Author of The Bliss Experiment:
28 Days to Personal Transformation
Q: Why Bliss? Is bliss better than happiness? How do they differ?
Bliss is a far more advanced state of being/awareness/consciousness than happiness. There’s nothing deeply transformative or permanent about happiness, it’s incomplete. We can be happy, then fall into unhappiness.
Happiness requires external situations and relationships to reach fruition. Bliss doesn’t require any kind of outer relationship with the world—not even a positive one. Another crucial difference: happiness can be pursued and to some extent, requires action. Bliss, on the other hand, is a state of being. It is about stripping away all that is not bliss.
Seeking bliss helps with stress, anxiety, and depression. It makes people more successful, better able to see and seize opportunities, have more friends, improve social relationships and, importantly, it is the most effective, all-encompassing, and enduring solution for our global challenges.
Q: You say that happiness is an important steppingstone on the way to bliss; can you elaborate on that?
Ultimately, the ability to feel happiness and then bliss are skills. We can choose to put ourselves in the position to feel greater happiness and to tune into bliss. Many of the skills necessary for happiness are building blocks of bliss. They don’t give us bliss themselves but we need them under our belt to have the tools necessary to access bliss.
Q: Tell us about the Happiness Scale, and the stages of Numbness, Pleasure, False Happiness, Everyday Happiness, and Bliss.
Numbness is the first stage on the happiness scale. Many of us are suffering so terribly—whether physically, mentally, or spiritually—that just to stop the suffering for even a little bit by numbing ourselves seems like incredible progress. To break through our unfeeling barriers, we begin pursuing easy pleasures such as sex, shopping, eating, travel, as well as certain drugs like GHB, cocaine, or Ecstasy. False happiness is that often-fleeting feeling we experience when we have temporarily fulfilled our desires, before the next desires come crashing through. What I call “everyday happiness” is a genuine type of happiness, and finding it involves positive traits including gratitude, optimism, serving others, experiencing a sense of connection, and having a small sense of purpose or meaning. Far beyond everyday happiness is infinite, ever-new, all-encompassing bliss — and we all have the capacity to experience it.
We progress step by step, and we have our moments of numbness, of simple pleasures, and of higher order things, all mixed together. As we become more aware of these states of consciousness and the skills necessary for each, we naturally begin spending more of our time and awareness at the higher end of the scale.
Q: You say that we “all have within us a remarkable, even infinite, capacity for lasting joy.” How can we access it?
Think of bliss as something all around us, something that we are swimming in, surrounded by, just like the invisible radio waves and cell phone signals zooming by and through us right this moment. We can learn to tune into bliss, like we tune a radio to a certain station. We’re not creating anything. It’s already there.
The first step is the most important: Be aware it exists. Once you look for it, it’s relatively easy to tune into, at least a little bit. To tune into it a lot requires practice, skill and dedication. To verify it, feel it a little, is not difficult at all. Why? Because we are all born with the innate capacity to do so.
Exercises for activating our bodies, minds, and spirits to acquire the skills to access bliss are in The Bliss Experiment. They include meditation, focusing our minds, being open, living in the present, and shedding many of the attitudes and orientations that keep us from tuning into bliss.
Q: How do we most often get in the way of our own bliss?
Aside from not even knowing or acknowledging it exists, the single biggest mistake we make is to look for bliss outside ourselves in other people, objects, or sensory pleasures. Bliss can’t be found through money and the luxuries that money buys, or through sex, fame, beauty, or power. All of those things are distractions that keep us finding the true doorway to bliss, which is inside ourselves.
Q: What would you say to the “Doubting Thomases”?
First of all, I began as a doubting Thomas myself. I was a skeptical, perhaps even cynical, atheist who thought this was mostly a bunch of crap. So I’m enormously sympathetic to that viewpoint. A lot of what you see in The Bliss Experiment is the distillation of my own journey, of how I started in one place and ended up somewhere else entirely, somewhere quite unexpected.
That said, the most important thing about this book and bliss in general is that I don’t want anyone to take my word for it. There’s a reason this book is called “The Bliss Experiment.” My only desire is to prompt you, especially any doubters, to conduct your experiment and see what you experience for yourself.
