Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Follow your bliss

So here’s a big question… what is your passion? 

Some people know what their passion is inherently, some people have it recognised in them by others, and some people stumble upon it in the course of their lives. You might know when you are there because it feels right, you feel like you belong, it's almost like you have come home, you might feel connected to something bigger than yourself, time may even move differently... some call it being in the zone, in flow or in your element.

I am reading The Element by Sir Ken Robinson with Lou Aronica at the moment... and along with some other things I have been reading and viewing lately it really has got me thinking about passion and what following your bliss might look like.

Have you ever seen the Pixar movie Ratatouille? If you are looking at a child friendly way of describing what living your passion could look like this might be a good start. This little rat discovers he has a thing for cooking, through a bit of a journey he ends up fulfilling his passion. To get there he needed help from others and at times he had to ask for it, he needed perseverance, he needed to be flexible and use obstacles as opportunities to stretch himself but still in the direction of his passion, he needed self belief, he needed to keep improving and innovating... and in the end he got to be the best little chef he could be. And although this sounds hard, it wasn’t all a chore because he was passionate about it.

Living your passion, following your bliss, finding your element... however you choose to look at it, is not always a straight and easy path. Depending on our circumstances, even in ideal situations, we are likely not living our bliss 100% of the time. I love being a mum but washing dirty nappies, doing housework and sleepless nights would not be top of my personal passions list. :) So living your passion is not about everything being perfect. Some people may not have a job they love but they need the work and so this is not necessarily about chucking in your job, it's about identifying what it is that lights you up and finding ways to fulfil that part of yourself. The neat thing is when you do get to that place, even in a small way, it has a habit of brightening up everything else that you do… like my love for our wee man makes the housework less of a chore, and as he gets older we can do it together and it’s almost truly enjoyable.

Let’s try a theatrical analogy… if you imagine that we are all performers in our own play then our passion/bliss/element could be the play itself- what would your passion play be called I wonder? We can perform this play on any number of stages... it could be in our work, it might be a hobby... it could be something we have done since we were very young, something we pick up along the way or something we are inspired to do in our old age. The character may change over the years i.e. we may be an active gymnast as a child/teen, a coach at some stage, an administrator at another, an avid fan and viewer in another. Performing our passion is pretty variable I guess.

For me so far I have had a few stages to perform on. I always wanted to be a teacher and taught in a regular classroom full time for seven years. Although I look back now and know that there were things I could’ve done better, I know I did the best I could at the time with what I knew and I loved my time in the classroom. I didn’t think there was anything else for me. How wrong was I? In moving to Life Ed I discovered a new tribe that I belonged to, like-minded people that believed in a beautiful philosophy and wanted to make a difference. Opportunities presented themselves and although my role shifted and changed during my work there, my passion for the organisation never waned, indeed it was what sustained me in the stressful times.

Thirteen years later my time with the organisation has ended and although it was the right time to step back, I ask myself so what now? Where is my passion? Is it still teaching I wonder? I went to a meeting recently and said that I wasn’t a teacher anymore but one of the other attendees challenged me saying that just because I wasn’t in a school classroom didn’t mean I wasn’t a teacher. He was right, when you look up synonyms for teacher we have words like coach, trainer, guide, mentor which are all words that feel right.

When I think back to times when I have felt in the zone or in my element they are times when I have been in a classroom humming and buzzing with my class, when I have been on stage, when I have seen a student, colleague or friend grow and develop, when I am singing with others, when I am presenting, when I am meeting people…

So recently I have been reflecting on what is the glue that ties these things together to quantify what my passion is. Firstly I think it is about connecting with other people and telling a story or creating something together. And it is also about inspiring and influencing others, with the ultimate hope of creating positive change.  

Clearly I still have work to do but that’s OK. I am not in a hurry. We can have more than one passion, we have a whole life to live and so there is space and time. It does not need to be forced but it is well worth having our minds and hearts open so we know when we are there and can really enjoy it. Perhaps this is another way that mindfulness is our friend?

When were you last in the zone? If you have a moment it can be lovely to remember and reflect. What is your passion or are your passions? And how do you express these? It would be great to hear about what your bliss is and how you follow it if you want to comment below. I know I find other people's stories really inspiring :) 
I'll close with another one of my favourite quotes, introduced to me by a semi blind cartoonist who wrote it with purple vivid marker on my palm... 'Follow your Bliss' by Joseph Campbell. I hope that at some time on this journey you get to do this.  

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