A big Thank You to Delilah for the opportunity to write a guest blog!
I write about spirituality – some of it deeply traditional and some of it in the practical context of everyday life. Since we’re in the season of Thanksgiving, I wanted to share a story about GRATITUDE and how this simple practice worked some serious magic in my life.
George Lucas – the creator of Star Wars – referred to professor and spiritual guru Joseph Campbell as his “Yoda”. Campbell remains a favorite among the intellectual literati in spiritual circles, and his best-known one-liner is probably this one: “follow your bliss”.
This mantra sounds great when we’re stuck in a miserable place, but the truth about how it works is a bit more nuanced. Let’s start with the full quote by Campbell:
“Follow your bliss, and the Universe will open doors where there were only walls”.
There is perhaps no better context for this quote than when we seem to be stuck in a miserable job.
“That’s it!” we tell ourselves. “I need to get out of this awful place and do something that brings me joy – I’m going to follow my bliss!“
I know a number of people who have left a job to “follow their bliss” only to find themselves in a place of regret. I have learned that it’s a bit more complicated than just doing what feels good, which is – unfortunately – how Campbell’s quote is often interpreted.
Like most spiritual wisdom, the statement is at the same time complex and simple. To illustrate what I mean, I’ll share my experience with the concept.
A few years back, I left a position with a tech start-up to go into a much more traditional position in a government agency. I took a pay cut, went from working at home to driving into an office 5-days a week, and turned in the corporate Gold card and business class travel options. Some people thought I was crazy, but I had my reasons, and knew it was the right thing to do.
About a year and a half into this position, I was miserable with a capital M. The culture was old school bureaucracy, and there were many long-time employees whose favorite game was creating conflict. Many days it felt like the Hatfield & McCoy feud, and it was the place where I learned what the term “gaslighting” meant because I experienced it almost daily.
I was ready to admit that this career move had been a HUGE mistake and began to make plans to find a new position – ANY position away from these mean and spiteful people…except it wasn’t that simple.
One of the reasons I had come to this organization was to capitalize on my military time, and I had planned to at least stay long enough to secure my pension. Things had gotten so bad that I wasn’t sure I could even do that; but before I walked away, I decided to apply some of the spiritual tools I was writing about and teaching to others. If those didn’t work, another job was always an option.
In the darkest days, I found very little to appreciate, but I kept looking and doing my spiritual work. Finally, I settled on the fact that the store on the installation had fresh, cut-up fruit available every day. I was working on eating healthier and this little treat was a $2.17 way for me to stay on track – and it didn’t require me to do any food prep or remember to grab something from my fridge on the way out the door.
Each day on my break I looked forward to the strawberries, cantaloupe or grapes that I would find in the store and I focused my appreciation on this small piece of sanity during the workweek.
Soon after shifting my focus to appreciating the fruit, I realized that the culture – while still leaving a lot to be desired – at least encouraged people to walk at work. The campus is a lovely, suburban one where walking in decent weather is not only feasible but pleasant.
I kept my focus on being grateful for these 2 things, not letting myself descend into the misery that seemed to be all around me. I also discovered that the commute, while aggravating at times, was perfect for listening to audiobooks. Another plus!
My mood began to soften, and I decided one day to make a list of the people at this job who were positive additions to the experience, and I quickly had a fairly long list.
Now almost halfway into my 7th year in this job, I have achieved multiple awards, career recognition, and a stability in my position that I could have never foreseen in the depths of that darkness. Indeed, the Universe had opened doors where I once saw only walls.
The “bliss” I followed was not running off in a huff when things were going badly. I found it in small islands of good that I discovered when I opened myself to the possibility that they existed – even there.
While it is lovely to be able to walk into stores and see some of our favorite spiritual quotes emblazoned on t-shirts, coffee mugs, throw pillows, and more; we must take care to remember that these teachings are MUCH deeper than cute one-liners.
I did follow my bliss, and the Universe absolutely opened doors where there were once only walls – but it didn’t happen with me throwing up my hands and quitting in a dramatic, made-for-TV resignation. It happened when I spent time in quiet meditation, which helped me to see the great value in staying and securing my pension. It happened when I practiced the pivot, moving my energy and attention to all the positive aspects of the position and letting go of the negative ones. It happened when I focused on being grateful for the small things that were all around me.
Following our bliss is not a magic spell we can cast to transport ourselves from a tough situation to sipping cocktails on a white-sand beach. It is a process we can use to, one step at a time, transform the formidable walls in our path into doors that open to better experiences, happiness, and peace.
Wishing everyone a bountiful & blissful Thanksgiving weekend!
About the Author
Rebecca Harmon is a mother, grandmother, US Navy veteran, and keeper of cats who lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A healthcare professional and educator, she maintains a blog on spirituality and enjoys speaking in front of large groups of people! She has self-published 2 non-fiction books about careers and the workplace: Discover Your Path – a map to job happiness and 7 Simple Steps – job satisfaction, any place, any time – both available on Amazon – and would love it if you dropped by her blog for a read, a Like, a Follow or a Share!