Friday, June 6, 2008

Follow Your Bliss

I remember the day I shot this photograph. I was staying with a dear friend on Orcas Island, and rose early in the morning to wander the docks at a nearby marina with my camera.

This boat was tied up right next to the little marina shop there in Deer Harbor, and was just breathtakingly beautiful; I shot it from every angle I could imagine, trying to capture both the beauty of the boat and the reflections of the clouds in the perfect blue sky.

But when I shot this particular image -- even though I shot several before it and several more after it -- there was almost an explosion of joy in my heart; an overwhelming sense that "this was the one" -- rather like the feeling people describe when they experience love at first sight.

After shooting, I went into town to get some coffee, and by the time I was back in Deer Harbor my host was awake, so I began reviewing the images to see what I might share with her. When I came to this one there was a sense of recognition, an overwhelming "YES!."

I don't remember now how she reacted to the image, though she must have liked it because she later bought a print of it. But shortly afterward I was invited to participate in a boat show at a local gallery, and this image won pride of place: I blew it up really large, and it was both hung behind the gallery checkout counter and featured in the promotional materials for the show. I titled it "Follow Your Bliss", and it sold the day the exhibit opened; my first really big sale.

What's odd is that I remember the title seemed so obvious to me at the time as to be downright hokey -- a sort of embarrassing throwback to the excesses of the 70's and the Me Generation. And the gallery, which is very uncomfortable with anything that smacks of spirituality, kind of pooh-poohed the title.

So this morning, reading again in Essential Spirituality, I learned that "Follow Your Bliss" is attributed to the great mythologist, Joseph Campbell. But apparently it doesn't mean what popular understanding has attached to it over the years -- doing what feels good, pursuing fleeting pleasures and sensations.

"Bliss is infinitely more than the feeling of pleasure. Bliss is a taste of our spiritual nature. To follow our bliss is therefore to do what best expresses and opens us to our true nature and its source...All of us face the pleasant challenge of finding out what gives us most profound satisfaction and making this a larger part of our lives."

Bliss, therefore, is probably that amazing explosion of joy I felt when I shot this image in the first place; that awesome sense of rightness -- that right here, right now, I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what I was born to do. And I think when we have to opportunity to be in that space, the bliss we feel is the sense that the source is flowing through us unobstructed into the world; that all our channels are open and we are vessels for that energy, purified and made whole by the experience of that bliss.

So I guess that was the right title after all; that this image really was about bliss, though at the time I had no particular attachment to the title; it just seemed right. Where is bliss for you? I hope it doesn't take a lifetime to find the answer to that question; that it will appear sooner rather than later, and you'll get a chance to follow it all the way to the source. Surely a life spent in pursuit of that particular bliss would be truly blessed. Or should I say -- blissed?

1 comment:

Laurie Brandriet Keller said...

A gorgeous photograph and wonderful analogy.