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.