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On Following your Bliss and Living on Purpose

    I was browsing through the Orion Magazine issue that arrived in my mailbox this past week, and noted a reader's letter to the editor. In it, the reader commented on an essay from a previous issue written by Derrick Jensen, in which Jensen spoke about the revolutionary concept (and current world-need) of following our hearts, and then helping others to find and follow their own hearts.

    The reader took some offense at Jensen's suggestion, assuming that those who follow their hearts -- or, as mythologist Joseph Campbell put it, "follow their bliss" -- must be pursuing creative, artistic, or otherwise glamorous bliss-paths, and thus left out the "ordinary work" that is a necessity in our society - cleaning, removing garbage, sweeping streets, filing papers, washing dishes, serving food, etc.

    Having read Jensen's essay, I think my fellow reader missed his point, and perhaps reacted to a sore-point within her own psyche. To her credit, she felt mobilized enough by the essay to reflect on it and write a letter to Orion's editor.

    And yet the reader's reaction shines light on an erroneous assumption that is typical in our culture - that "bliss" or "finding one's heart" or "being on-purpose" boils down to a job title or a job type. Everything ultimately comes down to what you do, what you're called, what you earn, for whom you work, and whether others assess that as being "successful" or "worthy" or "on purpose."

    Finding your heart, your bliss, your purpose has nothing to do with your job title or whether what you do for a living is glamorous or mundane. No one avoids the mundane. What it means to "find your heart" or "follow your bliss" or live "on purpose" is more an inner-world thing that ultimately expresses itself in how we are with others, how we do our work, or, yes, what work we choose to do, if we can find our way to that luxury. We can listen to our heart and find our way to a specific job or livelihood. But ultimately, it's a way, not a title; it's more of a how than a what; and it's more a why than a "how much."

    As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. pointed out, a street sweeper can sweep the streets even as Mozart created music or an artist creates art or a writer writes. Dorothy Day also offered a perspective on doing "the little work" in a spiritually big and heart-centered way. This is also one of the key components of "conscious enterprise," big-vision entrepreneurship, or general mindfulness.

    By doing something well, and doing it fully from the center of our being -- from our heart -- we transform even the most mundane work into our prayer and gift to the world, and in that transformation and giving we find meaning.

    � 2004, Jamie S. Walters

    Founder, Ivy Sea, Inc., Conscious enterprise, inspired leadership, mindful communication, and big-vision entrepreneuring concepts are shared in Ivy Sea's consulting and award-winning web library, as well as in Big Vision, Small Business, a highly acclaimed book by Jamie S. Walters.