Bliss: Knowing Everything Is Okay
The moment I love the most during yoga nidra meditation is toward the end, when you’re barely sensing your body. All thoughts fade, your heart opens, and this sense of being connected to a universal fire emerges. Whether there’s something going on in your personal life or at work or in the world, you feel all boundaries dissolve, and an unshakeable sense that all is right with the world infuses every cell and atom, like an intravenous drip of love and compassion. You feel a powerful connection with humanity, a peaceful knowing of your infinite depth. You’re deeply asleep, often with zero thoughts in your unconscious mind, in some sense virtually dead—and at the same time wildly alive, as if you’re in the transition stage of giving birth. There is a total absence of pleasure and pain in your mind. This is the fifth and final body of awareness: the bliss body.
Following Your Bliss Body
One of my favorite thinkers is mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell, whose work is often summarized by his phrase, “Follow your bliss.” Great quote, but when most people think of the meaning of bliss, they think it means they should book that trip to Bali. Nope. Bliss is about more than just pleasure. In the bliss body, you notice that your awareness can expand way beyond you, to infinity, and it’s this awareness that tears your heart wide open. This is a huge moment for many people during the practice of yoga nidra, because it’s when the small self in you steps aside and the big self shows up. You feel a sense of freedom and expansiveness. You start showing up with love and compassion more easily in all situations in your life. In the bliss body, you can access all of the qualities of the heart—bliss, peace, harmony, love, understanding, empathy, clarity, unity, compassion, kindness, and forgiveness.
It is rumored that later in his career, as a lecturer at Sarah Lawrence College, Campbell was so dismayed by the misinterpretation of the word bliss that he said he should have told people to “follow their blisters.” The good news is that’s exactly what we do in yoga nidra meditation— meeting and greeting emotional “blisters”—which is why we’re well primed to balance the bliss body.
I nearly did a yoga nidra backflip when I read that Campbell’s concept of bliss came from the same spiritual teachings as yoga nidra meditation. Campbell noticed that in Sanskrit there is a well-known term, satchitananda, which means “the essence of the divine self that lives within you.” This word breaks down to three words: sat, chit, and ananda. Sat means “truth,” chit means “consciousness,” and ananda means “bliss.” Campbell believed the easiest concept for people to understand was ananda, and he told people to “follow your bliss” because if we did, truth and consciousness would follow. Unfortunately, many people didn’t get it; they didn’t see that bliss is an inside job.
To access bliss, instead of flying to Bali, the journey you must make is to your inner world. If you don’t, then bliss is seen through the eyes of ego, and you begin grabbing at material things—like a hammock with the perfect ocean view in Bali—and expect they will bring long-term pleasure. In yoga nidra, every time you practice, you travel to your inner world, and it’s here that truth and consciousness are activated via the wisdom body. You start to see the truth of who you are and what the world around you is—no more illusions— and this then gives rise to bliss.
The bliss body feeds your big self, not your small self. Women tell me that during the bliss body part of a yoga nidra meditation, they feel this floating-on-air feeling or that their heart opens beyond the boundaries of their body. One woman told me that she felt it “allowed me to see who I am no matter where I am in work or where I live.” One woman told me that she felt “reconnected to my essence,” and another said she felt “the deepest peace in my body and outside my body.” Such feelings and sensations are your bliss body being scrubbed clean, the final layer of emotional exhaustion letting go. In this moment, you turn on your internal power switch, making yourself fully available for health and wholeness.
A balanced bliss body allows you to recognize that the source of love is within you. This understanding comes because you are in the deepest state of sleep, below the ego and mind, in the unconscious. This place is like a paradise, where unity and oneness flourish. Your body is relaxed and at total peace. And it’s here you viscerally learn the secrets of achieving deep peace in your everyday life. Sleep problems, as well as health issues, are resolved here because you’re connected to the source within you. You’re an ocean, not a wave anymore, and this understanding connects you to a higher power, turning darkness into light. You’re no longer afraid of your light. Now you are who you are, which is when the final veil of exhaustion lifts. You realize how tired you were from looking for yourself everywhere, and finally you are free. You have calmed your outer senses, and now the inner flame is lit—a deep love within—and you’re connected to a universal fire, to all humans and nonhumans. As you cleanse the bliss body, all of this is downloaded into your being.
The bliss body is your deepest, most subtle layer of being—your core existence, a consciousness that’s beyond the limits of the body. It’s here you begin to feel into a state of being that has always existed but was buried by the other four bodies. Accessing the bliss body removes the final thin layer of illusion, and once it is lifted, you are able to see the pureness of your soul.
This timeless state of being does occasionally appear to us in our outer world, such as when we’re holding a newborn baby, watching a birth, painting, or writing a poem. All of these things touch the bliss body. These experiences make us feel alive, full of possibility, open, spacious, and feathery light. Who can look at a healthy newborn baby and not feel their heart open and a hope for the future? Everything feels like it’s OK. Most likely, you’ve had at least a few of these experiences during your life.
I tell women who have a hard time with the concepts of bliss and joy to start with noticing in their bodies and minds this sense that “it’s going to be OK.” What if you could give yourself permission to start here? If you’ve experienced trauma or any form of abuse, or you’ve been worn out for a long time, it may feel like a huge leap to sense that all is OK with the world. Many times you can’t go to that kind of bliss right away, but you can slowly feel into this sense that everything is OK. While not everyone with trauma will have a hard time sensing bliss, some people have a freeze response that helps them deal with the moment of trauma, and after the trauma they stay in a disassociated-reaction mode as a means of coping. Remember to lovingly meet yourself wherever you are. Once the sense that everything is going to be OK feels normal, you’ll often be able to go a little deeper to gratitude for everything, and then you’ll slowly begin to feel bliss.
Excerpted from Daring to Rest, by Karen Brody. Sounds True, November 2017. Reprinted with permission.