Pleasure. Pleasure in my life. Pleasure in my creative process. Where does pleasure come from? What does it mean to find pleasure in some thing or act?
My first thought is of physical pleasure…that very earthy, almost tangible joy I derive from my body’s sensations: the tingle of a lover’s touch, the warm embrace of a dear friend, butterflies in my belly, a really great massage, a super comfy pair of lounge pants after a long day dressed more formally, a savory meal that delights all of my senses, the sun on my skin…especially after a long winter.
Pleasure, however, is inherently an emotional and spiritual experience – the experience beyond physical stimulation, reaching deeper than my senses: expansiveness and connection created by a spiritual practice, the sensation that floods me, growing from deep in my center, when I am of meaningful service to another human being or to life itself, immersion in the flow when I am fully engaged in my creative process; when I am playing for the song… Where does that pleasure come from? How can I experience more pleasure – giddiness – excitement -sheer joy – deep satisfaction?
Understanding what brings me pleasure is key to cultivating pleasurable experiences.
I cannot consider pleasure one dimensionally. In this multi-dimensional world there are at least two sides to every coin. When I think about pleasure, invariably I also consider pain. Pain, the places where I get stuck, whether they be in my creative process or life in general – stuck in a pattern, stuck in an attitude, stuck in some emotional prison. Being the other side of the coin, pain is the inverse of pleasure. When I understand where or why I’m stuck, when I understand the source of my pain, I can shift from reaction to compassion, from reaction to response-ability.
Understanding what brings me pain is key to mitigating painful experiences.
When I contemplate the experiences in my life that brought and bring me pleasure – the times I am open, engaged, immersed in the beloved flow and when I contemplate the experiences in my life that brought and bring me pain – the times I am contracted, apathetic, fighting against that infernal ebb, my awareness is shifted to a similarly inverse relationship: opportunity versus obligation.
Being the human that I am, I have a natural resistance to obligation. I resist demands on my time, energy, heart, creativity – any of my resources. Whether the obligation generates internally or externally, it has the same effect: resistance.
Obligations manifest themselves as shoulds: I should exercise, I should eat healthily, I should develop a spiritual practice, I should be of service, I should be happy. Oh…if only I had a nickel for every internal or external “I should be happy”….well, you know the saying! Obligations manifest themselves as previously made commitments. I said I would and now I am obligated. Obligations manifest themselves in the form of expectations: expecting others to meet some need of mine – a need for consistency, trust, safety, love, self-esteem. I oblige my pleasure, my happiness, to your willingness, availability, and awareness.
Oblige: to put under binding contract (Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 5th Edition, 1940)
All of these manifestations chip away at the pleasure inherent in every choice. Every choice is born from obligation…. or opportunity.
Who doesn’t love a great opportunity?! Everything in my life was born from a choice that I made. Understanding that concept is the epitome of personal responsibility and freedom. When I am free, I experience pleasure. When I enter consciously into the choices I make, fully aware that I want to make them, fully aware that the experiences I choose are an exercise in mitigating pain and cultivating pleasure, I give myself the opportunity to derive the greatest pleasure from my choices.
I have the opportunity to love the way my body feels when I exercise, when I have been exercising, when I am strong and flexible; when I have the opportunity to pursue other pleasures without the limits of a neglected body. I create the opportunity to experience self-love when I make healthy food choices, when I prepare a wholesome meal for myself. I find great pleasure in the opportunity to experience the expansion and connection born from my spiritual practice. I have the opportunity to witness the softening and gratitude that dances across another humans face when they feel important enough to have been cared for; when I have been of service in a meaningful way. I have the opportunity to choose happiness in the face of adversity and move through life with joy and peace. I get to feel the lengthening of my spine and the power of being able to look people in the eye when I either follow through on my commitments, or make response-able, alternative arrangements. I get to experience great pleasure from your presence, and even greater pleasure from your love and esteem when my ok-ness and worth don’t hang in the balance.
Can you feel the subtle difference in your body when you shift from I should to I get to….from I have to, to I want to?
When it comes to my own creative process, when I sit down with a piece because I should, because I need to, because I’m obligated, I often experience the frustration and pain of stuck-ness. If I seize any of the opportunities for self-love and pleasure listed above, I can often move from stuck to flow. When I fixate on the outcome, whether it’s the finished painting, poem, blog post, or process and product of coaching, I imprison creativity and block flow. When I am playing for the song….the opportunity to engage for the joy of engaging, fully connect with my muse in service to the connection…I am immersed in flow. In that immersion is indescribable pleasure.