Monday, October 17, 2011

Follow Your Bliss?

A lot of people ask me - particularly in regards to whether they should become a yoga teacher or holistic health practitioner - whether or not "following your bliss" is "real."

Most people are wondering about that addition "and the money will follow." They are concerned about the intersection of lifestyle and livelihood. And this is understandable. Switching from being a high-paid lawyer to being a yoga teacher - who makes between $45 and $50 per class - is a massive change. It's going to affect both your lifestyle and your livelihood.

But, to be sure, the process of following one's bliss needn't be so narrowly defined as abandoning a job that provides a lifestyle and moving into this bliss thing full time.

In fact, doing so may impact the bliss-inducing nature of the bliss thing.

That is to say, your bliss doesn't have to be your livelihood, and your livelihood doesn't have to be your bliss. In fact, for some people, making your bliss into your livelihood freights your bliss with worry and anxiety. This creates a situation where your bliss is no longer your bliss! Now, what was once the bliss is now a stress!

In such a situation, one should find work that is pleasant and within one's capacity - which will be different for everyone - that can provide the financial security one needs. What then often happens is that the pressure is taken off the bliss, and the creativity can flow and the bliss becomes blissful again. Any money that comes from the bliss is a bonus, usually enough to support the development of more opportunities for following one's bliss!

As an example, I have a friend who is a computer programmer by day - making a very solid living - and a tennis maniac nights and weekends. He loves to play, teach lessons, go to tournaments, etc. So, during his off time, this is what he does. He wanted to be a pro player, but couldn't, and then tried being a pro at a club (you know, doing that full time), but he wasn't happy with the money/lifestyle, and so to really enjoy this passion he got a job that could support him more than comfortably. Then, he could just play tennis and be involved in tennis with no pressure around the tennis. Does he make money at tennis? Yes. Does he need it to support himself? No. But his life is very enjoyable and he's not unhappy in either because of his "work" or his bliss. Trying to make his bliss a business caused him suffering, but getting work that supported his love of tennis created more bliss! His likes his work, he loves his bliss, and his life is balanced.

But for others this will not work. They have a completely different experience of making their bliss into a business. These people can usually tolerate a higher level of risk, and also are willing to embrace much more simplicity (even though my tennis friend lives very simply); and so to really have that happy experience of their bliss thing, it cannot be part time.

And this is what my experience is. I tried the path of my friend, because it makes sense and provides a lot of security. But, I really struggled with the day job - even though it was easy, enjoyable, within my capacities and safe - and I really struggled with my yoga teaching being subject to the bosses' rules about how they wanted it in their gyms, yoga studios, etc. It wasn't always rough, but rules were tough on me. And also not having a direct impact on the culture of the studio at that rule-making level was really difficult! I just don't do well having people work over me. I'm stubborn!

In this method - which is perfectly valid and logical and works well for many people - my bliss was no longer my bliss! It was a frustration!

So, I knew I had to follow my bliss, but at the time I was really frightened by the lack of security - the risk and uncertainty. So, I had to become comfortable with that. When I finally had enough courage and had had enough frustration, I just did what I needed to do. I started my own business.

What I discovered is that it's a lot more work than anything I've every done before. It's also a lot more rewarding to me than how I worked before. I discovered that I love running a business. I love every single part of it I never knew I would - from following the analytics of classes sizes and growth, to fretting over whether or not the income is enough to cover expenses this week (an oddly thrilling process), to just knowing that I am creating this thing - for me and others to both work at their bliss and discover their bliss!

Thus, I had to follow my double-bliss!

The real question, then, is:

What makes your bliss blissful?

Mythologist Joseph Campbell said: "To find your own way is to follow your bliss. This involves analysis, watching yourself and seeing where real deep bliss is - not the quick little excitement, but the real deep, life-filling bliss."

For my friend, working his bliss, tennis, as a business was not bliss-inducing. It was stress-inducing. So he got a good job, and his bliss became his bliss again and also makes him some money (but the money doesn't matter to him).

And in both our cases, the lifestyle - the livelihood and money and whatnot - is following. It's just coming in different ways. Again, as Campbell says:

When you follow your bliss . . . doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors; and where there wouldn't be a door for anyone else.

So, yeah, follow your bliss your way!

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