How a strange Sanskrit word can change your life
In a previous article I explained how your path to mission is illuminated by what angers you and what you fear.
But there’s a deeper principle at the heart of those two clues.
Those two clues shine light on the path. But they are not the path.
The path is bliss.
It’s ironic, I know. But think it through.
Underlying what angers and scares you is what brings you the most rapturous joy.
Anger is a manifestation of passion. Passion is the fuel of purpose. And living on purpose is sheer bliss.
Swat your butterflies and push through to the other side of fear, and waiting for you is ecstasy, euphoria, exultation.
Follow your anger and fear to discover your path. Then walk the path by following your bliss.
The scholar Joseph Campbell happened upon the power of bliss by studying an ancient Sanskrit word. In The Power of Myth he explains:
“Now, I came to this idea of bliss because in Sanskrit, which is the great spiritual language of the world, there are three terms that represent the brink, the jumping-off place to the ocean of transcendence: Sat-Chit-Ananda. The word ‘Sat’ means being. ‘Chit’ means consciousness. ‘Ananda’ means bliss or rapture. I thought, ‘I don’t know whether my consciousness is proper consciousness or not; I don’t know whether what I know of my being is my proper being or not; but I do know where my rapture is. So let me hang on to rapture, and that will bring me both my consciousness and my being.”
“I even have a superstition that has grown on me as the result of invisible hands coming all the time–namely, that if you do 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. 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.”
It seems so easy: To find success simply do the things that make you happy.
But why is it so hard, and why do so few people do it? Why are the vast majority of people bored and discontent in jobs they can’t stand, leading “lives of quiet desperation,” as Thoreau said?
Simple: We’re afraid of our bliss.
As Marianne Williamson wrote,
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us…”
You know the quote.
To appease our conscience — guilty for not following our bliss and living on purpose — we make up stories like: “Following your bliss is self-indulgent and irresponsible. Life isn’t a bed of roses, and responsible adults just have to do things they don’t like.”
To the contrary, following our bliss is the most responsible thing we can do with our lives.
Ignoring and stifling it is not only irresponsible — it is a direct affront to our Creator, who planted the seeds of our unique bliss in our heart.
There are problems only we can solve, wounds only we can heal.
Those problems remain unsolved, the wounds are gaping, the good team is losing while we’re jabbering on the sidelines about being a “responsible adult.”
We have a sacred duty to God and to humanity to follow our bliss.
Think of what our world would be if people like Thomas Edison, Martin Luther King, Jr., Marie Curie, Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, and Albert Einstein stifled their bliss in the name of “responsibility,” or caved to fear.
And let’s be clear: Following our bliss really isn’t a bed of roses. As Joseph Campbell clarified:
“When I taught in a boys’ prep school, I used to talk to the boys who were trying to make up their minds as to what their careers were going to be. A boy would come to me and ask, ‘Do you think I can do this? Do you think I can do that? Do you think I can be a writer?’
“‘Oh,’ I would say, ‘I don’t know. Can you endure ten years of disappointment with nobody responding to you, or are you thinking that you are going to write a best seller the first crack? If you have the guts to stay with the thing you really want, no matter what happens, well, go ahead.'”
Following our bliss doesn’t guarantee instant success. It doesn’t mean a pain-free, challenge-less life.
It simply guarantees bliss through the process, which means we’ll push through the obstacles as long as we stay on the path of bliss.
10 power questions to discover & follow your bliss
The following 10 questions come from Brian Johnson in his book A Philosopher’s Notes: On Optimal Living, Creating an Authentically Awesome Life, and Other Such Goodness.
Write your answers in detail. Your bliss awaits:
- How can you use your strengths in greatest service to yourself, your family, your community, and the world?
- How can you get paid to do what you love?
- What five things are you most proud of? What five things will you be most proud of?
- If you had all the time and all the money in the world, what would you do?
- What’s your ideal day look like? When do you get up? What do you do? With whom? For whom? Imagine it in vivid detail!
- Who are your heroes? Why? How are you like them?
- What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
- If you were guaranteed to succeed, what’s the #1 thing you would do?
- What is it that you and only you can do for the world?
- How can you live in more integrity with your ideals? What’s the #1 thing you could start doing that would have the most positive impact in your life? What’s the #1 thing you could stop doing that would have the most positive impact in your life?