How do you explain colour to someone without sight?
It’s difficult, isn’t it?
Defining bliss is almost the same feeling.
It’s one of those words that you think is easy to explain.
Until you find yourself sitting down in front of a laptop for two weeks and thinking to yourself, how do I explain this without going from one extreme (purely scientific) to another (purely mystic)?
After spending so much time reading, researching, soul-searching, writing and revising, we’re now confident enough to hit publish.
The Complete Guide to a Blissful Mind is probably one of our most important posts because bliss is such an important part of the K&J life manifesto. This will be constantly updated with relevant information, especially when new research comes up.
It will also be a very long read so we recommend pinning one of our images in your Pinterest profile or bookmarking this page.
What You’ll Learn
What is bliss?
One of the reasons this is so difficult is because some of the words used to describe it are also difficult to define.
Take a look at Sean Meshorer, who wrote an entire ebook on bliss and is still having a tough time answering that question.
In his words, “It’s a hard question. That isn’t because bliss is vague, inchoate, or unreal, but rather because [it] surpasses the capacity of language. Bliss is so vast, boundless, and immeasurable that it encompasses every possible word or definition ever invented—and then some.”
It doesn’t help that the word has somehow become quite attached to Joseph Campbell’s hugely popular follow your bliss statement and is now treated as cliché.
Don’t believe us?
Google follow your bliss and you’ll be bombarded with photos of people doing yoga out on the beach, interior designers showcasing their work or even cleaning implements that will transform your house or maybe happy couples enjoying marital bliss. #followyourbliss, right?
Hate to break your bubble but yeah, wrong.
Joseph Campbell would’ve mightily disapproved of all of that. Pursuing hedonistic pleasure is clearly NOT what he had in mind when he said we need to follow our bliss.
He meant something else when he talked about bliss.
So yeah, what the heck is it?
Bliss: Dictionary Definitions
Let’s start with three dictionary definitions of bliss.
Cambridge: perfect happiness
Oxford: perfect happiness; great joy
Merriam-Webster: perfect happiness, paradise, heaven
So bliss is the same as happiness, is it? Well no, because most people would agree that perfect happiness is not the same at all as just happiness.
According to the dictionary, you have to be perfectly happy to be blissful.
One question: When you’re perfectly happy and you experience great joy, do you ever come down from it or is it a permanent high?
Paradise and heaven evoke eternity.
Can you imagine being happy all the time?
How would you know you’re happy, if you’re never sad?
And if you do feel sad, how can you still be perfectly happy?
[*see where we’re coming from with the whole, it’s a very difficult topic?]
The Spirituality of Bliss
Bliss is often discussed in spiritual circles, whether in person or online. This section will attempt to compare bliss with other states that we use to describe it: happiness, contentment and peace.
From there, we hope to paint a clearer picture of what bliss could be.
Bliss and Happiness
The question, what is the difference between bliss and happiness, is answered by many spiritualists in this way: “Bliss is a superlative state which is far above and beyond happiness. The happiness that we commonly refer to is in some way or the other related to the external world. Bliss, by definition, is an experience pertaining to the soul and is not related to external stimuli.”
What does that mean?
It means that the happiness we experience through our senses (sight, touch, hearing, taste and smell), the mind (which include emotions and thoughts) and the intellect (logical decision-making and reasoning) are inferior to the happiness that the soul experiences.
Because happiness that comes from the outside is temporary. It peaks and then declines.
This is not bliss, according to spiritualists.
True bliss is a soul experience.
It never peaks, plateaus or declines.
And no one can tell you what this is. You’ll have to experience it for yourself in order to understand it.
Like the cliche about finding The One, you just know when you’re experiencing bliss.
We found a very interesting and illuminating answer in Quora when we Googled the difference between bliss and happiness and we’re including it in full here (with minor grammatical changes).
Till you do not experience the bliss (for the experience of bliss you shall need to seek emancipation / Jeevan
mukti) you shall not easily accept that there is something far superior than[sic] that of Happiness.
Happiness comes from the fulfilment of your desire (eating, watching, dancing, talking etc.). Bliss is in the desireless state, or in other words when you are established in Atman/Truth (when you know that you are neither this body nor the mind).
Happiness comes when the external things (results of actions, situations,
behaviorof others etc.) happens as per your desire. Bliss never comes by the external things (results of actions, situation, of others etc.). behavior
Bliss is far superior
than[sic] Happiness (even not worth comparablewith that cheap Happiness). After Happiness, you are bound to experience sadness as a side effect (that is why our grandma’s tale says that If you laugh too much you will have to cry later.). Bliss is without side effect & constant.
Happiness can only be experienced by the mind & material things. Bliss is experienced by going beyond the mind and intellect itself.Source – My‘self’
Bliss and contentment
Cambridge: happiness and satisfaction, often because you have everything you need
Oxford: a feeling of happiness or satisfaction
Interestingly, bliss and contentment share quite a lot of things. They’re not just semantically related, but the definitions somewhat reinforce each other. At the same time, they also break each other down.
For example, bliss is in a desireless state. Almost like contentment. You usually don’t desire anything else because you have everything you want or need.
But then, we have to remember that there are some cases when we feel content because what we wanted to happen did happen. And we feel discontented, if the opposite is true.
So we can say that when you experience bliss, you always experience contentment. The reverse isn’t always true.
Bliss and peace
“Peace,” she continues, “is a feeling of nothingness, all desire spent good or bad. One looks outwards and towards others to seek happiness, but peace can only be achieved when you look inwards. You cannot achieve peace without understanding your own self and your motivators. How can you be happy unless you are sure and confident of who or what you are?”
Does this mean that bliss IS peace?
The Wisdom Post certainly seems to agree. They describe peace as “the quietness inside you that can be achieved by leaving all the [sic] desires. You can be happy by fulfilling your desires and ambitions in life. However, you can attain peace in life by leaving all the desires of life. Peace is nothing but accepting the life as it is and is the state of passivity.”
They also offer the following comparison:
Happiness is conditional, while peace is unconditional. Happiness cannot remain forever, while peace remains forever. Level of happiness can be judged, but peace cannot be judged. Happiness is a state of being satisfied, while peace is a sensation of fulfilment.The Wisdom Post
Notice that the comparison made by the team at The
In other words, bliss, just like peace, is unconditional and indescribable – a state beyond all other positive states that we aspire to.
They both require us to look inward for our reason for being.
Neither of them depend on anything external.
And because of this, they both demand total honesty from us.
The last thing you need to know about bliss
Whilst the state of bliss defies an exact definition, we are learning more and more about what happens in the mind when we experience it.
Science has overcome its unwillingness to study something that easily crosses into spiritualism and is now seeing observable physical manifestations.
For example, ecstatic auras, which happen during the first seconds of epileptic seizure, “provoke feelings of well-being, intense serenity, bliss, and enhanced self-awareness. They can be associated with the impression of dilated time, and are sometimes described as a mystic experience by some patients.”
A study of Tibetan monks meditating on compassion showed great spikes in brain activity that translate into the achievement of observable blissful states.
We are also now discovering that in some instances, we can strengthen our bliss muscles and even induce temporary blissful states.
Excited to find out more about the many tools we can use to help us attain bliss?
Keep an eye out for our Blissful Living Resources and Toolkit, which will be available soon!