Professional Student of Life
Adventures in personal growth
Whatever lifts the corners of your mouth, trust that. ~ Rumi
Most people have heard Joseph Campbell’s famous advice to “follow your bliss,” but I’ve always thought that it raised the bar too high. “Bliss” sounds great, but how often have you really experienced it? Am I the only one who’s apparently bliss-deprived?
Holding out for bliss, I think we might miss the subtler signs that are showing us the way. Though less gaudy, they might be even surer guideposts to a happy life. We keep waiting for the big bliss rush when deciding what to do, looking for certainty that we’re making the right decision, that nothing will go wrong, and we’ll never regret it. That’s the ego for you: ever risk-averse. The ego is looking for a lighted super-highway to the future, taking you directly to success and happiness, with no detours along the way. I wish.
I think the soul’s guidance is more like the breadcrumbs in a fairy tale. You have to watch for them, and you can’t see too far down the path. The soul, after all, is about the journey, while the ego only prizes the destination. This is where smiling comes in. I think if we can train ourselves to value and trust those little hits of happiness, we might just find ourselves enjoying the path so much that we forget to worry about the destination.
Those little hits might seem laughingly trivial to the ego (which always takes itself, and life, very seriously). What lifts the corners of your mouth? It doesn’t even have to be a full-blown smile. What feels good, for no other reason than it just appeals to you in the moment?
To be fair, this practice is often trickier than it should be because, for a lot of us, our feel-good meters are out of whack. Sometimes what “feels good” in the moment is only an escape from something else that we don’t want to acknowledge or feel. The only way to recalibrate your meter is to pay strict attention to the results of what you do.
Does bingeing two seasons of Derry Girls three times in a row really make you feel good? (It did me!) If it doesn’t, you have a little more digging to do. Maybe you actually enjoyed it, but just feel guilty for “wasting” time? If so, I think you can safely ignore the guilt. If you feel heavy and squirmy after your indulgence, something deeper is amiss.
Go slowly as you start this practice. Keep asking yourself, “What do I want now?” (and banish the word “should,” which is a favorite of the ego). Pay attention to your body, to any lightness or warmth or expansion, to anything that lifts the corners of your mouth, even slightly! Follow the breadcrumbs of your true nature through the day, trusting it to guide your steps.
This is a moment-by-moment practice, and you can always make a different choice next time. In fact, giving yourself permission to turn around and go a different way is crucial to avoiding decision paralysis. That’s another trick of the ego, telling us that we have to get it right – OR ELSE!!!! Or else, what? Like the search for bliss, this is simply the ego’s misguided attempt to protect us from “failure.”
Just thank it, and keep looking for the next breadcrumb.
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