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6 Tips to Find Your Bliss So You Can Follow It

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“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” ~Dalai Lama

I’m betting you’ve heard the advice to “follow your bliss.” While I find there to be much value in those words, I submit that this mindset can become a trap.

It’s not the bliss I have an issue with. It’s the part about following.

If you are going to follow your bliss, the supposition is that you already know what it is. Maybe you do, and maybe you don’t. Yet.

When I was in my early twenties, my mother invited me to join her for an evening yoga class she was taking to be followed by dinner. Yoga wasn’t as popular then as it is now so it was something of a mystery to me.

I imagined a half hour of simple stretching. To be honest, I was more interested in the free dinner than I was in “exercise,” but mom had just started a 6-week yoga intensive class and was very enthusiastic about it. Wanting to be supportive, I accepted her invitation.

I met her at the yoga studio, thinking easy stretches would be a good way to work up an appetite, and then off to dinner we would go. We removed our shoes, and I padded after my mom as she handed me a mat and showed me where to spread it out on the floor, next to hers.

The teacher was a pleasant young woman who smiled warmly as she welcomed us and lowered the lights, suggesting we sit quietly and relax. As the last few students straggled in, she walked over to the close the door and invited us to “just let go of the cares of the day for the next two hours.”

Holy Toledo! Two hours! Two HOURS? I hated P.E.—I’d never done any physical activity for two hours. This would never do. Two hours? I panicked.

How to escape? I could excuse myself to the bathroom and wait it out there. Maybe I could feign a stomachache and take a taxi home. I was freaking out inside.

The teacher’s smiling eyes met mine, and I fake-smiled back. Panic turned into paralysis. I froze. It took every ounce of willpower (and a fair amount of respect and love for my mother) to keep me from bolting out that door. I swallowed my panic and got ready to endure the torture.

My fate sealed, I did my best to follow along. Luckily, I had some natural flexibility and was pleased to find I could get into a few of the positions comfortably, even some that experienced students found challenging.  Me being good at a “sport”? That was a first. Yes, I even gloated a little.

I did the yoga. Badly. But I did it. Eventually I lost track of time, and somewhere along the way, I actually began to enjoy what I was doing.

Then something miraculous occurred. While I was in a pose, I was startled by the thought, “Oh, this is why people get into those ridiculous pretzel positions.” By the end of the class, I was hooked.

My mother finished her 6-week course and never went to class again. For mom, yoga was just a momentary fascination, but for me it was the beginning of a 40-year love affair that continues to this day.

Yoga has been my joy. It has sustained me through marriage, divorce, childbirth, illness, and health.

I learned that yoga is more than exercise, and certainly not a sport. I learned not to gloat. I learned to breathe, to move with mindfulness, and maybe for the first time, to enjoy having a body. I learned that the body is holy. I became a yoga teacher for eight years and a practitioner of Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy for nearly as long.

I’ve loved every bit of my yoga journey.

Yet, if I had followed my bliss, I would never have found my way into that yoga studio.

At the time, I would have much preferred to skip the yoga and simply meet my mom for dinner afterwards. And I would have missed one of the great joys of my life.

How can we find our bliss so that we may follow it?

1. Be open.

If a new opportunity crosses your path, try not to judge it too quickly or too harshly. Be open to new ideas and experiences, maybe even things you hadn’t considered before.

2. Be curious.

If there’s something people enjoy but you can’t imagine why, investigate. Perhaps it’s ballroom dancing, poetry, martial arts, aviation, improv, The Peace Corps. Whatever it is, there may be more to learn in the doing than the observing. There’s often much more than meets the eye. Some things need to be experienced to be appreciated.

3. Be willing.

Give it some time. (I recommend a minimum of two hours!) It helps to get good enough at a new endeavor to appreciate the joy it may bring you once you get the hang of it. Also, be willing to let go of an identity you may have outgrown. I was sure I was not the “physical type.” I hated exercise. I certainly didn’t believe I would or could be able to master something as outrageous as a headstand.

4. Be proactive.

Develop a mindset that is focused on finding and following your bliss. This means allowing time and energy to explore different things. Be willing to step outside your comfort zone. At least a little bit.

5. Be surprised.

You might be amazed at how much you enjoy something you never expected to.

6. Trust Life.

If you find yourself in a situation that isn’t exactly what you had in mind, pay attention. You might be at the beginning of the very path to the bliss you’ve been seeking.

