My college mentor once asked our class, what is the definition of bliss?
The class replied with random guesses such as a feeling of great happiness or a reunion with the divine.
It’s funny how much we really don’t know that we think we do.
My professor replied back, “Bliss is an unconditional joy that is not dependent on anything.” One does not acquire bliss nor is it the result of something.
Bliss is everywhere. When you look at a child playing, you see bliss. This type of radiating joy that has no room for other thoughts.
Yet, so many people walk around in misery and suffering.
When I was in San Francisco, one of the practitioners talked about his insights after returning from his first retreat. He said he realized one day that happiness was a choice. The ping of pleasure from acquiring a new toy or accomplishing a goal is nothing like the abiding bliss that’s always available right here, right now.
I remember on my first retreat feeling a surge of great empathy and love. It was almost delusional that here I was just sitting with my legs in physical pain, but all I felt was a great expanding joy and bliss to simply be alive.
Pure happiness came from removing away all the obstacles that I placed myself in the form of expectations, disappointments, desires, and judgments.
I still remember this quote from Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov by a child on his deathbed:
The first birds of spring were flitting in the branches, chirruping and singing at the windows. And looking at them and admiring them, he began suddenly begging their forgiveness too: “Birds of heaven, happy birds, forgive me, for I have sinned against you too.” None of us could understand that at the time, but he shed tears of joy. “Yes,” he said, “there was such a glory of God all about me: birds, trees, meadows, sky; only I lived in shame and dishonoured it all and did not notice the beauty and glory.”
“Mother, darling, it’s for joy, not for grief I am crying. Though I can’t explain it to you, I like to humble myself before them, for I don’t know how to love them enough. If I have sinned against everyone, yet all forgive me, too, and that’s heaven. Am I not in heaven now?”
Of course, I want to be clear that I’m not saying that circumstances are unimportant or that ambition is bad. The path is in the middle. We still have to go about our lives doing things. But, it’s an invaluable gift to know that there’s a completely free and always available ground of joyful being. All I have to do is remember and reconnect with my bliss.
These past few years, I have been pursuing a lot of great ambitions including traveling in a RV, starting a business, or getting physically stronger. In the end, I never really accomplished what I originally intended.
This past month, I made a conscious choice to relax. Before, I had a lot of end goals that made a lot of sense, but I was forcing myself along the way to get to those end goals. So, I would inevitably fail because it’s impossible to brute will one’s way through life every day. I still am pursuing a lot of activities, but they are journeys that I enjoy walking. For many of these paths, I have no idea if I will ever reach the end or what the end product will look like. But I can stay in my bliss pursuing them.