Episode 32: FunJoyment: Integrating Pleasure, Joy, Happiness, Ecstasy, and Bliss
In this episode Mark Michael Lewis of RationalSpirituality.com explores the nature and variety of “good” feelings, or happiness. By examining physical, mental/emotional, and Spiritual experiences, both on a moment-by-moment basis and through time, he sheds light on the elusive concept of what makes us happy. Join him as he distinguishes and then integrates these positive human expeirences into a simple perspective you can use to guide yourself to get good at doing what matters well.
Welcome to Money Mission and Meaning, Passion at Work, Purpose at Play: I’m your host, Mark Michael Lewis from MarkMichaelLewis.com, author, entrepreneur, and life coach, and you're listening to another edition of Seven Minutes To Success And Satisfaction, a series of short, to the point and practical ideas to help you Create Pleasure and Profit in the Business of life.
In the last several episodes we've gone over getting good at things worth getting good at, so that you can do what matters well by focusing your attention through genius cycles. Now, let’s explore the goal which towards you are moving so that you can understand with greater clarity What is worth doing well, namely, does that goal bring you makes you happy? Because the more we understand the experiences make us happy, that we find most positive, the more we can consciously create and enjoy them.
To assist with this, I'm going to suggest that there are five fundamental words that we use to describe what it means to have a positive enjoyable experience, and then I will suggest a word to bring those five together into one concept that you can use as a guide and an inspiration as you make choices in life. Those five words are pleasure, joy, happiness, ecstasy, bliss. Each of these words offers a different understanding of good feelings, and helps us focus on how we can create an optimal understanding of positive human experience. First I want to create a framework through which to understand them, then we will examine each of them in turn.
To begin, I want to suggest that we divide the types of “good feelings” that we experience into three different types of 1) physical 2) mental/emotional 3) spiritual. Then we'll look at each of these three kinds of experiences, both on a moment by moment basis and then how we experience them through time.
So, the first type of good feelings that we want to investigate are physical in nature, including such experiences as tasting delicious food, physical caresses, sexual experiences/sensual experiences, harmonic tones, warm baths etc. Although each of these experiences has their own unique flavor or texture, one word that describes the general flavor of these experiences is “pleasure.” Pleasure is feeling good on a sensual or physical level, like drinking cold water when you're hot. It doesn’t require any special understanding of what is happening, but feels good intrinsically, directly, and automatically. Pleasure, in this sense, is the moment by moment experience of physical or sensory pleasure.
Now, unlike the next two types of good feelings we are about to describe, we don’t have a separate word or concept to describe pleasure that we experience through time. Pleasure is just pleasure, whether we are experiencing it for a few moments, or we experience it over the course of days.
The second type of good feeling is mental or emotional pleasure. Unlike physical sensual pleasure, which comes from the interaction of your senses with the world, mental and emotional pleasure requires that you understand something, and that that understanding has meaning for you. For example, imagine that you had won $10 million in the lottery, but you did not know it. The mere fact that you won would not lead to positive or negative experiences in your body, UNTIL you actually understood that you won. At that point, your understanding would be turned into meaning, and you will experience what we will call “joy.” Joy is what we feel when we experience the achievement of a goal. It is a celebration of a positive result in a story that we care about.
Notice that Joy comes from the evaluation we make about an experience, rather than the experience itself. It is not the piece of paper with numbers on it that brings us joy, it is the meaning that we believe that piece of paper will mean in our life. It is our rational mind that creates the feelings of joy, based on the evaluations and meanings it makes about our experiences. Joy is our moment by moment experience of good feelings on the rational, mental and emotional level.
Now, when we experience joy through time, it moves beyond joy into what we might call “happiness.” Whereas “joy” is a positive evaluation of a particular experience, “happiness” is an evaluation of our overall life experiences. If we have “overall” been having experiences we evaluate as “positive” and “on path to our ideal goals,” we will evaluate our lives as fundamentally “on-track/successful” and experience “happiness.” Interestingly, If our evaluation of our life “overall” is that we are “off-track,” we will not experience happiness, even if we have lots of pleasurable and joyous experiences.
Note that our experiences of joy and happiness are a function of the criteria we use to evaluate our experiences. This is why some people experience “joy” in the face of experiences that others consider terrible, while others are miserable in the face of experiences others consider wonderful. This is also why some people are “happy” even though “their life” is far away from what others consider “ideal,” while others are “unhappy” in conditions of life that other people might consider the lap of luxury and success. This is what people mean when they say “happiness is a choice.” They mean that it is our rational criteria (chosen) that determines how we will view an experience and how we will “feel” about it.
