Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pleasure and Desire: friends or foe?

Pleasure and desire, so often touted as our downfall, are in reality a natural guidance system toward fulfillment of our needs, and ultimately to the unfolding of our potential.

We need to relearn trusting them, trusting that we can experience pleasure and desire separate from the addictions that take us away from our true selves and destroy our potential. To do that we need to practice choices that bring joy, that feel right, that feel that they are the very best for us, rather than that which simply distracts us from some uncomfortable feeling.,

Practice experiencing the small pleasures, the simple joys of connection with nature, with loved ones, with music, with beauty. This will strengthen our trust in our pleasures and desires so that we can follow their guidance to our true joy and potential. Play, celebration, mystery, humor, all are part of the process of creating a more beautiful life and a more beautiful world.

What role does fear play in this process? Fear can limit growth. But it also creates a boundary within which growth happens. When growth is pressing against that boundary, then it is time to break through the fear. So the fear to look for is that which feels obsolete, a next step you are ready to take. That fear then should feel exhilarating rather than full of dread. It is the exhilaration of reaching a goal, of climbing higher. It is the nearness of joy.

What of destructive pleasure seeking, then? We know it abounds. It may bring pleasure but does it bring joy? No. Usually this kind of pleasure seeking is a result of pent-up desire, not as authentic desire. When we practice simple pleasures and tap into the pure joy of connection with our deepest desire, those destructive behaviors are no longer building within to erupt in harmful ways. We no longer even want to do them. They don't feel good any more.

The pain we were avoiding has dissipated. We find it easier to deal with, to heal the hurt without those avoidance behaviors we have been practicing. We can live our joy.

"The focus on pleasure, desire, aliveness, and joy offers a guideline for work on the social and political level as well. . . We are offering people not a world of less, not a world of sacrifice, not a world where you are just trying to have to enjoy less and suffer more - now, we are offering a world of more beauty, more joy, more connection, more love, more fulfillment, more exuberance, more leisure, more music, more dancing, and more celebration." (1)

When we can hold onto the vision of that life, we will communicate it as the subtext of our activism. People will respond positively to our knowledge that the things we give up are not nearly as good as the things we will discover, the things that bring us true joy.

When we do this, when we honestly "walk the walk" and practice these new beliefs, our words of activism will have power and our actions will motivate us and others to create that "more beautiful world."

(1) The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible  by Charles Eisenstein.
This post is based almost entirely on the above noted book. 

The Daily Dozen to-do list:

  • Experience great music, move with it. Let it fill you with pleasure/joy. Dance! If you can't dance with your feet and legs, dance with your arms, or your head. But move with it.
  • Draw something no one will ever see. Let it be a doodle or a free form., Play.
  • Ask yourself what would feel good right now. Explore what about that would be good for you, what need it might fulfill.
  • Do something anonymously for someone else just because it gives you pleasure to do so.
  • Identify one of your destructive pleasure-seeking behaviors and trace it back to the hurt that it distracts you from. Allow yourself to feel that pain and examine the strength that grows from your experiencing it.
  • Set aside an hour this week to do a feel-good activity for yourself - read, walk, sing, listen to your favorite  music, play a sport that brings you joy, take a bubble bath, watch a comedy that makes you laugh out loud, etc.
  • Explore a new place or idea, just for the fun of it. The only goal in this is to have fun.
  • Set aside some time each day to play with your pet or with small children.
  • Make or build something that you create with your own hands. Take pleasure in the finished product. Perhaps give it to someone or place it where you can admire your handiwork.
  • Sit in your yard or in a park without any electronic devices and just enjoy the plants, look at the sky, watch the clouds. Breathe.
  • Cook your favorite food and invite someone to share it with you.
  • Sing with the radio in the car or in the shower.


  1. Struggling with this one. I can do all the things in the "To Do" list and still fall immediately into an abyss. Much of that is chemical, the depression. But some of it is a "knowing" that the cycle will begin again. More than having the experiences and the playtime, I think I need to learn how to sustain it; to break the "one step forward two steps back" pattern I've allowed myself to fall into.

  2. You have learned to trust the cycle. It is tough to keep slogging on. Maybe it is time to just "do nothing" until you feel the urge to change the cycle in some way, even small ways. Sometimes what looks like "the same old stuff" is really taking a look at the cycle from a different perspective, which, then, is not the same cycle. The changes may be incremental. AND those incremental changes do change the course of things. You long for big change and miss the small ones. Playing may take you out of the cycle a bit, so play more and stay out longer each time. Change comes, just not as quickly as we'd like. Keep your eyes on the vision of a more beautiful life and live toward it. And, you know, you are always in my prayers and in the heart of God.