This week: Following Your BlissEdited by: Sophy v.2021
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Hi, I'm Sophy v.2021 ~ your editor for this edition of the Spiritual Newsletter.
The Rev. Scotty McLennan, author of the book Finding Your Religion, compares humanity's innate need for spiritual searching to climbing a mountain. In his view, we are all endeavoring to climb the same figurative mountain in our search for the divine, we just may take different ways to get there. In other words, there is one "God," but many paths. I honor whatever path or paths you have chosen to climb that mountain in your quest for the Sacred.
At the end of my favorite Mary Oliver poem, The Summer Day she asks "what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" Her question resonates even more deeply within me as I deal with retirement from a 31 year career and try to figure out "what's next?" If I'm lucky, I am about 2/3 done with this life, and it's as important as ever to consider how to spend what precious time I have left.
Joseph Campbell encouraged us to follow our bliss throughout our lives. Since Campbell first uttered those three words, many religious people have erroneously interpreted them to be hedonistic and narcissistic. But that’s a gross misunderstanding, because following one's bliss, as Campbell saw it, “wasn’t merely a matter of doing whatever you want. It’s about identifying that pursuit which you are truly passionate about and attempting to give yourself absolutely to it, for in so doing, you will find your fullest potential and thus be able to serve your community and the larger world around you to the greatest possible extent.” (Quote from Joseph Campbell Foundation website.) And in that way following one's bliss fits perfectly with Mary Oliver's poetic admonition.
Christian monk, Brother David Steindl-Rast, commented on Campbell's "follow your bliss" philosophy by saying that bliss “is what you really, really wanted to do in life, but it has to be understood as Campbell, himself, understood it, on the deepest level. If you take it superficially and think it means just 'do what you like,' that is a very different thing from what Campbell was saying. Your bliss is your blessedness – what you find in your deepest heart of hearts. For your bliss, you are willing to sacrifice things. Your bliss is not simply your private bliss; there is no such thing as private bliss. In our heart of hearts, we are united with all others."
So bliss isn’t about “if it feels good, do it.” It’s about where you feel the deepest sense of being alive, where you are most at home, when you are most full of energy, most free, most centered, most authentic, most related. Bliss is about finding out what this is for you and not being afraid to follow it, because this is the creative life-energy stirring within you. It’s the mysterious power of the universe, which some call God, calling to you. And yes - it's still calling even as we move into our later years of life - in fact it feels to be calling more powerfully now.
To discover our bliss, we need to probe our imagination and heart with honesty and courage, and attend to what we discover there as being our authentic, unique purpose in life, the thing that would satisfy us beyond obtaining a job with a certain salary and benefits, the thing that would be of most benefit to the rest of the global community. Finding and following your bliss then becomes a calling, a responsibility, a vocation to carry out for the sake of the rest of the universe, not just yourself. Of course you will achieve a level of personal satisfaction or contentment when you find yourself pursuing the right path for yourself, but that’s not a selfish endeavor. As Dick Leider says, “Where your gifts and your joy meet the needs of the world, there lies your purpose.” This is true in retirement as well, of course.
None of us live in isolation – we all need a group in order to survive, and in return each individual has an obligation to that larger group. For Campbell the way you support that group is by following your individual bliss. If you find and follow that thing that you love, and then try to find a way to bring that love to your group, that’s what brings life to the rest of the world.
We are all unique, spectacular creatures. We all have a purpose or calling to find and follow. Some of us have more than one, and if we are lucky enough to hear those callings, and find a way to pursue them, we have the best chance at living our lives as our authentic selves. And people who live their lives as their authentic selves are much more able to care for and contribute to the rest of the world. So whatever it is, whatever that thing is that we are supposed to do with our "one wild and precious life," when we find that thing - or more likely, things - and do them, we not only benefit ourselves, we may just end up saving the world, or at least our little corner of it.
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Here is a response to my last newsletter "Spiritual Newsletter (June 23, 2021)" about the Spirituality of Solstice:
From Prosperous Snow writing poetry
Nature is the world of the soul and the city is the world of the body. If opening a door or window, is the only way we can renew our spirits, turn off the central air and open a window or a door, either in the morning or in the evening.
Love this! Thank you for sharing.
For me, playing in the dirt, reconnects me to nature. Throughout my home and outside, I tend to several plants. My deck is covered with plants, some of which are edible and others are just beautiful to look at. In the mornings, I sip my coffee on my deck and watch the various birds eating from my feeders (that is if the squirrels haven't eaten it all). Soon it will be hummingbird season. My hummingbird garden is in bloom and my feeders are ready.
Lovely newsletter, by the way.
Sounds lovely! Thank you for sharing, and glad you enjoyed the newsletter.
Please keep your comments and suggestions coming! Until next time! Sophy v.2021
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