In Praise of Ecstasy

by Christopher Lovejoy on May 22, 2011

In my experience, ecstasy is the ultimate in surrender.

As I indicated a couple of weeks ago in my post, The Art of Surrender, ecstasy is one of five of my essential values, representing a culmination of my most important values.

But what is ecstasy exactly?

The Meaning of Ecstasy

Ecstasy is one of those words that carries multiple meanings, but when I examine the mainstream definitions of this word, I’m still not clear about what it actually means.

To say that ecstasy is ‘a state beyond reason or self-control’ says nothing positive about what it is. Is it a state of being, a state of mind, a state of emotion? And if so, what kind?

To say that ecstasy is ‘a state of overwhelming emotion’ says nothing about the character of ecstasy itself. I can be overwhelmed with grief, but this says nothing about ecstasy.

To say that ecstasy is ‘a mystical or prophetic trance’ describes a certain kind of behavior, but says nothing about ecstasy as a state of being, state of mind, or state of emotion.

And to say that ecstasy is ‘a synthetic amphetamine analog C11H15NO2, used for its mood-enhancing, hallucinogenic properties’, says next to nothing about the end result of ingesting it.

In my search for meaning, I did find one clue as to the character of ecstasy: a state of rapturous delight. Curiously, rapture is described both as a synonym and as an expression of ecstasy.

Delight itself can be quite intense, but by definition, only approaches ecstasy with the experience of rapture.

What is delightful?

This depends, not on what you desire, but on what you discover to be desirable, and you’ll never know what you find desirable unless or until you “stay open” and “put yourself out there”.

When you do, you can start answering one, some, or all of these questions:

What stimulates my physical senses? What engages my sense of excitement? What involves my sense of humor? What affects my sense of curiosity? What arouses my sense of wonder?

All of these questions might provide you with answers that hold clues to what brings you extreme pleasure, extreme satisfaction, extreme gratification – to what brings you rapturous delight.

Also, when you’re mindful of your words and feelings and behavior leading up and up to a state of ecstasy, you need not lose your capacity for reason or your sense of control along the way.

You need not be overwhelmed by emotion if you can ride the full intensity of it.

You need not enter a trance to experience ecstasy and you need not use a substance to get there (which is not to dismiss or denigrate the prudent use of such substances).

With presence of mind, a rapture can be experienced and enjoyed fully in the present moment.

With presence of mind, you can allow yourself to be lifted up and carried away on a wave of intense delight, be transported with the most delightful of emotions (enraptured), and be wholly absorbed by what you’re thinking, feeling, seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling, and/or doing.

In ecstasy, your body, mind, heart, soul, and spirit are seized with delight, in a place where you can dwell or move consciously outside the experience of ordinary waking consciousness.

Because rapturous delight (ecstasy) is so all-encompassing, I would venture to say that it’s a vivid and intense experience of being, having, and feeling – all rolled into one seamless state.

Synonyms for ‘ecstatic’ round out its meaning and include the following: elated, elevated, enraptured, entranced, euphoric, exhilarated, giddy, heady, intoxicated, rapturous, and rhapsodic.

In the final analysis, it seems that the ultimate meaning of ecstasy is ostensive.

That is, unless you’ve experienced it, you’ll never know it.

Are You Open to Ecstasy?

I was talking on the phone last night with someone close to me about the meaning of ecstasy and she called me early this morning and left a message on my voicemail with a delightful suggestion.

She woke up this morning to the sound of birds chirping up a storm at the dawn of a new spring day. To her, the birds sounded ecstatic, either because she herself was feeling ecstatic and was projecting this emotion, or because the birds were ecstatic and she was empathizing and responding accordingly.

I suppose that the birth of ecstasy in our lives can go both ways.

Something in our environment triggers a state of ecstasy waiting to be born, or a state of ecstasy builds in us to a point where we project it onto something in our environment.

We could be feeling really good about ourselves and our lives.

We could be feeling really good about having accomplished something worthwhile and meaningful.

We could be feeling really good about being in harmony with those we love.

We could be feeling really good about any one or more of these outcomes and still not be open to the experience of ecstasy.

I imagine there’s a reason why this is so (I’ll be exploring this possibility shortly), but if you’re in touch with your delight, why not allow yourself to take it to the next level?

And if you have taken it to the next level, and are comfortable doing so on occasion, are you presently satisfied that you’re doing it as often as you would like?

A Cultural Context for Ecstasy

In the 1961 movie, Diary of A Nudist, Arthur Sherwood, editor-in-chief for his local newspaper, got lost while hunting, and stumbled upon a nudist camp called Sunny Palms Lodge.

Outraged, he vowed to do something about it.

Back at the office, he managed (with difficulty) to persuade Stacy Taylor, one of his best reporters, to go undercover into Sunny Palms Lodge and dig up the dirt on what went on there.

