September 23, 2011

Bliss: The feeling of the one life force. ~ Muni Natarajan

Who could ever question the innate sanctity of a child’s bliss and the blessed effect that bliss has upon others? And who would not want to take that bliss and pass it on—just by reveling in it and letting that reveling spread of its own accord?

Once we perceive bliss as the feeling of the force of life, we can see it everywhere—where it is obvious and where it is not. It is obvious in love, but not in lust. It is obvious in peace, but not in war. It is obvious in selflessness, but not in selfishness. Yet still it’s there, everywhere.

Clearly, pure bliss is apparent in the lives of small children who have not yet learned to abstain from an unrepentant and unpretentious enjoyment of their inherent joy. And clearly that bliss is obviously there in the upliftment those children spill over onto us as their bliss becomes our bliss by no intentional effort of theirs whatsoever.

Certainly, it is a turning-point day when we let it be okay to unabashedly seek our own bliss in the better of its many guises, but especially as itself, naked and pure—like a child would experience it. On that day, we learn to live without lack and give without loss by simply allowing ourselves an enjoyment of a bliss so abundant it overflows onto others as blessings.

At first, we experience bliss in things we do.

Say, for instance, we are listening to some music we love on the radio. That listening is a doing. And it is a doing that we are inclined to keep on doing because we feel bliss while we are doing it. And while we are listening to that music we love, we say to ourselves, “Ahhh, this music is pure bliss.”

Suddenly, someone comes along and changes the channel to a station playing music we hate. What happens to our bliss? Is it not gone along with our beloved music? Usually.

That’s the tricky thing about feeling bliss through doing. Whatever is being done can appear to be the cause of the bliss felt during the doing. Once bliss is perceived in its pure and virgin state, however, it becomes apparent that doing could not possibly cause bliss, because bliss precedes doing. This is not immediately obvious, of course. But somewhere along the line, each of us discovers it is true: Bliss stands alone without a cause.

Experiencing this causeless bliss is easy. It requires only a perceptual adjustment. If we can acknowledge to ourselves that bliss can be experienced for no reason and we can allow ourselves to drop the very idea we have to do something to feel bliss, we’ll find we’ve found bliss right then and there, without even looking for it.

Once we have identified bliss as a fundamental quality of life, we can more easily enjoy

it as a backdrop to our doing. In this new enjoyment, we know that regardless of what happens in our doing, even if that doing should undo itself in disaster, the bliss behind it will remain intact and safe in being. As a result of this knowing, our life shifts gently as does our consciousness so that we are inclined to act appropriately and live gracefully—all through a doing anchored firmly in being.

How to locate and enjoy your primal bliss:

There are many ways to approach reveling in the bliss forever emanating from the core of your most essential being. Here, we will suggest one. This approach is yogic. It begins with an exercise called the full wing flight.

In addition to enhancing the lung’s exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, which is the primary function of the body’s respiratory system, this full wing flight helps to stop random thought, de-emphasize negative emotion and clear the way for an unobstructed perception of the feeling of being, which is the feeling of bliss.

The practice of the full wing flight shapes up around a well-known yogic breath control called the complete breath. This complete breath is performed by inhaling slowly and steadily through the nose, first filling the lower part of the lungs (expanding the abdomen slightly); then filling the middle part of the lungs (expanding the lower ribs, breastbone and chest slightly); and finally filling the highest portion of the lungs (expanding the upper chest and pulling the abdomen in slightly). The exhalation that follows is simply a reversal of the inhalation.

To accomplish the physical action that should occur in conjunction with the complete breath during the full wing flight, assume a standing position to lift your arms out and up, like a bird spreading its wings, so that each hand draws an invisible 180-degree arc from the bottom, where the arms hang limp, to the top, where the palms of the hands are pressed lightly together in prayer formation above the head.

This lifting of the arms gets coordinated with the complete breath in the following manner (see figure 1): As the arms are raised one third of the way up the 180-degree arc, the first phase of the complete breath is performed. As the arms are raised up the second third of the the arc, the second phase of the complete breath is performed. As the arms are raised up the last third of the arc, the final phase of the complete breath achieves a full inhalation. That full inhalation should then be held for a few seconds before an exhalation begins an exact reversal of the procedure just described.

Figure 1: The full wing flight

Performing this breath control with the three-phase arm motion helps the unified fluidity of the exercise by giving it a dance feel. It also allows for more air to be drawn into the upper lungs during the third phase of the inhalation.

In this approach to an enjoyment of bliss, we will also be assuming a posture called the “corpse pose” in English and shavasana in Sanskrit. When you are in this position (see figure 2) you are lying flat on your back with your arms relaxed to the sides of your body (palms
facing up) and your feet set slightly apart.

Figure 2: Shavasana


Experiencing your primal bliss:

• Sitting in a casual and comfortable position, take a few moments to reflect upon the most recent events of your life. Go back no more than three days. Recall three specific occasions that were ethereally enjoyable such as when you watched a sunset, chilled out in a hot tub or relaxed in a hammock on a Sunday afternoon.

An example expressed in words: “It was about 6:45 in the evening on May 16, 2009. I had been driving on the interstate for at least three hours heading home from Lake Tahoe to San Francisco. With an hour of travel still ahead of me, I decided to take a break. Pulling off the road at the first ‘rest stop’ I could find, I got out of my car, walked a bit to stretch and sat down at a picnic table to watch the sun’s last sinking out of twilight into night. As I gazed into the final dazzling brilliance of this evening phenomenon, I lost track of time. If sunsets lasted forever, I’d still be there. But they don’t and I’m not. Soon enough, I was back on the road dealing with night traffic. All I could think about was getting home.”

• When you are ready, stand up and practice the full wing flight three times—more if you like. Then lie down in shavasana for about ten minutes. (Careful! A soft surface might invite sleep.) Allow yourself to bask in bliss.

• As you enjoy your shavasana, recall your three chosen events and reflect on each one separately. Once you have caught the enjoyment of each event, drop the event and hold the enjoyment. Be sure to do this with each event.

• Remaining in shavasana, strive to catch and hold the one feeling that was the same through each of your three experiences of enjoyment. That one common-denominator feeling is the bliss of being. Try to hold that bliss for at least five minutes without getting distracted.

This article is an excerpt from Muni’s latest book: Into the I of allAn Ultimate Yoga.

For 37 years, Muni Natarajan lived as a monk in a Hindu monastery on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. During his monastic years, he traveled to India and became deeply connected to its people, spirituality, music and art. In the monastery, Muni worked as an artist, designer, writer and editor for the international magazine, Hinduism Today. During that time, he also studied the Indian musical system of ragam and talam and received instruction in tabla, mridangam and classical Indian singing. Since departing the monastery in 2007, Muni has been writing books about yoga, and sharing his inner discoveries through world music and art.

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