Ananda - Embodying Bliss

I shared in one of my recent posts, that I have been journeying through the attributes of the Divine as themes for my yoga classes of late. This week, my focus is on "ananda" which means bliss, and I am working with "Inner Spiral" - one of the Anusara Yoga Universal Principles of Alignment, as a way of creating more expansion in the body, (more specifically in the hips) and thus, a greater container for the embodiment of bliss. The implication is also to let go of what stands in the way of embodying more bliss as well.

I have also been teaching a short course titled: "The Art and Yoga of Happiness," so needless to say, I've read quite a number of books on the subjects of joy, bliss, and happiness in the last couple of months...

One of the books I recently reviewed is: Unconditional Bliss: Finding Happiness in the Face of Hardship by Howard Raphael Cushnir, and like Byron Katie, he too proposes two questions to ask oneself to get at the heart of the matter of what is impeding the flow of bliss in our hearts and lives.

The yogic sages often spoke of bliss as one of several attributes of the Divine, particularly in Tantric texts. They also taught that meditation is a practice that can lead one to a greater embodiment of bliss.

Cushnir asks us to:

"Imagine an existence of constant, ever-available bliss. Imagine that this bliss asks for nothing and depends on nothing. Imagine that it is the very foundation of all experience, and that not even the most tragic of life's events can alter its strength or presence.

I know that this bliss exists. I know it because I live it. And I believe that you can, too...the bliss to which I'm referring is deep within every one of us, always present but rarely chosen..."

In another chapter, Cushnir invites his readers to:

"Think of an activity that gives you great joy...Once you've selected the activity, pause for a few seconds and summon up the feeling that the activity generates.

Next, think of a person whom you love as much as anyone on earth...Once you've selected your love, pause for a few seconds and conjure up the feeling it elicits.

Now take a deep breath, smile, and bring that joy and love together. Let yourself sink into the experience this creates. Plain and simple, it's bliss.

Joy + Love = Bliss"

Cushnir does note that bliss can be temporary, but in the book he describes how to make it more permanent. He notes that bliss is present all the time, whether we experience it or not.

Recently, I read an interview with the meditation teacher Sally Kempton, in Elephant Journal, who spoke of the spiritual path as one of ever deepening levels of awareness. I found her comments very insightful and helpful in understanding why we don't embody a spiritual lesson once and for all - after it is realized...

"I see it as part of the spiraling process of development, which...usually means moving one step back for every two steps forward. Just as we think we've aced it in one area of life, life in her wisdom will point out that, oops, here's a place where you still have some growing up to do. Its helpful here to look at development as a spiral rather than as a line, because the spiral lets us see how we keep cycling back to where we started, but at a higher level than the last time we were there. And this process happens in every area of our life, as we evolve towards integration..."

We are all called to embody bliss. And with a committed practice, we can reach a point where the state of bliss becomes more common, or at least we can more readily return to it. But, it is also comforting to know, that the spiritual path will take us forward and backward on this journey. The trick is to remember this, and enjoy the ride!

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