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The Bliss Body (Anandamayakosha)

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Beth

The Bliss Body (Anandamayakosha)

The Woodcutter by Winslow Homer

As a forever student on the yogic path, my goal is to find ways to understand and apply yoga philosophy to my everyday existence. When I’m able to implement some of it in my five-sense material world experience, I’m happy to share what I’ve learned with anyone who will read what I write or listen when I talk. My hope is that what I can share will have some relevance to others on their path. 

This post on the Bliss Body is the seventh post in my series on the five-layer Kosha model of the human being. The physical body (Annamayakosha), the breath/energy body (Pranamayakosha), the mental/emotional body (Manomayakosha), the Witness/Wisdom Body (Vijnyanamayakosha) and practices for each were covered in previous posts, which are available from the Yoga for Healthy Aging archives. The Bliss Body (Anandamayakosha) is known by several names; Unity Consciousness, Source, Samadhi, Enlightenment, Cosmic Soul, and The Self are just a few. Words simply do not do justice to name and describe what this is or the various forms and levels of the state that are explained in the texts. However, they are the only tools we have for writing or talking about it. For this post, I’ll use the term Bliss to discuss both the ultimate experience (the big “B”) and the smaller moments of experience (the small “b”). From the philosophical perspective, Bliss, as the ultimate experience, is the natural state of all humans, existing as a unified whole, boundless, perfect, and complete. The Bliss state waits patiently for our ego, personality, and sense of self as solid and tangible to recede into the background when the “fluctuations” of our perceived and felt separations, imbalances, confusion, distractions, and contradictions of the mind have been calmed, stilled, and transformed. The first mention of the Kosha model comes to us from the Taittiriya Upanishad, which describes The Bliss Body (Anandamayakosha) with these words: “When one realizes the Self, in whom
All life is one, changeless, nameless, formless,
Then one fears no more. Unless we realize
The Unity of Life, we live in fear."

—The Upanishads, a translation by Eknath Easwaran, page 254 In the ultimate state of Bliss, this is surely true. However, on the everyday level of human existence, fear, when correctly understood, is a necessary tool that helps us navigate the realities of the physical world (see The Relationship Between Anger and Fear).One way to understand smaller moments of Bliss is to think about a time when you felt transported out of yourself. In this Bliss state—fleeting though it often is—your rational thinking mind, ego, personality, and sense of self as a physical being all seem to disappear as time loses its linear flow and space expands to encompass everything as the self with a small “s” recedes and the moment is experienced as a total timeless, formless connection to the whole. And while we may accept and believe this intellectually, it is only when we get an up-close and personal glimpse of Bliss that we know it as true. When this occurs we cannot know we were in it until it is over, and then we may find ourselves saying, “Whoa! What was that!!! Here is what Sandy Eimers, a yoga therapist and the owner of băl΄•ance yoga lounge & băl΄•anced breath school of yoga, told me about her experience with a Bliss moment: “It’s a state of emptiness and unity I have reached enough times to know it truly exists, but it is elusive and does not materialize on command. My experiences have been fleeting moments. One in particular that I remember very clearly was when my three kids were little. The two girls were giggling outside in the snow on a cloudy day in their brightly colored snowsuits, the baby was asleep for a nap and I was sitting next to the patio door with a hot cup of chocolate. There was a very brief moment where I sensed that everything in the world was in divine, right order and it was an amazing feeling that ended seconds later when the oldest poked the middle child with an icicle and it was over. But I never forgot that moment. Everything was very clear and it was as if the world stopped revolving for a millisecond and I was filled with bliss and peace.” If you have never had such a total immersion experience, there is another way to get a sense of what Bliss might feel like. The following quote has disputed authorship but the sentiment sets the stage for understanding a Bliss moment: "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."The first time I experienced this was during a family vacation in Maine. I was 12 years old. We were hiking with friends on Mt. Megunticook in Maine. It was my first hike and it was a steep trail. I don’t remember what I was thinking as we hiked up but when we got to the top and looked out over that incredible landscape, I was in awe and lost all sense of space or time. I was totally present within this moment that took my breath away. I have never forgotten it. Bliss can also be understood as a feeling of joy and contentment, which is different from excitement or happiness. Excitement and happiness are fleeting and often depend on external factors. Joy and contentment are internally sourced and longer lasting. A way to think about the relationship of joy and contentment to Bliss is to ask yourself this question: What brings me the most joy, deep contentment, satisfaction, peace and fulfillment in life? Some examples of sources for experiencing Bliss on this level might be: 

  • Hobbies like sports, gardening, arts and crafts 
  • A cup of tea and good book on a rainy day 
  • A walk in the woods on a sunny day 
  • A long talk with a good friend 
  • Spending time with family 
  • Dancing
  • Your yoga practice, of course 

Bliss, in all of its forms and levels, is a state that visits us from time to time but in the human condition, it’s highly unlikely that we will experience this state for long periods as the necessities of daily life—work, bills, health challenges, family and relationship needs, along with a wide variety of unforeseen situations—intervene. This is because we need to use our small “self” to function in the outer five sense material world. That being said, it is important to understand that glimpses of Bliss help to move our intellectual belief about it into an experience that affects each cell in our body/mind and has the power to change the way we approach life on planet Earth. Iyengar refers to the Bliss Body as Samadhi and reinforces this point: “Samadhi leaves the practitioner changed forever, but he still has to get dressed in the morning, eat breakfast, and answer his correspondence. Nature does not simply disappear once and for all. It is simply that the realized yogi is never again unaware of the true relationship between Nature and Cosmic Soul.” — Iyengar, B.K.S. from Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom Knowing what brings us joy, along with recognizing and savoring moments in our lives that “take our breath away” are starting points that over time can take us to deeper experiences of The Bliss Body (Anandamayakosha). In my next post I will offer one or two practices based on Steps 8, 9 and 10 of Joseph LePage’s 10 Steps to Freedom that can set the stage for inviting an experience of the Bliss Body.Suggestions for further reading:
  1. Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom by B.K.S. Iyengar 
  2. How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain, by Andrew Newberg, MD and Mark Robert Waldman 

Subscribe to Yoga for Healthy Aging by Email ° Follow Yoga for Healthy Aging on Facebook and Twitter ° To order Yoga for Healthy Aging: A Guide to Lifelong Well-Being, go to AmazonShambhalaIndie Boundor your local bookstore.For information on Beth Gibbs' classes and upcoming workshops, see Beth's Classes and Workshops and for information about Beth, ProYoga Therapeutics, and Beth's book and CD, see proyogatherapeutics.com

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