Some Wisdom traditions from the East assert that our lives here on Earth are intended to be blissful, ecstatic, free from suffering and bathed in Divine love. What a beautiful idea. To this, in case it wasn’t automatically included, I would add laughter, humor, sensuality, good cheer, well-being, pleasure and joy, though all are contained in this wonderful word, bliss.
Indeed, there are a good number of people who live in this space and live with the consciousness that this really is the way it is, and consciously make it that way. Another way to state this is that as co-creators of their consciousness, creators of their lives, people who take responsibility for their mind, feelings and body, deliberately direct these such that their lives are at peace, living from their center, feeling good, kind to others, in love with life and bubbling in this blissful space. Once mind-body-heart are pointed in this direction, they get ‘entrained’ in that direction, and then can ‘sit back relax’, and allow the rest to flow. Amazing how Nature works!
It is not that these blissful people don’t perceive the pain and suffering among so many people including themselves. Of course, they do. They feel compassion for them and wish that they could ‘break through’ to recognize that life itself is an awesome journey—so make it a good one. When looked at a certain way, through a certain lens, life can shine like the sun.
One of the things that makes it shine is our sensual and sensory experience of Self and of Place. Another way to put this is to think of ecology as being the Universe, and we have relative inner and outer ecosystems. Feng-shui from ancient China is a system as is Vastu from ancient India, are defined as the art of place and placement. One arranges items in space, in a particular place with respect to orientation in the four directions for maximum effect, be it beauty, fertility, tranquility, prosperity or joy. Or all of them. This is about the outer ecosystem in conjunction with the inner ecosystem.
While one’s own backyard can be fecund with natural or man-made beauty and one doesn’t need then to go far to experience it, each place in different countries and cultures of course has its own qualities, which is why the adventure of travel can be so rich and deep an experience.
Contemplation of inner and outer beauty, according to Wisdom Traditions East and West, is an actual path to peace and enlightenment. When one clears one’s mind and allows one’s full sensory sensibility to take the beauty in, it transforms one’s perception of reality, a cornerstone of what we refer to as an enlightened state.
The experience of beauty grows one’s neuro-circuitry, one’s perceptual apparatus, allowing for a ‘tuning in’ to the “Nature of Things” in a way that is not ordinarily available in our fast-paced, day-to-day life of mechanical thinking and doing. We are attuned to the frequency of the Place.
The contemplation of beauty is in large part what James Joyce referred to as “aesthetic arrest”.
Now that we understand the role that the contemplation of beauty can play in our lives, its power is appreciated. It’s not simple, but includes “isn’t that a pretty flower!” We can recognize while perceiving one’s inner beauty as foundational to the experience of beauty, one can then appreciate the magnificence of outer beauty. To love others well, start with loving yourself. Want to see beauty in others? Start with Self. There is a through-line I’d say, between the two. The frequency generated from gratitude and self-appreciation aligns one, and attunes one to the beauty, what we call “outside” ourselves. Recognizing ‘interconnectedness’ sheds a different perspective on what we routinely refer to as “in and out”, both being part of One, and both to be enjoyed and appreciated as much as possible.
With all that said, let’s take a little dive into different waters of the joy of place.
This ancient place, Oahu, is one of the most luscious locations in the world. True, it’s a mixture of city and natural beauty, but with Nature predominating. The potential for the experience of bliss here is unmistakable. How is it conveyed?
Even as you arrive at the airport, you are flooded with the fragrance of flowers. I remember my first experience of Plumeria was at the Honolulu airport, which was so pre-possessing, I don’t think I ever recovered from it. And who would want to?!
The olfactory sense is the oldest and they say, the most ‘primitive’ of them all. I don’t know what’s primitive about deeply inhaling such fragrances but certainly, if it is, I am very primitive.
The olfactory sense is also deeply connected to our sexual arousal, which of course, when we’re feeling alive, is another energy coursing through us, connecting us to everything in the Universe. If it’s the fragrance of a flower or a beautiful woman, our senses are enlivened and ‘turned on’. We feel alive.
Then there’s the color and shape, in short, the personality of the flowers, be they Plumeria, Hawaiian Gardenia or Bird of Paradise, each speaking to us in its own way. Can any of us miss the fact that Mother Nature intends for us to enjoy her ‘larger body’ and, by contemplating, seeing, and inhaling her, to be experiencing ecstasy, pleasure and bliss? And we haven’t even left the airport!
