The Pillars of Happiness Part 1: Follow Your Bliss

My journey over the past several years—which has led me back to India multiple times including in August 2014—has been guided by three principles that I have found to be the pillars of happiness.

Follow Your Bliss

The great 20th century philosopher Joseph Campbell, who coined this widely-misunderstood mantra, wasn’t referring to satiating your every carnal craving.  Rather, he was talking about the thing that feeds your soul, stimulates your mind, and fills your heart.  Your bliss is something that revolutionizes your world, if not the world around you.

Your bliss might be animal welfare, baking, teaching children to read, or building a business from the ground up.  For me, it’s fostering goodwill relations between disparate groups, employing culture as an instrument of peace.

It sounds lofty, but my bliss has evolved over the years before ending up in its current form.  In my early adulthood, classical piano was the thing that consumed my life.  My dream was to become the next Van Cliburn, but as I studied ardently in pursuit of this goal at music conservatories in Italy, Germany, and Russia, I began to fall in love with foreign languages and distant cultures.

Following my bliss then led me to work as an English teacher in France and Italy, a French antiques importer, and a coordinator of government exchange programs.  As my passions merged, I began to establish my conviction that international exchanges play a critical role in promoting intercultural understanding.  I now aspire to transform my bliss into a career as a cultural attaché in the U.S. Foreign Service.  And the amazing thing is that, throughout the process of pursuing my bliss, I have relished every experience as the right doors seemed to automatically open.

Joseph Campbell best sums up this auspicious synchronicity:

If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living.  When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you…If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.

The doors that have opened for me are what brought me to India today.  This place seems to have a power over me, an inexplicable way of drawing me back.  And against all odds, I feel homesick when I’m away and utterly at home when I’m here.

Stay tuned for the second installation of my series, The Pillars of Happiness.  In the meantime, inspire me!  I’d love to hear your stories about how following your bliss has changed your life in some shape or form.

Alexander's interest in international education began in Italy fifteen years ago. While studying classical piano at the Conservatorio Frescobaldi di Musica, he taught English at a bilingual school and worked as a freelance translator‰ÛÓwhich resulted in the translation of a biography. Several years later, supported by an NSA Scholarship and a Fulbright Award, he studied Russian and musicology in St. Petersburg, Russia. Alexander also worked as a bilingual teacher at the American School of Paris, where he developed his own curriculum. After a five-year stint as an importer of French art and antiques, Alexander decided to fully commit to a career in cultural diplomacy. He left the United States in 2012 for an intensive Hindi course in Varanasi, India, followed by a graduate program in International Relations at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. He then returned to India for a position at UNESCO New Delhi, helping develop Punjab's Cultural Heritage Policy in order to empower the Punjabi community on both sides of the border to collaborate in safeguarding their common cultural heritage.

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One thought on “The Pillars of Happiness Part 1: Follow Your Bliss

  1. Alexander
    When I left India for the UK way back in 1968 at the age of 21, my uncle now 96 told me that ‘in life you cannot always do whatever you like but must always like what you do’. Fortunately I have been lucky . Both have usually been the same even when I had less control over how I spent my time. So continue following your bliss. Anything else would be just a chore.


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