“Pleasure is the object, duty and the goal of all rational creatures.” -Voltaire
The new year is a good time to re-orient our experience of pleasure. It is easy to confuse the continuous onslaught of instant gratification that our culture gorges on with the deep healing experience of pleasure. Here are a couple of guideposts to help distinguish and navigate oneself towards the healing experience of real pleasure. True pleasure does not cause harm. True pleasure resets the chemical balances in the brain and body towards centered-ness. True pleasure heals the past in the present, releasing us into a new way of seeing ourselves and the potential in our lives.
In fact, perhaps the singular most healthy and distinguishing aspect of our humanity is our collective urge towards seeking pleasure. It is when we are most enjoying the moments of our lives that we are also growing and evolving into better versions of ourselves. This developmental aspect of true pleasure is what distinguishes it from the more common experience of addictions and compulsions that we often begin in the misguided desire for pleasure. They can easily come to rule our life. Yet with a closer look, most addictions are not really compatible with the evolving drive of pleasure, as it is the weaker desire to escape. Even the very beginning of alcohol and drug use comes through us more like a dare and then too often slips effortlessly into a self-medicated exit from our own hearts and lives.
In contrast, our capacity for true pleasure evolves with our willingness to pay attention to our sensory experience, which is why moments of pleasure are some of the most memorable and deeply healing moments we can claim. Unlike our fascination with our addictions, which are inevitably harmful, both due to the many physical and mental hardships they create, but even more so because they separate us from the moment and from ourselves. Leaning towards real pleasure heals us on a biochemical level by balancing the powerful neuro-chemicals that predict our moods and act as natural stress relievers. Many studies document the natural increases in serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins, which are generated by a wide range of pleasurable experiences.
Living deeply in our body, whether through exercise, physical touch or hugs or massages, regular meditation practices and sexual intimacy all affirm our affinity to life. True pleasure seeking creates positive emotional and mental states, as well as the physical release of stress, tension and even previous trauma stored in us on a cellular level. Orgasmic pleasure is perhaps the most transformational of all. Having the courage to lean towards this ultimate release requires that we abandon our typical associations of shame and fear that prevent us from experiencing our bodies in this deeply vibrational capacity. In the surrender of our control, the human orgasm provides a gateway to the sensation of pure energy awakening to itself and a brief glimpse of enlightenment. Our sense of time and space is altered in these deepest of intimate meetings, where we have the courage to be completely naked and vulnerable inside of someone else’s experience. No wonder the quest for this sexual pleasure remains one of the most coveted of human experiences. It starts with coming to your senses and choosing pleasure over gratification.