The other day, I got to leave my house, by myself, for an hour and a half. Sometimes that is all it takes to find bliss. I also got to go to a yoga studio where I don’t know anyone. Anonymous yoga can also be blissful. As you can see I was primed to love my experience before class began and then the teacher, Dean, came in and introduced the theme: Satchitananda. He defined this as “I am bliss.” I’ve been so curious about my relationship to bliss and happiness in my life lately, and boy, was I was ready to be guided right up to bliss’ doorstep.
I think of ananda as a really simple version of happiness, a happiness that doesn’t have to be earned by a hilarious joke or by the perfect evening dinner atmosphere with delicious food, delicious drink, wonderful company. It isn’t the happiness that you receive by joining in someone else’s joy, either. I think of ananda as the peace, contentment and joy that is underneath everything else that we’ve got going on. It is related to a deep gratitude for what is, appreciation of life as a gift and receiving moments on this planet and in this an amazing body. To have the simple connection to that kind of bliss sounds… well, blissful.
In this yoga class, I got to feel into happiness and notice my relationship to it. I’ve thought of myself as a connoisseur of happy feelings, but lately I wonder why I don’t come all that easily to simple joy… to ananda. What’s this tendency to temper happiness with a shot of “needing to come back to reality,” or “better enjoy this because when it passes, you’ll be back to serious”? I don’t actually say that to myself, but it lurks in the shadows ready to move back in when happy feelings subside. I guess I’m beginning to notice a difference between happy feelings that have reasons to go with them, the happy that you work for vs. the simple happiness that is underneath all of that. The ananda.
If I can point to the reasons I am feeling happy—“That thing makes me laugh so hard!” Or, “that dish at the barley swine was so beautiful in my mouth it made me want to cry” (that really happened to me on Saturday—beets on fried quinoa with lemon curd. Freakin’ amazing), then that is one very enjoyable and yet temporary kind of happiness. It involves the intellect. I’m not here to knock it, but I think that one has always been a little easier to follow up with, “enjoy this now, because you’ll be back to not-so-happy once you digest those morsels of amazingness.” Or whatever knocking-down phrase might be making its way through the pipeline. Maybe there isn’t any phrase, but even so, it is the nature of feelings to change. They come and go. Even the happy ones.
But what about ananda? What about the truth/sat of knowing/chit that what we are underneath ego and reason is simple and beautiful joy/ananda? When I experience and know joy, I don’t think about it, I feel it. I sense it. And it isn’t something that I have to make by finding the most intense backbend ever, either. It is something that I have to stop striving for and just relax into. I get my mind to be quiet and calm so that I can see the bliss that is already in there. I had moments in class—short moments, of this bliss knowing. I moved between thinking/feeling, feeling/thinking pretty much constantly, but when I could feel, I had a chance at experiencing bliss.
What if, when we strip away all of the stories that we tell ourselves, all the reasons that we have to be cautious and guarded about feeling happy, the striving we engage in to bouey the ego— what if underneath all of that is the simple happiness of being alive on this planet? It’s already there waiting within us. I’d bet ananda-awareness makes the John Mulaney even funnier and the meals at Barley Swine tastier. (You thought it wasn’t possible.) It makes the love we give and receive even more beautiful. Your ego and mind can’t talk you out of it either, because it is more foundational than either of those. Perhaps bliss isn’t hiding at all and it’s inside of us waiting to be rediscovered. Quiet the mind and move back to bliss. Back to life. Back to reality. SATCHITANANDAAAAAAAAAAAAA!