Living life to its fullest.

Via on Sep 14, 2010
Photo credit: Polona Somrak

The purpose of life.

We all know that moment of bliss, where our ego melts away and all that is left is a feeling of absolute unity, complete perfection, perfect love. We all know it, because it’s in all of us – it’s our nature; our essence.
The real question (for anyone interested in living life to it’s fullest) is:

‘how to expand that moment until it becomes our primary experience, rather than just a fleeting, occasional glimpse…?’

The truth is, we have been educated NOT to experience it fully. Our society is focused on only one aspect of human ‘beingness ‘: the rational, masculine, aspect. We need to re-acquaint ourselves with the feminine, intuitive aspect.
It’s as Einstein said:

“The rational mind is a faithful servant. The intuitive mind is a sacred gift. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

So the answer to the above question is: we have to re-educate ourselves.
It takes training, discipline, and perseverance.
That’s the bad news.

The good news is that when we begin that work, when we step onto that path, and start to re-shape ourselves back into the ‘image of God’ – the divine essence of who we really are… then we are already walking our life path. Fulfilling our purpose here in life and on earth. And nothing feels better.
Because that’s what we are here for – to know ourselves better; to become self-aware.

About Ben Ralston

Ben Ralston almost joined the army when he was 18. When he was 32 he almost became a Swami. *** Now he is a healer, Reference Point Therapy teacher, and advanced Yoga instructor in the Sivananda tradition . His work as a healer acknowledges trauma as the underlying cause of almost all human problems, and resolves trauma at the causal level: gut-based survival instincts. The intention behind all his work is to empower others. *** Ben splits his time between his busy international practice, training therapists, and writing. As an experienced Yoga and Meditation teacher he also runs retreats, usually on the beautiful Croatian coast. *** Connect with Ben on Facebook. Read more of his writing on his blog Grounded Spirituality.

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46 Responses to “Living life to its fullest.”

  1. Randi Young says:

    Great work, Ben. Definitely something that gets overlooked in everyday life! Thanks so much for this one. It went deliciously with my coffee this morning. :)

  2. Ramesh says:

    Spoken like a true sage, Ben. Straight from the liver, as they would say in Norway!

  3. Irisblooming says:

    So beautiful Ben, thank you for writing this. Love to you, your wife and the baby you both are carrying and your animal friends. Peace is bliss, Iris

  4. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Absolutely agree with you Leah. Many people don't realize that they can simply CHOOSE to shift their perspective, anytime, any way they choose. We are completely responsible for our experience. That's what free will really means right?
    Thank you :)
    With love, Ben

  5. Padma Kadag says:

    Ben…I am not convinced that " We all know that moment of bliss, where our ego melts away and all that is left is a feeling of absolute unity, complete perfection, perfect love." ….is true. In fact I would venture to say that it is not true. We all may have thoughtless moments which do not last….I would have to say that if it is "bliss", for the most part, it is ego induced. The thoughtless moments are dullness. If you are saying that in all of us lies the potential to uncover our buddha nature because it is inherent in our being then yes there is no doubt. But bliss in it's self is not evidence of that buddha nature. Who among us knows true bliss which is free of the stains of delusion or ego? I do not think that your lovely writing is anything more than just that…lovely writing. All of this talk of bliss is very amusing. What kind of bliss are we talking about? And can we really say that all of us have experienced a complete enlightenment where bliss and emptiness are in union?

  6. Ben Ralston Ben Ralston says:

    Hi Padma,

    Thanks for saying that my writing is lovely! Much appreciated.

    I didn’t however say, as you implied: “that all of us have experienced a complete enlightenment where bliss and emptiness are in union”. In fact, I didn’t use either word (enlightenment or emptiness) at all – they are entirely yours.

    I DO think though that we all know moments of bliss. For some it is in the moment of orgasm. For others, a good piece of chocolate. Or the look in a childs eyes. Those are moments when (whether through the senses, or emotions, or physical / energetic body) we experience our divine esssence: what we really are, beneath the veil of illusory experience.

    I also believe that those moment may be used as landmarks on our journey towards greater self-awareness.

    Thank you for your comment. I would love to know what you DO believe.

    With love, Ben

    ps – you say “Who among us knows true bliss which is free of the stains of delusion or ego?” … i have faith that we all do. Because I truly believe that it is our nature, and that the ego is really just illusory. This belief of mine is based not only on intellectual musings, but on many many years of serious exploration and research and experiment in the field of personal development; it’s what i do. I am love, consciousness, Godhead. So are you.

