. I stared at the kayakers, wondering, "Where are they going?"
What does it mean to "follow your bliss"? The three words speak for themselves.
Follow. This is an action word! It presumes we have choices, choices about what to follow, which way to turn, and when to stop. In any given moment we have infinite possible choices because we always have the power to choose our thoughts, and all actions begin as thoughts.
Your. This possessive pronoun implies you are someone, someone who has something. You have a truth, your true self. It is unique to you and it is yours.
Bliss. What a word! Beyond pleasure, beyond happiness, bliss dances in the realm of ecstasy. It is a breadcrumb trail leading to your highest destiny, your fullest potential, your truest self, your essence, the One.
Following your bliss happens each time you choose the path of truth, the way that feels right to you. No one else can tell you the way, as each person's path is unique to them. That is the beauty of it. There is no wrong way to follow your bliss. As you strengthen your relationship to yourself, you will know when you are off-track. And the path always welcomes you back. In fact, it may seem as if "invisible hands" are supporting you. As Joseph Campbell remarked, "Follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be."
I have been following my bliss since the day I came across that article. My parents always told me that I could do "whatever I wanted to do," a message that gave me tremendous self-confidence. And, of course, I had heard the societal motto, "Follow your dreams." The problem, for me, was that I did not know my dreams because I did not know myself. One of the most frustrating things for me at that time was not having a means to get to know myself. I had no tools or guidance about how to look inside, how to assess my feelings, or how to intuit my destiny. Since I did not know what I wanted, I had no way to proceed. Once I was given the message, "follow your bliss," I suddenly had a map, a strategy for discovering my dreams. I began to listen to the voice in me saying "Yes!" and to follow its lead.
Twenty years later I now know that my bliss resides in helping people and the planet in my own small ways. My bliss lives in creativity and play: dance, collage, and photography. My bliss dwells in sharing teachings that bring people in touch with their own bliss!
Saturday, November 20, 2010
I collect guidelines, the same way I collect stones, feathers, and bones.
I started my collection at around age fifteen. Life kept confronting me with questions I was completely ill-equipped to answer. Why is there suffering? Why are we here? What is the right way to live? I felt lost without a map. So I started looking for directions. (This was way before Google Maps).
I discovered that no one had definitive answers to these questions, only helpful guidelines, like signposts and painted arrows along the journey.
Here's a good one: my first yoga teacher taught me that discernment begins with self-knowledge. She explained that we can know ourselves as a vibration, kind of like having your own ring tone. When you want to evaluate someone or something, (e.g. "Should I believe this?" or "Can I trust him?"), you simply tune into the vibration of the person or the thing, and then notice if it clashes or harmonizes with your own. I still practice this today when I am trying to make a decision about something. I compare ring tones.
Here's another: "Love is the answer." It's my bumper sticker. I bought it at a retreat with Ram Dass. Love is an easy-to-remember value to fall back onto. For example, having this slogan as a bumper sticker tends to keep me in check when I feel a bout of road rage coming on. Struggling with an urge to retaliate in some way, I will remember that my bumper sticker is publicly declaring me as a devotee of non-violence, and in order to avoid being seen as a hypocrite, I will opt instead to take a deep breath and relax.
"Peace" is touchstone word for me, as is "Light." Swami Radha, founder of Yasodhara Ashram, taught the Divine Light Invocation, a meditation which affirms:
"I am created by Divine Light
I am sustained by Divine Light
I am protected by Divine Light
I am surrounded by Divine Light
I am ever growing into Divine Light."
Looking once more at the photo, I allow my eyes to be drawn to the light. The many faces of my spiritual teachers float through my mind, and I feel gratitude swell up in my heart. By their grace, my collection of guidelines is now plentiful. And now I pray that I may follow them!
Friday, November 19, 2010
When I look at this image now, I can't help but take in a deep breath, through my nose, as if I could once again smell the fresh, moist air alive in that spot.
These days I don't allow myself to breathe deeply through my nose very often. It isn't safe. Here, in the Silicon Valley, I live under a lens of perpetual smog. When my nostrils first encountered this grimy air, they promptly filled with mucous. Two years later, they're still clogged, and I'm glad. I figure the mucous protects me, like an air filter.
The longer I am deprived of Nature, the more I appreciate its healing powers. Just to walk into a forest is to be restored. There is a natural rhythm to life, like a song. When we are in tune with this rhythm, we flow with the current of life. Spending time in Nature is one the easiest and most enjoyable ways to attune oneself to the rhythm of life, to the flow.
One of my personal goals is to promote wellness through Nature. I envision leading groups of people in the wilderness, supporting them in their re-connection to Life. This vision excites me because I can imagine that it would increase wellness in myself and others, as well as to help heal the planet.
As we rediscover the glory of the Earth, we increasingly care about her well-being. We are motivated to take actions small and large to heal the wounds we have inflicted, and to protect her from further harm. In this way, our healing and the healing of the Earth are intertwined, or simply, one and the same.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
I call this image "friends" because it's their togetherness that stands out to me. These two were hanging a little lower than the rest, and they were catching that late afternoon sunlight just right.
As the mid-November sun sets perceptibly earlier each day, I seek more comfort in the warmth of my friends. We seem to be laughing a little longer these days, a little louder. As the light dims, we draw instinctively closer.
When we relate to others, we engage in a process of reflection: the mirror of me reflects the image of you, and vice versa. Our friends, families, coworkers, strangers, and the precious beings of the more-than-human world all provide us with this gift of reflection. They give us the chance to see ourselves, and to experience ourselves in relationship to another. Experiencing oneself in relationship to another provides more than a sense of connection, it opens the heart to feeling our interconnection: not only do I reflect you, I am you. And when we experience ourselves as interconnected with any and all members of creation--even if only for a moment--we experience the "One," or "God," or simply, "Love."
My intention in creating this blog is to reach out and share of myself. I humbly offer the forthcoming images and words as an expression of my love of the One.