Joseph Campbell: What is Your Sacred Place?

Jenny Blake - Bali Elephant Written by Jenny Blake

Greetings from Ubud, Bali, where I'm living for the month of January . . . sadly for just a few more days! For the logistics of planning a trip here, check out The Nuts and Bolts of Living in Bali for a Month.

I knew I felt like an iPhone on red battery when I arrived, but had no idea just how deep that "red" feeling actually went. I couldn't even bear to crack open my laptop for the first week — I felt a crazy-strong pull to take a break from all obligations and rediscover the 50,000 foot perspective on my life and work. After all, that 50,000 foot view isn't just some static object to behold, it is a constant evolution full of new surprises and insights.

Although I intended on making this a "workcation," for the majority of the trip (outside of coaching calls and light task maintenance) I ended up putting many projects on hold. Instead I focused on fully recharging through yoga, meditation, sunshine, healthy food, and great conversations with fellow travelers.

In doing all that, at first I felt a bit self-indulgent. Is it hedonistic of me to base every day solely around my own health and happiness? But now, almost one month later, I can categorically say no.

I am a better person when I am recharged. I am happier, I am more creative, I am a better listener, I smile more, and I have more love to give. I can only imagine the ripple effect this has on the hundreds of tiny interactions I have each day, online and off. Imagine what would be possible for our communities and the world if we were all even just 10 percent more connected to our best, most "charged" selves?

In a recent post on (Life Origami: Can You Delight in the Slow Unfolding?) I quoted Joseph Campbell — one of my favorite authors — who is an expert on mythology, legend and culture (1904-1987). You may already be familiar with his Hero's Journey archetype, but there's so much more of Campbell to know and love, as I recently discovered reading the text of his in-depth 1985 interview with Bill Moyers in The Power of Myth.

Although Campbell's advice to "follow your bliss" has become a common colloquialism, many people find the advice overwhelming. What if you don't know what your passion is? What if it changes from season to season? No doubt it will.

Campbell nonetheless implores all of us to carve out a path for our bliss, to fight for it, no matter how small our success at first. Below are some of my favorite excerpts on how (and why) to do this.

Joseph Campbell on How to Find Your Bliss

What does it mean to have a sacred place?

“This is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen."

What happens when you don't follow your bliss?

"Our life has become so economic and practical in its orientation that, as you get older, the claims of the moment upon you are so great, you hardly know where the hell you are, or what it is you intended. You are always doing something that is required of you. Where is your bliss station? You have to try to find it.

. . . That's the man who never followed his bliss. You may have a success in life, but then just think of it — what kind of life was it? what good was it — you've never done the thing you wanted to do in all your life. I always tell my students, go where your body and soul want to go. When you have the feeling, then stay with it, and don't let anyone throw you off."

Moyers: What happens when you follow your bliss?

"In the Middle Ages, a favorite image that occurs in many, many contexts is the wheel of fortune. There's the hub of the wheel, and there is the revolving rim of the wheel. For example, if you are attached to the rim of the wheel of fortune, you will be either above going down or at the bottom coming up. But if you are at the hub, you are in the same place all the time. That is the sense of the marriage vow — I take you in health or sickness, in wealth or poverty: going up or going down. But I take you as my center, and you are my bliss, not the wealth that you might bring me, not the social prestige, but you. That is following your bliss."

What if you don't know where to start?

"Sit in a room and read—and read and read. And read the right books by the right people. Your mind is brought onto that level, and you have a nice, mild, slow-burning rapture all the time. This realization of life can be a constant realization in your living. When you find an author who really grabs you, read everything he has done. Don’t say, 'Oh, I want to know what So-and-so did'—and don’t bother at all with the bestseller list. Just read what this one author has to give you. And then you can go read what he had read. And the world opens up in a way that is consistent with a certain point of view.”

What if you haven't found your life's bigger purpose, passion or mission? No matter. Start with daily life:

“We are having experiences all the time which may on occasion render some sense of this, a little intuition of where your bliss is. Grab it. No one can tell you what it is going to be. You have to learn to recognize your own depth.”

About Jenny

Jenny Blake Headshot - Author, Speaker, Career Strategist Jenny Blake is the author of Life After College and the forthcoming book The Pivot Method. She is a career and business strategist and an international speaker who helps smart people organize their brain, move beyond burnout, and build sustainable, dynamic careers they love. Jenny combines her love of technology with her superpower of simplifying complexity to help clients through big transitions — often to pivot in their career or launch a book, blog or business. Today you can find her here on this blog (in it's seventh year!) and at, where she explores the intersection of mind, body and business. Follow her on Twitter @jenny_blake.