Sean Meshorer is the author of The Bliss Experiment: 28 Days to Personal Transformation. Here, he explains the difference between being happy and being blissful, and offers an exercise to both instantly boost your bliss and use as a long-term coping strategy when conflicts arise:
Q: How is bliss different from happiness?
A: I wanted to stay away from the word happiness because I wanted to connote that the thing we need is different from the thing we’re looking for. We’re told that there are all kinds of pathways to happiness, and one of the things they all have in common is that they’re all external; it could be money to buy goods or experiences, it could be fame, power or beauty, or even a warm, loving relationship. The idea is that there’s something else, out there, that we need to be happy. Because of that, happiness itself will necessarily come and go. Maybe one night you’re out for dinner with friends and you’re happy, but what happens the next morning with the hangover?
Bliss is based on only our internal feelings and resources. The hallmark of bliss are feelings of inner peace, connectedness and deep joy. Any of us could be trapped in a black box prison cell, with no loving relationships, no money, no things, no lovely experiences, and we could still be blissful but we couldn’t be happy. Bliss has nothing to do with external circumstances.
Q: Tell me about how to foster bliss, and your 28-day experiment.
A: Tapping into this wellspring of bliss is not as hard as it seems, but it takes practice until it’s under your control and you can tap into it at will. It becomes something more and more under our conscious control. The steps to doing it are fairly simple:
1. We have to understand all of the ways we’re expending energy in the wrong direction, which is looking for bliss externally.
2. Once we’ve reset the deck and we’re ready to go deeper, we can start looking within ourselves. The first thing that confronts us is our own minds, which are so disturbed and filled with negative emotions. You have to learn how to control and harness our out of control minds, which have about 25,000 needlessly negative thoughts a day, including “I’m fat” or “I hate my boss.” It’s needless, and it’s not based in an objective truth. You have to clean it up and regain control.
3. After we’ve learned to dispute these negative thoughts, we learn how to practice gratitude. Maybe one car cut you off, but why do you focus on that instead of all of the cars that didn’t? We dwell on the one percent of things that go wrong, but we have to learn how to focus on the 99 percent of things that go well.
4. Next, we learn how to quiet our minds and penetrate to the deepest level of our own self or being; that’s the level where bliss is dwelling. The feeling is different for everyone. One woman experienced it as “the veil of creation lifted,” and she felt a connection with everything around her, along with lightness and joy, contentedness, unconditional love and inner peace.
Q: Can you give me an example of the exercises you use?
A: The easiest, fastest exercise in the whole book, and that you can do in a cubicle and get really fast results from, is to take two minutes and write down everything that happened either today or in the last 24 hours for which you’re grateful. It can be very simple, like a cup of good coffee or a nice hot shower, or it can be a bigger thing like your partner telling you he or she loves you. Spend some time to recognize that things that you might be taking for granted. In just doing this for a couple of minutes, it will immediately boost your mood.
And there’s one last step or twist to this exercise: Once you feel like you understand what gratitude is and how to conjure it up at a moment’s notice, you can draw on that mental list while in the middle of a conflict, whether it pertains to your job or your relationship. What happens is that a) the person picks up on the underlying sense of good will and starts to respond differently, and b) it keeps you from escalating things and creates an atmosphere where things can be resolved more easily. If you’re fighting with your partner and you can draw on a list of reasons that you love her and why you married him or her, it will make you a lot more generous, which can also help to resolve conflict.
Q: What are the first steps someone needs to take to becoming more blissful?
A: You have to continually remind yourself that true, authentic bliss is always internal and never external. Regardless of what is happening in your life – divorce, troubles at work, etc – you have the ability to be blissful. If you can figure that out, it will become your touchstone and it will reorient you in times of difficulty.
What are you grateful for?