Of course, one finds oneself soon after leaving the airport, likely near or in the water. Now we have the experience of wetness against our bodies, a new temperature, and pressure from the waves and their sound. This brings forth yet the next sense of hearing. Waves lap the shore, a soothing sound used in music to help us feel at peace or even to rest or sleep.
So you’re getting a sense of the holistic experience of mind-body, visual, kinesthetic, olfactory and auditory experience of place. Yes, there are cars, but there are also palm trees, ocean, flowers and coconuts. There’s an abundance of beautiful, white sand, and a great, big, painted sky. Bliss, when one looks through these holistic, holographic glasses, is everywhere.
One of the most bio-diverse places on the planet, Costa Rica re-sets one’s own sense of natural balance. The elements of the living, natural world are ebullient and teeming with life. It’s wet, humid, sunny, lush green, and then the colors of the keel-Billed Toucan or the Great Green Macaw inspire a great sense of bliss. It is like the Earth breathing into each effervescent color, shape and aroma and into us.
What does one feel when one is on a small boat on the Rio Celeste but celestial. It is as though Mother Nature is hugging her humans with the raw vitality of her life force so that we never forget how beautiful and precious She is. Pachamama is teeming with life all around us in Costa Rica, all the way to Volcan Arenal (Arenal Volcano) which is not just teeming but bursting with life. Yes, it’s one of five active volcanoes in the country.
This is a natural beauty that feeds the soul. Think of it—the womb of life is Nature, of which our own biological mother is an expression. When we’re walking in Her forest, swimming in Her water, we are “at home” with Her. We show respect and love with our every step, breath and gaze. Our sensual experience of the panorama of color, the feast of shapes and forms, birds singing and laughing, all nourishing the soul.
This expression of the place evokes an entirely different quality of bliss. While the River Seine wends right through the very heart of the city, it is the man-made architectural wonder that inspires and feeds the soul here.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame, La Tour Eiffel, Champs-Elysees, Musee du Louvre are all breath-taking. The exquisite level of detail, the soundness of structure, and the feeling tone of antiquity inspire an appreciation of the artistic and architectural talent of the human spirit.
Many Gothic cathedrals were built according to the principles of Sacred Geometry such that certain spaces inside the church are designed to create in an individual a sense humility, elevation and awe, not to mention a sense of the largesse of the Divine and a sense of the sacred.
When one feels, sees, and senses the interconnectedness of All Things, both naturally born or man-made ultimately comes from the same Source, life takes on a settled quality of radiant peace. As such, all can be seen through the lens of the effervescent life force expressing itself.
When one enters certain parts of Kyoto, one feels like one has stepped into 12th century Japan. The temples are grand, dignified and stately, not as European architecture is grand, much lower key, closer to the ground, closer to ‘human-size’, but not a wit less dignified. There are ornaments, yet the appearance is understated.
There is a plethora of flowers in the parks. They are bright, dancing colors. The park’s flowers and bushes are orderly, and coherent yet bursting wildly with life, with a manicured sense of Feng-Shui.
One’s eyes feast on shapes and colors. One’s olfactory sense is having an absolute party. The different fragrances, Sakura (Cherry blossom), Momo (Peach) and Fuji (Wisteria) bring one to the womb of Mother Nature Herself.
One can imagine life in the Court then, the beauty, and grandeur of humanity at its height. It is blissful what people can create, shape, craft and bring to light. Japanese culture, both its humility, beauty and the dignified power of the Samurai is nothing short of awe-inspiring, interspersed with the air of wisdom arising from the Zendo permeating the space everywhere you look. Man’s creations in art, landscape, and structures, all surrounded by Nature, can bring us to our knees.
Then there are the bamboo forests just outside the city that radiate a green hue that is timeless. They offer a new version of landscape and experience. Until you’ve stood in a forest of Bamboo trees, there aren’t words to describe the experience. The trees talk to you, rather they whisper, they sway, they softly sing. Bliss abounds.
