Kids' Stuff

We all know that famous saying 'Follow your Bliss'. But where does it lead? Relationships counsellor Dr Charmaine Saunders tells us to look within and get acquainted with your inner child.

We all know that famous saying 'Follow yourBliss'. But where does it lead? Relationships counsellorDr Charmaine Saunders tells us to look within and getacquainted with your inner child.

Bliss.Even the word evokes a feeling of joy. We all know itmeans a heightened state of happiness, almost Nirvana,but it's much more than that. It's a philosophy anda way of living one's life. Moments of bliss are spontaneousand available to everyone, but to be in the state ofbliss, you have to make a conscious choice. The closestsynonym for bliss is passion because the two emotionsare often linked. What you feel passionate about tendsto bring you bliss. That's a key factor which is oftenoverlooked - bliss is personal and varies from personto person although we can all recognise the common feelingwhen it comes. Bliss is always a form of joy no matterwhat creates it. For some, bliss is football or anothersport, to others, poetry or music, yet others, familyor nature. However, bliss can come through things thatare not on the surface at all blissful, such as cleaningor weeding or giving a speech or minding a mob of children.One person's bliss is another's poison, to misquotethe famous saying.

There can be no discussion on bliss without mentioningJoseph Campbell, the man who coined the phrase, "followyour bliss". I always thought that this expressionmeant bliss could be found somewhere up the road, perhapsthe yellow brick road or the garden path. I found Ihad misunderstood the concept when, one night I camehome late, put the TV on and happened upon Joseph Campbellbeing interviewed on this very subject. The interviewerasked him what his bliss was and he said, "Music,my family and my students". This made sense asthe man is a music professor in the US. Then, like me,he expressed curiosity about the location of bliss,seeing as you're supposed to follow it. "So, whereis bliss?' Joseph laughed and indicated a space nextto where he was sitting and he answered, "Rightwhere you are". Then it made perfect sense. Blissis an impulse from within; it's not outside you at all,therefore it's not a physical following but a spiritual,not a seeking at all, but an obeying of the call fromthe internal self. It's ever-present, always availableand accessible, ready to erupt in a spray of joy whenyou let it.

So, how do we follow our bliss? For once, the answeris simple and singular. Bliss is linked to your innerchild so meet her/him, get acquainted and you'll havean abundance of bliss without even trying. Okay, I lied- it is simple once you let your inner child out, butthe process is not totally easy. It is highly desirable,however, and worth every ounce of effort put into it.Have you ever known a child to stop indulging theirbliss because there was cleaning to do? We need to learnthat level of focus, not just for jobs of work but forpursuits of pleasure. To a child eating an icecreamcone, that scrumptious treat is the whole universe.Children excel at the art of total enjoyment, intensepleasure and pure indulgence. We adults usually eatan icecream while checking our shopping lists, walking,talking, listening to a mobile message, reading a signand so on. I remember a friend telling me once thatshe learnt about "the Zen of washing up" ather philosophy class. It sounded pretty comical, butit really just means being fully present in the momentwhatever we are doing, even mundane chores. Bliss isdistilled joy and can only be experienced in the stillnessof time and motion, when all else stops and the heartlifts in sublime flight.

The reverse question is also relevant - what stopsus feeling bliss? In a nutshell, being too adult, tooresponsible, dutiful, busy, stressed, productive, ambitious,involved - all highly prized 21st century attributes,but which take away from our centre, from our joy. Howmany of us stop ourselves following our bliss for thatprecise reason? We come out of the office on a hot summer'snight with thoughts of the ocean, cold drinks and sometime-out dancing in our heads. The impulse is to stopoff at the beach, dive into the sea and then enjoy acold beer or iced coffee. But no, we can't do that!That would be irresponsible - after all, there's dinnerto cook, a pile of ironing waiting, not to mention thepoor dog needs feeding. Is the world going to end becauseyou take an hour out for yourself? Will the jobs athome not still get done? We cancel our own bliss constantly.Of course we have obligations, things we cannot putoff or avoid, but attitude is everything - as usual!With a blissful attitude, there is no struggle, no defeat,no endurance or sacrifice. Even duty takes on a differentmeaning.

I used to think that spirituality was a pursuit, aprocess that requires work and time and a degree ofdifficulty. It took me a long time to realise that beingspiritual is as natural as breathing. There's nothingto do. The Orange Movement leader, Bhagwan, said thatwhen you choose joy, all is meditation. Again, I foundthis an obscure idea till I digested it and found itnot only palatable but delicious. To my understanding,it means that joy is present every minute of every dayand once accepted, even boring tasks become meditative.There's no need to put time aside to sit and chant orwear special clothes, burn incense or attend specialclasses. These are aids and trappings and while useful,do not form the essence of meditation which is essentiallycommunion with the inner self. The first step to livinga blissful life is to accept joy. That's relativelyclearcut. Next, do the inner childwork - less clear-cut.Here's how. You can do it through a therapist or byyourself. Clear some time and space, sit quietly ina comfortable chair, close your eyes, have in your minda picture of yourself as a small child, no older that10. Breathe steadily and see yourself entering a roomin which you as your own inner child are sitting ona sofa. Walk up to this child as you would a livingone in the present, place your arm around the child'sshoulders and say something like this:

"I am so sorryfor any hurt you have suffered,
the damage that's been done to you.
I love you very much and I promise I will neverlet anyone hurt you again.
I will protect you from now on."