In order to help persuade the doubter to try, however, I’ve included over 300 scientific studies that validate virtually every major claim I make. There’s a tremendous body of scientific literature out there, spread across dozens of mainstream journals and conducted by hundreds of researchers at prestigious institutions. This book might be the only place where all of the research is gathered, where the reader can see how it all fits together. When you read all of the scientific evidence, it’s quite powerful and convincing.
Q: What finding surprised you most as you researched the science of bliss?
The biggest surprise was that there are literally thousands of studies that test and prove various aspects of spirituality and spiritual practice, and that the vast majority of them have found positive results. We’ve come to believe that science and spirituality are two separate things, perhaps even hostile to one another or at best, operating in two different realms that can’t really inform us about the other. It turns out that’s not true.
For example, several studies demonstrate that bliss practices create noticeable, measurable changes in our bodies and physiology, increasing brain wave activity that contributes to learning, healing and spiritual growth. Further, it is known that meditation and related practices don’t merely change brain waves, they also permanently alter brain density. The brain’s density tends to thin as we age, leading to a variety of difficulties. A team led by Sarah Lazar at Massachusetts General Hospital discovered that in as little as eight weeks, meditators developed measurable increases in the thickness of the outer layer of the cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex plays an important role in consciousness, especially in the prefrontal regions associated with attention and sensory processing, known to be important for learning and memory. Other studies also suggest that meditation increases blood flow to the brain. Our brain is the body’s largest consumer of oxygen, and the oxygen fed to the brain via the increased blood flow improves cognition and concentration and retards the onset of dementia and brain degeneration.
Q: You say bliss does not require much, not a particular job, spouse, bank account, social status or other external “asset.” If bliss is so simple, how do we miss finding it so often?
Mostly because we’ve subconsciously trained ourselves to look in all the wrong places. Our larger society and culture place emphasis on and convince us to value things that are in fact worthless. A nearly infinite variety of external things—from the big categories like wealth, sex, fame, beauty, or power, to myriad everyday sense pleasures like a nice meal, a beautiful pair of shoes, or a minor flirtation with a co-worker—easily distract us and we end up focusing most of our time on things that pull us away from the experience of bliss within.
When we look for satisfaction outside ourselves, the possibilities that we must sift through never end. As soon as we grow bored, frustrated, or upset with one externality, a new one pops up to take its place. It’s easy to spend an entire lifetime chasing these things.
Q: Would this book have been possible without your own personal journey and challenges?
Sean Meshorer: For me, it wouldn’t have been, but that’s because I’m not particularly smart or sensitive. I needed to do really obviously stupid and painful things to get a clue. My sufferings prompted me on my own journey of exploration. But there are a lot of people who are more intelligent and aware than I am. They wouldn’t need to learn through suffering as much as I did.
Q: An exciting element of your book are the videos instantly downloadable to readers’ smartphones or viewable on your web site via computer, bringing an immediacy to each person’s progress within their personal bliss experiment. How did you design these videos to enhance the readers’ experience of your book?
We’re on the cutting edge of redefining what a book is and how we experience it, going beyond words on the page to add images, sounds, and other forms of interaction. It’s fantastic. If you buy the ebook, you’ll be able to click on the videos throughout from within your reader. If you buy the paper edition, you can use your smartphone, tablet, or computer to immediately call them up and view them as you read. It really enhances the experience and helps us to learn better. We can also introduce videos and explanations over time, supplementing pieces based on your feedback as a reader—say if you want something clarified—so the book continues to deliver new information.
There’s also a companion website, theblissexperiment.com, that includes a complete, interactive community. Readers can share their stories, ask questions, interact with one another, meet like-minded people, gain access to bonus materials, and much more.
Through these advances in technology, we—me as the author, you as the reader—can have a sustained, interactive dialogue. We can work together to learn, grow, and help one another.
Q: What would you like readers to take away from The Bliss Experiment?
First and foremost, that a little bit of bliss changes everything. Knowing bliss exists changes everything. You don’t have to live in bliss every minute for your life to improve in enormous ways.
Second, you can see real, tangible results very quickly, in less than a month. You’ll know in short order if there’s any truth here and you’ll see at least some benefits in your life relatively fast. You don’t have to make a 30-year commitment, or even 30 months. Just give me 30 days and see what happens.
Third, this is not hard work. It’s not “put your shoulder to the grindstone” or “grin and bear it.” As you read this book and go through the practices, your life gets easier, better, and more enjoyable. This easy program is fun, and the more you do it, the happier, lighter, and more bliss-filled you’ll be.