Guest Writer for Wake Up World
“Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.” – Rumi
How often do you experience states of ecstasy and bliss? If I had to guess, I’d probably say far less than you’d like. For most people it’s a fleeting experience that they are lucky to taste a handful of times over the course of their entire lives. And yet states of ecstasy and bliss are remarkably easy to experience, even permanently if you’re really dedicated to doing what’s necessary to remove everything that’s blocking you from experiencing them.
And I want you to focus in on the words ‘blocking you’ in that last sentence because they’re important and hold the keys to experiencing lasting states of ecstasy and bliss in your life. You see, the truth is that we’ve simply lost touch with these exalted emotional states, which are, in fact, our essence. Most people cannot remember their earliest years and so they forget the incredible wonder, joy, ecstasy and bliss we regularly experience as young children, in those moments as close as most will ever be to their truest essence—an authentic and free expression of themselves and the unconditional love at their core.
As we age, that innocence and purity is lost as the experience of life in an unhealed world begins to cut us off from that deep place of love, bliss and joy at our core. We learn that love from others is conditional and that we must act in certain ways to get the approval we seek. We are inevitably hurt by the words or actions of another, unintentional as it may often be. We empathically feel the insecurity and fear of people around us and learn to shield our hearts so that we don’t experience the deep pain of judgement as we attempt to authentically express ourselves. We pickup emotional wounds when we are hurt or disappointed by the people we most trust and love. This deep sense of betrayal leads us to hold grudges and grievances—against others and ourselves. We get into the habit of comparing ourselves to the people around us and begin to believe we are inadequate or anything less than perfect. All of these experiences cut us off from experiencing the pure ecstasy and joy at the core of our being. Over time this bliss becomes a distant memory and we begin to settle for some limited experience of happiness that’s only a shadow of the emotional highs that we are capable of.
But this is actually not how life is supposed to be. All human life is created in a spark of ecstasy, during the moment of conception as two lovers experience orgasmic waves of bliss. Ecstasy is our origin; it is the most fundamental aspect and generative quality of life. And it is always there at the core of our being waiting to be tapped into and expressed. Your most authentic, natural state is one of unconditional love, ecstasy and bliss and our entire lives are spent unconsciously attempting to return to this state through relationships, material things, our professions, the pursuit of money and fame and so on. But all of these things are outside the self and so they cannot give us a lasting experience of what we seek, which can only come from within.
Which is, of course, a blessing because who would want someone or something other than ourselves controlling and limiting our access to unconditional love, ecstasy and bliss? But with great power comes great responsibility, meaning that we must take full responsibility for the fact that we have let ourselves become cut off from who we really are. Even though others may have hurt and betrayed us, we ultimately decide how much we will let it affect us. As you will see, it is in large part the act of blaming others, holding onto old emotional wounds and grievances and avoiding the inner healing work that is the main thing blocking us from moving back into states of unconditional love, ecstasy and bliss, and that beginning to experience them once again can be as simple as letting go.
Practices for Experiencing States of Ecstasy and Bliss
1. Cultivate Unconditional Love
Cultivating unconditional love is paradoxically the most challenging and simultaneously easiest path to experiencing nearly permanent states of ecstasy and bliss. This is because embodying true, unconditional love can be as simple as opening yourself to the experience and letting it in, meaning that you decide to let go of all judgements, emotional wounds, grievances, self-limiting beliefs and hurts that keep you unconsciously locked into fear, separation, judgement, shame, anger and other low vibrational states. Although you may not be experiencing those things overtly in your day to day experience, with a little self-reflection and digging you’ll quickly find them embedded deep within your psyche and subconscious mind, powerfully affecting your emotional state, your decisions and your openness to loving yourself and others, ultimately keeping you cut off from the experience of unconditional love.
And, in fact, the only thing standing in between you and the experience of the ecstasy and bliss of unconditional love is the attachment to and suppression, either consciously or unconsciously, of these negative emotions, limiting beliefs and other unconscious baggage. It really can be as simple as making a profound decision to let go of that which does not serve you and moving into a space of forgiveness for yourself and others. However, for most people this is easier said than done. The layers of old mental and emotional conditioning and emotional wounding that must be healed and ultimately transcended in order to move permanently into unconditional love, ecstasy and bliss often run deep, and we are holding on to them tighter than we realize. And yet in moments of profound spiritual awakening, we can transcend a lifetime of hurt and conditioning in an instant. So be open to the possibility… but in the meantime you can still make rapid progress towards the ultimate goal of experiencing unconditional love through emotional healing processes like the one described below.
