On Pleasure, Joy and Bliss

Venus and Jupiter by Joan Pancoe

What do we need to do to have these good feelings more of the time? I’m glad you asked! It’s one of my favorite themes, and I hope it will become one of yours too.

Let’s talk about pleasure first. I know this may sound self-evident but: There is no other plane of existence except the physical plane in which we can enjoy the physical senses. So, all together now, “AAAAH!” That being the case, if we don’t choose to develop our capacities for pleasure on the sense level to a point of contentment, we may end up having regret for missed opportunities when not incarnate, thus keeping us firmly entrenched on the wheel of karma (regret does that, you know), until we give ourselves permission to enjoy our senses more while we’re here.

For those who are afraid of being free from the wheel of karma because of a natural fear of annihilation of the Little Self in the Void or of dissolving into the Cosmic Ocean of Consciousness, let me reassure you. We can be free from karma and choose to move on to other dimensions or to continue to incarnate. The difference is: We’re not pulled back in by our unresolved stuff. But rather, to the degree we’ve cleared our karma, we get to choose to play the Earth Game on a new level and pass on our joy and bliss in a natural overflow to others.

Furthermore, if we are indeed “the Divine’s little hand-puppets,” then the only way that Source can experience the physical senses is through us─and who are we to withhold that delight from our Cocreator?

For those of you who’ve read my memoir, Cosmic Sugar, you may recall that my particular karmic rut of over-development was on the 2nd chakra level of enjoyment of the sense pleasures. So, one of my many lessons in this life has been to bottom out on pleasure as the “Be-All and End-All” and learn to differentiate between good sensations on the sensual or 2nd chakra level and good feelings on the heart or 4th chakra level.

For, while good sensations can certainly be a contributing factor to feeling good emotionally, they are not exactly the same. Pleasure comes from the 2nd chakra, while all positive emotions─joy, happiness, love, compassion, and faith, to name a few─come from the 4th. All negative emotions─fear, anger, pride, envy─you know, the seven “deadlys”come from the three lower chakras being out of balance and, while they may rise up to affect the heart, they are not born there.

When I looked up joy in the dictionary, it’s defined as extreme happiness─in other words, a happiness that’s so full it’s overflowing from the heart. Other people or situations can make us happy, but when we allow our natural joy in being to bubble up, we spontaneously want to share it.

I’ve worked with many clients who’ve had a limiting karmic belief that joy is somehow not in spiritual good taste while there’s still suffering anywhere on the planet. These good souls are literally suffering under the misapprehension that their empathetic misery serves some spiritual purpose. I think not!

In fact, they have what I call “survivor’s guilt,” which means that even though they are finally in an incarnation working on other heart qualities, such as self-love, self-worth or joy─they’re stuck in a karmic rut of suffering. They’ve forgotten they’re supposed to be working on a new level of their evolution, not repeating what has already been developed. In past lives, these souls have already experienced cracking open the heart through suffering as a means to develop compassion for it─in fact, they have some of the most open hearts on the planet─just not much joy in being on the planet.

One solution to this attachment to suffering as one’s karmic identity, (or hair-shirt, as it may be), is to look at how one’s joy can positively affect others through the ripple effect. For sharing joy outward multiplies it exponentially in all directions and always makes the Goddess smile. Whereas once one already has a compassionate open heart for those who are suffering, suffering oneself only breeds more suffering. Whatever we feed─grows. And we always have a choice in whether we want to affect the emotional tone of the world positively, or allow it to affect us negatively.

The challenge for those with a karmic rut of suffering is to accept that all human beings have a Divine birthright to fully experience pleasure, joy and bliss─including themselves. Because they have very little capacity for enjoyment before unconscious sabotage mechanisms kick in through negative thoughts or actions, awareness and permission are needed to expand their tolerance level to handle good feelings. It’s actually like developing new muscles in the emotional body─let’s call it “bliss training.” Have you exercised today?

The first step in expanding our emotional range is in embracing the idea that growing pains are part of life, and it’s only our resistance with getting on with why we’re here─which is to evolve─that causes our suffering. The suffering portion of the program is completely optional.

We live in a plane of duality or polarities. Therefore, we need to embrace the package deal concept, which is: Where there is physical pain there will also be physical pleasure, where there is emotional pain there will also be joy, and where there is spiritual pain there is also the potential for bliss. It’s our aversion to one end of the human range of being and over-attachment to the other that keeps us between a rock and a soft place.

And what is Bliss? If we consider that the 4th chakra is the domain of all good feelings horizontally, including love on the personality level, then, as we move up the vertical channel, from the mid-point of the heart chakra, to the 6th chakra, our heart energies rise in frequency to commune with the Divine. This communion is experienced through the transpersonal emotional range which is epitomized by bliss─but also includes equanimity, rapture, ecstasy, At-One-ment with All That Is, universal love, and cosmic consciousness. It’s where our hearts and minds merge with the Divine Heart/Mind.

