Life Through the Lens of Pleasure

Here’s a question for you: How often do you do things just for your own personal pleasure?

Do you even know what those things would be?

I’m in a coaching program where our theme this month is embracing pleasure.

Even though I’m at a point in my life where my kids are grown, my partners are mostly self-sufficient, and I work for myself, I’m finding that I don’t often focus on pure pleasure.

Why? I’m not sure. Maybe some remnants of the Puritanical culture here in New England. Perhaps because I was taught that service to others come first. Maybe I’m still a bit of a workaholic, although you wouldn’t know it from my weekly schedule.

I allow plenty of time for daily spiritual practice, yoga, rest, and nourishing self-care throughout each day. But it’s about more than just how we spend our time.

Embracing pleasure is about the attitude.

I can do my morning routine of meditation, journaling, yoga, and brunch with a determination to get it done, check these things off the list, then get to my office to work.

But it’s very different when I dive into this same routine with the intention to savor each moment

Sure, there is a certain pleasure that comes from checking things off. Dopamine, anyone?

But I’m finding there’s even more juicy goodness in the act of being in each moment, no matter the activity. 

It’s even possible to savor the pleasure of housework. Hear me out. I like a clean and pretty home. Spending a few minutes doing the dishes and tidying up each morning contributes to that. I could do it with resentment, or rush through the process in order to finish up.

Or I can breathe, feel the warm water, be grateful for these plates and cups and bowls. 

Pleasure isn’t just about doing the things that you love, although that’s part of it. I mean, I made a list on a post-it note called “FUN & PLEASURE,” so I’d be reminded of the things I enjoy.

But again, any of these things could be done with a “checking it off” approach, which in my view misses the point.

What is the point? To enjoy life to the fullest.

We’re not here for very long, in the scheme of things. Why rush?

Why do we have this default need to be productive, get things done, move forward constantly? Why do we feel guilty when we do things just for our own joy? Doesn’t that sort of attitude contribute to burnout and even illness?

Honestly, I think we might (collectively) be addicted to the hustle.

My dear rebels and Thriving Artists, let’s flip the script. Let’s change the paradigm by starting with ourselves.

How can you begin to add more pleasure to your life, and embrace the joys of the things you already do?

I suggest that you start with a simple list, like my little pink post-it note. Write down your particular pleasures, even if they seem odd. I mean, de-cluttering is on my list. I find the process satisfying and enjoyable. So what?

Next, begin to cultivate awareness of how you’re feeling during any particular activity. Can you shift your lens just a bit, to embrace the pleasure in it?

It’s a bit like mindfulness practice. You’re encouraging yourself to notice how you feel, and tune in to the particulars of what your body is up to. The natural landscape on your walk or commute. The warm water of the shower, and the scent of the lavender soap you bought at the farmer’s market last summer. The smells of the aromatics and spices as you cook dinner.

These tiny sensory pleasures are everything.

Coax yourself to become more present to your daily activities. Include some non-productive times where you get to do your favorite things, just because. 

Embrace pleasure, and notice how it unfolds into your day like a cat stretching after a nap. 

Tell me what you think!

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