  7. Padma Kadag says:

    You may say and it is easy to say " i have faith that we all do. Because I truly believe that it is our nature, and that the ego is really just illusory." but you also said, " We all know that moment of bliss, where our ego melts away and all that is left is a feeling of absolute unity, complete perfection, perfect love." Those two statements are two entirely different animals. You are saying we have all experienced bliss beyond ego. Not all bliss is beyond ego..in fact I would say what people generally think of as bliss is really a state of pleasure devised by the ego. This is my point. Now we also must say that bliss is a word and a concept…nothing more. I do believe there is a bliss. But bliss without the realization of it's empty nature is pleasure…nothing more.

  8. Padma Kadag says:

    " I DO think though that we all know moments of bliss. For some it is in the moment of orgasm. For others, a good piece of chocolate. Or the look in a childs eyes. Those are moments when (whether through the senses, or emotions, or physical / energetic body) we experience our divine esssence: what we really are, beneath the veil of illusory experience." Please tell me what the result would be to your subtle body or consciousness if you were to prolong this socalled bliss as provided by eating chocolate or the look in a child's eyes for the remainder of your lifespan? I would like to know if you would attain something positive and useful by doing this.

  9. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Padma, with love:
    first off, I don't understand your statement that two of the things I said are 'different animals'. Do you mean they are contradictory? If so, please tell me why, because I don't see it.
    Next, I believe that *all* bliss is beyond ego. Bliss by it's nature is beyond ego. Anything touched by the ego is not Bliss – it's pleasure. Maybe very heightened pleasure, but anyone who is self-aware enough to know the difference, cannot confuse the two. However, 'how many people are self-aware' is another question entirely…
    So, you said that your point was to do with pleasure versus bliss, and on this I'm sure we agree… I'm not sure what we really disagree about :)
    You are clearly Buddhist, right? I gather that from your mentioning emptiness so much. Well, at that moment when one tastes the chocolate, or experiences orgasm, or is completely in love (with a partner, or a child, or a flower, or whatever)… in that moment I believe there *is* an emptiness – by which I mean that everything else disappears (the world stops, and ego dissolves into that empty moment of bliss). So again, I believe we are in agreement. There is an emptiness together with the bliss: isn't there? So why can't we call it bliss??
    And to answer your last question: "Please tell me what the result would be to your subtle body or consciousness if you were to prolong this socalled bliss as provided by eating chocolate or the look in a child's eyes for the remainder of your lifespan?"
    I believe that if you were able to remain in that state of bliss for the rest of your lifespan, the end result would be a blissful lifespan. You would be detached from the need for more chocolate too! Whether that's positive or not is entirely subjective. To me, it would be pretty positive though! And I suspect my wife, child, family, and anyone I came into contact with would benefit too…

    • Padma Kadag says:

      Our point of disagreement is that all Bliss is beyond ego…This cannot be true. Without the reference of the ego how are we to understand bliss? We can easily say that all is empty. Many buddhists love saying that even without any idea what that truly means. I thought from your original piece that your lovely writing was just as it is…bliss is a path worthwhile. I think this is really just a continuance of the current notion that "following your bliss" is actually what any of the great masters did for example. The buddha looked bliss in the eye and saw that it was nothing more than a concept and so went beyond nirvana. Many people are making a business of promising bliss and providing it. Bliss easy. It is for sure a money maker. This is a very dangerous game. Ecstasy…bliss..whatever.. is pleasure and nothing more. We have all been seeking pleasure all of our lives and it has brought war, death, sickness, and so on. This is nothing new

  10. Padma Kadag says:

    One more thing…" Well, at that moment when one tastes the chocolate, or experiences orgasm, or is completely in love (with a partner, or a child, or a flower, or whatever)… in that moment I believe there *is* an emptiness – by which I mean that everything else disappears (the world stops, and ego dissolves into that empty moment of bliss). So again, I believe we are in agreement. There is an emptiness together with the bliss: isn't there? So why can't we call it bliss?? "
    In regard to that statement…no I do not agree. Many books have said what you have stated here but it does not make the "emptiness" true. Emptiness is not "nothing ness". Nothing "dissappears" as you say. If we push away negative and seek only bliss then we are continuing the cycle of samara as we have always been doing since we have remained in delusion and continue to remain. Tell me the difference between pleasure and pain…is there a difference?

