Denyse Wilson
Bliss Body - What Is It? Q&A with Jennifer Reis

Student Denyse emailed feeling not very ‘blissful’ during one of our yoga nidra classes. I’m so thrilled she reached out to me so that we could spend some quality time clarifying what the Bliss Body is according to yogic wisdom! Here is our sweet exchange:

Denyse: Dear Jennifer,

I love your classes so much and they are an important part of my self-care. I consider the cost of admission like my co-pay at the doctor, part of my upkeep. It’s your presence.  When I click the link and there you are with your eyes, and your calm aura. I get the instant sense that this is what self-care looks like.

And it’s your skill and the obvious mastery of your craft, and your art. Your voice. Your calm. Kindness. And the stories, the creativity of your stories. I am all in!

There was another one practice recently, with the theme of joy, or maybe it was bliss, that for me was hard to ‘fall’ into. I actually felt agitated.. I’ve been sad a lot. Can you tell me more about what I may have been experiencing?

Jennifer: Sure! Thanks for reaching out Denyse, I am listening to your heart.

It might be helpful for us to talk about how yoga philosophy, and yoga nidra view bliss and joy, and what this practice is aiming at.

FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANTLY: yoga nidra is a practice of NOTICING, OBSERVING, FEELING, and WITNESSING all that arises within you during the practice – with LOVE, ACCEPTANCE AND KINDNESS. That is not always easy. And that is why we practice it over and over, daily if we can, to become more compassionate and less expectant of ourselves.

Thus, you do not need to feel bliss or joy for it to be a good practice, even though it was presented in many different ways during the yoga nidra. It’s important not to judge whether a practice is ‘good’ or not – the important thing is to do the practice – just the doing of it makes it a success.

There will always be parts we don’t like as much as others. That pushing away of what we don’t like about our experience, or having difficulty with part of the practice- is exactly why we ARE PRACTICING! To become more compassionate and accepting of ourselves and our experience.

5 Kleshas – Two of the five causes of suffering in yoga called the 5 Kleshas, are PUSHING and PULLING. That means, pushing away what I don’t like, and wishing for longing for something else/what didn’t happen. This is important to recognize that as humans this creates our suffering, and also that we need to work really hard to avoid it.

In yoga nidra when we are trying to NOTICE something, and it is not ‘felt’, then we are asked to notice that, that it’s not felt or easily felt, and to do that with more and more love, acceptance and kindness. Yoga tells us that we are whole and complete, and we haven’t done anything wrong, if a suggestion during yoga nidra was not experienced, and need not be judged.

That happens all the time to everyone throughout the practice and is a totally normal experience – whether, for example, we are trying to NOTICE something like: an elbow; the right side of the body; the breath in the belly; the breath in the limbs; feeling heavy, feeling light; feeling gratitude, peace, joy, contentment, grace, etc (insert all the ‘good’ emotions in here); the color blue; the open sky, a tree; a sacred place; the ocean; yourself walking.

Again, it is a common experience to not be able to invoke everything that is being suggested. This is not a practice of getting it right, or doing it perfectly. Yoga nidra is a practice of NOTICING. Noticing with love and openness what comes or does not come up.

Background: There are 5 Kosha – Levels of Being, called bodies or sheaths. Physical, Energy-Breath, Mind-Emotions (lower everyday mind and feelings), WITNESS WISDOM, and Bliss (yes, Bliss is a whole body or level of being).

Divine Sleep® Yoga Nidra is a guided meditation that helps you to sense and feel each level of being experientially, the aim is not conceptually, during the practice, although that will happen and is not wrong (what that is is the Mental-Emotion Body rearing its head and commenting, figuring, judging, evaluating, organizing, fearing, etc). Again, we are attempting to notice, not fix anything, or wish we were having a different experience.

