One definition of bliss is to reach a state of perfect happiness, typically so as to be oblivious of everything else. Another explanation of bliss is that bliss is the pathway to happiness. Happiness is a state of mind and following your bliss is how you get there.
Renowned scholar Joseph Campbell, who studied the mythologies of people across cultures, races, creeds, geographical borders, ages, and genders, found that the underlying message of all of them was to “follow your bliss.”
Growing up in an abusive home, I lived in a state of constant fear, uncertain of what the night would bring. Would my stepfather come home and start fighting with my mother? Was he going to unleash his violent outburst on me? Was he going to walk into my room in the middle of the night and molest me? I never felt safe, so I had to find my own safe place, and over time, I found several such places.
One of those places was in the hills behind my house. I would take my dog Taffy and walk up in the hills of the Southern California coastal community of Dana Point. I would walk to a place that overlooked the coastline from San Diego to Long Beach, including Catalina Island. I would sit on the side of the hill with Taffy next to me, the foxtails doing their magical mystical dance as the ocean breeze blew across the top of them. I would sit in the middle of them with the wind blowing through my hair and the warm sun basking on my face. I had found my safe place where no one knew where I was, and no one could hurt me. I would sit there not wanting to go home, but knowing I had to. For thirty minutes or an hour, I had found my bliss—my happy place.
As I grew older and the abuse became more frequent and worse, I turned to drugs and alcohol hoping they would bring me happiness and bliss. However, the drugs and alcohol only created more fear and turmoil in my life, exactly the opposite of what I was searching for.
Today, as a recovering man, I have discovered that bliss builds on itself and it starts off as peace. If I am very still and quiet and let it be, it grows bigger and bigger until it expands to include happiness, joy, ecstasy, and tranquility. But I can’t go looking for the loudest point; I’ve got to start with the quiet peace.
That’s how I find my bliss. First, I have to decide to make it happen. Then, I go looking for it. I have a general idea of things that can get it started.
For example, relaxing on a beach in the warm sunshine with the mesmerizing sound of the surf and the wind. Lying on my back in an alpine meadow, watching puffy white clouds dance across the powder blue sky. Smelling the scent of pine trees and fresh high country flowers drifting through the air. Feeling the wind on my face when I’m coasting down a street at a well earned thirty miles per hour on my bike. Hearing the sound of a mountain stream as it makes its way down to a lake or the ocean.
When I’ve got just the smallest inkling of that deep inner peaceful zingy feeling, I start to feed it. Most of the time, I lose it. Following my bliss requires positive thoughts that increase my happiness and well-being; and most of the time, any little thing throws me out, and I have to start again.
Rude drivers, a bad memory from childhood, politicians, and any strong negative thought can kill my incipient bliss. But sometimes I can build it up until I’ve got a rocking fire inside me; pure joy that I made for myself, out of myself, just for myself is better than any other feeling on Earth.
Read more on Finding Your Bliss in my book – Healing the Wounded Child Within – available at Amazon or on my website, www.courageoushealers.org.
 Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2004), p. xxiv