To paraphrase John Lennon: “Bliss may be what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Photo by The Wandering Angel

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About Linda Gabriel

“Thought Whisperer” Linda Gabriel is an author and coach. She blogs about the power of the mind at http://thoughtmedicine.com.

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  • Staci

    Hi Linda,
    Thank you so much for posting this, i think it is just what i needed. I LOVE yoga in so many ways. I have been deliberating for a few years now about whether or not to do my teacher training. I am currently faced with an opportunity however i have to be honest, i am scared to jump in for many reasons. in not sure if it’ll be the right thing, im not sure if i want to commit my weekends to it, im worried about not being able to spend enough time with my husband…you name it and ive worried about it. Anyway, just wanted to share because i feel like your post is the universe trying to tell me something:)

  • Linda Gabriel

    Hi Staci,

    I’m glad you found some encouragement in my post. It sounds like you’re being led by fear. Someone once said: “Worry is a misuse of the imagination.” What good might flow from you getting your teacher’s certification?

    What does your heart tell you? Focus on that instead of your fears.

    I notice you wrote LOVE in capitol letters. That’s a sign too!

  • Donyale

    I feel I needed this post. Its like it spoke to me like as if Dalai Lama knew I was coming to read this article. Before I read it , I was crying for two hurs straight about my boyfriend of a year. We argue a lot abut me finding myself and my “why” , telling me that we aren’t going to be together until I do. I love him so much , I’m willing to step off my high horse to find myself because I’m only hurting myself. I feel like this article helped give me that certain push that I needed; mainly because I was so lost in my emotions. You’ve taught me that I need to express my emotion through a hobby in order to fully allow myself to become fully happy. Thank you

  • Linda Gabriel

    I’m so grateful that my words have helped you remember your own truth
    Donyale. Thank you for sharing.

  • Liz Roberts

    I really enjoyed your post Linda! I love the idea of being open to exploring new things. Well-timed for me to read this as a colleague of mine would like me to join her at an open house for the local choir group she belongs to. Hmmm, me try to sing in front of others? I don’t think so! I’m not good was my first reaction… the negative mindset. I had decided to go and at least “hang out” but after reading this post, and more self work on conquering fear, I may just try out! Thanks for the inspiration. Sending you much light for a fabulous 2013 :) Liz

  • Linda Gabriel

    Thanks for the delightful feedback Liz. As the not-so-great-at singing sister of a very talented singer, I know just what you mean. However some of my happiest memories are singing with a choir. My sister sang soprano and I was an alto, so we had great fun practicing together. It’s a great way to experience music creating harmony with your fellow humans without having to stand in the spotlight alone… once you get past the audition, that is! Good luck to you. Let me know how it goes.

  • http://www.madlabpost.com/ Nicole/TheMadlabPost

    I like the part where you wrote “there may be more to learn in the doing than the observing”….if more people were mindful of the benefits of Doing moreso than mere Observation, I believe that we would live in a less judgemental world.

  • Staci

    Hi Linda,

    thanks for responding. i am a psychologist and feel that getting my RYT certificate (200 hr) might be an interesting blend with the the work that i do. however i am feeling really paralyzed by this decision right now because i also have a full time job on top of my family responsibilities and im worried i would be biting off more than i can chew. The thing is, im not even sure i want to teach and im thinking i might be able to learn more about yoga by taking various workshops. I have ideas about writing a book and other things in regards to treating patients.

  • Linda Gabriel

    Hi Staci,

    While a 200 hour program might not be the right timing for you at this point, I can tell you that when I was asked to teach yoga, it made an amazing difference in my own yoga practice. In my case, I taught before getting the training. I lived on the Big Island where teachers were not available and my teacher asked me to sub for her while she took an extended trip.

    I was terrified and felt completely unqualified. But once again, moving through my own resistance paid off. Even though I was sure I wasn’t doing it right, my students gave me great feedback. Not only did my yoga take a quantum leap, I found out I loved teaching.

    At the time I was a mother of young children. One of the things I loved about teaching yoga was that, unlike my unruly sons, my students actually did what I asked. It was heaven!

  • Linda Gabriel

    I couldn’t agree more Nicole. There is truth in doing and there is even more truth in the old adage about “walking a mile in my shoes.” Thanks for your “observation.” ;-)

  • Neslyn

    If you’re in the situation wherein, you find it hard to comprehend why inimical things happen, steadfast with your open-minded attitude. It may redirect you to something interesting!

    Neslyn,
    http://www.relationship-consciousness.webs.com