The third type of good feelings can be described as spiritual or trans-rational in nature, and our our most profound good feelings. Our spiritual emotions come, not from the physical pleasure of sensory stimulation, nor the joy or happiness of rational evaluation, but from the opening of our awareness to the majesty of consciousness itself. When we take in the totality of our experience in any moment and open to its glory and infinite depth on its own terms and for its own sake, we experience a spiritual good feeling we refer to as ecstasy.
Ecstasy is not about any one “part” of experience, but our experience as a “whole.” It is not about our body sending us experiences of “I like that,” or our mind sending us evaluations of “I like that.” Ecstasy is a fundamental “YES!” to existence. It is saying “I like that” to the very experience of life itself, regardless of the form it is taking. Ecstasy is the moment by moment opening to the infinite complexity and beauty of Existence itself.
We can experience ecstasy in any moment by simply relaxing our consciousness from our pre-rational sensations and rational evaluations. This experience, RIGHT NOW, whatever it is, is the glorious manifestation of the divine. It is Existence, fullness, completeness, perfection. It is CONSCIOUSNESS, the amazing and unmerited gift of LIFE.
With “grace” we can relax into the almost incomprehensible beauty of this moment and praise the beauty and glory of Divinity, out of sheer appreciation and gratitude for this gift of life.
This is why people can feel ecstasy in pain, on the rubbish pile, in the ghetto, and in concentration camps. We might call this “enlightened,” and in a sense it is. However, I prefer to think of it as a very high form of intelligence, one that requires that we transcend our body and our mind to relax into our soul.
Most often, however, people only allow themselves to relax into the ecstatic state in conditions of extreme pleasure, where they are overwhelmed by the intensity of the “goodness” and give up “control” for a moment. In this moment, the person “opens” their Self to LIFE and experiences its fullness.
However, The “intelligent” person does not wait for an intensely pleasurable experience to open their Self to Existence. Rather, they “risk” opening themselves to the fullness of life even in times of physical discomfort/pain, or “failure” to achieve their goals. They are “awake” to the beauty of life itself. Ecstasy is the moment by moment relaxing into the transcendent goodness of life itself.And, just as happiness is joy through time, Bliss is ecstasy through time. Bliss is not only the relaxing into momentary ecstasy, it is the Experience that “life itself is ecstasy.” It is the state of non-contraction in which we trust that we will open to ecstasy in the next moment. Ecstasy is sometimes fleeting because we “cling it. We start to get concerned it will go away, so we contract our self and lose it. When we can relax into ecstasy and trust that it is available to us at all times, we relax into a state of continual and prolonged ecstasy, or “ecstatic bliss.”
For example, we can be walking on the beach with a friend and experience the “pleasure” of the sand beneath our feet, the cool breeze contrasting with the sun, the warmth of their hand in ours, and the beautiful surroundings of the water and per cliffs. We can also become conscious of our pleasure and the fact that we are on a beach enjoying life, become pleased with our experience and feel “joy.” We can even recognize that this experience tells us that we are “on track” to living the life we want and experience happiness. In that moment, we might suddenly recognize that this moment in all its fullness is just one melody in a symphony of unbelievable complexity and beauty, and relax into a state of ecstasy. Finally, we might notice that our life itself is this ecstatic state, over and over, unending and ever deepening and relax into a blissful surrender to the beauty of Existence – as if we were settling down into the lap of an infinite, loving God, in whom we entrust our cares and have faith that all is well/good/perfect in the world.
I call this integration of physical, rational, and spiritual good feelings, both in the moment and through time FunJoyment. FunJoyment is like enjoyment but more fun! Funjoyment involves relaxing into a profound space of peace, acting powerfully and unapologetically to achieve goals that inspire us, while enjoying the physical pleasure and dance of the entire process of getting good at doing what matters, well.
I’m Mark Michael Lewis, host of Money Mission and Meaning, Passion at Work, Purpose at Play, on PersonalLifeMedia.com and this was Seven Minutes To Success And Satisfaction, providing you practical tools to Create Pleasure and Profit in the Business of life. Make sure to subscribe for this pod cast on iTunes, or to learn about my books are audio programs on relationships in spirituality go to mark Michael Lewis.com
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