Probably 80% of the time in the practice is spent in the Physical Level. That is a main focus since we are such conceptual beings that we don’t spend nearly enough time in the body – and that being present in the body brings us present into the moment – meaning meditation. Then 20% on the other 4 levels of being (Bliss time is not very long, in the practice it was a very small part of the whole experience).

My aim is for students to ‘feel’ it in the body, emotions, heart, etc, and for it not to go to concept. Not everything works for every person, so as a teacher I offer numerous entries into one topic.

The question “Recall what made you smile in the last 24-hrs” helps one to remember that there was something good: perhaps looking out the window and seeing a green tree, biting into a tasty apple or piece of chocolate, or grateful for who one is, and what one has now. It could be anything – it does not have to be something that sent off fireworks. And perhaps, layers of other emotions arise like disappointment in not ‘feeling it’.

The Bliss Body Anandamaya kosha is in everyone – everyone has it! You do not need to ‘imagine’ bliss or joy, its already here within you as one of the layers of your being. Bliss body is beyond duality of good-bad, happy-sad: it is more like the field or the ground within which all those emotions pass. You may or may not ‘feel’ it, and that is a-okay.

The Bliss body can be observed/noticed in many different ways, not just simply ‘feeling joy’. Everyone will have a different experience of what aspect of the Bliss body they are able to connect with, or notice. I tried on the night you joined us, to give all of these suggestions to be noticed. These are the different aspects of the Bliss body:

  • observing sense of spaciousness within – space/ether element (could be felt as spaciousness/ expansion in body, mind, breath etc like space between things like: cells, thoughts, breaths, feelings, images etc).
  • feeling joy, bliss, contentment (no fireworks), delight, inner smile, happy, etc .
  • feeling seed qualities Bhavanas that live inside of every person: trust, equanimity, acceptance, compassion, non-attachment, grace, wholeness, forgiveness, generosity, security, understanding, patience, clarity, belonging… and on and on it goes: all positive qualities.
  • feeling healing energy.

Thus, bliss body can be felt in these different ways.

Denyse: Ah! I’m laughing and crying at the same time! I’m not surprised at all to hear that it’s me, not you!  : ) And I know that’s not what you’re saying at all, that there’s anything wrong with me — but even as I was writing that feedback letter to you, part of me was aware that I was experiencing the class through my current experience and that was likely more relevant than anything you were or were not doing!

But even that is not the point, you tell me here. Thank you for taking the time write me all of this.

Every time I’ve heard you say “You can’t do this wrong” at the beginning of a class, I always feel myself relax, always, with a big exhale. And yet the ‘push and pull’, is very much my everyday walking-around way of operating, oh yes.

Everything you say here, about using practice to become more compassionate and accepting of ourselves and our experience — IS very helpful. I forget that all the time, Jennifer, and have to interrupt the track I have running alongside my experience, a soundtrack that is judging and scolding!

Especially helpful and important to me is what you say about how bliss is already here. Oh my – I forget that all the time too, if I ever really truly do know it and feel it. When I do feel it (and most often it’s as spaciousness, as you describe, or a moment of detachment or contentment), I tend to doubt later that I did feel it, or trust that it will/can come back again. But I do want it, and set about chasing it down. Letting just be is not my strong suit!

What is a strength though is my ability to pretty easily return to the present moment with awareness, and deep appreciation and gratitude for beauty. Even if I’m not smiling a whole lot lately, I do see the pure white of my kitty’s chest right now beside me as he cutely washes his face; and the fall of light and shadow on my floor gladdens my heart. And I think maybe you’re saying that it’s these kind of images that I might evoke upon hearing “joy.”

Above all, be compassionate with what I notice, even when it’s “I’M NOT GETTING IT!”  : ) It’s just that when I get it, it’s so sweet and beautiful – and it’s why I come back for more, and why I push and pull.

But I do hear you here:  we are attempting to notice only, not to fix anything, nor wish we were having a different experience. And that’s the attitude I hope to come into my next class with. I’m touched by your attention.

Love Denyse