HEALTHY LIVING

The Secret To Loving Your Beautiful, Imperfect Life

08/12/2013 08:18 am ET | Updated Jul 15, 2014
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We all strive for this thing called happiness. But according to Sean Meshorer, author of "The Bliss Experiment," we should instead work to unearth bliss.

"Bliss is an inward, authentic form of happiness that isn't contingent on any outward circumstance," the author and spiritual teacher told The Huffington Post in an interview. And compared to regular, everyday "happiness," the contrast becomes clear. "There's almost always an external component to happiness... Even when you think about the kinds of things that are more important -- like a warm, loving relationship -- happiness requires that other person outside of ourselves with whom we're having that relationship."

Bliss, instead, relies on just one individual: You.

Bliss isn't a matter of perceiving your life as utopia. "We can't be Pollyannaish," Meshorer says. "In our lives, things always go wrong. None of us have perfect lives." The wonder of bliss, however, is that it prevents the inevitable things that do go wrong from devastating us. When we tap into bliss, "things really can shift."

To activate the transformational principles of bliss, you have to make tapping into your bliss a daily practice. But this isn't as daunting as it seems. "None of this is very hard to do, you just have to do a little bit every day and you can make tremendous progress very quickly," the teacher encourages.You have control of your thoughts, and there are a few tried and true techniques to guide these thoughts toward bliss.

Learn to have reflexive compassion instead of reflexive hatred or criticism.
You're driving along the highway, bopping your head to your favorite song, feeling entirely zen, when, suddenly, a maniacal driver speeds past you and -- just barely missing your headlight -- cuts you off.

Stop. What's your first instinct? In this instance, most of us immediately put blame on the disruptive driver: He's inconsiderate, reckless and -- you know, a !$#% multitude of expletives. This reaction is a product of reflexive hatred. When you practice reflexive compassion instead, you give the driver the benefit of the doubt -- he's racing his wife, who's in labor, to the hospital; he's 10-minutes away from missing his flight.

You'll actually be doing yourself a favor when you choose compassion. Instead of working yourself up, you'll be able to sooner return to enjoying your road trip. Meshorer says that putting yourself in someone else's shoes when in a tense situation is the key to feeling more blissful every single day.

Practice gratitude.
Make an actual gratitude list. This practice does not discount the hard fact that life can be rough -- "you're not reframing the negative," Meshorer says, but just pulling out all the positive in your life to examine.

This exercise isn't preachy, it's practical. "Just take the time every day to remember the things in your life that are going right," says Meshorer, who believes if you have a warm cup of coffee in the morning, then you've got it good. The benefits of practicing gratitude reach far beyond feeling content with your life as is: Being thankful has been shown to strengthen relationships, promote better sleep and increase immune health, to boot.

And if you're sitting at your desk feeling anything but bliss, this may just be the remedy for you. "You can do the whole practice in 10 - 20 seconds in your head," Meshorer advises. Recall a couple of wonderful things about your life, or craft a physical list to revisit and add to when the inspiration hits.

Try a Japa meditation.
Japa, a spiritual discipline that involves the repetition of a mantra, could help you pull out of a stressful situation and discover a calmer disposition. Meshorer, who has used this practice to overcome panic attacks, recommends coming up with a sacred word formula that has meaning to you. This collection of words doesn't have to have a spiritual or religious connotations, just a centering quality to offer some peace of mind.

You can take this practice anywhere: In line at the bank, a high-stress meeting at work, even in a crowded bar. All Japa requires is silently repeating your word formula in your mind. "What that does is crowd out negative thoughts, because you're replacing them with something positive -- there's not enough space for reflexive negativity." This is an especially useful practice for anyone who finds meditation intimidating or too time-consuming. "It's very informal," Meshorer assures. "The sacred word formula takes some of the aspects of what meditation does and makes it flexible for your life circumstances." The practice, he says, quiets your mind and helps you focus on "positive, beautiful things."

Spend some time thinking about your "purpose."
The whole "why am I here?" question can be a bit, well, existential to tackle in one sitting. Fear not: There are ways to explore your purpose on a smaller scale. And you'll want to.

"If you can have that underlying sense of meaning and purpose in your life, it infuses everything you do and helps give you the resources to move forward." Meshorer suggests asking yourself questions like, "What kinds of things make me smile?," "What kinds of things make me lose track of time?," and "What makes me feel good about myself?" These are starting points to help you better understand -- and appreciate -- your being.

Even more, understanding your purpose provides clarity. "It gives you confidence. With that confidence comes an inner peace, a sense of connectedness." And. perhaps most importantly, finding meaning in your existence will build you a more resilient shell. Just that fact can be very comforting. "We all have good days and we have bad days. Bad things happen to us. Good things happen to us. When things are a little bit chaotic, if we have that kind of anchor inside ourselves, we still know what overall direction we’re headed in, we have a way to course-correct."

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