Hello Amazing Soul! I hope you’re having a wonderful day. One of my greatest joys in life is gazing in wonder at people close to me when they’re doing something that lights her/him up! My wife, Lisa, beams when she’s hosting, cooking, or after a good run or ride. While, Lara, my daughter, glows when she’s acting, showing off an artistic creation, or talking about Marvel. Pleasure, it seems, truly is essential to an amazing life. Reading an article by Sally Kempton in Yoga Journal, though, helped me realize the “trick” is to realize we have five different pleasure “tanks”, which need to be equally tended to and balanced.
You know how people will often respond to heartbreak by over indulging in food or working out religiously … thinking thatform of gratification will fill the lack … only it doesn’t? It seems we aren’t crazy or off-base when we go that route, we’ve correctly realized our pleasure tank needs filling, it’s just we didn’t know we actually have 5 pleasure centers, and we’re mistakenly filling the wrong one!
It seems the Creative Force behind this all (which you may join me in naming “God”) loves pleasure, and made us to as well! Think about it. God adores life, diversity, beauty, and relationship, all of which the world is teeming with! Likewise, it seems to me we feel the most alive when we experience pleasure. What’s more, pleasure is arguably the primary motivator in our lives, in that we generally only sustain practices, habits, activities, etc. we enjoy. Think about it. Diets only stick ifwe enjoy them. Healthy habits only last whenthey’re joyful. Even jobs we dislike bring money and resources we appreciate, and we often stay stuck in unhealthy habits or relationships for any of a variety of pleasure related reasons (relishing the role of victim, not thinking we’re worth greater delight, being scared of change, etc.).
Think about addicts. There’s a reason why Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12 Step Program revolves around relationships with a Power bigger than our selves (God, Spirit, Creator, Source, etc.), others, and our self. Love is the ultimate pleasure petrol, and Love is experienced in connection to others, self, and the Magic behind it all. An observation of my experience with addicts is freedom comes from nurturing and filling ALL of the five pleasure tanks, which Sally Kempton names Sensual Pleasures, Intimacy, Meaningful Work, Inspiration and Creativity, and Pure Spirit. How about if we briefly talk about each and how to better nourish ourselves?
Sensual Pleasures– These are bliss coming into our being via our senses. Sensual pleasures include tasting a favorite dish, rocking out with a song that moves you, gazing upon the face of a beloved ______, smelling flowers, the feeling of a heartfelt hug, the tingling of a kiss, and so on.
You’d think it’d be easy to be nurtured and lit up in this area, but our head-centric culture easily leaves us body blind. The key for fully feeling our bodily pleasures is attentiveness, dropping our “brains” into the felt sensations relevant to that experience. My wife Lisa is a pro at this. Over the last month or so, we’ve had 20’ish gorgeous sunsets we could see from our new home. And each time, Lisa would pause, savor, delight, relax her mind, and drink in the beauty with her entire being.
(One of our recent sunsets)
Intimacy – This is a relational closeness and vulnerability. In it’s purest form, intimacy is interpersonal nudity, in that each person fully reveals him/herself to the other. Intimacy is to be “naked” and unashamed, only Loved. This category highlights that our pleasure tanks are interrelated, in that shared sensual pleasures (ex. holding hands, massages, hugs, kissing, and sex) are amplified when intimacy is also present.
Trust and acceptance are vital for lighting up our intimacy centers, which makes becoming aware of the things we either harbor or expect is essential for intimate awesomeness. Part of loving is getting hurt, and while it’s easy to harbor our hurts and withhold from others, to fully receive the gift of closeness, we have to let that stuff go. What’s more, when we expect a dear one to behave and respond in a particular way, we’re trying to make him/her who we want them to be, instead of allowing him/her to be fully and freely his/herself.
I distinctly remember asking my daughter a few springs ago what her favorite class at school was. Lara told me, “When I get to talk to, hang out with, and help the disabled kids.” It still lights me up to remember this, she truly loves people asthey are!
Meaningful Work – When we work with a purpose, when we devote ourselves to a task we believe in, and when we give our energies and efforts for the sake of others, we make the world a better place, while lighting ourselves up from the inside out. The key here is to give our gifts and walk away. What I mean by that is when our work has meaning, the pleasure comes from the doing, not from results or recognition. While we definitely more easily feel the “high” from this when we’re doing something charity, social justice, environmental care, etc. oriented, I think the “trick” is to steadily infuse more and more of our work, whatever it may be, with meaning.
Lisa inspires me on the daily in this regard. While at face value her job doesn’t bring more goodness, beauty, or wellness into the world, everyday she engages her coworkers and customers with kindness, curiosity, compassion, encouragement, and care. Day by day Lisa shines Light and Love into people at work, which can’t help but make both her and them more alive!
Inspiration and Creativity– We’re all creators. Whether it’s art, meals, babies, outfits, stories, social media posts, routines, vacations, to-do lists, solutions to problems, seeking a path forward, or _____, we regularly have the opportunity to tune in to a Force bigger than ourselves (inspiration) and create new realities. It seems to me a key here is to realize what resonates with you. What are the activities, situations, and/or environments where you find yourself inspired? Go there, and celebrate and savor the Energy that moved through you to write a touching note to a dear one in a birthday card, for example.
A big part of experiencing the pleasure of inspiration and creativity is getting out of our egos (“I did this”) and into the creative and connected Spirit. Lara does a wonderful job of doing this, in that she frequently makes paintings, drawings, cards, and more, which she humbly gives as a gift.
Pure Spirit – This last one is the most mysterious and difficult to describe with words. This space is where our I’ness disappears, and the boundaries between our small selves and others, nature, and God/Spirit blur and dissolve. This can be felt in communal singing experiences, like at church or concerts. Another good way to experience this is via group mindfulness practices, yoga for instance. Nature is another great place to feel this big bliss.
In my experience, an essential part of enjoying the Spirit is getting out of our heads and into our hearts and bodies. While there are lots of ways to do this, I’ll share one I enjoy. Take a few deep breaths and sigh out your day. Roll your head, wiggle your shoulders, stretch your jaw, and softly shake your hands. Find a comfortable seat. Close your eyes. With your hands relaxed, palms up, and on your thighs, drop your awareness into your fingertips and heart. Imagine there are strings connecting your fingers and heart to people, plants, animals, God, etc. Breathe and be for 2-15 minutes as if on the inhales you’re feeling the Love of Spirit/spirits you’re connecting to, and on the exhales your sending Love back.
How well balanced and filled are your pleasure tanks? Are there any areas that could use more attention/intention? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the pleasure principle!
Grace and peace,