The answer to this question may be one of the most important clues to why life is either exactly what I want it to be, or not. This question has been one that I have come back to time after time, and I am back to it again.
I have been reading “An Open Life: Joseph Campbell in conversation with Michael Toms” (Michael Toms). I am a relative newcomer to the world of Joseph Campbell, although I have several of his books in my library (unread until now). In the introduction to this book, Toms speaks of his long friendship with Campbell and reveals a bit about his life. It is this introduction that stimulated me to reconsider the aforementioned question.
When I think about the question, “What do I work for?”, I find inspiration from Campbell’s life. He was a life-long proponent of “following your bliss”. Campbell points out that he had the belief early on that this was the way to live. Forty years after embracing this way of living, he reported that he was right. His life unfolded in ways unimaginable because he never wavered from what was calling to him as his “bliss”. In fact, he never let money be the guide for any decision he made. He felt that if you life fully alive, the money part would take care of itself.
I have said something like this to many who have participated in programs I have lead, however, I recognize that I don’t always live this way myself. It appears that Joseph Campbell made a decision early in his life to live simply. It was clear that this choice provided him with complete freedom to do whatever felt right for him. This included taking four years off to read when he was 30. Reading that, he felt, supported what he was most passionate about.
When I consider this example, I wonder, “what keeps me from embracing a life of simplicity and joy?” There are a few immediate answers. The first is that I have become attached to a “life-style”. Much of the trappings that surround me as I write are not critical to my joy or vital to take care of the things that are important to me. So why are they here? When I build my place of work or homestead, I follow a pattern. This pattern is chosen by me, mostly unconsciously, based upon what others either said or what I felt they would think of me. This creates a life-long experience of being on a perpetual treadmill.
Well… if I am so clear, then why do I continue living the way that I do? Good question, and one that my wife and I are exploring now. We have started with the process of eliminating what is not important in our home. We have not completed this and I expect we will early in the new year. We are also looking at how we “earn a living”, how we take care of the essential needs of our family (food, shelter, clothing), and how we can move away from dependence on goods and services that are not consistent with our values.
Now to the second answer to the question “what keeps me from embracing a life of simplicity and joy?” That answer is fear! I am afraid of the change I see is required to simplify and live a life more balanced. A life filled with freedom and fulfillment. This fear clouds many of my decisions, and on occasion leads to paralysis. How am I engaging this? My wife and I are tackling this together. We both see the effects of the “fear of the unknown” and are supporting each other when the fear overtakes us.
As we walk into the new year together, we are beginning to feel a change coming, and this has filled us with a sense of joy and excitement!