Barefoot Bliss: Grounded in Everyday Joy
What if BLISS is our natural state of being?
My mother recently purchased for me a copy of David Bentley Hart’s New Testament Translation. One of my favorite passages in this translation so far is the Sermon on the Mount. A simple word change from what we are used to hearing, David renders “makarios” as “blissful” instead of “blessed.” With the rephrasing of this one greek word, what is unearthed is a simple but powerful facet that often goes missed in this text: The inner way of being for peacemakers, the gentle, the mourners and those who hunger for justice is (according to Matthew’s Jesus) bliss.
This bliss is not for the faint of heart, the avoidant of difficulties, or the merely fortunate enough to have power and wealth and privilege… This bliss requires courage and resilience, embracing of challenges, and exists even in the midst of poverty and [gasp!…] persecution. Sometimes the ground beneath our feet is rough and we experience pain; so we focus our breath, direct our thoughts, and step gently and slowly forward one foot in front of the other. Sometimes we do not know the way forward, and so we do our best to choose with authenticity from the heart and with an awareness of where we stand. Sometimes we do not have a clear vision of what may be, and so we do our best do be present to what is.
Many of our assumptions around bliss are circumstantial, the idea that we will be happy when. We complain about how things are and wish that they would be different. While this may be our comfortable cultural default, it seems to me that the “bliss” discussed here is three (counter-cultural) things: Free of the past, Grounded in the Present, and Inspired by [a vision of] the Future.
Free of the Past. We all have our story, and our life experiences certainly shape elements of our perspective. However, when we are merely looking to the past, we are looking for something that is not there. We are trying to hold onto aspects of ourselves that may not apply, and it is self-inflicted suffering to us. We hold grudges instead of desiring that we and others move forward with their lives, and we may ride the brakes on our own lives because we are stuck in old programming. When we are mired by our past mistakes, tethered to our past hurts, or anchored in a past identity that no longer applies, we suffer. In putting the past behind us, we become free to who we are now and to who we may become.
Are you holding onto your past?
If so, what aspects of yourself and your story can you lovingly embrace and consciously let go?
Grounded in the Present. There may be pain here, yet even our pain has edges. There may be suffering here, but there is also bliss and joy. When we are free of our past and are grounded in the present, we can experience our feelings without being overrun by them, experience the suffering of others without being overwhelmed by it, and experience the bliss of simply being right now. Present to our bodies. Present to the “external” stimuli of this good and green earth. Present to people around us. Present to a connectedness within and around us. Present to the rich complexity and utter simplicity of life now.
This is perhaps the most simple teaching and the most powerful. What are rituals and habits you have to ground yourself in the present moment? Where and how do you find yourself overwhelmed, disconnected, and feeling frantic? Where in your day to you hold yourself in stillness, silence, and empty space?
Inspired by the Future. Those who “hunger and thirst for justice” have a deep commitment to a particular future, an imagined possibility of thriving for all conscious beings. Have you experienced great excitement in anticipation of a vacation? As long as it does not take us out of the present (where bliss lives now), it can be very inspiring to write a beautiful vision of what may be and to work toward it. Even great mindfulness teachers who seem to be solely focused on the present moment are inspired by visions of what may be that motivate their work and strengthen their commitment. Thich Nhat Hanh comes to mind as one who teaches on mindfulness and peace within everyday, unto the ends of seeing suffering end for peoples all of the world. Having inspiring visions are powerful, insofar as they invite you to be powerfully present in the blissful now.
What possibilities for yourself or the world inspire you? How are you practicing those possibilities in your life today?
I am the happiest I have been , truly blissful, not because all my goals have been hit (though that will be fun, too!) or because I am currently experiencing an influx of financial prosperity (although that will be helpful, too!), but because I am free, grounded, and inspired. Our barefoot way to be is a built-in bliss that is truly available now, and this gives me great courage and hope as well.
In barefoot bliss,
I know what it is to be none of those things. To be confined, to be scattered, and to be resigned. However, the above-mentioned ways of being are not only “ideal,” they are possible. If anything resonated with you today and you want to explore further how you can be free, grounded, and inspired, please comment or follow-up with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.