I read recently that we are 10 times more likely to buy something that promises to decrease our pain versus something that increases pleasure (thank you, Kitty Cavalier). I see this orientation towards pain in my psychotherapy practice. It’s so easy to identify the absence of pain versus the presence of pleasure. For example I often hear, “I know I don’t feel anxious. I don’t feel tense. I’m not depressed.” My question is, “So what do you feel then?”… I get met with blank stares.
Sensing the presence of what so many of us desire—nourishment, happiness, connection, pleasure, security—is often elusive, right under the surface of our experience because we are wired to remember pain. Our bodies are supposed to remember what hurts, what we didn’t like more than what we enjoyed. This is survival. Better to avoid that mountain lion than smell the flowers in the long run.
But part of why we are here is to remember we are more than the hard-wiring of our nervous systems. And this calls for remembering to remember pleasure and this is a sacred practice of coming back in touch with what feels good, what our bodies and hearts say “Yes” to, what floods us with those hormones that remind us why it’s ok that we are here living these challenging and beautiful human lives.
My work recently has been around remembering pleasure as a portal to remembering my essence. Sometimes it seems audacious that I would buy flowers because my senses perked up at the sight of them (I later learned their name is “free spirit roses”… more was at play there than met the eye!). Or that a friend would take her daughter out of school and replace homework with playdates, travel, and art (i.e. pleasure). Doesn’t that sound kind of crazy? That life could be organized around what feels good? Sounds crazy to me. And yet, since there is no avoiding the full spectrum of being human with all of the loss, struggle, and trauma, why would we so quickly discount pleasure?
I’m so grateful for remembering another way. It’s my understanding, belief, and conviction that we are here in these human lives and bodies to remember our essence. Collective amnesia asks us to live our lives in a particular way, following the rules of how to be, feel, think, and experience the world around us. Usually this means turning the dial down on our pleasure and enthusiasm and turning the dial up on responsibility and practicality. I will tell you this: no one is giving any of us a badge of honor for our stress levels. It’s unfortunate, but true.
I encourage us all today to sense what is present in the absence of pain. And beyond this, to intentionally cultivate a moment of pleasure and to feel it all the way. For me this means rolling around in my bed before getting up in the morning or sitting outside and absorbing the wisdom of nature through my senses or listening to laugher of my niece on videochat. When I attune to pleasure I remember. I remember how life is worth it. I remember how powerful I am. I remember how to feel everything.
Just for today, I ask us all to live the question, What happens when I attune to pleasure? Does the world collapse? Do I explode? Do I feel more? Do I feel less?
I’m curious to hear how this experiment goes. Report back or come and explore the wisdom of pleasure more deeply through Qoya in Boulder, CO (http://www.kathryncholt.com/qoya.html).
Sending courage from one pleasure-feeling being to another,