Is This Hell? The Danger Of Following Your Bliss

Is This Hell? The Danger Of Following Your Bliss

Do you know what your bliss is?

Are you following it?

Now that I've started to follow my bliss, I realize it's a kind of trap. A trap I set for myself and in which I have caught myself. If escape is possible, I do not know, but I cannot imagine getting out without injury.

My trap, the bliss trap, is the same trap that befell Adam and Eve: knowledge. Now that I know what it feels like to follow my bliss, nothing else will do. I have to have this within my life.

I have to awaken early, much earlier than I used to, just to have time to work on my bliss. I think and act on my bliss nearly all the time. So much so that I need to force some breaks in the work to ensure I don't become stagnant and dull. As it is, I'm sure I'm a bore to some of my friends since all I can talk about is my bliss. Mostly, I try to listen instead.

Adam And Eve

Have you ever really thought about Adam and Eve from the individual perspective before? I've always considered the story from the mankind angle, something I still think has some merit and the potential to inform us about where we came from and show us a path as to where we might go. But Adam, the man (imagining there was such a man), what was his experience of eating from the Tree of Knowledge? What knowledge did he gain? Good and evil, so the bible says, but what was evil in his eyes? Here he was, living in the Garden of Eden, Eve's there and all is well. He's in bliss. Everyday, is blissful, without worry, for the garden is plentiful, safe, and nurturing. What evil knowledge, beyond mere nudity, could Adam have learned?

Could he have learned of soulless corporate offices and mindless workers whiling away the hours in cube farms? Could he have seen the drudgery of "It's just a job?" Tempted by the devil-as-snake, did he learn to abandon his soul? I think so. The evil of non-bliss. A waste of your human talents.

Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are. - Kurt Cobain

By following your bliss, you take a step back into the Garden of Eden, just a step. Life around you still provides plenty to bedevil you away from your bliss but you can see the garden, and taste the fruit of the Tree of Bliss.

This is the danger. Most of us have fallen so far from our blissful nature that when you taste the fruit of Tree of Bliss, you know you cannot go back. Just as Adam and Eve could not go back to the bliss of ignorance once they had tasted the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. You want to reenter the garden, this time knowing the nature of evil from your years of experience, but having tasted the fruit of the Tree of Bliss. Once you enter, you are again of a fallen nature. Fallen from an unfulfilled life.

Of Heaven And Hell

From your new vantage point you can see the promise of bliss and the evil of non-bliss. These are the places of heaven and hell. Here, right here, on Earth.

The Kingdom of God does not come when people are spying on it, nor will they say, ‘Behold, it is here,’ or ‘there;’ for the Kingdom of God is inside you. - Luke 17:20-21*

All the heavens and all the hells are within you. - Joseph Campbell

Are you living in a hell of a life, failing to follow our bliss, just making do?

Following your bliss, entering heaven on Earth, is challenging, requiring courage and self-confidence. Fear, uncertainty, and doubt, the tools of the devil, are constantly tugging at your sleeves encouraging you to stay away from the garden. And it is safe there, among the cubicles, steady paycheck, certainty of life. But to what end? Are you living fully?

And what if should you actually taste the fruit of the Tree of Bliss? How much more painful is your return to your personal hell. Here, the only remedy is acceptance. Turn the other cheek, be the meek patiently awaiting your inheritance.

Perhaps you can follow in the Buddha's footsteps, eliminate your desires, and regain your peace. But is this necessary? Need you accept your life, hell and all?

Stairway to Heaven

What if you did not to accept, did not acquiesce to meekness and impotence? What then?

Isn't this what you admire in your favorite celebrities? What is the common thread between the musicians, actors, and athletes you admire? Each is following his or her bliss. You see it shining like a halo around them and you admire them for it. Most of all you admire their courage.

Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads. - Erica Jong

What would you do if you were to follow your bliss? Do you have the courage?

The path is not easy but the path is the way to peace and fulfillment. The highest use of the wonderful and unique person you are.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable. – Helen Keller

Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway. - John Wayne

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. - Anais Nin

Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace. - Amelia Earhart

Can you summon the courage to live your life fully? To follow your talent, your bliss, to the "dark place where it leads?" This is no easy task but who ever said that reaching heaven was easy? The promised land is within you. It is up to you, and you alone, to set yourself on the correct path. Put an angel of courage on your shoulder to guide you, give those devils of fear the brush off, and get going.

It's your one and only life. How will you choose to spend it?

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How are you following your bliss?

Kenneth Benjamin
Kenneth Benjamin moderator

Continued - part 3...

Gaining that clarity, being willing to look honestly at yourself and truly define your deepest contentment, requires courage. What do you see when you look inside? How is what you want misaligned with what you perceive as societal norms? Where do you see yourself as 'odd' or 'different?' It can be hard to accept those aspects of yourself that you have been taught are wrong, or bad, and those incorrect self-perceptions, those beliefs, can hold you back. It takes courage to work through them and accept yourself.