Exercise: Healing Emotional Wounds
Love begets love and so the best way to begin to cultivate unconditional love is to give yourself a direct experience of it. And by bringing the experience of love to our deepest emotional wounds we can release years of trauma and stuck energy in an instant. This is one of the fastest paths to reconnecting with your essence and removing everything that is blocking you from experiencing unconditional love, ecstasy and bliss.
In fact, virtually everyone who takes this practice seriously and puts in the effort will have an experience of ecstatic bliss in the process as they release old, stuck emotional energy. As you continue over time these moments become more frequent until they eventually become your dominant experience of life, reconnecting you with an almost permanent state of love, joy, peace ecstasy and bliss.
- Think of a significant past event, situation or person (which can include yourself) where there is some kind of negative emotional charge (anger, fear, shame, jealousy, hate, rage, anxiety, worry, etc.), hurt, grievance or trauma and simply observe what comes up. Don’t resist or judge, simply mindfully observe what you are experiencing and remembering.
- Then after a few moments, tell yourself “And I love that this happened to me,” (it can help to say this out loud), and let yourself move into a state where you actually begin to feel love in your body for yourself, the situation/experience and anyone involved. Really let yourself feel and drop into an authentic experience of love—as it must be genuine for this to work.
- As the feeling of love deepens, let yourself move into a feeling of forgiveness for yourself, the situation/experience and anyone involved. As you move deeper into the authentic experience of love and forgiveness, it heals the emotional wound around the incident/experience permanently, bringing you one step closer to the experience of unconditional love.
Emotions are not static, they shift and change in an instant and this exercise allows us to reimprint how our nervous system experiences old memories from one of pain to neutrality or even joy.
- Close the practice by taking a minute to meditate and observe what good has come of this experience that you may not have noticed before. Really challenge yourself to look at the experience through new eyes and discover positive things that you may have previously been unable to see. This helps to further repattern your mind and nervous system to change the imprinting of the experience from something negative to something positive.
This work gets easier over time and most people have no trouble staying motivated to continue after experiencing the emotional catharsis and release they experience after one session. You can literally feel yourself evolving, and it is not uncommon to experience major positive shifts in your life, your mood and your health after even a single session. If you find it challenging at first, stick with it as it may take a few attempts before you are able to really let yourself move into a space of love. After all, you are undoing years or perhaps even decades of emotional conditioning.
The art of cultivating unconditional love is at the core of learning to reconnect with a permanent sense of ecstasy and bliss, and so I recommend that you learn everything you can about it, which simply cannot be summarized in one article. A great starting point is the work of Harold W. Becker, who covers many important practices and distinctions for experiencing unconditional love here: Living in Bliss: How to Experience Unconditional Love For Yourself and Others
2. Holotropic Breathwork
Holotropic breathwork is a practice created by Stanislav Grof in an effort to allow people to access the expanded awareness and non-ordinary states of consciousness frequently experienced by those on LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs without the use of mind-altering substances. Grof developed it as a successor to his LSD-based psychedelic therapy, following the suppression of legal LSD use in the late 1960’s. Holotropic breathwork involves intense rhythmic breathing, usually accompanied by music for extended periods of time, typically around an hour or so. Approx. 5-20 min into the process, people typically enter into profoundly deep states of consciousness and awareness and frequently experience deep, cathartic healing, ecstasy and bliss.
According to Grof, the Holotropic breathing process “activates the natural inner healing process of the individual’s psyche, bringing him or her a particular set of internal experiences. With the inner healing intelligence guiding the process, the quality and content brought forth is unique to each person and for that particular time and place.”
Similar to the emotional healing practice outlined above, Holotropic breathwork can and often does lead to the healing and release of deep emotional wounds and trauma, which naturally reconnects us with deep feelings of ecstasy and bliss. However, Holotropic breathing works on other levels as well.
Although our emotional states are in large part governed by our internal psychodynamics, they are also governed by our physical health. Breathwork of any kind and specifically Holotropic breathing, infuses the body with massive quantities of oxygen and Qi (mandarin for ‘life energy’), which creates a natural high as the body is infused with life and health-giving nutrients energy. Most people typically use only about 25% of their lung capacity, which keeps them chronically undernourished, depleted and their body and mind operating at below optimal levels, as cells require abundant, oxygen rich blood for proper functioning. During the extended practice of Holotropic breathing, the brain and body are essentially flooded with oxygen and Qi, which reliably leads to feelings of ecstasy and bliss.
