Of Bliss and Basking

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM July 8, 2018

What ushers you into a state of bliss and where do you go from there?

This is the question I was holding after observing a bee who visited my tiny garden, now a riot of vibrant pink, deep purple, golden yellow. A bumblebee—you know, the delightfully fat, furry, and friendly species—had hovered over and inspected my entire lavender patch before selecting just the right landing space.bumblebee in lavender copy

In writing for Living Faith recently (June 27, 2018), I described this visit as a bee Examen of sorts, where the bee hovered as if discerning where to pause, where to pay attention, what to give time and energy to, and whether a stop at a particular flower would fulfill its needs for a flourishing life. Bumblebees, unlike honeybees, make only small amounts of honey for their own food. There’s no carrying it off to the hive to produce mass quantities for the colony. So am I too far off base in wondering if, in the case of this particular bumblebee, this visit was not only a practical one to replenish food and take a bit of rest, but also a blissful one? The bumblebee remained unmoving for hours, submerged in what I would have to name as purple ecstasy.

In the butterfly world, there’s a parallel practice to this nurturing pause, but with a different purpose. Butterflies don’t generate enough heat themselves to provide the energy needed to fly, so they engage in what’s called reflectance basking. They use their wings like solar panels, capturing the energy of the sun by exposing the surface area of their wings directly to the sun’s rays. After landing on a leaf or a flower, they often engage in opening their wings fully to achieve maximum exposure to the warm rays of the sun. This enables them to warm themselves, gain energy, and fly. Practical, yes, but if you’ve ever seen a butterfly basking, you may agree with me that there seems to be an element of bliss involved in that stillness.

Bumblebees, butterflies, and us. Perhaps what propels us into bliss is as individual and unique as we are. I have a long list of what takes me out of myself and leaves me wordless and overcome by awe and wonder. My bliss might be a quiet look of love, the hand of a friend in mine, surprising acts of tenderness and peacemaking, the subtle beauty that grabs my soul and saves the world, the unexpected graces that make me sit up and gratefully take notice. When experiencing bliss, I desire to linger and to bask in those transformative moments. And then to return, as I surely must, to the seemingly ordinary and everyday, the routine that Jack Kornfeld and Corita Kent both describe as “After the ecstasy, the laundry.” And oh, what glorious laundry it is!

Like the bumblebee fed by its lingering in lavender, like the butterfly fluttering to new heights after its momentary pause, aren’t you, as James Houghton notes, “closer to glory leaping an abyss than upholstering a rut?” Once you’ve experienced joy and rapture of any kind, how do you remain with that? How do you mine it and let it feed you for the lean times which will certainly enter your life at some future point? Where do you store bliss so that it continues to bless not only you but all who will come into your field of energy and consciousness?

So, tell me: What ushers you into a state of bliss? Where do you linger and bask? How do you return to the dailiness of life in some way transformed, and then how are you called to share that blessing with the world both near and far?


Bask in stillness with the Holy One.
Reflect on an experience of beauty, of bliss, that still resonates with you.
What might that experience have offered you of fresh ways to engage in your daily life?
Give thanks to the Holy One for this graced experience.

Chris Koellhoffer
Chris Koellhoffer

Please continue to hold in your prayer my IHM community as we enter into our Chapter (governing body of the Congregation) and elections of new leadership this week. 

Please also remember in your prayer writing projects and a retreat I’m leading for the Sisters of Mercy in Biddeford, Maine. Thank you.

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4 thoughts on “Of Bliss and Basking”

  1. Dearest Chris, I am sitting on my deck and feeling a sense of bliss basking in this exquisite morning and breathing in the breath of lGod offering prayers for all brothers and sisters throughout the world. Right now my heart wants to send forth strength and courage to the poor boys in the cave frightened and longing for safe return. The same for the migrant children and parents.

    Yesterday I saw 4 or 5 butterflies clustered on a twig in the road. I wondered what that was about. Maybe they were storing heat and energy for their flight. Thank you for helping me mine my world this day as we are united with all creation in every way.
    Blessings dear friend as we too store up what is needed for our journey.

  2. There is nothing to add to what you have said so well about the power of extraordinary things transforming the mundane. I really liked your affectionate description of the bumblebee which has stayed with me. I see them in an entirely different light now!

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