Sunday, April 15, 2012

Living Bliss: Part 2

      So the question at hand again is, "What is bliss?" and "How do I get there?" Just like anything in life we will only ever experience bliss in the moment, in the now. I also believe that real and lasting happiness comes from within and not from possessions or achievements in and of themselves. The fact is that all this reaching, grasping and getting to somewhere or something, makes life more and more complicated and hard to handle. Noticing all the things we take on out of never ending expectation and strict mindedness, because of feelings of emptiness or to prove our worth, we might discover a very heavy load we haul. We might realize we are chained to a heavy load of material possessions, activities, to do lists, a heavy load of "shoulds" and "musts" spring loaded with guilt and shame. That is not bliss.

    I think it is imperative that we lighten our loads, simplify our lives on many levels to make more room for the things that genuinely fill us up. This has serpent medicine in it, like a serpent we should take time every so often, maybe once a season, to see what needs to be shed away as we move forward. What was needed in life last season may have served its purpose and needs to be relinquished. This shedding might take the form of decluttering a space and giving away the things we don't need to make room for the new, or it might mean breaking a habit, or surrendering something in our emotional life or in relationships. Simplify for serenity.

  Simplify all the way down to breath itself. I say it so often, but it always bears repeating. Bliss is in the breath. When we fully attune to breath and let everything else go, even for just one cycle, it is like pushing a reset button. The breath is a luminous thread that when taken in with intention will always point us home, to the peace and light within, to our heart and spirit spaces. The more this is made a practice the more clear it becomes. Even better, get a yoga and meditation practice, but keep it simple too, or it can become just another place for criticism and stress.

The mess of life is what it is, it comes and it goes, it shifts beneath our feet, but when we are light on our feet and steady in our breath, we can more easily smile and breathe through it all. Life, messy as it may be, becomes more and more magnificent.           

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Living Bliss: Part 1

  I recently co-led a workshop for women called "Live Your Bliss".  As I worked on my plans for this day of inquiry a question presented itself, a very important question. What is bliss? I started my quest to explore this question by first looking up the word in the dictionary. Merriam-Webster defines bliss: 1. complete happiness  2. paradise, heaven. Wow, that is a tall order it would seem, for even five minutes and now looking to live it! What is the path that leads to bliss?  Is it possible?

 I think the first step is to examine how we define happiness and where we look for it. We live in a culture that has conditioned us to look for happiness outside ourselves. If you have this career, that house, the right car, designer clothes, the right look, and so on, you will be happy. In fact, these things do bring a kind of happiness and pleasure, but it is fleeting, it wears off and then we need more. This creates a never ending cycle of trying harder, doing more, grasping and clinging and always looking to the next thing we think will bring us that bliss.

 The result is that we end up living a life of chasing down happiness and lose our connection to the abundance of now. We get lost in a stream of  "when this or that happens, when I achieve or have........then I will be happy." Then when we get or achieve that very thing the happiness comes and we feel satisfied, but the feeling slips away and we set our sights on another future conquest of joy. I know all about this pattern of behavior I have lived it and continue to feel its pull, find myself in its grip.

  I have also had the great fortune of getting on the path of yoga. I have been blessed with wise teachers and opportunities for deep exploration and learning. On this path I have learned about a different way to be, and as I practice I continue to learn how to recognize and respond to this tendency to grasp, cling, and desire that one next thing, chasing the fix of temporary bliss.

 I have learned that real bliss is found by looking inward, living in the present moment, allowing for all experience and feeling , to be rooted in the body and the breath. When discontentment and feelings of emptiness arise or when we are driven by the illusion of attainment bringing fulfillment, it is useful to pause, take deep breaths, land in the body, and experience what is true and real right now. Usually in the moment, looking inward, all is well. To sense and feel the simple abundance of breath, heart, body and spirit is true contentment, the gateway to bliss.

When we learn to live in the foundation of presence and breath, and invest in our inner work, then we can even more fully enjoy the moments of achievement and the richness in our lives but not rely upon outer trappings to sustain a sense of fulfilled self.