Shortly after I'd given my publisher my manuscript about bliss, I had coffee with a friend who asked me: What, exactly, is bliss?
I didn't have an easy answer. It had taken an entire book to lay out what I'd learned from teaching a class series in Los Angeles, where I'd seen people of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, age ranges, and personalities improve their happiness and spiritual awareness. I'd spent 20 years studying advanced meditative practices and global religious histories -- both as a spiritual teacher, minister, counselor, and on my own journey. But even writing several chapters about bliss and how to get it didn't make it any easier to describe in a few words.
I was somewhat jarred by the realization. I knew bliss when I'd felt it, but how would I express that simply to another person? It felt like trying to explain the sky to a blind person: It's a physical, real thing that reigns over our everyday lives, but seems almost too immense of an entity to condense into a few words.
It's the same with bliss. Bliss isn't hard to explain because it's vague, inchoate, or unreal, but rather because it surpasses the capacity of language. Bliss is so vast, boundless, and immeasurable that it encompasses every possible word or definition ever invented -- and then some. This is, of course, why bliss must be personally experienced, not just discussed. Like so many aspects of life, bliss is not readily apparent to our senses. Because bliss is not an object or a thing, our faculties of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell are not designed to detect it. It transcends them. So when someone asks you to describe bliss, it's almost impossible.
Still, let's try.
When most people think of happiness, they think of everyday happiness. This is what we experience in our day-to-day reality. But bliss exists on an entirely different octave. My spiritual teacher, Paramhansa Yogananda, explained that bliss is "a transcendental state of superior calm including within itself the consciousness of a great expansion and that of 'all in One and One in all.'" When that sense of ego, of separation, melts away, and a feeling of total connectedness, of no sense of a "me" separate from all of creation descends, that is bliss consciousness.
To break that down:
Bliss is an innate state of inner joy. It is constant, undisturbed by outward gain or loss. We all have the capacity for it, no matter our age, background, physical or mental disabilities, ethnicity, gender, or religion. External circumstances, whether positive or negative, happy or sad, do not affect it.
Bliss is a state of unity, transcendence, completeness, knowingness, wholeness, and uplifted consciousness; it is a feeling of oneness and connection with all of creation. Bliss is never boring; it feels ever new, expansive, and infinite. When bliss appears, one instantly recognizes it as the most central of all truths. Bliss is the eternal, forever unchanging reality that permeates the universe.
Bliss is where happiness, meaning, and truth converge. Everything -- and I do mean everything -- boils down to our (sometimes subconscious) pursuit of bliss. We pursue money or relationships because we think they'll make us happy. We pursue our vocation, our hobbies, and our life's passions because we feel they are deeply meaningful to us. We explore science, religion, and philosophical inquiry because we want to know the truth of our existence. Bliss is the universal place that these intersect, where all questions are answered, where every fulfillment is attained.
Bliss is found in every religion but does not require a specific religion in order to know it. Bliss is the ultimate state of consciousness that every religion holds as its highest goal and achievement, though each uses different terminology to explain it. Whether we are Christian or Hindu, Jewish or Muslim, Buddhist or atheist, Wiccan or animist, Taoist or Native American, we all strive for bliss.
Bliss is like white light. Just as pure light is the totality of all color, bliss is the conglomeration of all positive qualities. When seen through the prism of spiritual awareness, the subcomponents of bliss are joy, unconditional love, inner peace, power, connectedness, awe, and wisdom. Bliss cannot even be attained, really. The soul simply realizes that bliss simply is. It is what remains after everything external and fleeting disappears.
Bliss is the process of peeling away the darkness to reveal the light underneath.
You might find your bliss when meditating. You might feel it at your child's birth. You might feel blissful when you are in a place of stunning natural beauty. You might feel it after a test of physical endurance, where the combination of exhaustion and accomplishment lift you up beyond what you've ever felt before.
Bliss may be hard to describe, but with the lessons I lay out in The Bliss Experiment -- it is possible. And you'll certainly know it when you get there.
How do you describe bliss? Let us know in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter using #BlissIs.
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Sean Meshorer is a spiritual teacher in Los Angeles and the author of The Bliss Experiment: 28 Days to Personal Transformation. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and visit him at www.seanmeshorer.com.