While it is possible to practice Holotropic breathing on your own, it’s best to experience it for the first time under the guidance of a trained facilitator in order to get the hang of it and understand the subtleties of the process. A quick google search should help you locate a workshop, training or facilitator in your area and there plenty of videos online documenting the process.
3. Ecstatic Movement and Dance
Ecstatic movement and dance have long been used by indigenous cultures from around the world as a way to elevate consciousness and induce states of bliss, ecstasy, oneness and expanded awareness. Similar to Holotropic breathwork they induce healing in a number of ways both on an emotional, spiritual and physical level.
Ecstatic movement and dance are different from normal movement and dance in that they are typically spontaneous and non-linear, meaning that there is no ‘move’ or pattern to follow. Instead, the natural impulses and intuitions of the body are given rise, literally letting whatever feels good or right in that moment guide your expression and movement.
This could range from subtle shaking to wild arching movements of the limbs and spine to complete stillness and everything in between. There is no form, only formlessness and spontaneity. While it is not fully understood how and why ecstatic movement and dance are such powerful healing tools, they have been used for thousands of years to reliably induce states of ecstasy, bliss, catharsis and healing.
Best of all they are fun, safe and require no training to become an expert, although you can certainly get better at the process of letting go and becoming more self-expressive over time.
Part of the reason why ecstatic movement and dance are such powerful modalities is that they tend to remove energetic blockages in the meridian and nervous systems of the body. Chinese medicine philosophy postulates that energy can and does become trapped in our bodies along our meridians and throughout the nervous system in response to both everyday stress and old emotional wounds that we have not yet let released. This is the foundational behind the practice of acupuncture, which is aimed at freeing this trapped or blocked Qi in the body through the use of strategically inserted needles, which stimulate and balance the meridians and often lead to profound mental, emotional and physical healing.
Ecstatic movement and dance work in much the same way as acupuncture as the rhythmic shaking, dancing and movement of the body works out these blockages by stimulating the meridians and nervous system without the use of needles. If you observe a baby for any length of time you’ll notice they are constantly wriggling and shaking somewhat spasmodically. This is actually emotional energy running through their nervous system and meridians releasing itself organically from the body in a more mellow form of ongoing ecstatic movement. It’s a natural process of the body to release emotional energy through movement, but seeing as how most of learn to censor our self expression as we get older to fit in with the expectations of societal and cultural norms, that spontaneous emotional release and expression becomes stifled, creating energy imbalances in the body.
Ecstatic movement and dance allows us that freedom of movement and expression we deeply crave and is a powerful tool for healing, release and accessing states of ecstasy and bliss.
Exercise: Ecstatic Movement and Dance
- Find a space either indoors or out where you can move wildly or freely without injuring yourself.
- Put on music you enjoy that makes you want to move or dance.
- Spend 5-10 minutes or more moving or dancing in whatever way shape or form feels most natural and pleasurable to you in the moment. If you are not sure what to do at first you can begin by letting your body shake somewhat forcefully all over. Then as you get into a flow and begin to loosen up, start expressing whatever type of movement intuitively feels right in that moment. Don’t be afraid to really let yourself go and get into it. The more you are feeling the somatic experience of it all and the less you are thinking about everything the better.
- When it feels right stop and become totally still either standing straight up in a relaxed position or laying flat on your back with your arms and legs stretched out in a comfortable position.
- Be still and let yourself feel and tune into the energy coursing throughout your body and in the immediate field around you. Remain in this state as long as you like.
At this point, if you really let yourself go and got into it, you’ll likely feel intense ecstasy, bliss and energy moving and surging throughout and around your body. Often times old emotions come up and are released either during or after the ecstatic movement and dance session and if they do for you be sure to give yourself space to work through whatever is present. If something is intense, feel free to combine exercises and move into a space of love and forgiveness and use that as a tool to work with whatever is present.
About the author:
Justin Faerman is a visionary change-agent, entrepreneur and healer dedicated to evolving global consciousness, bridging science and spirituality and spreading enlightened ideas on both an individual and societal level. He is the co-founder of Conscious Lifestyle Magazine and a sought after coach and teacher, known for his pioneering work in the area of flow. He is largely focused on applied spirituality, which is translating abstract spiritual concepts and ideas into practical, actionable techniques for creating a deeply fulfilling, prosperous life.