At this time of year, our attention usually turns to one of the more romantic characters of mythology: Cupid, the personification of love — and not just love, but being-in-love.
But there is another great love story in the myths, equally romantic and full of lessons. This myth is about the love we have for what we make, the passion we have when we follow our bliss. And it is also about the healing of our psyche through the integration of all the parts of our personality.
Pygmalion was a gifted young sculptor in Ancient Greece. After sculpting many statues of gods and goddesses, he undertook what he considered his great work — a statue of an ideal woman. He chose the best white marble for his statue. Some accounts of the story say that he worked on the statue for several years. During that time he lived a hermit’s life and would rarely leave his workshop; no one was allowed to see his evolving masterpiece.
When he rose in the morning, Pygmalion would have a little breakfast, then go straight to his workshop. In time he became so fascinated with his work that he moved the statue into his bedroom so he could be near it all the time. In this way, when he woke up in the middle of the night, even if he didn’t leave his bed, he could at least look at the statue and see what needed to be done. Eventually, he got to the finishing stage of the work, where he would carefully smooth the surface of the statue and polish it with the softest of cloths.
Pygmalion’s feelings for the statue became so strong that finally he realized that he was in love with it. At last his statue was finished — and it was beautiful beyond words. The time of the festival of Aphrodite came. Pygmalion went to her temple, stood before the altar and timidly said, “O great loving goddess, Aphrodite, please give me a wife like my ivory woman.” He actually wanted to say, “Give me my ivory woman for my wife.” But he couldn’t bring himself to say that. Aphrodite, however, not only could hear what was said to her, but she was also able to hear what was not said — what was intended.
When Pygmalion returned home, the first thing he did was to go to see his statue. She seemed so alive. He leaned up and kissed her mouth. Her lips were warm! She opened her eyes. She reached up with her arms and took him as her lover into her arms. She was alive. She returned his kisses and his love.
Pygmalion gave her the name Galatea, and the two were soon married.
Pygmalion was rewarded for single-mindedly following his bliss. By devoting himself to creating love and beauty in his life, he was blessed by the goddess of love and beauty herself: His passion was allowed to take on a life of its own in the person of his feminine counterpart — that which would make him a complete person.
Are you following your bliss?
One of the highlights of a recent workshop presented by Gregg Levoy, author of Callings: Finding and Following An Authentic Life, was when he presented several questions that invited the participants to clarify their calling. According to Levoy, “Callings are urgings and imperatives from the deep self that tell us what it will take to make our lives come true. They point us toward awakenings, course corrections and powerful authenticity.” This is truly following your bliss!
We invite you to explore a few of these questions:
What is calling you?
What is one problem that you were born to understand?
What positive things have people been telling you all your life about yourself?
What have you rejected that is determined to claim you?
Is there something you have been daring, double-daring yourself to do?
When have you broken a taboo, spoken out, or broken with tradition? What were you after?
What is the most consistent calling in the last year that is related to your work situation?
What is the most consistent calling in the last year that is related to your relationship life?
What is the most consistent calling in the last year that is related to your lifestyle?
What do you love? What really matters to you?
In answering these questions, you may become more aware of your heart’s desire. What would it mean to you if you followed your heart’s desire? It could be a turning point in your life. As Joseph Campbell has said, “When you follow your bliss . . . doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors, and where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else.”
Like Pygmalion, you can reap the rewards for seeking out your heart’s desire, applying passion to all you do, and following your bliss. For going where his heart was, Pygmalion received from the gods the beautiful Galatea to be his life’s true love. That is the gift that awaits all of us who leave all else behind and live life from a place of passion.
Learn More about Pygmalion
To read more about the Pygmalion myth, visit these sites: