Updated: Jul 9, 2020
Life often comes with challenges and some degree of pain. We humans have the tendency to attach to that pain, which creates suffering. If suffering had a tangible form - let's say suffering was a piece of furniture in your home - it might be hard, sharp, sticky, gloomy, large in size, broken, and heavy. We might look at it and say, "Ugh, I need to either get rid of this thing, or repair it." Interestingly, as much as we plan to take action, suffering has a way of making itself quite at home in our space, regardless of how unpleasant its presence is. We tend to find ways to fit ourselves or the environment to suffering and work around it, rather than address suffering itself. While this act of accommodating suffering isn't beneficial in the long-term, it does reveal something about human nature that is profound - we are adaptable and resilient.
Where do we start in making this transformation away from suffering and boosting bliss?
Set Time for Self-Care. Take the time to hold space for yourself and your needs. The phrase, "My cup runneth over," refers to having more than enough to take care of your needs. Self-Care is about filling your cup. You can't pour from an empty cup, so it's important to find that time and space to replenish. Check-in with yourself. Yoga is a wonderful way to start this self-care practice, because it engages you in the art of self-awareness. Yoga encourages you to ask, "What do I need today?"
When you find that regular space on the mat, opening up to self-inquiry, and using movement, breath, and meditation to embody your needs, it becomes a spiritual practice with yourself and you reap the benefits of stress reduction, relaxation, mindful observation, and physical health in your daily life.
Bring Peace to Your Space. Pick a room in your home, and think about your physical space for a moment. What does it look like, smell like, feel like, sound like? What emotions arise when you are in this space? If thinking about this space isn't giving you warm fuzzy feelings, it might be time for a change. This doesn't necessarily mean you need to throw on the rubber gloves and get scrubbing, nor does it need to mean that you have to start living a minimalist lifestyle. For some, yes, this is what boosts their bliss, and there is nothing wrong with that! For others, and I will include myself in this mix, bringing peace to your space may mean to create or adjust your space to add elements of serenity, so that it provides you with a sense of ease, comfort, and joy.
Think of a place you absolutely love. A place that you could return to time and time again because it feels like paradise. For me, it's the ocean. I created a space to practice yoga that brought qualities of my favorite place into the room. The walls are an aquamarine color, reminiscent of the Caribbean Ocean. I have plants, rocks, sea-shells, and driftwood that remind me of the relaxation and joy I feel when I am at the beach. In warm weather, I throw the windows open wide to feel the breeze whisper across my skin. Regardless of what is occuring in my life, this is a retreat space where I feel in touch with my bliss.
In the world of science and yoga, much effort has gone into researching the positive impact of yoga on physical, emotional, and spiritual health. When practicing yoga in a physical space that boosts your bliss, you can further engage your sense-memory into recognizing and internalizing all the benefits that yoga has to offer. Over time, and with practice, this can transcend into your daily life.
Share with Others. You may have heard that phrase, "Sharing is caring," when you were younger. While this is a simplified statement in cultivating bliss, its essence is paramount. Giving to others is a natural way to boost your bliss, and doesn't have to be labor-intensive or cost a thing. A smile, kind words, loving energy, or acknowledgment are excellent ways to give.
Sharing with others can also be an energetic or meditative practice in your own time and space. For example, a friend of mine recently taught a yoga class I attended. During the practice, she used what's called a Metta Mantra Meditation, which is a heart-centered form of meditation to share compassion, peace, and well-being. Metta often has a five-fold theme:
Offering metta to yourself (ex: May I be kind, healthy, and full of joy)
Offering metta to a loved one (ex: May YOU be kind, healthy, and full of joy)
Offering metta to a neutral person
Offering metta to a person with whom you’ve experienced conflict/challenge
Offering metta to a group (people in the room, city, state, country, world, etc.)
Not only was this a powerful experience on the mat, but it has also translated to a
ritual practice in my daily life that brings me joy.
Now that we've discussed a few ways to boost your bliss, let's get back to this notion of suffering. An old Buddhist saying, made popular by Haruki Murakami says, "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional," meaning that we cannot avoid pain, but we can avoid our attachment to pain - this attachment is called suffering. Remembering our furniture analogy, suffering can be transformed, it can be moved, it can be relinquished. That piece of furniture does not have to stay with you, day and night, a constant reminder of your pain.
The word "yoga" means divine union. Your yoga practice is a beautiful ritual to connect your mind, body, and spirit to your divine self - your bliss - and let go of suffering. By engaging in three simple practices of Taking Time for Self-Care, Bringing Peace to Your Space, and Sharing with Others, you can begin the process of Boosting Your Bliss On & Off the Yoga Mat.