Bliss is not so much the fulfillment of bodily desires and emotional yearnings as it is freedom from enthrallment to these desires and yearnings, which can always be relied upon to disturb or unseat us from our true bliss. This observation is not confined solely to desire, but applies to all of the affects and perturbations of the soul. Bliss and serene contentedness, or poised neutrality, are one and the same. When you meditate, observe how your desires hijack your attention and direct it away from the center. Even the craving for centeredness, when it becomes urgently pressing, stands as a kind of impediment to perfect peace of mind. Our desires spontaneously project imagined objects or ends (desiderata), while genuine bliss seems to consist in the absence of all such objects of desire—being always sufficient unto itself. The inversion of desire, of course, is fear—and fear is every bit as effective a disrupter of our spiritual poise as desire is.
Some persons do not respond trustingly and receptively to the neutral bliss of perfect meditation, or centeredness. It is not that these persons find it unpalatable, an absurd suggestion, since bliss is intrinsically pleasant; rather, they are rattled by the fact that, once experienced, it throws all of their established, long believed-in, human-all-too-human goals, pleasures, and assumptions into a peculiar light. Genuine spiritual illumination necessarily exposes all merely human aims, pleasures, and dreams for the shadows and poor substitutes (for genuine spiritual contentment) that, alas, they are.
I suspect that most, if not all, persons, at one time or another, enjoy spontaneously occurring moments of this unadulterated spiritual bliss. These moments probably occur more frequently during childhood—before the young person has become fully enmeshed in his/her role(s) and functions within society. Once mundane reality and everyday demands have thoroughly conscripted our souls and we become the more or less helpless servants of our desires, duties, talents, fears, and so forth, it becomes far more difficult for us to relax our way into the stillpoint. But if perchance such a moment of grace lifts such a slave out of his bondage, soon after the joy of liberation is savored ‘the world’ and one’s established place in that world reasserts its dominating power over us and the moment of joy is drowned out by the noise and bustle of ‘real life.’
Every once in awhile, here and there among the children of men, someone will say to himself after such a moment of euphoric freedom: ‘This is the true reality! The scripted and plotted life that I lead as an ego among other egos is the inauthentic, artificial realm of experience!’ In deciding to switch his allegiance from the world of social duties and limited personal attachments to the inner path of spiritual liberation, he initially invites all sorts of trouble into his life. The transformation he has inwardly committed himself to will not happen quickly or painlessly. It is perhaps the hardest thing in the world to overcome one’s attachments to the world, for what this ultimately comes down to is overcoming our deeply-rooted desire for incarnation in the world of ordinary human experience. Before we can truly and enduringly abide in the spirit, we must die to the world. Each lives the other’s death, in a very real sense.
For a long time, therefore, the committed seeker after spiritual liberation will be mired in the agonizing struggle to master those recurring desires and stubborn attachments that define his personal ego consciousness and the general trajectory of his life. It may be the desire for fame as a great teacher or saint that is the secret engine driving his ego, or it may be a sentimental, sticky attachment to his mate or his child. Persons who are profoundly attached—or addicted—to sensual pleasures, to personal power and wealth, or to intoxicants of some kind or another are not likely candidates for enduring spiritual liberation, since these compulsions are exceedingly difficult to break free from, not to speak of the more vicious and brutish inclinations which have captured the helpless souls of the criminally depraved and the possessed.
The protracted and arduous struggles of the committed seeker after release (from the compulsive tendencies and the pet illusions of his own ego) will be rewarded from time to time with reassuring episodes of great inner peace and an extraordinary sense of groundedness in his true and authentic essence. These periodically encountered oases of spiritual refreshment and encouragement have certainly restored my own strength and determination as I have trudged through the desert of the world as experienced and known only by the ego. Only after we have lost our initial innocence and ignorance (about the actual hollowness and essential fraudulence of the ‘constructed’ world and its offerings) are we in a position to systematically deconstruct that world—to see through it and to gradually extricate ourselves from its seductive snares. Without these periodic infusions of spiritual insight and encouragement, we would possess no counterweight against the tantalizing pull of the world—or, contrariwise, against the nihilism of despair, which constitutes every bit as strong an obstacle to our inner freedom.
Who, then, is committed? It is not—it cannot rightfully be—the ego, since it is the ego’s perspective that is being seen through, relativized, and, ultimately transcended. It is the spirit-spark itself—what the Hindus call atman—that is behind the whole process, from start to finish. We find an analogy in Gnostic mythology: Sophia, believing that she was pursuing the light of the hidden God, was actually plunging into matter, where the divine light was being reflected. Similarly, the atman, or spirit, may be said to have become identified with its shadow, or reflection, in the individual human ego—its carnal twin. The spirit is awakening from that slumberous descent—returning to its true home—leaving behind the lesser lights for the ‘invisible sun.’
 When we experience exceptional joy or happiness while engaged in some activity or in beholding some beautiful scene, the activity or the scene may best be thought of as opening a portal or window into the joy or bliss that is always native to our innermost being—if we could but see this. What happens though, is that we typically reify the happiness and conflate it with the activity or with the scene which, properly speaking, are merely occasions for the bliss that is always within reach, regardless of the circumstances.