She applied for entry, obtained membership, and got her feet wet inside the camp. Her job was to file reports over a two-week period with Mr. Sherwood, but before long, her reports began to glow.

Mr. Sherwood, of course, would have none of this. He called her back to the office, demanding to know what she was doing. She insisted, however, on speaking her truth, honestly, and with integrity.

She related that she enjoyed her experience at Sunny Palms Lodge and found absolutely nothing wrong with any of it, and for saying so and for standing by her claims, he fired her on the spot.

After which she challenged him to find out for himself.

He did, and to cut a long story short, he agonized over his inability to find anything wrong with his experience at Sunny Palms Lodge, and ended up writing a favorable piece for his paper.

I’d like to explore the significance of this synopsis, but before I do, I’d like to draw your attention to a couple of scenes of ecstasy that I observed in this unusually wholesome movie.

The first scene involves Stacy Taylor getting sprayed by a gush of water from a hose. At first, she resists, as the water is quite cold. Although she is standing and laughing delightedly under the sun, twisting her body on the spot with other lovely ladies nearby, she eventually decides to take the full brunt of the stream to her bouncing breasts, allowing herself to enjoy an experience of ecstasy.

The second scene involves Stacy Taylor standing waist-deep in a pool of water, tossing a ball back and forth with a half dozen men and women. At first, it’s evident that she’s delighted to be there, taking delight in catching, tossing, or volleying the large beach ball with her delighted playmates, but before long, her delight intensifies into an ecstatic dance with the ball and her playmates in the pool.

These scenarios are instructive for a number of reasons.

First, ecstasy requires the seed of delight. Ecstasy requires a surge of delight that reflects the infusion of joy into taking great pleasure, with a high degree of gratification or with extreme satisfaction.

Second, the intensification of delight towards ecstasy often comes as a delightful surprise, and if you’re open to the approach of ecstasy, you’ll have a better chance of getting a taste of it.

Third, the experience of ecstasy no doubt requires that you be open to your sexuality, to the flow of your sexual energy, and to the alignment of your sexual feelings with love and joy.

Fourth, the experience of delight and its intensification into ecstasy can, in the right environment and for the right reasons, easily involve the participation of delightful and delighted others.

The environment portrayed at Sunny Palms Lodge was warm, pleasant, and inviting. The people in this environment were friendly, easy-going, and joyous. The quality of this environment and its people made it possible for Stacy Taylor to release her inhibitions – to relax, receive, and respond in kind.

What more could we say about a culture that supports the experience of ecstasy?

In the fourth episode of a wonderful series of five episodes called The Pyramid Code, the hostess presented a fascinating contrast between patriarchal and matriarchal ways of being, having, and doing:

Patriarchal            Matriarchal

History                  Eternity
Linear time           Cycles of time
Dogma                  Ritual
Rationality            Magic
Waking reality      Altered states
Science                  Art

It’s no accident that Diary of A Nudist was directed and produced by a woman, and I have no doubt that she would’ve adapted quite nicely to the matriarchal society of Ancient Egypt in its Golden Age.

In patriarchal environments, the primary intention of those who inhabit them is to harness and direct the masculine energies of domination and control, even at the expense of feminine energy.

In matriarchal environments, of which Sunny Palms Lodge is one delightful example, the primary intent of those who occupy them is to enjoy a fruitful balance between feminine and masculine energy.

The matriarchal emphasis is on timeless involvement, inclusive rituals, magical moments, and states of consciousness that extend and expand beyond the narrow bandwidth of masculine directives.

Where patriarchal systems tend to suppress feminine energy, crushing joy, delight, and ecstasy in the process, matriarchal organizations and practices are more inclusive, tending to balance feminine and masculine energies, allowing a wide range of wholesome feelings, desires, expectations, and intentions to flourish, all within a healthy, balanced mosaic of coordination, cooperation, and collaboration.

Rather than get caught up in obsessive, compulsive, aggressive acts of dominance that spiral down into regressive fits of apoplexy, we would all do well to consider the cultural benefits of balance.

With balance comes freedom, and with freedom comes delight – and the possibility of ecstasy.

A Natural Experience of Ecstasy

In my primer on personal fulfillment, Your Life Your Dream, I wrote, and I quote:

I remember the day it happened.

I was on a small private island, in the middle of nowhere, on a warm, breezy summer afternoon.

I was lying on my back under a maple tree with my head in my hands, gazing up at leaves tossing and swishing in the breeze.

I had lost all sense of time.

Without a care in the world, I was in a wild kind of heaven, away from the stress and strain of city life.

It felt good to be here, all alone, in my bliss, letting my mind drift, inviting my soul, relaxing my body, and giving my spirit rest.

In this scenario, the seed of delight was the experience of being alone on a small private island, miles from civilization, in the heart of a wilderness, on a warm, breezy, sunny day.

While I was lying on my back, I surrendered fully. I surrendered to my senses and to the sensations, and to the world as a whole, and as I surrendered, my delight surged upward.