  11. Padma Kadag says:

    Wow! Too bad…I thought the discussion was important. What you see as criticism penetrates your "bliss" and you not only judge me you also believe your ego is threatened your bliss is threatened. Then you judge the Buddha's teaching as being "may not be the best path for this time and age." Your ego and the ego of those that only seek bliss and push away suffering is ingrained very deeply….What do you thinK? I think it is a very basic trap to make spirituality as a business and a livelihood. many people are selling this thing you call bliss which to me will only create mor suffering.

    • Ben Ralston Ben Ralston says:

      Padma, I do think that discussion is important. I also enjoy it. Otherwise we would not have come this far right?

      But discussion means listening, and it *feels* to me that you’re not really listening.

      I also love and welcome criticism, but again, it needs to be consctructive and genuine.

      And I assure you that nothing that has happened today has interrupted the feeling of bliss that I have had since my dreams last night and upon waking. And that feeling has not been ‘threatened’, nor has my ego, because it’s not part of our discussion…

      Finally, you equate seeking bliss with “pushing away suffering”. Again you are making assumptions about my beliefs. I don’t advocate pushing away suffering AT ALL. I am a spiritual teacher, and I teach that suffering is simply an attitude; one that is caused by attachment. So no, I didn’t, nor do I, say anything about pushing away suffering. I believe there is bliss in suffering, and that the two things are not mutually exclusive.

      You read some words about Bliss and jumped to conclusions about what I meant Padma. Reread what i read, listen to the meaning behind the words, and see that I am not talking about pleasure.

      There is nothing ‘wrong’ with making a business of spirituality! Would it be better in your opinion if I taught my work part time as a hobby, and worked for a livelihood as a banker, or an estate agent, or a salesman, or some other mundane profession? I choose to work full time doing what I am passionate about, and in order to do that, I need to earn some money from it. I don’t make a lot, but I earn enough to live simply. I also teach people to do what they love, as i do, because I’ve found that it is also a source of, yes, what I call bliss.

      Finally, if you really believe that the way to Nirvana is to go ‘beyond’ bliss, I wish you a great deal of luck. Because bliss (not pleasure) is hard enough to attain. I have no idea how you would go about ‘going beyond’ it. Perhaps you have mis-interpreted the teachings…

      With love and BLISS :)

      • Padma Kadag says:

        Ben…It could be better if you were a banker even a butcher…why not? many before us have attained "going beyond samsara and nirvana" in those professions, as the buddha did. To experience bliss one must have a reference to not having bliss. The buddha went beyond nirvana therefore beyond bliss. No meditation and therefore no concepts…no bliss…no buddha. So long as there is bliss there will always be suffering. Oh.. and certainly your ego is part of this discussion as is mine. If we were without ego there would be no discussion.

  12. Ben Ralston Ben Ralston says:

    Padma,

    There is no understanding Bliss: it is an experience. You can know it, but you can never understand it. It is beyond understanding. Understanding is limited. You cannot ever hope to understand everything. If you try to do so you will be disappointed.

    Understanding is a function of the mental process – as such it’s very limited.

    Bliss is an all-encompassing experience which, in order to attain it is necessary to balance understanding (head) with compassion (heart) and action (body)… this is a simplification of course… This balancing act is what I refer to in the original piece as: “we have to re-educate ourselves.

    It takes training, discipline, and perseverance.”

    If you think about that a little instead of ‘reacting’ (which I feel is what you’ve been doing so far in our little debate) you’ll see that I’m certainly not one of the ‘many people promising bliss and providing… pleasure’. Those people don’t talk much about training and discipline.

    You’re very critical: of ‘many books’, ‘many people’, ‘many buddhists’.

    I suggest that there are healthier ways to be (than being critical).

    I also suggest that clinging to ancient teachings which are of another time and place entirely, may not be the best path for this time and age. All enlightened beings (Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Krishna, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj) often contradict each other (and sometimes themselves!). Are they all wrong? No of course not – they understand that they must adapt what they say to the people who are listening, so in every age, different teachings are required. Those teachings are timelessly useful, but to cling to them is to be attached.

    With all respect, I suggest listening to your heart (by which I simply mean your inner voice / wisdom). Only within can absolute truth be found.

