The Sanskrit term for pure bliss is ananda. In yoga philosophy we are taught that we can experience this rare feeling. I recently had the opportunity to experience just this type of pure, unadulterated joy.
It happened when I was playing on the floor with my grandson, Hunter. He is nine months old, and he loves movement. Rolling. Tumbling. Climbing. Laughing. Well, at Gymboree last week, he was down there on the mat, rolling, tumbling, climbing, laughing. And I was right there on the mat alongside him. We did yoga. We did Cobra. We did Flying Wolenda (OK, that's a more contemporary yoga pose involving him resting belly-down on my shins, his arms outstretched, flying.) And a lot of "laugh-asana."
Yes, there I was, crawling along on the mat next to my little guy. One might argue that this is behavior unbecoming a 63 year old grandmother. To which I can only offer this: I don't care!
What I felt in those precious moments was ananda. Bliss. Complete, unadulterated immersion in joy. I had zero concern for what might be proper. I had zero thought as to whether grandmothers do or do not crawl around on padded mats in children's gyms. I had no thoughts at all. Instead, I had a sense of complete immersion in the moment. I was in a state of complete happiness. Bliss.
I write this because those feelings of joy, bliss, and happiness are rare. When do we ever get to feel joy with such complete, wild abandon?
And that question led me to investigate further: could I experience such blissful moments at other times? Was I missing opportunities to be in that state of complete immersion in joy?
My conclusion: I have been flying by moments where joy was possible. But there is hope! Every time I practice yoga, I can reach a still point that can help me refocus my awareness on all the small moments in my life that offer opportunities to experience joy.
The summer flowers: bliss.
A good conversation with a friend: bliss.
A quiet moment on the mat: bliss.
My dog's eyes: bliss.
And many more.
So here's what I've learned from my Gymboree experience, and from my moments on the mat: experiencing ananda is a choice. If I wait for external circumstances to line up just right, I make my happiness dependent on what happens TO me. Instead, I can cultivate my ability to pay full attention to each present moment, and to all the small moments that can completely hold me and fill me with joy.
Bliss is everywhere; all I have to do to see it, is to make the choice to pay attention. My practice has taught me how to do that. And so, I commit to bliss. In this moment. And the next. And the one after that.