"The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience." Emily Dickinson
How much pleasure have you had today? Yes, be honest, unless you are one of those rare people experiencing a lot of pleasure, you probably have not gotten your pleasure meter far off the ground today. The Webster Dictionary definition of Pleasure is: a pleased feeling; enjoyment; delight; satisfaction. You know the feeling - the warm, open feeling of delight throughout your whole body - difficult in some ways to articulate - but you know what I'm talking about - Pleasure - it is fun to say and almost evokes the feeling just by saying it. Try it - say it out loud - Pleasure. What a great word - fun to say and even more fun to fully experience!
When I ask my clients "What gives you pleasure?" it can take awhile for them to generate answers to the question. There can be reactions like "I'm not supposed to focus on my pleasure, that is selfish" or "It's been so long since I have felt pleasure that I don't know what would give me pleasure." Another reaction is that they are able to list the things that give them pleasure but when I ask them the last time they did these things - they sheepishly respond that it hasn't been for a long time. Women in particular have a hard time staying focused and attending to their own pleasure because they are socialized to channel their energy to support other's pleasure, not their own. A few years ago when I was on vacation with my family at a cottage in Upper Michigan my Aunt shared that she would love to go see the sunset on Lake Superior, a fifteen minute drive from where we were. I was so excited because it was rare that she verbalized something that would give her pleasure - as she was so focused on what would give her husband and children pleasure, but not herself. We were preparing to leave when a family friend from a neighboring cottage came by and asked my Aunt to prepare a fish that he just caught - without a blink of an eye, she said yes, and her trip to watch the sunset vanished into thin air. Again, someone else's pleasure was more important than her own. I was both angry and sad how quickly she let go of her own pleasure.
Think of the ripple effect of her denial of her own Pleasure. To look at this let's use the Inner Bonding framework that we have a child within that we are constantly communicating with.Imagine the inner communication that my Aunt had within herself---she told the child that they were going to watch the sunset--and just like any child that part of her started to get excited, anticipating the fun and pleasure of seeing the sunset---getting more excited as the time to go came closer (you know this is exactly what kids do) and now imagine that she chooses not to go and prepare the fish for her friend instead. How would that child inside of her feel? Devastated, angry, sad, unimportant. There would definitely be an impact on the inner level - a feeling of despair, irritability, her energy level may have dropped, she may have snapped at others later in the evening. There are negative consequences both for her and for the others around her - these kind of denials do not go without profound consequences. If this kind of denial of one's own pleasure continues it can lead to feelings of depression, anger, deadening of one's Spirit and even illness.
Let's look at the ripple effect of what would have happened if she would have followed her Pleasure and went and watched the Sunset. She would have had the wonderful feeling of Delight and pleasure in her body as she watched the sunset. Her energy would be uplifted, open and she would feel a deeper connection with herself and those around her. She would feel relaxed - any tension that was held in her body would melt away - her breathing would open and deepen. In this relaxed, open, uplifted state she may get creative insights into howto address some of the issues she has recently been facing - allowing her to resolve these with ease and grace rather than struggle. She would feel inner trust from listening to herself - that child part of her that was excited about going to see the Sunset - this part of her would feel valued and important - thus she would feel her own value and importance.The child part of her - which is the part of her most connected to what would give her pleasure - would feel safe to bring up more ideas of future pleasurable activities - pleasure would open and expand in her life - rather than constrict and lessen - which would be the consequence of not following through on the sunset pleasure. Our state of mind affects those around us - even if we don't say a word - people close to us can tell if we are in a good or bad mood and generally are affected by how we are feeling. Because of this, my Aunt's good feelings from following her pleasure would have had a ripple affect of spreading good feelings to those around her. Her uplifted mood would also positively affect the way she interacted with her family - she would be more open and loving with them. So you can see all the benefits of following your own pleasure---your life opens and expands in positive ways. The following are 6 guidelines for experiencing the power of your own pleasure:
- Take Your Own Pleasure Seriously - You need to be the champion of your own pleasure - following through and honoring the things that bring you pleasure - not bowing to external pressures that sidetrack you. Listen to that voice within you when it comes up with a great idea for something that would give you pleasur - the more you listen, the more ideas will come. Open the pleasure floodgates!
- Make Your Own Pleasure a Priority - One of my favorite ways to do this is to structure your day around your pleasure. Putting pleasure at the top of your list rather than the bottom can have a tremendous impact on your day to day life. Pleasure feeds your Spirit and energizes your energy system - giving you more energy to do all that you want to do. When I plan my day I make sure that I have something pleasurable planned right away in the morning - lately it has been a bike ride - this infuses the start of my day with positive energy from the pleasure. Then I make sure that I have something pleasurable to do over lunch - like meeting one of my favorite friends or taking a walk outside. In the evening I make sure I have something pleasurable to do -watching the sunset or watching a fun, light-hearted sitcom. Planning your day with Pleasure as your number one priority will allow you to do the other items on your to do list with ease and more energy. So tomorrow write at the very top of your to do list "PLEASURE."
