But what about P.L.E.A.S.U.R.E? Can we really learn to allow joy to spring upon the simplest cues, such as the sight of a beautiful green apple?
We absolutely can.
It’s true that our capacities for pleasure vary. But whatever your tendencies, we probably all could stand to make some gains when it comes to pleasure.
If, for example, you rely on food, drugs, or alcohol to give you that buzz you seek, then I’d say you got some work to do, amigo. Alternatively, your issue may be accepting pleasure, for example, that of a genuine, unexpected compliment. On a wider scale, you might not be showing up for the all the goodness that’s available. To be honest, I can’t think of a single person I know who that doesn’t apply to.
Many of us show signs of being desensitized to pleasure. In Eastern philosophy, this would be called a blocked or underused sacral chakra. In the West, it would be called a disconnection from, or an inability to find, the present moment.
This post talks about the consequences of putting boundaries on our ability to feel pleasure, and outlines some simple ways to find happiness in the small stuff.
So what’s the big deal, anyway?
What’s wrong with being dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure?
Hot-tailing pleasure kind of makes it elusive and less easily available. Have you ever noticed? This can lead to unhealthy excesses.
When we pursue pleasure as an MO, we never really quite get there. It’s like that tasty meal or date you’ve been waiting for all day. Because you spent the whole day thinking about it/them and not really being where you were, you never really arrive to receive the thing/person. You mentally aren’t there, because you’ve wired your brain that way. Call it the Pleasure Paradox.There is a paradox at the heart of pursuing pleasure Click To Tweet
Another pitfall is a pervasive sense of restlessness, and structuring your life around the pursuit. Unfortunately, life can’t be all about pleasure. We know this. Sometimes, we need to pursue delayed gratification as a goal.
Okay, so what do we do?
I would say that pursuing pleasure has been a pretty dominant strategy for me in life. My inability to find enjoyment easily has been a gift as well as an obstacle; it has driven me to try a lot of different experiences, which is great. But obviously, it has its painful aspects.There is shame with admitting to not being able to feel pleasure that easily Click To Tweet
My direction of growth has been in relearning that joy is available from wherever I am, and whatever I am doing. Trust me when I tell you that this used to sound very unrealistic! But actually, like most of us, I live the kind of life where the opportunities for small pleasures are so prolific, it’s silly.
Can you relate?
There are simple practices we can do to reverse our ‘want of pleasure’ approach to life. Practices that, miraculously, can lead us to take pleasure in things like watching a movie, or relaxing whilst waiting for a train. (I know that for me, such activities used to make me impatient, so being able to enjoy them now is great.) I have slowed down my tendency for mentally escaping into planning pleasant possibilities (this was my favorite thing to do!)
It is counter-intuitive, but joy in the moment happens when we stop struggling against it. When we relax into it. And let life do it!
Here’s what I suggest that you do:
Start to observe yourself more closely to catch yourself going onto ‘pleasure wanting’ mode. And then ask yourself what’s missing from the picture. Usually, it’s presence.
Admitting that you don’t feel pleasure all that easily is hard as there is shame and stigma associated with that. But I encourage you to give permission to your dissatisfied inner child!
2. Learning to inhabit the present moment more
We all have different ways of abandoning the present. I’ve shown you mine – planning for pleasant possibilities. What’s yours?
Because I am so hopeless at this, I need (and do) practice a lot.Savouring the day's lovely moments helps wire your brain to find pleasure in the small things Click To Tweet
I use my breath whenever I remember, to bring my mind back to my body, my sensations and environment. I do my best to practice savoring when drinking my coffee, at mealtimes and during conversations. I slow down to feel of the warm water when I wash my hands. And look up to the sight of the cherry blossom trees outside my window.
I use my yoga and meditation practice to help me to train these mindfulness muscles. I continually nudge myself to find pleasure in everything I do, including the things I never really enjoyed before.
3. Deliberately pursuing meaning over pleasure
Having a greater sense of purpose can help us to stop pursuing what’s purely fun. In fact, we know that shooting for more meaningful activities is what builds the good life.
Through the containers of writing and yoga, I have found the activities that I know will bring me meaning, even if no immediate pleasure. What activities do that for you?
With the three practices above, you should find – as I have that – that your capacity for pleasure is improved. And yes, that has impacted all sacral chakra areas: my creativity, my sensuality and sexuality. Life has more of a quality of fluidity, flow and grace.
Allowing ourselves to experience pleasure is harder than we think. In fact, we need to train ourselves to do it.
I still prioritise pleasure. Always will. I believe that life is here to be enjoyed; fully, unreservedly.The transformation happens when we stop making pleasure contingent on this or that Click To Tweet
But not trying to force my pleasures, and plan for them, has meant that I show up for the pleasures all around me more. I also don’t place so many limitations on experiencing pleasure.
And that is a beautiful thing.