“Bliss is a necessary foundation for yoga practice… Bliss is nourishing, and it suffuses, lubricates, and coats the nerves with the deep pleasure of existence. When you find bliss, notice and welcome it. Do not let anyone tell you that feeling pure joy is not a serious meditation practice. Bask in pleasure, shamelessly.” – The Radiance Sutras, translated by Lorin Roche.
How fucking good is this?! Over the past year I have been studying The Radiance Sutras – a beautiful, sensual text that explores the many applications of meditation to every day life – and when I read this passage I couldn’t help but smile. It was as if my speculations on life and love and yoga were validated in one short, sweet paragraph. I read this passage and every ounce of energy in my body began shouting, “Oh, hell yes!”
I’ve always struggled with the notion that a serious meditation practice is must take place in a seated cross-legged position in a quiet, serene place on a regular basis each day – that somehow any form of meditation that strays from this structure is an inferior and less serious meditation. In truth, I’ve been calling BS on this rigid view of meditation for years. There’s always been this voice in my head asking, “Why can’t my asana practice be my meditation? Why can’t dancing and singing to songs that fill my heart with joy be my meditation? Why can’t walking through the woods or writing in my journal be my meditation? And, why can’t being in love be my meditation?”
My teacher’s teacher, renowned ashtanga yogi David Williams, explains meditation as the space between the thoughts. This, for me, meant that any time I was able to experience a space between my thoughts I was, in fact, meditating. When I looked at meditation from this lens, I suddenly realized that there were so many joyful activities that allow me to experience space from my thoughts. Helloooo, permission to stand up, uncross my legs, wiggle my body, and sing at the top of my lungs as my new meditation practice.
Unfortunately, whenever I would express my new meditation practice to “traditional” yogis, I would get polite nods and expressions of skepticism – but I knew, deep down, this was working for me. So, I kept at it. Then this winter I came across this passage from The Radiance Sutras on bliss and joy in meditation, and it all suddenly made sense. I was finding success and fulfillment in my non-traditional meditation practices because I was embracing bliss, basking in it, and allowing joy, itself, to be a form of meditation. Oh, hell yes.
The most important take-away from this passage, however, extends beyond the practice of meditation. Bliss is not only necessary for meditation and yoga, but for living joyful, feel good lives. Bliss is what allows us to experience the deep pleasure of existence – the deep pleasure of being alive. It seems, though, that we live in a society that downplays the importance of bliss, and views those who openly pursue their own joy as selfish and irrational. So not cool.
As a society, we feel the need to encourage artists, entrepreneurs, and lifestyle risk-takers to grow up, be practical, and “get a real job.” We love to tell the folks who spend their savings on the trip of a lifetime to stop wasting their money on short-lived experiences and ill-conceived notions of paradise. What if, however, bliss is, in fact, necessary for fully experiencing the deepest pleasures of life? How might we have to change our views on the world and how we choose to live our lives?
For me, the most important piece of this passage on bliss is this…
“Do not let anyone tell you that joy is not a serious meditation practice. Bask in pleasure, shamelessly.”
If life, itself, is really just one big meditation practice – like the longest, most important, self-reflective meditation you will ever do – then, it seems to me that what this passage is truly saying is… “Do not let anyone tell you that joy is not a serious LIFE practice.”
Go out and pursue your joy. Make joy a priority. Attend to your bliss as though it is a necessity, as though it allows you to experience the deep pleasure of existence. And, go ahead, bask in pleasure shamelessly.