“Pleasure is the object, duty and the goal of all rational creatures.” -Voltaire
The New Year is a good time to re-think our ideas about pleasure. In our culture, so focused on instant gratification, it is easy to lose sight of what creates a long-lasting and deeply healing experience of pleasure. While instant gratification does feed our brains a dopamine response to constantly want more, the deep experience of true pleasure resets the chemical balances in the brain and body towards centeredness. Sadly, many of the things we use to get instant satisfaction, whether drugs, alcohol or food can be harmful on repeat—but true pleasure does not cause harm. More profoundly, real pleasure is an act of forgiveness both internally and in our relationships—it heals the past in the present, releasing us into a new way of seeing ourselves and the potential in our life.
While often overlooked, perhaps the singular most healthy and distinguishing aspect of our humanity is our universal urge towards seeking pleasure. In fact, when we discover and explore what gives us pleasure, 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 but that can easily come to rule our life. Yet when we look closer, we know that our addictions are not really compatible with the evolving drive of pleasure as they are with our powerful drive to become numb and escape our lives. Even the pleasurable moments when first introduced to alcohol or drug use isn’t seeking pleasure as much as it is responding to a dare and then quickly erodes into a self-medicated exit from our own hearts and lives.
We know that these addictions have nothing to do with our capacity for pure pleasure because at the heart of it is our willingness to give our full attention to our sensory experience. Pleasure is at once some of the most memorable and deeply healing moments we can claim. Leaning towards real pleasure heals us on a biochemical level by balancing the powerful neurochemicals 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. Unlike most addictions that cleave us from our ability to be present to the moment and ourselves, real pleasure brings us deeper into our reality than anything else.
Living deeply in our body: whether through exercise, all types of physical touch from hugs to massages, regular meditation practice and of course the profound pleasure of sexual intimacy all affirm our capacity for lasting and transformative pleasure. The efforts of real pleasure seeking pays off in both the positive emotional and mental states. It creates the physical release of stress, tension and even previous trauma stored in us on a cellular level, and orgasmic pleasure is the most transformational of all. Having the courage to lean towards this ultimate and most highly coveted pleasure release requires that we release the shame and fear that prevent us from experiencing our bodies in this deeply vibrational capacity. As we surrender our mental controls, 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 intimate meetings as our courage to be completely naked and vulnerable inside of someone else’s experience is rewarded with the boldest form of pleasure. It all starts with coming to your senses and choosing the path of pleasure over gratification.