Man-made architectural wonders, honed in harmony bio-mimetically with Nature, yield the taste of bliss as do natural wonders. Pondering the creativity, craftsmanship, the artistic vision of the temples, one experiences these magnificent expressions of keen, creative focus and discipline of the human spirit. Nature’s own architecture, the shape of flowers and trees, majestic mountains, and rocky formations, awakens the beauty in us of our own nature.
This mirroring effect can keep us healthy and alive for a long time, in a blissful state and grateful to be alive. Time becomes timeless.
This begs the question: is bliss our natural state and everything else a digression, diversion, distraction, a confusion that sets in and overstays its visit?
The body-mind-as-chemistry-lab seems to suggest that bliss and ecstasy are truly organic states that the mind-body-brain are poised to provide. Look at the cascading endorphins which are released when we do everyday activities like “have fun”, run, bicycle, play ball, dance, exercise, do yoga, Chi-Kung, smile, laugh or love.
Making love creates an entirely new level of inner chemistry. The endorphins are always ready to spring into action and create the experience known as “the Zone”, a state of joyful well-being and aliveness few other experiences can touch.
When we focus our attention on something, from writing an article to washing the dishes, there is a serene peace that emerges with a focused, coherent mind. What we have found through the Heartmath Institute is that not only does the brain become coherent at such times, but so does this other brain of ours, the heart.
When we engage in everyday activities with an open, positive attitude, these endorphin neuro-transmitters start to rock. When we get close to someone, from a friend to a lover to a family member to a team member, the “love hormone”, oxytocin gets released.
Commensurate with all of these chemicals getting stirred up in the psycho-bio-chemical lab is a reduction in adrenalin and cortisol, both of which are important and necessary under certain conditions, and when reduced, also reduce inflammation, allowing the flow of life force to move uninterrupted through the system.
Anger and fear interrupt this flow. Love and gratitude, movement and joy, along with the experience of what we hold as “The Beautiful”, move it right through the body’s natural flow. The subtle energy channels of the body rejoice and health, wellness, and optimal mental and physical states abound.
By studying our physiology, one could certainly and reasonably come to the conclusion that the human body mind is truly designed for the experience of ecstasy and bliss—the chemicals are all present and primed awaiting release. With the slightest incentive, they readily flow into the bloodstream.
One could say that the human body-mind is also set up for cooperation, compassion, empathy and love.
The experience of any or all of these creates a positive feedback loop in the system, producing more healthy chemicals and producing more cooperation and love. We like to keep experiencing whatever makes us feel good, and the experiences of these emotions, and feelings, make us feel really good.
The work of the social scientist, David Sloan Wilson underscores that it is these qualities that have kept the species alive and evolving over time. It isn’t just that it’s “nice” to be cooperative and compassionate, these are actually essential components to our survival.
In short, health, wellness, longevity and well-being are generated from these experiences, so again, corroborates the supposition that we are designed for these kinds of positive experiences.
To look at the opposite of these experiences, e.g., anger, hate, fear, indifference, dis-connectedness, wrath and rage cause a contraction in the body and mind, causing inflammation and the release of what can be the toxic chemical of cortisol which takes hours and sometimes days to clear from the blood and tissue.
Certainly, these emotions do not contribute to healthy longevity. They can certainly be useful in helping us to get out of a jam in the short run. Fear of getting hit by a bus makes us move quickly. Anger can scare off an aggressor. Yes, they have their roles in these kinds of ways.
This chemical cascade shortens the telomeres and confers an experience that is dystonic to the mind-body, yet can also be habituated, and even addictive if we’re not mindful.
Hormones of love keep us alive and wanting to live a long time. Think Methuselah.
If we choose to see beauty wherever we look, we will. When we look at others on the level of soul, our chances of seeing beauty are delightfully increased. Our perception defines our reality. See love everywhere, receive love from anywhere.
So to position ourselves in places of beauty, with people of inner and outer beauty, to love our environment, to love each other and to love ourselves, leads to a happier, more fulfilling and, well, beautiful life bountiful with ecstasy and bliss.
The oldest and deepest wisdom traditions worldwide, invite us to do just this. Dwell in beauty, see beauty in other’s nature, in Mother Nature, that is, in the Divine.
I’d suggest that love, beauty, ecstasy and bliss are our deepest nature. They are our deepest nature.