    Peace, Ben

  13. Padma Kadag says:

    Really my biggest concern about the state of "spirituality" in the west, including western interpretations of those "out-dated" ones you refer to is the lack of love for the countless beings that are now suffering. Your own article is more about personal bliss than it is about finding a way to end all suffering. You have the personal goal of attaining bliss and the goal for your students as individuals to attain bliss. You will say" but with bliss we will end suffering" You have not said that. If you were to say that…I would say bliss is not enough. No compassion for other's suffering ..enlightenment is impossible. A path of seeking bliss is in my mind selfish and seeks pleasure for one's self. Do you renounce the world as it is? Are you satisfied with the world in any capacity?

  14. Ben Ralston Ben Ralston says:

    Padma,

    It would not be better if I were a banker or a butcher! I would not then be able to do what I’m here to do, which is to teach. I would instead be contributing to the economic suffering (via banking) or the animal suffering (butchering) you would appear to be so concerned over. I would also be suffering myself by doing something that I had no interest in doing! So no, you’re wrong there. It could not be better for me to do that. If you are drawn to doing that work or any other, I urge you to do it. Follow your heart. Don’t tell me what mine says!

    Your comments about your ‘biggest concern’ being the lack of love for the countless beings that are suffering: only one who is truly beyond suffering herself may truly help another. Your biggest concern should be your own liberation from suffering. Until then concern yourself with nothing, and you will get there quickly!

    When you are liberated, then you will be of help to others. Until then, don’t worry about them. By all means have compassion (I already spoke about compassion being important in relation to the heart – did you miss that?), but don’t let it blind you to your own path.

    In answer to your question: do I renounce the world as it is? I did. I went into training to become a Swami. I set out on a path to renounce all sensory pleasures. There I met my wife, and realized that it was not my path. It is a path that suits very few, especially us (I assume you also) westerners. Renunciation is not the only path Padma. There *is* no ONE path. There are as many paths as there are people, because we all have a unique path. That is why I say that to blindly follow anothers path is pointless.

    Didn’t Buddha say: “Be a light unto thyself”? That is one of the most beautiful things I ever heard anyone say, and to me it means ‘look within’. Follow your OWN wisdom.

    love, Ben

    • Padma Kadag says:

      Ben…no..the majority of your thesis on "Bliss" was not about compassion for others and you have now clarified that there is no need for bodhicitta or love and compassion for all mother sentient beings in order to attain "enlightenment", if you will. So at least now I know that the bliss you seek is for one's own pleasure. It is good that you are honest about that. The Buddha's teachings are very profound, as I am sure you will agree, but the reason the buddha set out on the path was to find an end to all suffering…all suffering. Not his alone. So, you with your bliss for one's self should consider your philosophy before you quote the words of the Buddha. Your philosophy is not in keeping with the Buddha's so why quote the teachings? In your teaching I am sure that you use the Buddha for your own financial gain when his words suit you…am I right?

  15. Padma Kadag says:

    I am not advocating that anyone be a buddhist. It is not easy nor is it for everyone…so if you have interpreted my comments as evangelical then I certainly do not mean them to be. i was doing my best to try and clarify my points.
    In regard to professions …here is what I said," Ben…It could be better if you were a banker even a butcher…why not?" It COULD be better not it would be better. I am saying only that with a good teacher and diligence to the teaching your profession does not matter one bit. In fact, there are many opportunities for spontaneous teaching to arise when dealing with the drudgery of samsara. Peace, Peace is Bliss, Follow Your Bliss, Love and Light, Padma Kadag

  16. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Are you right? Nope.
    Wrong about so many things: actually reading and thinking about what I have said would be a good start, but it seems that isn't going to happen anytime soon, so I'm off to bed :)
    Goodnight!

  17. Padma Kadag says:

    You use the word "Wrong"….about so many things" Ben…I wish your philosophy well.

  18. Sothos says:

    I think you may have been mistaken by drawing a firm line between rationality and intuition. Intuition is not purely irrational. Moreover, seeking that "feeling of absolute unity, complete perfection, perfect love," as well as the "essence of who we really are", from which we all derive pleasure, is in no way irrational.

    I have a blog post on human motivations that may interest you. It discusses the human need for mastery, self-direction, and purpose, in addition to and not in place of, monetary gain. You can read it here.