- Take Full Responsibility for your Own Pleasure - Do you take responsibility for your own pleasure or do you hand that over to other people - your mate, your friends, your kids? This is a common thing that people do and often they are unconscious of this. A signal you may be doing this is if you find yourself frequently let down and disappointed with people. This disappointment is coming from an expectation you are having of them to act a certain way in order for you to feel good - "they must say this, do this etc. - and I will feel good." Imagine making your pleasure independent of what others around you are doing and saying - thatis when things get really exciting and fun! An example of this is around Holidays - if you have expectations of how your family should act in order for you to have a good time - you will probably be disappointed because you have no control over what kind of mood each family member will be in, if they are open to having fun and being loving or closed and stuck in negativity. If you make your pleasure independent of what will be happening with others you will be assured to have a good time.
- Involve All of Your Senses to Experience Pleasure - An essential part of feeling pleasure is to connect to the sensations of your body. If you are stuck in your head worrying, analyzing, thinking of the past or the future you will not be present in your body to feel pleasure - you in fact will probably be feeling tension and anxiety. To feel pleasure you need to open up to the experience of the moment - how does the air feel on your skin, what are you smelling, what are you seeing around you. You may have an opportunity for pleasure that you are missing by being lost in the thoughts of your mind. Once you are connected to the sensations of your body you will have a better idea of what needs to happen to experience pleasure. For example you might notice in your everyday surroundings there is a lack of visual beauty - so than you can do things to change this to experience the pleasure of visual beauty. If you are at home now, look around you - does what you see give you pleasure - are the colors and items uplifting and beautiful? If not explore what colors and images you would like to have in your environment. What sounds do you hear during the day? Do you hear laughter, music you love, singing, birds? Pay attention to what gives you auditory pleasure and make sure your day is infused with these sounds. What physical sensations give you pleasure? I love the feel of my dog's soft fur on my fingertips - I close my eyes and take in how enjoyable the sensation feels to me. Does the physical sensation of different movement feel good to you - biking, dancing, walking, skipping? What kind of touch feels good to you? Do you like someone holding your hand, rubbing your back or your feet, stroking your hair? Tune into what physical sensations you really love and make sure you take action to bring these sensations more into your life.
- Take Ordinary Tasks and Infuse them with Pleasure - Think of the tasks that you need to do in your life and see what you can do to bring more pleasure to these experiences. What could you do to bring pleasure to cleaning your house? - playing your favorite music, taking dancing breaks, goofing around with whoever is cleaning with you or goofing around with yourself! I do this when I am writing articles - I play my favorite music loud, I drink my favorite iced tea out of a colorful tumbler, I have loving and encouraging notes to myself posted all over my computer screen, I have beautiful images on cards that I can see in front of me, I burn my favorite incense and every 10 minutes I take a dancing break! Consequently writing is very pleasurable and fun for me. Years ago when I first started writing I didn't do these things and writing was hard and a struggle for me. It was after I made pleasure a priority in the writing process that writing became very fun, easy and something I look forward to. Look at what activities you must do and see what kind of creative ways you can bring in more pleasure.
- Push Your Pleasure Limits - You may have received negative messages from the culture and your family about pleasure, so initially it may feel awkward anduncomfortable to so openly focus on your own pleasure. Treat these feelings as normal feelings of breaking free of old limiting patterns that no longer serve you in your life. Acknowledge the uncomfortable feelings but don't let them stop you from moving ahead with following your pleasure. The idea is to expand your capacity to feel pleasure and feel it more often in your life. Take risks and experiment with what would give you pleasure - Wonder to yourself - "What would give me pleasure today or in this moment?" - listen to what comes to mind and than try it. Challenge yourself to feel more pleasure throughout the day - don't feel some pleasure and say to yourself -"That's enough I've had my pleasure for the day" - no, no don't do that - go in the other direction and say to yourself "That felt really great - I want to feel more of that today!" I really feel that there is always room to stretch and grow in the good feelings that we can experience - so don't cut yourself off from the amazing possibilities! Your feeling great will be an inspiration to others and allow them to see how they can move into those wonderful feelings as well. Commit to being a Pleasure Pioneer exploring new territories of pleasure, paving the way for others to joyously follow!
Shelley Riutta MSE, LPC is a Holistic Psychotherapist in private practice specializing in Inner Bonding, Life Purpose Direction and Techniques that move people quickly into more Joy/Passion/Freedom. She has been supporting people's light and passion to shine since 1994. For more information call Shelley at 920-432-1592 or email her at SRiutta@msn.com.