In 1985, Joseph Campbell (March 26, 1904–October 30, 1987) sat down with Bill Moyers for a series of interviews, resulting in 24 hours of raw footage that was edited down to six one-hour episodes and broadcast on PBS in 1988, and the full transcript was published as The Power of Myth, a discussion of Campbell’s views on spirituality, psychological archetypes, cultural myths, and the mythology of self.
In the interview, Campbell expressed the idea that the greatest sin for modern humans was getting stuck in some 9-to-5 job that fulfilled nothing more than paying the bills, and kept one rooted in existential dissatisfaction. In his philosophy (and mine) he felt people needed to find, and then follow their own bliss.
Campbell said: If you 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. Wherever you are — if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.
One of Campbell’s most interesting ideas for me concerned the need for what he coined “sacred space”—a place for uninterrupted reflection and unrushed creative work. For him, this was necessary to discern one’s bliss. For me, this sacred space is necessary to achieve the type of writing that satisfies my soul.
Many writers and artists not only have their own private space to create, but also their unique set of workspace rituals that draws them into a creative state of mind. I certainly do, and without them—like when I’m traveling—my writing suffers, which is why I seldom try to write while traveling any more. Campbell saw the need for a “bliss station” for the purpose of rooting ourselves, a place to block out the world so we can focus inward.
I have three bliss stations, each for a specific purpose:
My office is a place I shut out the world to write. I spend four to six hours each day there, immersed in the process of writing and research. I also spend time promoting my books and general communications with friends, other authors, and readers.
My backyard is where I get out of the house to connect with nature, relax by the pool, and read. For me, it’s down time out of the office, but still devoted to refreshing the soul.
My meditation room is no more than an oversized closet, but it is the one place on earth devoid of other people and distractions, a place not even my husband is allowed to enter. It is a place of silence, a place where I experience the silence at my core. It is the one place I do nothing, absolutely nothing, nil, zilch, nada. This is a place of no striving, a place I listen to my heart. Strangely enough, it is the place where much of my inspirations for stories come to me.
For me, all three spaces are an outright necessity. I think any creative person intent on finding his/her bliss needs a space and a certain time of the day free from people, phones, TV, Internet. I think of it as a space to bring forth what you are, and what you might be—a place of creative incubation. Often nothing happens at all, which is good. But if you’re in your sacred space at a certain time every day, something often will come to you, which is even better.
Modern life has become so goal oriented on practical and economic issues that it’s become difficult to know which way to run next, which goal to chase after. It seems every minute demands something of you, and you end up like a hamster in a cage, running around a wheel, chasing, chasing, chasing the next thing on your list. The way, at least for me, to step off that wheel is by immersing myself in one of my three bliss stations, and shutting out everything else.
Campbell said: The religious people tell us we really won’t experience bliss until we die and go to heaven. But I believe in having as much as you can of this experience while you are still alive.
What I’ve found is: Bliss is waiting for you, and when you get in touch with it regularly, you begin to draw people into your life that will open the doors so that you can delve more deeply into your bliss. The deeper you delve, the more you draw to you. For me, it was simply a exercise of stepping off the wheel often enough to see what matters to me. It was the most important and satisfying thing I've ever done for myself. It's what keeps me whole and happy.