Seek pleasure. Avoid pain. This is the Freudian formula that the self-help world has been railing against with increasing intensity.
“Pleasure” gets a bad rap these days. It’s quickly followed by discussion of the marshmallow experiment, delayed gratification, or hedonic adaptation.
Pleasure is not good for us, we’re told. It gets us sidetracked. It has us eating pancakes instead of going to the gym. It wants us to ignore our to-do lists.
This makes sense, we tell ourselves. We watch our lives on repeat as we give in time and time again to the easy wins instead of looking at the bigger picture — the conclusion being that pleasure, of course, is the enemy of our best selves.
But this comes from a misunderstanding about what true pleasure is. Because if you, like me, have ever reached for two (OKAY, MORE THAN TWO) donuts in search of “pleasure,” knowing deep down you didn’t want them all, knowing that you were going to feel sick afterwards, then you know most of what we consider “pleasure” isn’t pleasure at all. It’s fear, scarcity, grasping at what we can while we can to feel better when we know deep down it won’t help.
REAL pleasure is that spaciousness in your chest when you breathe deep and let everything be. Bliss twinkles through your body as abundance because you’re not grasping at it to make it stay. It’s open-heartedness (in the Brene Brown fashion). It’s polarity balanced. It’s expansiveness and groundedness meeting, playing, kissing inside your body.
This feeling comes from letting go, from loving, from connection to self, trust in body, delight in living.
I want you to think about what happens when you want something small. Say you want a strawberry and there are strawberries in your fridge. So you go to your fridge and eat one. Or, even better, say they’re NOT in your fridge, but you really want some, so you drive to the store, and voila!
No big deal, right? You had a desire and you naturally rose to meet it, without too much drama about why you wanted it or the time it took to get there. You just did the thing. Met the desire.
What if we were able to see our search for pleasure, our true desires, as the cosmic force pulling us INTO our lives, not away from them?
What if you could experience such focused desire or guiltless pleasure with bigger goals in your life? Running a mile, making money in your new business, feeling connected to your spouse — if you allowed these desires with the same simplicity as the strawberry, your natural search for pleasure would help you rise to achieve the outcome you most desire. Obstacles would become non-issues, simply things to puzzle out (like if you needed to put gas in your car before driving to the store to get the strawberries).
In this light, pleasure and desire become nonvillians. In fact, they become beacons, coworkers on the path to achieving our biggest desires and our best selves. And fun ones at that.
So ask yourself: WHAT DO YOU WANT?
Get clear about your desire. Focus on that desire and let pleasure guide you. Lean into it, let the journey delight you whenever possible, and release the drama. THIS is a life well lived, a life not in opposition to our natural selves, but using what the good evolutionary-goddess gave us.