Embrace, cry, laugh, release in whatever way feelsright for you. In this way, you merge your adult selfwith your inner child and the synthesis brings healingand closure. We always carry our inner child insideus but after this exercise, the child within lives again.It is no longer trapped under a mountain of conditioning,negativity, wounding and neglect. It is now free, expressive,dynamic. With it comes all the glorious childlike qualitiesthat we have suppressed - spontaneity, trust, joy, affection,confidence, living in the moment, fearlessness, openness,honesty.

What a legacy! How can it fail to be blissful? Oneword of caution - with daring can come impulsiveness,abandon, and, most of all, uncharacteristic behaviour,which can be very frightening at first. The inner childwill not bring endless fun and laughter; there willalso be hurtful memory, tears and painful healing. That'swhy I say the process is not easy or straightforward.I always warn clients before they embark on this particularjourney. There are many and varied reactions, some strangeand unpleasant. One client began dating several menand sleeping with them all, something her moral codewould never have allowed previously. With the removalof the suppression, her responsiveness became extreme.

A pendulum never swings into the middle. It has tofirst swing over to the other extreme and then graduallylevel off. So it is with us humans. When we are releasedfrom the prisons of our past, we are not moderate orbalanced. We scream, rail and wail, accuse, hate, rageand weep. If we have been sexually repressed, we mightbecome promiscuous; if we were stingy, we might go ona spending spree; if we were quiet and introverted,we may become loud and demonstrative. If you know theseextreme reactions are coming, it's less threatening.They can last a year or just a few weeks. No matterhow uncomfortable it gets, the liberation can only bepositive because a life full of rejected parts is alife half-lived. The secret of psychological wholenessis acceptance of the complete self, dark side as wellas the light.

No one can offer us bliss. It has to come from within.In the same way, we can follow our own bliss and sharebliss, but we cannot ask others to follow our bliss.I had a sober reminder of this one day when I woke upfeeling fantastic and called a friend to go to the beachwith me but she had a dentist appointment and didn'twant to cancel it. I felt really deflated though I normallyenjoy doing things alone. I was bursting with blissand couldn't understand anyone preferring to go to thedentist. However, after I thought about it, I realisedI was trying to make someone follow my bliss and itjust didn't work.

It's easy to find blissful things all around us everyday. You only have to open your eyes, mind and heart.Here are just some ideas to get you started - BlissOut with....

A sunsetThe ocean on a sizzling dayThe smells of freshly baked bread, newly mown lawnand a really good ground coffeeThe face of a baby mid-laughListening to a sublime voice raised in songThe sound of laughterThe sight of people having joyful funSights, sounds and smells of the bushThe hug of a loved oneAn old, heavily wrinkled faceMy cat's face scrunched up with pleasure as shedozes in the sunA cold drink on a hot dayWalking past the doorway of an airconditioned buildingin a heatwaveThe smile of a stranger Walking barefoot in sand

This is just a minute sample. Bliss comes throughall the five senses. You can feel it (silk on the skinor an aromatic massage), smell it (sun, sand and seaon the skin), hear it (beautiful music or the words,"I love you"), taste it (coconut icecream!),see it (a great film or painting). It's different toeuphoria which is fleeting, or excitement which is usuallyattached to an event or person, or the high which comesfrom stimulants because that is contrived and temporary.Bliss can be planned for but must be allowed spontaneousexpression. If it could be bottled and distributed toall human beings, the world would change overnight.But alas, we are here on the planet to journey, notto arrive; therefore even the path to bliss has to bevoluntary and chosen.

Make your own list and practise bliss in every moment.Bliss will be found by some of you in religious fervour,in the silence of a church or the pageantry of a service;others, like me, find God in the trees, wind, sea andsky. My ultimate bliss is floating in the ocean. Itis the bliss of freedom, connection and utter peace.It tops sex or food or anything else wonderful. Findyour own bliss and moreover, decide to live a blissfullife. It's your birthright. In the delightful film HappyFeet, the send-up guru character speaks of "thecouch of perpetual indulgence". Let that be yourgoal regardless of your individual lifestyle, resources,age or any other factors. When you can have as muchfun taking out the rubbish as dancing the salsa, you'llknow you're there. You are in the state of bliss.