(Originally published on February 17, 2016 at www.HuffingtonPost.com)
Each generation has its set of timely words. If like me, you were a hippy child of the 1960s, you frequently heard the words, ‘far out’ which meant something wonderful. It was also an expression of glee in that you were happy or agreed with something. These days, a word I’ve been hearing more and more of is, ‘bliss.’ Bliss may be defined as a natural direction you can take as a way to maximize your sense of joy, fulfillment, and purpose.
Sometimes people equate bliss with being in a state of euphoria, but in reality, being blissful is the state you’re in when you’re doing what brings you a deep sense of joy. When you’re in a blissful state, you’re listening to the voice of your heart.
Joseph Campbell was one of the pioneers in the discussion of bliss, suggesting that people “find their bliss.” He said, “The way to find out what makes you the happiest is to focus on being mindful of your happiest moments — not simply excited, not just thrilled, but deeply happy.” In essence, this requires paying attention to yourself, and being mindful of the sensations in your body and the thoughts fluttering around in your mind. It also involves engaging in a bit of self-analysis.
More often than most of us would like to admit, we tend to engage in the art of complaining, but if we focused more energy on thinking positively and looking at all the good in our lives, we would be happier and more blissful. Feelings and experiences of gratitude and honoring all the wonderful lived experiences that make us feel good about ourselves, our loved ones, and our lives is important to achieving a state of bliss. An essential part of acknowledging these feelings is to chronicle or document them — not just during tumultuous times, but also during happy ones. This process can serve as a guidepost or framework for us to refer to. Bathing in our joy brings about feelings of bliss, and it can also affect those we come in contact with, offering a positive shift in perspective.
Humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow believed that mental-health professionals place too much emphasis on disease, thus his development of the “hierarchy of needs.” On the bottom of the pyramid are the basic physiological, safety, loving/belonging, and self-esteem needs. The very top of the pyramid is better known as self-actualization, or being able to achieve according to your fullest potential and talents.
If you engage in activities that make you happy, then you can move in the direction of your full potential or self-actualization. These are markers, or life-enhancing moments, that you can keep track of in your journal. Most of us strive toward self-actualization, intuitively knowing that it is the deepest place of satisfaction and bliss. Maslow identified peak experiences or life-changing moments that could result in an individual moving in the direction of bliss. He believed that people who are highly evolved, such as mystics, are those who’ve experienced these peak moments, which can result in bliss.
To achieve and maintain a state of bliss, it’s important to be open-minded and to be a risk-taker walking the road less traveled. Think about those who exude bliss, and examine their lives to see what traits they possess. An example of someone who took a risk that paid off was the main character in the book The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The protagonist is a pilot stranded on a desert with a nonfunctioning airplane. A man who calls himself a prince appears from another planet. He suggests that the pilot go with him to the desert to find water. Initially, the pilot declines, thinking it’s safer to stay with his aircraft. Against what he considers his best judgment, the pilot decides to accompany the prince in the search for water. Just about the time when the pilot thinks he made a wrong decision, both men come upon a well with water. Had the pilot not trusted the prince, or had he not taken the risk to venture on this new path, he would probably still be stuck in the desert with a broken-down plane. The moral of the story is that in order to find your bliss, you need to be a risk-taker.
To seek your own personal bliss, you might wish to sit quietly and meditate about a time in your life when you were the happiest. Remain with that moment, as well as the feelings stirring inside you. When you think you’ve figured out at least one thing that makes you feel blissful, then stay with it. Write about that state in your journal. Recording your feelings can help you dig deeper into self-discovery and determine the ways in which you can follow your bliss — always keeping in mind that bliss is a calling that’s calling you. Self-discovery can lead to transformation, which can lead to bliss, but trying to figure out what your bliss is isn’t always easy.
You’ll know that you’re in a state of bliss when you experience one or more of the following:
• You have numerous experiences of synchronicity.
• You feel as if you’re contributing to the collective good.
• You feel energetic.
• You feel exceptionally creative.
• You feel completely alive.
• You feel playful and joyful.
• You feel a sense of direction in your life.
• You have a deep sense of meaning.
There’s no magic in finding your bliss. It’s really a matter of taking time for yourself and reflecting upon what brought you joy in the past. If you were a child of the 1960s, you might want to think about the times when you said the words, “far out.” Do you happen to recall what you were doing or feeling during those times? This might be a clue to what could bring you bliss today. What brought us joy back then could carry over to what might bring us joy now!
Peace and love and blissfully yours,
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Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com.