Why Bliss is Infinitely Practical

8 comments

in Happiness,Personal Growth

I stood under a stream of hot, steaming water and felt my legs shake as if they could no longer bear to stand. Water flowed over me and through the slimy wooden slats at my feet. Spiders peeped at me from overhead. A dead moth or two littered the rafters.

I was showering in a shed.

But I didn’t care.

I had just completed a 25 mile hike up a mountain and back – complete with bear sightings – to look at rocks (yes, those were the days when I thought I might want to be a geologist). I wasn’t a hiker nor was I especially prone to acts of physical exertion unless they involved a trip to the ice cream parlor.

The hike had pushed me beyond my normal limits. Way beyond.

I was exhilarated. I was exhausted.

The hot shower was my reward.

As I stood in that decrepit shed, I marveled at the simple beauty of hot water. How amazing it felt as it addressed my sore muscles. How grateful I was that I could still stand under its soothing streams. I paused to savor the breath of a waning summer day on my skin – so cool compared to the heat of the water. I could feel my blood flowing. Each and every muscle was fluid and alive with energy.

I wanted to stay in that grimy, coin-operated shower forever.

I was completely happy in that moment – in a run-down shower stall in the middle of the woods.

The act of sustained physical activity had wiped away my mental chatter. Somehow, by pushing myself beyond what I thought I was capable of, I had opened a door – a door that pulled me into the presence of every little amazing thing.

I was blissed out.

Which just goes to show that bliss is entirely of our own making.

Bliss isn’t something bestowed from an outside source. It doesn’t come from room service in a four star hotel or a massage on the beach at moonlight (although these things certainly can’t hurt!). Nor does it come from just doing outrageous things like diving off cliffs or jumping out of airplanes.

These external acts merely serve to remind us that we are alive. Or, as noted author Joseph Campbell says:

People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That’s what it’s all finally about.

Blissful moments remind us of the divine spark or the rapture within us that we yearn to meet more often.

While that may be true (and I definitely think it is), we may be putting too much pressure on ourselves to experience “bliss”. Blissful moments needn’t be lofty, out-of-this world experiences.

Bliss can be found daily, in simple ways – if we quiet our mental chatter and are fully present to each gorgeous detail of the experience we want to have.

If you have any doubt, try this little bliss experiment.

Tonight, as you lay in bed waiting for sleep to come, concentrate on feeling the texture of the sheets. Are they soft? Crisp? Cool? Warm? Rough? Smooth? Sense each thread as it touches your skin. Move on to the mattress. Experience how it cradles and supports each part of your body. Now take in the warmth of your blankets or duvet. Feel the tender heat envelope you – one limb at a time. Inhale the faint scent of your laundry soap mingled with the beautiful fragrance of you as you snuggle in. Feel how perfect absolutely everything is. You are completely happy in this moment – in your own bed.

Simply blissful, right?

You may be wondering why I am going on and on about bliss.

Yes, blissful experiences are nice. Yes, they remind us that we are alive. Yes, they help us meet our divine spark.

But, they do something else as well. Something infinitely more practical.

Blissful moments add to our happiness reserves – the foundation that allows us to embrace our possibilities. Readily. Easily.

That shower in the shed??

It took place more than 25 years ago yet I still remember those blissful few moments under the hot water in vivid detail.

The memory reminds me of what is possible if only I give things a try.

What does bliss mean to you? Do you experience bliss on a regular basis? If not, why not? If you do, what’s your favorite recipe for finding bliss?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

rose rilling January 18, 2012 at

I get this. In fact, I love the feeling of my 800 count sheets; it is a real treat to feel their crispness, and softness at the same time. They bring lots of comfort and job. Thank you.

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Andrea Olson January 18, 2012 at

Thanks, Rose! So lovely to see your comment. Beautiful sheets are such a blissful treasure. :)

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Nikki Groom January 18, 2012 at

Andrea, I adore this post. You are so right how we can feel perfect contentment in the simplest of moments. I truly believe that’s where happiness lives.

Thank you for sharing.
Nikki Groom recently posted..re-brand yourself and start living mo’ authentically: a manifesta for 2012

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Andrea Olson January 18, 2012 at

I so appreciate your comments. Kindred spirits are everywhere. Thanks, Nikki!

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Lorrie Jones January 20, 2012 at

Thank you for this wonderful post, Andrea. Since I first read Joseph Campbell’s quote on bliss, I have felt guilty and ashamed that I don’t feel joyful all the time – exhilarated, excited about life and, well, blissful. My life always seemed dull and ordinary compared to mountain climbers and airplane jumpers. What could I do to feel truly alive? I needed a plan, I thought…something to do that required great courage…something to amaze me and leave me in awe. As if life itself wasn’t amazing and awesome enough.
Today I am feeling anxious and tense about “all I have to do” before leaving for an upcoming, international trip. I feel scattered, unfocused…as if one foot is nailed to the floor. I notice how unproductive I am as a result of my perception of “not enough time” and “too much to do”. I have a knot in my stomach and my palms are moist – unusual for me. My thoughts are swirling and I am anything but blissful.
Enough! I am deciding to do something different than continue this experience as if I “shouldn’t” be feeling as I do. Rather, I hereby honor my anxiety and lack of focus as the experience that it is right now – no less “alive” than bliss or joy. I shall allow myself to feel these feelings, knowing they are impermanent, yet very real for the moment. Acceptance, non-judgment and compassion will be my companions as I stay in this moment, allowing my anxiety to teach me. I am experiencing life – as I am, right now. No one can be any more alive than to inhabit, fully, the present moment!
So when the warm waters of Mexico welcome me and the tropical breezes soothe my memories of anxiety and preparation, I just may feel joy in that moment…and maybe even bliss. Yet I refuse to postpone my awe and amazement of life as it is right now for someplace far off and perhaps lovelier than “here”.

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Andrea Olson January 22, 2012 at

Lorrie – I love how you have chosen to stay with the moment even though it is challenging. It’s all the same moment. The only thing that changes is how we react to it. Proud of you!!

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Vanessa Vinos January 21, 2012 at

Lovely post Andrea. I “try” and find some moments of bliss in my day, every day.
Bliss for me…….cuddled up on my sofa, with my cashmere throw and 30 minutes of unadulterated silence I like to enjoy after lunch. Not quite a siesta. More an alert meditation or period of visualization; it always works wonders ;-)

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Andrea Olson January 22, 2012 at

I love that “after-lunch-time” as well … a cashmere throw?? Absolutely blissful. Thanks, Vanessa!

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