Happiness is going to the beach and hanging out in the sun or eating a chocolate bar. They’re physical pleasures that bring good feelings yet last a very short time. But what happens when vacation’s over or when your chocolate is gone? Often the good feelings fade and only faint memories remain. What if you could find something akin to happiness, only deeper and longer lasting? Kind of like a permanent orgasm? Would you want some? Joy dives deeper and lasts longer. It’s a spiritual experience that comes from within. Joy is like an amped-up shade of happiness that doesn’t depend so much on senses or outer experiences. Hindu spiritual traditions even say that joy or “ananda” is our true nature. Bliss is the ultimate harvest of spiritual life. If you want to find that path through the shades of happiness and joy to bliss, how do you get there?
One way to begin is to experience joy is through cultivating your inner sacred space. I call this place the secret garden. It’s a good place to plant seeds that can be cultivated and grow into a harvest of bliss. Some essential tools that help to dig deep and tend the inner garden include the hard work of self-inquiry, a regular meditation practice, a dedication to pay attention to and act on the guidance of your inner gardener – that higher, wiser part of you that is Divine – and a yearning to get rid of inner junk and pests that stand in the way. This junk is often old stuff from the past, including attitudes and habits that may have served us well at one time, but now just get in the way and hold us back. It’s time to let go of these and grow into the new life that’s waiting. One of my favorite ways to cultivate bliss in my secret garden is through consciously choosing guiding values. Values are like seeds. They may include peace, kindness, generosity, joy, determination, patience, and more. When we choose the seeds we want to grow more of in our life, we can begin to cultivate them both inside during meditation and also through actions in our daily lives. Will the seeds you plant today lead to joy? * * * Debra Moffitt is the award-winning author of Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life and “Garden of Bliss: Cultivating the Inner Landscape for Self-Discovery” (Llewellyn Worldwide, May 2013). A visionary, dreamer and teacher, she’s devoted to nurturing the spiritual in everyday life. She leads workshops on spiritual practices, writing and creativity in the U.S. and Europe. More at http://www.awakeintheworld.com.