Will We Follow Our Bliss In 2022?

A new year is like a blank page or canvas onto which we place our story.

The start of a new year always infuses me with a surge of energy. It brings to mind a line a character speaks at the end of the Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Sunday in the Park with George” about the making of art: “White. A blank page or canvas. His favorite. So many possibilities.”

A new year is that blank page or canvas. Some events recorded on our 2022 canvas will inevitably be beyond our control. Other hands might fill in some of the blank spaces. Largely, though, we write our own story, paint our own canvas.

A practice I find helpful is to write down a word I’d like to carry with me through the new year. It recalls a tradition among early Christian pilgrims who would seek spiritual direction from monks and sisters living in the Egyptian desert, then return home with a word from them for guidance and reflection.

Mandy Patimkin as artist Georges Seurat in “Sunday in the Park with George.”

In 2021, the word I chose was “perseverance.” It seemed appropriate during the pandemic. It also corresponded with the many speaking engagements and writing projects I had on my schedule, including finishing my latest book, How to Be, with Brother Paul Quenon, as well as preparing for several retreats I’d promised to guide.

My word in 2022 is “adventure.” There is a saying, “Write it down, make it happen.” I began putting my word into practice last month when I arrived in Italy for an extended stay to work on a book I’ve long been wanting to write about my experiences here over the years.

Being on an extended adventure in a foreign country is not like being a tourist for a week, or even two or three. It means abandoning the comforts of your regular life and adapting to a new environment where you don’t have your favorite teacup (unless you pack it to take along) or a closet full of clothes to choose from in the morning, or your familiar pots and pans to cook with, or the companionship of many of your closest friends.

Yet, the upside is that my senses are on high alert most of the time. I feel present to each moment in ways my Tibetan meditation teacher is always encouraging me to be back home.

The author (right) and her husband Charles Reynard in Largo Garibaldi, Guardiagrele, Italy on a 2018 visit. (Photo by Pierino Sciubba)

Going on an adventure requires ultimately saying Yes! to something we might have put off or were too timid ever to do. Just before my husband and I arrived in Italy, omicron cases were starting to surge. We could have postponed the trip, or else scratched it all together. Here’s another test of whether you’re on the right path. Ask yourself: Is this something I’ll regret on my death bed not doing ? In my case, I knew the answer.

Spirituality author and Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister writes in one of her books that a key question isn’t whether there’s life after death but whether there’s life before death. The philosopher Joseph Campbell talks about “following your bliss.” When we follow our bliss, Campbell says, “invisible hands” will appear out of nowhere to open doors.

Philosoher Joseph Campbell speaking to journalist Bill Moyers in 1988. (Photo courtesy of PBS-TV).

“If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you,” Campbell writes in “The Power of Myth.” The life you ought to be living becomes the one you are living.

“Wherever you are,” Campbell says, “if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.”

What is one dream to which you can say Yes! in 2022? What does following your bliss mean to you? What is the story you envision for your blank page or canvas this year?

So many possibilities. Happy adventures!

What is one dream you would like to work toward in 2022? (Photo courtesy of The Strive).

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Author of 4 spirituality books & 2 poetry collections. Award-winning reporter for Wall Street Journal, PBS-TV, Washington Post & 2 IL public radio stations.

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Judith Valente

Judith Valente

Author of 4 spirituality books & 2 poetry collections. Award-winning reporter for Wall Street Journal, PBS-TV, Washington Post & 2 IL public radio stations.

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