With awareness, we can learn how to transmute our life force energies thru the 2nd and 4th chakras until we are communing with the Divine blissfully through the 6th chakra and beyond in our vertical channel. This is where Tantric and Taoist sexual practices come in. These techniques allow us to merge with the Divine or the Tao directly or through the vehicle of making love with our partner so that we get to activate the pleasure/joy/bliss continuum simultaneously. In other words, Bliss is making love with Source in a continuous cosmic orgasm.

When I was twenty-seven, I went through a period where I felt completely cut off and separate from any Higher Power. This experience with spiritual pain catapulted me onto the path I am still on. Because my low-level search for the Divine─which included sexual escapades, smoking pot, and drinking─stopped working utterly, I surrendered to developing a direct conscious contact with Source, which I now maintain through daily spiritual practices. But one does seem to need to go through the dark night of the soul of spiritual pain first. Perhaps it is our capacity to experience deep pain that creates the space which allows bliss to arise.

Then, when I was thirty-three, I experienced the most excruciating emotional pain of my life while going through a divorce. Up until then, I had sealed my heart from this kind of pain from the age of twelve when my parents divorced. But my divorce blew my heart wide open with the kind of pain I’d been avoiding my whole life by focusing only on good sensations. The most remarkable thing is that, simultaneously with this pain, I experienced feeling more alive than ever before. Facing this raw emotional pain viscerally─without aversion or resistance─allowed my heart to come truly alive for the first time in this life.

Since then, joy has become one of my primary emotional tones─along with enthusiasm for the adventure of being human. And now, one of my main delights is activating these tones in others.

But, as with spiritual pain, unless one is open to expanding one’s emotional range─without resistance or aversion to the painful or attachment or clinging to the good (as this causes suffering too)─the fullest, highest emotional potentials are unable to flower.

Physical pain has been, and still is, the most challenging for me to embrace─especially since I have a karmic predisposition to pleasure and a very low tolerance for its opposite. Just last month, I had the most excruciating toothache with more acute pain than I can ever remember. As I was walking through Central Park on a beautiful sunny day on the way to the dentist, I asked myself, “Why is this happening now?” I got my answer experientially: In that moment, because I stopped resisting the pain─I was simultaneously filled with joy and bliss. Ta-da! After that, I knew it was the right time to share my thoughts on this particular theme.

This episode was particularly humorous to me in hindsight, when I realized that one of the meditations I’ve been practicing for decades─taken from one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s books on Zen mindfulness─is to experience the joys of having a “non-toothache,” and from this, learn that feeling neutral with nothing in particular going on internally─is quite a pleasant state to be in.

My channels have always said that Pain is essentially a signal tone from the Higher Self that a course correction is indicated. It comes first as spiritual pain, then as mental and emotional, and finally─if we haven’t gotten the whispered message─our Higher Self yells in our inner ear: “COURSE CORRECTION INDICATED!” usually at the same time that we’re getting blasted with some level of physical discomfort. If that still doesn’t do it, then the unlearned lessons of choosing to go for the growth are carried into the next incarnation ad infinitum.

In summation, if we choose to embrace the fullest range of the human emotional repertoire as a vehicle for being most fully alive─then pleasure, joy and bliss are ours. It’s always a package deal in this plane of duality. I can assure you that it doesn’t hurt that much─pain that is─as long as we don’t resist, fear or have an aversion to it. And, as challenging as not fearing pain is, having no preference except being fully alive─regardless of the feeling arising─is the greatest challenge of all.

What actually hurts the most is resistance to change. This creates a pattern of ongoing chronic suffering─which, over decades, actually adds up to more pain than if we just went for the clean sharp growing pain of change to begin with. While it may seem that it is human nature to always choose the lesser pain, once we are consciously aware enough to go for the growth, suffering becomes literally non-existent.

Furthermore, since we live in an ephemeral plane where everything is always insecure, uncertain and ultimately beyond our control─resisting change means we are rejecting what IS. And, as the Buddha said, the root cause of human suffering is dissatisfaction with things as they are.

Alas, we cannot make pleasure, joy or bliss arise. We cannot force them to appear─nor can we grasp on to them and make them stay─and believe me, I’ve tried. But we can create the optimal conditions for them by cultivating receptivity, contentment, peace and equanimity through spiritual practices.

Pleasure, joy and bliss are ultimately gifts from the Gods. They are our divine birthright. Anything we resist in the moment─such as an unrequited desire for things to be different─generates suffering. So, accepting what is─just as it is─creates contentment─and that is the perfect emotional foundation for pleasure, joy and bliss to arise spontaneously . . . again and again and again.

For more: my memoir, COSMIC SUGAR, under the pen name, Leela Jones

Current Newsletter