Ananda: Count Your Bliss-Ings, Not Your Troubles.


A lover of poetry and Yoga, sex and wine, and family and friends, I, like the rest of humanity, yearn for blissful moments.

Though I am not a scholar of Sanskrit or the Vedantas with its Hindu terms in metes and measures, I sometimes look to their words for understanding bliss and for creativity.

On a particularly grey day of dreary weather and woe in the face of loss — my mother’s withering mind, my oldest daughter’s going off to college next month, the recent loss of my second career in the kind of misstep that leaves me in awe of how close we all are always to falling into the margins — I contemplate bliss and its countless manifestations just to cheer me up.

However, more often I catalogue my gifts to inspire longer-term goals like grateful living and daily writing.

We, my lingual species, take for granted words like bliss, happiness, joy and even sadness, depression or despair, the ready words to capture nuances of feeling.

Yet, as a complexly feeling people, we enjoy labeling the colors of our moods, one of the many inheritances that distinguishes us from other earthly creatures.

Bliss, with its thick, rich history and vibrancy steers us through that complexity as it soaks us with recognition, sense and order. The feathered tendrils of meaning that touch upon its neighboring moods captured in Pleasure and Delight, create extensions that reach down and through our lives.

Whether we search the Oxford English Dictionary or the Vedas and the Dictionary for Spoken Sanskrit, Anandathe Sanskrit word for Bliss, wholly resonates the thought-emotion from the eternal to the local. I often write on it for poetic inspiration, especially when my mood and writing discipline falters.

Its order and principles cure writer’s block.

When I am stuck, I, like the Sanskrit Dictionary, begin with Pleasure, a term with associations ranging from the simple, like the tickle of childhood in watching the mercury bubble gurgle to and fro inside the glass of an old-time thermometer, to the ecstatic, like orgasm from an in-love-with lover or the runners high amid the stillness of a solitary crisp morning run along a cow-lined country lane in the heather of Central France.

Pleasure alone is not enough, however, for the distinct flavors of bliss parsed from the Sanskrit. Thinly sliced from Pleasure is Sensual Pleasure, which I must confess drives my daily experiences.

Lured by all that teases the senses, I can close my eyes and smell the house-filled aroma of garlicky tomato sauce simmering, and feel the headiness of inhaling the sweet, milky scent of my infants skin.

Poetry writes itself to the earliest memories of my mothers fingernails stroking the scalp beneath the thick curls framing my resting head in her lap.

Two others related to Sensual Pleasure are Sensual Joy, found in a late Friday afternoon nap, unclothed and entwined with a lover, and a Kind of Flute, an instrument hollow and wooden or a vessel for champagne, both soothing and stimulating the ears and mind.

The memory sounds of dancing to South American pan flutes puffed outside the market in downtown Caracas and toasting in the New Year float in the buzz of the bubbles and sway.

Which is a different high from Delight, a sharper-edged bliss compared to the roundness of pleasure. I find it in placing that last piece into that one perfectly matched squiggly space left in the 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle or the 20-dollar bill pulled from the pocket of my jeans one unsuspecting morning.

Its the imagined light, that switches on when it all suddenly makes sense.

Happiness strikes me as less spiky than the sparkle and shine of Delight, deeper set and sustained: the mood makes us skip down the path just because it is a lightness in the step, in the being. Turn happiness up a notch, to a swelling sustenance to the heart, and you have Joy.

Joy catches us unawares, say, when a mother turns from her busy-ness to spy her infants gaze following her every movement. However, Joys cousin Enjoyment is quieter, less a beaming and more a warmth, though no less satisfying.

For me, its a book to live in for a while; the first bite of deep, dark, smoky chocolate; or the silent spell of a Shakespearean sonnet.

Pure Happiness is seeing the fruits of our efforts to help others ripen and blossom, or the awe of creating another human being through unimaginable struggle.

Yet another bliss, Cheerfulness is not so much a mood as a temperament that drifts between internal and external space: the unforced mental smile naturally unfolding at the thought of another day as another opportunity to get something right or the gleam in the eyes of the genuine gift-giver.

Some types of bliss follow strife, a sort of relief, as in the contrast of high pressure to low. I imagine this sensation in Sanskrit as End of the Drama.

I think of it as resolution after the struggle, war, riot, tussle, or tragedy and in another bliss  a Thing Wished For the triumph of acceptance, often a satisfactory ending to a poor beginning.

Reaching to the sublime, Beatitude anticipates the first spring blossom clearing the snow face, break-through acts of kindness, a helping hand when all hope is lost, a miracle, and natures whisper.

Somehow related in my mind, one of the three Attributes of Atman or Brahman in the Vedanta Philosophy means a sort of holy, the oneness at the tip of the final exhale concluding meditation.

In all things comes the contentment in order: name of the Forty-Eighth year of the cycle of Jupiter intuits that human comfort in prediction and patterns and the recognition of the unknowable vastness, the multiverse, of which we are merely particles from planetary bursts  as well as the burden that knowledge relieves.

Finally earthbound and encircling ourselves, Bliss is a Kind of House, like all shelters that provide the safety and security that we imagined as children gleefully building blanket forts in the living room.

A trick of the mind or a daily devotion, inventorying all that makes us happy, not only soundly defeats the writing doldrums but potentially pulls us from a slump, maybe even depression. The habit balances us if not as an antidote, at least as a partial cure for the ills of a day or a lifeand improves health.

A day when even the sun seems to let us down is perfect for cataloguing gifts and counting bliss-ings. Let us begin with Ananda.

(Note: Classifications of Ananda are in the Dictionary for Spoken Sanskrit; definitions are in the mind of this stargazing poet.)


Pamela Gerber is a college Instructor of English Composition, writer and blogger, who practices Yoga and teenager-parenting in Huntington Beach, California.


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