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Following Your Bliss on the Path of Challenge

by Cassendre Xavier

"We can explore what bliss is in any given moment."

I don't recall when first discovered literature professor and mythology author Joseph Campbell and his popular and potentially life-changing phrase "Follow your bliss."

I have seen many other artists quoting Campbell, but my first introduction was probably when I watched his collaborative feature on Bill Moyers' PBS series "The Power of Myth" in 1988, one year after my high school graduation. (I see now how fortunate I was to learn such inspiring wisdom just as I was entering college, and in my early development as a professional artist!)

In my early 20s, "Follow your bliss," was on my tongue and came out of my pen and keyboard more often than the words "the" and "and!"

My bipolar, PTSD, and eating disorder symptoms were not yet negatively impacting my work and home life or relationships in as intense a way as they would in my later years.

I am so happy to share that after almost two years of stability, not yet enough to be independent, but enough to be out of crisis for the first time in more than four years, I am following my bliss again!

The "follow your bliss" quote I remember most and used to say and use most is, "Follow your bliss and doors will open for you where you never even knew there were doors."

While I enjoyed using this mindset in creating and selling my multi-media art/works and community cultural arts events, today it had brand new, essential meaning. Today I can see how much value "follow your bliss" has for the struggling persun, be it recovery from trauma, or surviving day to day shelter or street homelessness. We definitely can use some opening doors during these times!

In pondering the bliss during challenge issue, I questioned:

When we are struggling in severe challenge, can we still follow our bliss?

Is it possible?

In those times, is there even any bliss to find, let alone enough bliss that stays long enough to be followed?

How do we define and can we redefine bliss?

Does trauma or addiction alter our basic original form, and if it doesn't, how do we return to that form?

Is perfect living the way to bliss?

Is bliss even possible for those who are frightened by joy, often fearing the dropping of the other shoe, and avoiding it as the universal fear of the unknown?

How do we make bliss not hurt, if love (or so-called love) has hurt us before?

Some of us are lightworkers who chose, long before we came to earth in humyn form, and under the counsel of our spiritual elders, to have lives that would allow for great self-expression, self-discovery, and service to humynkind and other earth inhabitants (plant, animal, and mineral species).

We wanted our souls to evolve further, and to grow as much as we could while spreading light and love by sharing the lessons we learned and the things that sustained us along the way.

Many lightworkers identify as artists, writers, teachers, healers, people in recovery from abuse, addictions, compulsive behaviors, and/or who live with physical or mental health challenges.

How does such a person follow their bliss? What form does bliss take in the face of severe challenge?

We can explore what bliss is in any given moment.

When I was in my teens and twenties, following my bliss meant writing and performing music, getting my writing published, and producing events I had conceived. It was also making friendship bracelets, mail art, and attending and performing at wimmin's conferences and retreats.

When I lived in a homeless shelter, bliss was spending weekends reading and napping alone in my room when my roommate was away, and movie night with snack runs with my best friend at the shelter.

When I was street homeless, bliss was unlimited rides on the Market Frankford Elevated line ("the El"), where I could sleep or enjoy a peaceful afternoon "alone," wearing my earplugs for additional quiet. During those times, the Philadelphia International Airport became my Hilton hotel, and I would go sit, rest, and read or use my tablet to write. I remember one particular afternoon when I went to Aldi (inexpensive food store) and bought a loaf of whole grain bread, a bag of ready-to-eat fresh organic carrots, and all-natural delicious garlicky hummus, and enjoyed that at the airport. I always found ways to eat cheaply, healthfully, and in a way that would last at least two days, as that meal did.

Following your bliss won't look the same every time. It changes through the years, depending on what you're going through and what your life is like.

I'm still on food stamps, and I can't yet afford to live on my own. But I have a comfortable home life with a friend, am making progress towards my goals every day, and I make the best of what I do have.

I use my food stamps to buy the healthiest food (most of the time!), and I also use it for my body products, which are also mostly plant-based (coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil for skin and hair, cloves and coriander seeds as breath fresheners, etc.).

I use my medical assistance (Medicaid) to go twice weekly to psychotherapy sessions that help me with my mental health issues and eating disorder. I also go to mind-body and trauma recovery classes, all for free.

Between all of that, and enjoying being domestic and watching way too much YouTube (Judge Judy makes my days complete!), I often say, "I feel like Oprah!" And I do!

Friends in Spirit, let us never forget our bliss. No matter what's going on in your life, however you may be suffering or struggling, or having a crisis or difficult time, there is still some bliss somewhere for you to find, to use, and to enjoy. You just need to pause, breathe, and get to your center to find it. Take the time to discover and enjoy your bliss. See where it gets you next. Notice how it's changed over time, or stayed the same.

It's there for you, and you're worth it!

Special Note:

Speaking of following my bliss, I’d like to invite you to attend the 12th Annual Black Women’s Arts Festival, my baby, which I founded in 2003! Saturday and Sunday at The Rotunda, 4014 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19104. Free, all ages, wheelchair accessible, and as always, All respectful persons are welcome! Visit http://facebook.com/BWAFfanpage or Instagram http://instagram.com/OfficialBWAFphilly

Cassendre Xavier is an acclaimed singer-songwriter recording artist, writer, and community worker in the fields of inspiration, creativity, and recovery from abuse. She shares her popular "Survivor's Corner" and "PTSD Chronicles" on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and has been writing the "Living with Bipolar Disorder" series at Wisdom Magazine's online edition since 2011. Cassendre was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at age 23. She is the founder of Sisters Healing Together, a peer support group for women survivors of incest with a special focus on compulsive overeating (1996-1999, William Way LGBT Community Center, Philadelphia). Under her self-assigned spiritual name Amethyste Rah, Cassendre released the popular Affirmations for Survivors guided meditation audio series: "Self-Love" and "Spirituality" in 2007, and "Sexuality" and "Life Skills" are forthcoming. All of her albums are at CD Baby and many are on Spotify. Videos on YouTube. Website: http://cassEndrExavier.wordpress.com

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