I have an art studio called Studio Bliss which I named in 1992 while living in my native home of Virginia. Over the years most people have tended to associate the bliss part of the name with the spiritual connotation, but in fact, the reason for this name did not originate there. I was living on my farm at the time, renovating the top of the barn into my studio, and upon completion, needed a name for it. I ended up down at the local courthouse to research the area where my farm was located to find it was once called Bliss, Virginia. This led me to other sources where I discovered my farm had been part of the Free State in Virginia, an area known to escaping slaves as a refuge for safety and protection. The Free State was about a forty mile radius, a safe haven, during the turbulence of the Civil War. My farm was thus a reason to follow your bliss for the black people who had every right to seek their freedom. They found comfort and kindred souls at my farm in Bliss, Virginia.

I share this story because the road to follow your bliss is akin to these slaves in search of Bliss, Virginia and their freedom. In the struggle to follow your bliss, we are in need of a similar safe haven, one found in the place of the mind that leads to the heart. I imagine these slaves getting close to the Free State, and thinking about their chance to find refuge, and then feeling in their hearts how good this refuge would be. Any fear would cancel this good feeling in their heart. Their minds had to trust in their perception of a refuge, and give it to their hearts for safe keeping.

In other words, to follow our bliss requires a safe haven we create inside ourselves. It starts with the mind perceiving a thought which the heart can then understand. The mind has to send the heart good thoughts, and then we have to feel those thoughts in the heart. The mind is far too slippery to trust where the heart is reliable and trustworthy. Our struggle to follow our bliss is found in not delivering our good thoughts into safe keeping with our heart. The mind is home to the ego’s manipulative desires fueled by a sea of endless thoughts which come and go like waves; the heart is home to our feelings, which we sense can overwhelm us like a big wave, yet it holds the steady flame of our light. We have to feel, not think, our way into the light of bliss.

The shadow of bliss is stress. We allow our minds to stress us out with thoughts that do not serve our best interests; stress removes us from the present into the past or future where nothing can be resolved; stress exhausts us into dissatisfaction. The gift we discover eventually from stress is vitality which results from our surrender to exhaustion. We cease being forever driven to find satisfaction in any place other than the present moment. When we turn the energy of all thoughts that are somewhere other than here into the depths of the heart, we return to ourselves and to a deep harmony with the world around us.

The state of bliss is not a destination nor an attainment in the world, but a place of being within where stress has dissolved into a pure, calm lake that holds the essence of bliss. It is seeing the serene lake within yourself, the flower within the seed, the light within your soul. That is it. This is bliss. There is no verbal description of bliss nor enlightenment. It is far beyond our grasp even as it was for the slaves who sought the refuge of bliss. We cannot follow bliss we do not have, and seeking it may take us further from the path. It is a state, like the Free State, where we are always free no matter what. Then, I am not sure there is even any bliss to follow as much as there is bliss to just be. If we are already in our bliss, we will naturally and effortlessly follow it.

Like the dragonfly, we have to shed our shadow skins before we can step into the light of following our bliss.