Wednesday, September 29, 2010
About Bliss: Some Things I Have Learned
What is bliss? Where does it come from? How does it manifest?
Over the years (almost thirty, to be exact) I have experienced a great deal of bliss (as well as pain). I have given bliss much thought. Here are a few of the things I have observed along the way (based on my own experience).
First, bliss is a very tricky word. For some, it means simple happiness or contentment—perhaps even a kind of cosmic consciousness in which one feels connected to the All in a state of serenity. In the latter state, some yogis apparently lose all consciousness of the outer world and are totally immersed in their inner experience.
For me, bliss is something which is felt in the body. Now, already there is a problem with definitions, since there are, in fact, many “bodies.” I feel it in the physical body, but more importantly, I feel it in the energy body, the sheath which I think of as an electromagnetic field which surrounds the physical form. This sheath utilizes the physical substance of the familiar material body to convey its impulses. Everyone has such a sheath. The difference is that after kundalini is awakened we can (perhaps) feel what is going on there, as well as what is happening deep within the physical self. Sometimes we can feel this bliss even by “stroking our aura” (running the hand near but not touching the skin itself.)
Bliss can be felt in many ways. Sometimes it is like a streaming flow of pleasure running perhaps through the arms or elsewhere, enlivening with joy certain places more than others. Sometimes it is a concentrated feeling of absolute rapture located more in a particular place (say, a chakra such as the root (base) or the heart or head.) Bliss is vibration, but it is more than a simple “buzzing” or sensation of heat (though kundalini itself may include these.) Bliss can occur in unexpected places, such as the inside of your head, or the inner ear or the ridge around your eyes. It can manifest anywhere in your system, and can be intense or subtle.
One of the common misconceptions about bliss is that it can be induced through practice and concentration. But I have known yogis who did extremely disciplined routines of all kinds for years, and never felt the bliss. I have known many other people who have suddenly, for no apparent reason, been swept into a torrent of rapture, bliss filling their beings like nectar flowing.
Another misconception (I think) is that a teacher who talks of bliss (or vibration) really knows the meaning of what it is. I have noted that many teachers of yoga (particularly in the West) have never been touched by bliss. Certain ancient systems don’t even acknowledge that it exists, particularly those which preach abstinence as a way to enlightenment. Some teachers dismiss the “bliss waves” as fiction, stating that the ancient texts speak only of energy which is “hot, or cold, or like electricity.” (Other texts say quite the opposite.) The current fad of “kundalini yoga” doesn’t necessarily produce either kundalini or bliss states, though it is good exercise.
Other systems, such as esoteric Tibetan Buddhism or Kashmiri Shaivism do acknowledge bliss. Their practices (including sound, movement, chant, mantra and such) seem (to me) to be aimed at the arousal of bliss states (shakti), or to release the feelings within.
Bliss, to me, is “god moving through your body” (as a gifted psychic once explained to me). It is the signature of the divine. It tells us that we are part and parcel of an ocean of love, we and it are one. To be “awakened” is to know this truth as actuality, rather than theory.
Thus, I am puzzled when certain teachers say of bliss, “If you are lucky, you will get over it,” or warn you not to focus on the bliss lest you get distracted from the “real goal.” What is the “real goal” if not to merge with this vast sea of love in its highest expression, to be infused with the infinite real? And bliss itself can act as the teacher, leading you from level to level, stage to stage as your process unfolds.
Such feelings of rapture or ecstasy need not be defended or even explained. They simply are, irrefutable facts of experience, and, for me, all the evidence I need of divine connection.
Bliss is not one thing. It differs for each person, and for every person over time. Some females actually experience spontaneous orgasm when bliss first awakens. This has not been my experience. Years ago, my bliss came on like a marching band carrying me to states of intense, totally rapturous feeling. Today it is gentle, soft—something which can be felt at times just by moving the eyes or softly flexing the fingers. This is subtle bliss, not as dramatic as the earlier forms, yet infinitely pleasurable. Often I feel it as soft energy flows in the hands and arms or around the head. It still feels like a stunning affirmation of who “I” am (not a separate being, but a tiny part of something vast and infinitely real but which I can’t define.)
My bliss is very shy. Often when I am in the presence of certain teachers or devotional practitioners, my bliss will retreat within, and I will feel little or nothing during the public experience. But when I listen to sacred music or practice chanting at home, when I bow to the image on my tongka, above all when I enter a shifted state of consciousness, the bliss will return. Again and again this happens. Again and again, I am told “I am you.” But do not exist in a perpetual state of “bliss consciousness.” Only when I am prepared to enter a totally devotional mood, to receive fully this token of love, does bliss come. And, once I leave the meditational state and go about the business of the day, the bliss retreats. I am now in a very different form of consciousness.
I think that maybe this experience is so totally sacred, so completely esoteric, that it can be discovered only in the most intimate of circumstances, that is, when you are totally alone with the “Beloved Within.” The public setting precludes the private response. So, for me, as always, I need not go abroad to find what I am seeking. I already have it at home in my living room.
The final question, of course, is how, then, can we all experience such bliss? I wish I had the answer. It is one of the great ironies that this great gift cannot really be shared or given to another (at least not by me.) It seems that the “inner divine” chooses its own time and circumstances to manifest. In the meantime, we can, I think, prepare ourselves for that moment which might arrive.
We can prepare by putting our lives in order, by addressing our issues (whether psychological or physical)’ by studying and progressing on the spiritual path through the wisdom of others, whether from books or actual contact (and we will respond to these in a very selective fashion—we will exercise caution, not give away our power or minds to anyone else, no matter how renowned); by being grateful for those times of joy and epiphany which are granted to us. And we will ask for guidance within, to be led to those levels of experience appropriate for us at this stage of our development. And, perhaps most important, we will choose to do whatever we can to make this world a better place. That, I think, more than anything else, is likely to take us to what we seek, bliss.