What is bliss? How do you know when you’re feeling blissful? And what is the meaning of a blissful life?
How do you explain colour to someone without sight?
It’s difficult, isn’t it?
Defining bliss – deciphering the meaning of true 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.
This guide to a blissful mind is probably one of our most important posts because bliss is such an important part of our manifesto.
That’s why this will be constantly updated with relevant information, especially when new research comes up.
It will also be a long and meaty read so we recommend pinning one of our images in your Pinterest profile or bookmarking this page.
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 bliss?
What is bliss: Dictionary definitions
Let’s start with three dictionary definitions of bliss.
So bliss is the same as happiness, is it? Well not really, 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.
So, feeling blissful means feeling perfectly happy.
Erm, one question: What does it really mean to be perfectly happy?
Bliss also seems to be synonymous to paradise and heaven. And both paradise and heaven evoke eternity.
So, a follow-up question: When you’re perfectly happy and you experience great joy, do you ever come down from it or is it a permanent high? In other words, do you need to be happy constantly for you to be blissful?
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?
Now, do you see why this is such a difficult topic?
It feels like we’re just going round in circles, doesn’t it?
So, why don’t we go push past that boundary, go where logical people say we shouldn’t go and try to capture – or, at the very least – describe the spirituality of bliss?
What is the definition of pure bliss: The spirituality of bliss
Bliss is often discussed in spiritual circles, whether in person or online.
It almost seems like an ID – how can you say that you’re interested in personal development if you’re not also looking experience the state of bliss?
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 is.
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 (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 plateaus or declines.
And no one can tell you what bliss is in relation to your own soul.
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
Merriam-Webster: the quality or state of being contented (feeling or showing satisfaction with one’s possessions, status, or situation) or something that contents
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, whilst 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 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 depends on anything external.
And because of this, they both demand total honesty from us.
So what is bliss really?
So, what is bliss? Really?
What’s the answer?
Going back to what bliss expert Sean Meshorer had written in his book and taking into account how different bliss is from things like happiness and peace, we can describe bliss as follows:
Bliss is a state of being, not an emotion.
Emotions, both negative and positive, don’t occur in a vacuum. The mind is triggered by an impulse into reacting a certain way, causing a peak in excitement that then comes back to a stable state once said stimulus is removed.
Therefore, bliss, being constant and not needing an external stimulus, is not an emotion.
You don’t really need to do anything specific to attain bliss. In fact, if you’re striving for bliss, you’re not feeling blissful at all.
Bliss a state of being, rather than an emotion you experience
In short, it’s just there. Or it isn’t.
For example, to feel happy, you may need to live in a mansion, have a lot of friends, score the best seat in a concert, etc.
You may think you need all these things and if you don’t have them, you’re miserable.
Bliss, on the other hand, transcends all these external stimuli.
Bliss is a state of quiet, inner joy, of perfect happiness.
Again, it’s a state of being. You don’t need anything in particular to achieve it. Feeling blissful means you’re in equilibrium and nothing can disturb it, certainly not external manifestations of perceived gain or loss, positive experiences or negative ones.
Bliss is a state of transcendence and oneness.
Feeling blissful means never feeling separate and more importantly, superior or inferior to another. It means knowing that you are connected to every single person, every single animal, every single thing (living or non-living).
You are conscious of the fact that what you do impacts everyone and everything else around you. You are, in fact, not an island cut off from the rest of the universe. You are a small, indivisible part of an all-encompassing whole.
Experiencing the state of bliss is ultimately discovering the purpose and meaning of your life.
It’s a common enough question: What is the meaning of my life? Why am I even here? Why am I doing this?
Often, these questions are subtle and unacknowledged.
Many of us don’t even really realise that we’re looking for answers, for meaning, for purpose. We’re all too busy living life, doing all the things that we think are important.
But these questions are there – the impulse underpinning all that we aspire for, dream of, strive to achieve.
Why do you want to become rich and powerful? You don’t dream of having money for money’s sake. It’s how the things that money will get you can make you feel that entices you to work for it.
Why do we keep looking for The One – the one person, the one job, the one path? It’s because we think the finding of it will make us happy and lead us to our own personal nirvana – and not necessarily because of The One itself.
Meshorer writes that “bliss is the universal place that these intersect, where all questions are answered, where every fulfillment is attained.”
Bliss is universal.
All cultures, bar none, put the experience of bliss as the pinnacle of all human experience. It is the ultimate high, the state of enlightenment that every single person should aspire to attain. This isn’t even constrained to the religious or the spiritual. Even atheists and agnostics are attracted by it and governed by it.
The state of being “in the zone” sounds less religious and spiritual and definitely more achievable than bliss but if you dig deeper into how it’s defined, there are some pretty uncanny parallels.
Bliss is love.
Neale Donald Walsch writes, “Many think that white is the absence of color. It is not. It is the inclusion of all color. White is every other color that exists, combined. So, too, is love not the absence of an emotion (hatred, anger, lust, jealousy, covetousness), but the summation of all feeling. It is the sum total. The aggregate amount. The everything.“
According to Meshorer, “Bliss is like white light. Just as pure light is the totality of all color, bliss is the conglomeration of all positive qualities. When seen through the prism of spiritual awareness, the subcomponents of bliss are joy, unconditional love, inner peace, power, connectedness, awe, and wisdom. Bliss cannot even be attained, really. The soul simply realizes that bliss simply is. It is what remains after everything external and fleeting disappears.“
Now if bliss encompasses all states in the way that white encompasses all colour and if love encompasses all emotions in the way that the colour white encompasses all colour, then bliss equals love.
The last thing you need to know about what bliss means
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, for instance, has overcome its unwillingness to study something that easily crosses into spiritualism and is now seeing observable physical manifestations.
In fact, according to one study ,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.
So, what is bliss exactly?
In short, bliss is the indescribably boundless and constant state of being that goes beyond the emotion and into that almost mystical realm of experiencing oneness.
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!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2019 and has been completely revamped and updated for relevance and comprehensiveness.