A month later I’m settled back into my life in Ottawa, but I’m still processing my time in Japan last month. Frequently the students’ faces flash through my mind and heart. Such a pleasure and a privilege to work with a brand-new (to me) group of spiritual seekers, in a different cultural context. I’m letting their responses to the pleasure teachings inform my work and add new perspectives. There are some cultural differences and yet some things are universal.
A theme rippled through the group that appears to be universal. One participant spoke about his challenge to stay connected to his own experience of pleasure when his partner or when anyone around him is unhappy or suffering in some way. Somehow it didn’t feel right for him to not merge with those he loves in their struggles. Many of the participants resonated with his dilemma. As I think many of us Westerners can as well.
Is it okay for me to have pleasure?
The general theme as I name it is, “Is it okay for me to be happy and have pleasure, if there’s a general climate around me, that’s not there? I hear about this challenge in every workshop. To this, I offer questions like: How might staying non-merged and true to your own experience serve your loved ones? How might it serve those suffering around you to know pleasure is a possibility? Could you stay with your own experience while also being present to another’s suffering? These questions open doorways into new possibilities for us all.
Doorways to New Possibilities
When you stay with our own experience of pleasure you bring to difficult situations a lightness that can help lift the energy of despair or defeat. The presence of the pleasure vibe can help people remember life is not all suffering. An open heart is often a prerequisite for pleasure. Someone with us when we’re struggling, in that open-hearted stance, can contribute care, compassion and tenderness; beautiful qualities to assuage stress or heavier feelings.
There’s a poem I love that speaks to the dichotomy of pleasure and suffering – A Brief for the Defense by Jack Gilbert, an amazing, but not a well known American poet. His lines that always slay me are:
…… We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
We must have the stubbornness of gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.
Myself I like the thought of bringing my stubborn energy to gladness, to pleasure. My willingness to stay to in my own experience, especially when I land in pleasure, is a gift to the world – my world right around me.
One thing I know is pleasure is contagious – just as suffering and despair can be. We have too much of the one, and not enough of the other. I invite you to make a commitment to tipping the balance in favour of gladness and pleasure.
And let me know what happens.
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