On Struggle and Bliss

mandala

For the last two months my yoga teacher Rainey was using the koshas as the lens for our yoga practice. The idea is that there are five of these sheaths or layers, and the innermost one is the anandamayakosha. Ananda is often translated as “bliss”, which I find very difficult to access. I will get back to this in a moment. Rainey likes to translate it as “unreasonable joy” – that is, joy that is unbounded, unconditional, without any cause. And even that is hard for me to get to. I’ve been working with the idea of satisfaction, rather than bliss, joy, or happiness, because it’s much easier for me to be clear about whether or not I’m satisfied. And often, satisfaction brings contentment, which is a flavor of happiness/joy/bliss. I love that in French one says Je suis contente to say, “I am happy.”

That is the foundation. Rainey suggested at the beginning of a class what we might do to reveal that innermost kosha, so that it remained undiminished. I have been working the last several weeks on noticing when I’m telling stories (which are often lies) about my own experience. I often skip feeling the emotion and go right into interpretation and storytelling, which ironically has the effect of keeping me in that feeling (and is often downright unpleasant). I realized that when I can let go of the story about the feeling and just experience the feeling, it dissolves rather quickly. Pema Chodron explains it this way:

When you give your full attention to your knee or your back or your head—whatever hurts—and drop the good/bad, right/wrong story line and simply experience the pain directly for even a short time, then your ideas about the pain, and often the pain itself, will dissolve.

It is the stories I tell myself that create the struggle (c.f. first paragraph on “bliss”). When Rainey said undiminished, I heard in my mind undefined. Can I just let my experience be, without telling any stories around it? And can I find that satisfying? And will that reveal that inner joy/satisfaction/bliss that much more?

How about you?

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4 thoughts on “On Struggle and Bliss

  1. Roxanne

    I usually find my experienced feelings being overwritten by the writer-me. I’m writing even as I’m experiencing, which pretty much fucks up the experience. Flattens it paper-thin.

    Does that happen for you?

    1. slowbloom Post author

      Yes, it totally does. I skip the feeling and go right for the story/interpretation before I even realize I’m doing that. It’s helping me to NOT write stuff down right away, but instead go for a walk and look at the trees and pay attention to the little things and let go of the stories I’m spinning. I hope that helps.

      1. Roxanne

        Yes, definitely. I’m also gently explaining to myself that this moment will probably never make it to writing, so hows about we just enjoy it, eh?

        1. slowbloom Post author

          LOL! Yes, although I don’t know if I would say enjoy is the operative word here :P.

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