    Nevertheless, thank you for the blog post. I still learned a lot. :)

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Hi Sothos,
      I don't draw a line between those two – but society does, by focusing so much on the rational at the expense of the intuitive. That's what Einstein was talking about, and that's what I'm talking about. They are not mutually exclusive – they should support each other, not compete.
      Ben

      • Sothos says:

        Sorry I might have been to hasty in my comment. You do make a good point but what I often see, especially where I live, is people relying too much on intuition and too little on reason. I guess that balance is really difficult to achieve.

        Thanks for the reply. :D

        Sothos

  19. Good article, Ben! Always thought-provoking. Hope all is well.

  20. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Hi Man2sting,
    Thank you for your comment. I agree, but… do you see God as something separate from yourself?

  21. man2sting says:

    Hi Ben, it’s a good topic to share. I’d like to say life is full of happiness as long as we know what life’s for. We should know ourselves and God best, thereby.

    Best wishes!

  22. Ben Ralston Ben Ralston says:

    Hi Janene,

    Someday?

    Today! Now! What you waiting for? :)

    You never know what’s just around that corner…

    Love, Ben

  23. judy says:

    There is nothing wrong with making a business of

    spirituality!

    Yeah, like it’s too bad Buddha didn’t copyright his teachings so people wouldn’t be using it to make a buck.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Absolutely :)
      Anyway, the commenter said that I shouldn't use quotes from the Buddha unless I'm a Buddhist (more or less), but why? Shouldn't we take wisdom where we find it, and cherish all things for what they're worth?
      They also said that Buddha wanted to end ALL suffering – and stated that there is much suffering in the world today. So by their own criteria they would seem to think that Buddha was a failure!

      • Padma Kadag says:

        "More or less"…in the words of Ben Ralston…"You are wrong about everything". It makes no sense for the Pope to quote the Buddha. It makes no sense for you to quote the Buddha. I say this because in what little discussion we have had regarding the nature of bliss and the selling of bliss as if it were the "end all' on the path…this is not in keeping with Buddhist teaching. In your comment above regarding "ALL suffering" this completely and unequivocally shows that you misunderstand the meaning of Buddha. Not the Buddha. but…Buddha. So while you are "blissed Out" and the beingsof the 6 realms are suffering you will be happy? Do you understand the meaning of mind? Do you understand that everything in which you come in contact or think whether it is war or a pot of gold or some hottie wanting to have sex with you is created by the delusion of your …your mind? So..if there is suffering in the world, according to you, the Buddha failed?

        • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

          Wow Padma, you really need to chill.
          I suggest a healthy dose of Bliss.
          Try it, you might like it, and there will be a little less suffering in the world ;)

    • Padma Kadag says:

      Judy…you are right. Spirtuality is too broad a word. But I will say that the business of spirituality is just that. A business. Nothing more. Anyone can open up shop and sell their wares. They will sell what people want to hear because that is good business. It sells… you know…like a business. For those seeking Bliss …thats any easy sell.

  24. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Hehe, Padma, you again. What a surprise…

  25. [...] especially around this particular holiday season–had the potential to limit my ability to lead a full life, here I sat, still struggling with the notion of ‘simply’ letting [...]

  26. Maureen Miller Maureen Miller says:

    As always, Ben, love your posts… I just got back from Acupuncture and so I'm in that space and know that yoga, meditation, being in nature and Acupuncture are ways that I am able to stay authentic and connected to my life's purpose.
    Peace,
    ~Maureen

  27. Outstanding website. Numerous techniques right here. I’m delivering the idea to a few close friends ans furthermore sharing with scrumptious. Not to mention, thanks a lot on your sebaceous!

  28. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Yes, I sometimes expect too much from people – I thought it was going to be a genuinely constructive 'conversation'… but went to bed realizing that I'd been seriously 'trolled'. Ok, well I'm learning…

  29. Padma Kadag says:

    Ben you have a genuine lack of respect for others. You are a "spiritual teacher"? You lowered the integrity of the discussion with your "But discussion means listening, and it *feels* to me that you're not really listening." Rather than assume what you have to say is more important than the points I am making…maybe ask me to clarify. Your arguments are superior to mine? First you say I am "wrong" about everything…now I am a "troll"?

    "

  30. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Padma, you're doing a wonderful job of arguing, again.

    And I didn't say you're wrong about everything. I said you're wrong about many things. Big, big difference. Try not to be so emotional. It blinds to the truth.

    Oh, and look, here you are – wrong again!

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