22 Mar Pleasure and Gratitude: 7 Tips to Enriching Life’s Sensual Potential
1. Pleasure is an untapped resource
One of the most powerful and potent untapped resources we have access to as human beings is pleasure. Pleasure is a basic human need. Experiencing more pleasure will nourish you and carry over into positive feelings for yourself and your life. Are you experiencing all of the satisfaction that can be found in your day? Our senses of sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing and others allow continual opportunities for enjoyment of our deliciously beautiful world. Yet, many of us are barely tapping into this immense physiological capacity. A wonderful way to access and enhance pleasure is to cultivate a practice of gratitude. They may not seem to go together, but gratitude and pleasure work symbiotically by enhancing sensory experiences, bringing about an even greater sense of fulfillment.
2. Pleasure makes us a better version of ourselves
Our culture sometimes perpetuates negative concepts of pleasure, warning of its ability to lead us down a negative path. Certainly doing something to fill a void that takes us further away from ourselves is an unhealthy practice. But finding satisfaction in our sensory experiences can also be used to cultivate true joy and contentment, which can be shared with others. Perhaps with all of the challenges and suffering our world is facing, it feels hedonistic or even radical to be focused on bringing more pleasure into your life. But it will allow you to be a better version of yourself so that you can make a greater contribution to all that you do. It is actually easy to increase enjoyment in life, thanks to our senses.
3. Use your senses
Our senses allow us to experience and connect with the world around us. Unfortunately society has become a very busy place to live. Our attention is often pulled in many directions, and even the most mindful of us can get caught up in hectic energy patterns that take us away from really experiencing life. Rushing around, we forget to truly taste our food, listen to our loved ones, and notice the beauty around us. We’re inundated with information and understandably overstimulated. The human nervous system wasn’t created for the barrage of stimuli thrown at us on a day-to-day basis, and many of us have numbed out as a coping mechanism. In so doing, we’ve also shut ourselves off from the potential of everyday gratifications.
4. Gratitude is Key
When you cultivate a practice of feeling pleasure through your senses it also allows for the opportunity to foster gratitude for the amazing sensual world around you. Gratitude helps to anchor you in the present moment and is benefited by processes in the brain. Scientific studies indicate that gratitude can stimulate the hypothalamus, a key part of the brain’s regulation of stress. Feeling grateful can also stimulate the ventral tegmental area of the brain, which leads to pleasurable sensations. Gratitude and pleasure are complementary because we are wired for pleasure and meant to appreciate all the gratifying experiences this human life offers. There are many delectably satisfying experiences for which we can give thanks every day.
5. Pleasure can be found everywhere
We needn’t go on vacation or change our lives to experience pleasure -by feeling grateful for the blessings we have, we begin to shift our life towards more joy. Begin with an intention to consciously shift your thoughts to the present moment and the pleasures that exist all around you. Bring awareness moment by moment to the way the water feels pouring over you in your morning shower. Feel how your muscles relax from the heat. Really feel your hands on your body as you massage lotion into it, and enjoy its enveloping scent. Taste and enjoy your breakfast, giving thanks for the way it fuels your body. Continue this practice throughout the day, challenging yourself to experience the deliciousness that can be found in what might otherwise have become mundane. Maybe by the end of the day you’ll find yourself stopping to watch a rising harvest moon.
6. Reconnect with your partner
Along with becoming aware of the pleasures that abound in daily life, there are practices that couples can do to reconnect and foster love and appreciation for each other. By coming together in silence for seven minutes a day, you can meet from a heart-centered space, feeling love and gratitude for this person that is your best friend and lover. You can look into each others eyes, touch your beloved’s face, synchronize breathing, put your hand on their heart. There’s no right or wrong way to do the exercise as long as you’re both fully present, feeling gratitude and sharing in a loving, sensual experience. This technique can be applied to how you show up for yourself in life as well.
7. Pleasure enriches every area of life
Commit to an attitude of gratitude for this amazing human experience by showing up for it fully present in the moment as much as possible and appreciating all of the remarkable pleasures you have access to. There are many ways to incorporate this beautiful accordance with your surroundings through your senses because the possibilities abound throughout each day. Life is supposed to be a pleasurable experience. This deeper sensory connectedness will foster a sense of wellbeing that nourishes you. Experiment and play with the endless possibilities and you’ll soon find that you’re living an infinitely more joyful, creative, and fulfilled life than you ever dreamed possible.
This article was originally published in Common Ground Magazine November 2016