Once that is done, once you know what your bliss is, then comes the time for action. Here's what Ralph Waldo Emerson said about following your bliss:

“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.”

The meaning of life is, as I said here: what you choose to make of it. Choosing for your life to have meaning and choosing to follow your bliss are two sides of the same coin. Meaning is a destination, bliss is the path to get there.

I believe that everyone, once having met minimum requirements of sustenance, can choose their destination and the paths on which they walk. Some of us are starting at hubs with many large, well-worn paths leading away, others, have fewer choices, and some of us have to just start hacking away the jungle to make our route.

I'm out here hacking my own path but I'm loving every minute of it despite being scared every step of the way :)

Kenneth Benjamin
Kenneth Benjamin moderator


In creating WisdomWebsite, I consciously considered how best to express my bliss and I decided that my focus would be on those who had a modern life with a large degree of flexibility within. Since that includes a great many people, billions in fact, and ones I can reach. I see contributing this way as my highest good.

As I say, we all have choices and choosing to follow your bliss is a true act of courage. It is what Joseph Campbell calls "the hero's journey." Perhaps if your bliss aligns with the norms of society, it requires less courage, I don't know. Courage or not, I think it's the key to living well.

Coming back to those with more limited choices, I still think there is an opportunity for bliss following. Thinking of a Thai farmer, for example. Should he simply be the one working the fields or should he struggle to acquire his own land and employ others? Should he engineer more efficient irrigation methods or become involved in community management of water resources? Does he prefer to work alone or with others? What does he do when the day is done? Play music, party with friends, learn to read, help manage his community? Is he smart and curious, or dull and accepting? Does he want the beautiful but unstable wife to show off or prefer the solid homemaker? What about children? I think you see what I mean here.

The key here is that whatever he chooses, he lives and acts in accordance with who he is and what he needs to feel fulfilled. Wealth is hardly a requirement for fulfilling life. Food, shelter, and to a more limited degree, health, yes, but beyond that, it's personal choice and opportunities for bliss.

Now, allow me to tackle the word "desires." This is a tricky word as it can have a sense of greediness and lust associated with it that isn't quite what I would suggest is following your bliss although that is not exactly true for all personality types. Desires, such that they are goals, I see as good and wholesome. Covetousness and greed, negative aspects.

Core Buddhist philosophy says that we should avoid all desire to achieve enlightenment. While I agree that this is one path, I don't think it's the right path for modern people. In a world of little, desires, particularly ones that cannot be fulfilled, lead only to suffering. In this the Buddha is obviously right. But what about desires you can achieve? Life goals, dreams, hopes, desires? Isn't this what we live for? A desire to feel fulfilled is our deepest contentment. For you and I, I don't believe that it is the desire that is the problem but the lack of clarity and action towards that contentment that is our problem.

Kenneth Benjamin
Kenneth Benjamin moderator

Hi Jim,

Lots of deep questions here. Let me take a short (okay, not short) stab at each...

Everyone has some choices and consciously or unconsciously we make those choices. Sure, there are billions of people with more limited opportunities than those of us reading this have but they still have some options about how they conduct their life and where they focus their energies.

I do realize that in practice a higher standard of living means more possibilities of self-expression and therefore more possibilities to guide your life towards your bliss. This is, to my mind, one of the key differences between modern times and the times of say, the Buddha. 2500 years ago, when life was mostly suffering, just as it still is for many.

But life is not suffering for you and I. We struggle and suffer but we struggle with luxuries and suffer the complexities of modern living, not finding enough food and defending ourselves against marauding bandits. We suffer disease but much of it is treatable. Contrast that with the past when little could be done.

Our standards of living are vastly higher and we can be thankful for that. Just to give you one perspective on how much wealthier we are than we used to be, let's look at the United States, already a wealthy nation by some standards in 1790, the per capita GDP (adjusted to year 2000 dollars) then was $916 compared with $37,332 in 2005. That's over 40 times wealthier. Imagine how it must have been in Buddha's time and place. Nepal, the birthplace of the Buddha, had a per capita GDP in 2005 under $1000. Right where the US was over two hundred years ago. One can only imaging the suffering of Buddha's time around 500BC.

With all this new wealth we haven't updated our approach. We haven't done for modern times what Buddha and Jesus did for ancient times, figure out how to live well. That's what I'm trying to change. Because things are so much different, and so much better now, we need updated approaches that can be based on the ancient wisdom but solve modern problems.

Jim Callahan
Jim Callahan

Thanks for another thought-producing article, Ken.

I'm thinking about all the zillions of people in this world who don't have real choices except to keep up the struggle that is their life. Their issue isn't to not have enough courage. Does this mean they can never experience bliss? Is bliss, and the meaning of life, found thru achieving our desires?

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