I’m still unpacking from my teaching time in Israel. Each opportunity to work with a group, helps me clarify the topic of pleasure. A re-occurring theme in the groups in Israel was: I have this great life. So much richness in material things, family and friends, freedom to do many things and yet a true deep experience of pleasure escapes me. Why is this?
The experience of pleasure
Pleasure issues reveal some basic life lessons and common misconceptions that bypass cultural differences. All around the world affluence and ease doesn’t assure peace, happiness or the capacity to experience pleasure.
We’re caught up in the faulty belief that more equals better. We also believe that being able to do everything, having all this choice, should bring us wellbeing. But it’s not the case.
In the Unlock Pleasure philosophy, less is more and slow is fast. Pleasure, ease, happiness or whatever word you would assign to this human experience, is more a state of mind and heart, than contingent on outer circumstances, such as what one has or how many things one can do.
Slower is fast
As I go deeper into the pleasure topic I’ve come to see going slower is essential to the experience of pleasure. In the western world, we live at a hectic pace. It is at the heart of so much of the mental suffering that goes on. It’s not a human pace and at that speed, we can’t stay connected to ourselves. When we’re not connected, it distresses us, and we don’t even know why. We think because we can have it all, and do it all, we should. But at what cost?
The price of pleasure is to do less and to cultivate a slower mode. All this goodness around us, all the choices we have, is a privilege, a gift. We need to make space to receive it. Take time to fully appreciate the beauty and abundance that is available, instead of being on the look-out for the next thing.
Less is more
I was on retreat last week and I unplugged and practiced doing nothing. It’s actually really hard at first. Going on retreat I always take my journal – I love to journal. I take Pathwork lectures which I’ve been reading for 35 years! I love reading them. As well, I usually take a book or two. The morning of the second day a piece of guidance dropped in – put away all the words, the thoughts, even here you’re being busy. Today do nothing!
So, all day I wandered down to the river and floated in the water and sat on the dock; I laid in my hammock and stared at nature. Actually, I took in nature through all my senses – the visuals – all that green; the smells, the sounds – wind in the grasses and trees, the warmth of the sun on my body, the wind gentle on my skin. So simple and yet so nourishing and pleasurable.
The supposed emptiness of the day was extremely satisfying. It reminded of the poem about hunger called Feast by the late American Poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay. The last line of the poem - I will lie down lean with my thirst and my hunger - became my mantra for the days of retreat. The full text of the poem is below.
Summer is intended to be a time of recoup and renewal. I invite you to spend some time doing nothing and get that reset to the pleasure of slow is fast and less is more. Let me know how it goes for you.
I drank at every vine.
The last was like the first.
I came upon no wine So wonderful as thirst.
I gnawed at every root.
I ate of every plant.
I came upon no fruit
So wonderful as want.
Feed the grape and bean
To the vintner and monger:
I will lie down lean
With my thirst and my hunger.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
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“Forefront Psychotherapy had Madeline present a morning workshop called Unlock Pleasure for our counselling centre’s open house. Her presentation was innovative and captivating. She brought forward the information in a way that appealed to new and seasoned therapists alike. Her presentation style put the audience at ease and she kept each one of us captivated for the duration of her talk. We would highly recommend Madeline to any group looking for a speaker.”