Since “Happiness” is the theme of the 2016 Winter Meditation, we searched the Visionary archives for past articles on a similar theme and found them in the Summer 2006 issue which had Following Your Bliss as its theme.
Lem Arnold, Roger Beaumont, Randy Johnson and Paul Plate authored those articles and have kindly agreed to republishing them now. At least three of the articles have follow-ups written in 2015.
This is the first in a series of four articles about following one’s bliss republished from the Summer 2006 Visionary Archives. It includes a brief 2015 update from Randy.
Following Bliss Home
Today I believe that to follow one’s own bliss is to be on a journey that is, itself, one of bliss. Daniel Webster has defined bliss as “great joy or happiness; spiritual joy; heavenly rapture.” Thus, I can rephrase my opening statement in simpler terms: the way to happiness is to find happiness along the way.
I stated that “Today I believe…” because for most of my 41 years, I could not even see past myself to really be open to the possibility of a life of bliss. For many and varied reasons, growing up as a black male with repressed homosexual feelings in Spartanburg, SC, in the late 1960s and 70s was distressful, frightening, and lonely. Both of my hard working, high school-educated parents insisted that my sister and I strive to reach our fullest potential. I knew that they loved me and sacrificed to make our lives materially comfortable. But I did not feel that I could share certain parts of myself with them. So, I buried these parts – hid them away from the eyes of the world and myself. I did not have close friends or relatives that I felt I could open up to, although I was fairly popular and well-respected. And, despite having grown up in the church as a conscientious, God-fearing child, I had yet to experience the reality of love.
In the 13th chapter of I Corinthians, love is described as the quintessential virtue, without which all of our most noble sacrifices and exquisite gifts are empty and vain. When I used to read this passage, I could never understand why anyone would do such sacrificial, heroic deeds if they did not have love. Now, however, I can look back over my life and see how much of my giving and doing was rooted in my own neediness – my desperate attempts to get something from God or others to validate myself. I was trying to earn the favor of God and men when these are the inheritance of those who have chosen to believe that they are already loved, highly favored, heirs of happiness.
Despite all of my religious exposure and education, my heart remained full of doubt, unbelief, and fear. I did not believe that the world was a safe, nurturing place where I could expect to flourish. I did not understand how this God that I sought to worship could love me and yet permit my existence to be so utterly lonely and despondent. I longed to be able to share myself with a male companion in an intimate, caring relationship, but doubted that such a longing would ever be fulfilled. I was afraid to speak of my true feelings of attraction for classmates who may also have been homosexual, for fear of rejection or ridicule, if I turned out to be wrong. In short, I was a double-minded man, saying I believed/wanted one thing, but in my heart distrusting the very desires and questions birthed within me by the One who created me, was lovingly indwelling me. Instead, I chose to remain reliant upon my achievements, my reputation and my possessions for any sense of significance and self-worth (the full-time job of the ego). This need to continually feed my ego, or false self, was directly opposed to following a path of bliss because it led me away from my truest, most natural self.
My coming to follow bliss meant giving myself the gift of self-acceptance of my history, positive and negative traits, dreams, and desires.
My coming to follow bliss meant giving myself the gift of self-acceptance of my history, positive and negative traits, dreams, and desires It meant seeing the beauty in the midst of the hardships and the disarray of my life. It was finally beginning to feel, in a lasting and profound way, the love and understanding that I had so longed for. It meant knowing that I had the power to choose to become what I’d always hoped I might become. I heard the familiar words to Whitney Houston’s song “The Greatest Love of All” in a downtown Charleston restaurant a few years ago and, for the first time, really understood the beauty and power of what they meant. This is the love that, as I Corinthians 13 so eloquently states, will never fail. To quote author Aldous Huxley: “The spiritual journey does not consist in arriving at a new destination where a person gains what he did not have or becomes what he is not. It consists in the dissipation of one’s own ignorance concerning one’s self and life and the gradual growth of that understanding which begins the spiritual awakening. The finding of God is a coming to one’s self.”
As I considered how far I have come on this journey of “the dissipation of [my] ignorance” about myself, and the opening up of my heart to all of the good it longs to experience and to share, I was overwhelmed with feelings of bliss. I sobbed uncontrollably as my heart flooded with gratitude for the relief and delight of having, at last, come home to myself and found God already there.
In 2006 Randy Johnson lived and worked in Seneca, SC, as a dentist. His interests included bicycling, physical fitness and development, study in the fields of spirituality and psychology, massage and new recipes. He currently lives in Asheville North Carolina. The article was originally published in the Summer 2006 Visionary.
Where Bliss Abounds – Randy’s 2015 Update
As I stated just over nine years ago in “Following Bliss Home,” the joy is in the journey. Reflecting on my circuitous path since 2006, I am delighted that I have continued to follow the energy of expansion, joy, and possibility. Being with what is, without judgment or resistance beckons the lightness of bliss. It is Life’s ongoing invitation to Be. All of me. Here. Now.
Since 2006 I have moved six times between four cities, been involved in six different intimate relationships lasting from four months to my current one of five years, left private practice, worked for three different dental companies, studied massage therapy, steeped in a year long program of energetic healing and awareness, traveled to Italy, developed new friends and let go of old ones, and started a new enterprise. Though some of the situations and relationships were fraught with difficulty and angst, I can now see that they were a reflection of some aspect of my internal state which required acknowledgement and integration.
In his book The Presence Process, Michael Brown posits that as we allow ourselves to fully feel and integrate unresolved fear, anger and grief, we become more available to experience the present moment. And that, I believe, is where bliss abounds!