“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 your field of bliss, and they open 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.”
Certain teachings of perennial wisdom have stated that when we live without direction, purpose, or consciousness, we are under the “Law of Accident,” meaning that anything can happen randomly and chaotically. They further suggest that in increasing our conscious presence to the moments of our lives – and therefore filling them with at the very least the intention of being present to our lives and true to our selves – we then come under the “Law of Fate” where destiny and mysterious design come into play.
This should not be seen as some strange esoteric perspective. Our common sense tells us that, if we are distracted or lost in imagination and fail to look both ways as we cross the street, the odds are greatly increased that an accident may occur that need not happen. So this business of “intention” is truly a cornerstone of our lives, both in its long-term direction and in our daily welfare.
World religions have made it a crucial ritual, beginning all intentional activity with a spiritual invocation. The Kabbalah speaks of the notion of Kavana as a central focus in which the practitioner commits to full engagement in what they are about to undertake. Christians, at least those still linked to earlier traditions where the numinous was tangibly present to them, may begin an intention with: “In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Muslims, in keeping with the spiritual depths of their teachings, may say “Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim” (In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate). Such invocation empowers the intention and generates a momentum that will carry the committed person good ways toward their aim.
Unfortunately, we all know – both in ourselves and others – that such well-intentioned beginnings often wind down and sputter to a dead stop long before their goals are accomplished. It is likely that the majority of people have trouble with this phenomenon. They begin a project or job or relationship with great enthusiasm, and before too long begin to lose interest, the excitement of the new fades away, and they find themselves falling into mediocrity and eventually complete disregard of that which once stirred their hearts and minds. Most employers have witnessed such behavior and suffered the consequences.
This fact takes us back to the quote by Joseph Campbell. Commitment to intention needs to be fueled by a passion and love for the activity, project, or dream that has taken hold of us. His famous phrase “follow your bliss” is not a call to hedonism but a cosmic secret to true perseverance and accomplishment. For Campbell, those three words summarized the fundamental meaning of all the great mythologies of humanity. They call us to uncover and live out what is our heart’s deepest yearning. For in doing so, we not only discover our true purpose in life, we unveil our identity and the destiny that beckons us onward toward ultimate fulfillment.
Becoming people guided by intention opens onto much more than the accomplishment of goals and objectives. Intentional living is a way of being. In Buddhist teaching, it is called “mindfulness,” which a teacher has described in this way: “We simply accept whatever arises. We observe it mindfully. We notice it arising, passing through us, and ceasing to exist.” In Christian spirituality, it is known as “recollection,” of which Teresa of Avila tells us: “It is called recollection because the soul collects together all the faculties and enters within itself to be with God.” In some esoteric teachings, the term is “self-remembering.” One definition of this last term is offered by Rebecca Nottingham in her book “The Fourth Way and Esoteric Christianity“:
Self-Remembering is making an effort to recollect what your essential Being is, your Real I. It is a paradoxical experience in that you feel your nothingness and your uniqueness, and you also feel connected to all of Creation, an integral part of all that is. In a full state of Self-Remembering, Real I is present. You can reach up to this higher state of your consciousness of Self-Remembering and sometimes touch what you are reaching for briefly. This is so that you can know and verify that this higher state exists within you. It is through your personal Work that you can develop the ability to Remember yourself in the full sense and become your Real I.
Such insight suggests that intentionality is actually the first step toward authentic spiritual awakening and the discovery of new horizons of understanding and wisdom. Intentionality is that baby step that “opens the doors of perception”. It requires an effort of sustained attention and commitment which is rare in our time as our minds are distracted and reshaped by the rapid-fire stimulus of media through every possible venue. We are each responsible for reining in our attention, taking command of this power of focused awareness, and purposefully choosing how we will live the moments of our lives. We can waste and dissipate them, like “leaking cisterns that can hold no water” as the prophet Jeremiah said in ancient times, or we can center ourselves intentionally and live fully in the present moment which then opens a meaningful path into the future, even when our plans are not entirely clear. Intentionality calls forth the best of our human nature and all its potential. It all begins with a decision to live in such a way, a decision that we refuse to betray. We then become useful to the universe and to our fellow human beings. That is how bliss enters our lives.