I was open to this surge, and I surrendered to it.

All of the natural beauty, harmony, serenity, and intimacy that I had experienced up to that point were converging, reaching upward towards a crescendo of delight.

Although there was no one around to witness it, or to share in it, or to intensify it, my delight reached rapturous proportions.

I recall this memory as being quite vivid in its intensity.

In my surrender to the senses and its sensations, I experienced delight and ecstasy. I recall that I came out of my experience with ecstasy, went back up into it, and then came out of it again.

I felt good about myself and my life. I felt good that I had organized and orchestrated this vacation on my own. I felt good that I was in harmony with myself and everything around me.

The stars had aligned, so to speak, and I surrendered fully to the experience.

Are You Willing to Surrender?

Each and every moment of your life is an opportunity for conscious surrender.

Under the pall of patriarchal conditioning, however, it can be hard to imagine how this could be so.

The obsessive, compulsive, aggressive, regressive, controlling, demanding, dominating energies of hypermasculinity and their sometimes-subtle, sometimes-obvious effects are everywhere present, and the world is a profoundly contracted and constricted place because of them.

We have women who mimic these energies, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, but the toll they take on their health and well-being, both in the short-term and the long-term, are steep and costly.

We have women who, knowing how sick and pathetic these energies are, retreat into a deeply feminine position, sacrificing any and all masculine energies, and expect their lovable men to do the same.

We have men who are so caught up in these enervating energies that they use, abuse, and accuse the women around them so that they can experience some faint glimmer of vitality in their pitiful lives.

And we have men who are so sick and tired of these distorted masculine energies that they either fall back into a feminine perspective or they drop the masculine-feminine polarity altogether.

The world today is full of aggressive and neutered men and women, and so, when I ask you, are you willing to surrender?, what exactly am I asking you to do?

I’m simply asking you this: are you willing to surrender your delight to ecstasy?

Of course, there’s a big presumption in this question – perhaps an impossible one. I’m presuming that you’re still capable of experiencing delight more often than not in your life.

For without a capacity to experience delight in all of its intensity, ecstasy is but a distant dream.

Certainly, we can continue to use or abuse each other in our sexual encounters to make up for this lack of delight in our lives, but I would respectfully have you consider a healthier alternative.

It’s a simple alternative, really, but it’s one that would have you give up your masks of invulnerability. It’s one that would have you recall the power of beauty, harmony, and serenity into your lives.

It’s one that would have you increase your encounters with natural beauty and your experiences with harmony, and to allow their influence to bring you back into a natural state of serenity.

It’s one that would have you filter out the physical and emotional violence that is so prevalent in what passes for art and entertainment these days. It’s one that would have you restore your relationship with genuine intimacy on all levels – with yourself, with another, or with others. And if you’re a priest or a nun, it’s one that would have you relinquish your vow of celibacy and exchange it for a marriage vow – or no vow at all.

With beauty, harmony, serenity, and intimacy comes delight, and with the best of intentions, such delight can be allowed to surge and peak in many varieties of artful, magical, timeless rituals.

Sexual Ecstasy: A Special Case

Osho doesn’t mince words when he talks about love and sex.

For him, making love is a sacred experience. He councils us to slow down, to be a witness to sexual intercourse, blending love and joy with pleasure and desire, and to savor the experience.

Osho grants an audience to a lady, who asks him for a simple method of meditation that would enable latin lovers to “find their way”. He ends up giving her a small treatise on making love.

He begins by telling her that the simplest method is to treat the experience of making love as sacred, while keeping in mind that all religions everywhere have destroyed the sanctity of love. And here, he’s talking about the sanctity of sexual love, maintaining that they’ve condemned sexual love as a sin.

The evidence for this condemnation, for Osho, is that so many of us are so deeply conditioned to believe that sexual love is a grave and grievous sin that we’re all in a mad rush to make love, as if we need to finish it off as quickly as possible. Lo and behold, there’s even a word for it: ‘quickie’.

Osho: “naturally, if it is a sin, it is better finished soon”.

This would make sense, especially if your heart is guilt-ridden about sex and your mind so full of sin that love and joy and delight stand no chance of being absorbed by your sexual feelings.

By dropping or uprooting and purging the priestly notion that sexual love is a sin, making love as a meditative experience can then invite the heart of your soul to take delight in exquisite pleasures.

When you can finally view, treat, and know sexual love as the immensely beautiful and harmonious experience that it is, the experience of ecstasy riding high on pure delight can’t be too far away.

In essence, Osho advises us to be grateful for the gift of sexual love – not guilty.

I can well imagine the beneficial consequences of this gratitude for individual, collective, and cultural expression.

Thought du Jour

Be present to your ascent into ecstasy, as you surrender artfully, magically, and timelessly to your delight along the way, and be a witness to an extraordinary, intensely pleasurable state of being.

Let us engage the matrix of all matter to make ecstasy a reality for everyone.

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