Thursday, February 17, 2011

On shaved legs and bed sheets

I love the Self-Discovery Word by Word series that Ashley from Nourishing the Soul is doing. So I thought I'd jump on board. Why not? But then I heard what this month's word was, and I wasn't sure I would be able to do it. The word is Pleasure.

My knee-jerk reaction when I hear the word pleasure is that it is something bad. Something to be avoided. Pleasure. It just sounds so . . . dirty. It makes me think of over-indulgence and prostitution. Things I'm anti. It's a funny thing, but the word Pleasure has really gotten a bad wrap. When I asked my husband his thoughts he confessed that his first thoughts were along the same lines as mine.

But I've been thinking about this for a good week now and have done some reading. The day that I found out about this series and the word for February my Yoga Journal arrived (thanks to the fundraising efforts of my dear nephew, Braeden). Guess what was on the cover? A headline that read "Pleasure as a path to your Self." I immediately flipped to page 53. While there were many wonderful things Sally Kempton said in the article this part stood out more than anything:

"From a mystical point of view, your capacity for enjoyment is the signature of the inherent blissfulness of creation. From the point of view of brain science, you are wired for pleasure. The pleasure centers are located in the midbrain . . . and are designed to fire in response to stimuli that ensure your physical survival. . . In healthy cycles, the higher brain chooses pleasures that are good for the survival of the individual and the greater community. In unhealthy cycles, however, the system can get hijacked by imbalances, whether genetic, stress induced, or chemical. This is what happens in our stress-loaded society, where so many of us are conditioned to take pleasure in junk food, drugs, and forms of entertainment that are ultimately bad for our well-being and the well-being of our community, not to mention the planet. But the body's natural tendency is to treat pleasure as a signal that you're on the right track (emphasis added, from the March 2011 ed.)."

Shall we break it down? Okay, first of all we are designed to have pleasure. How beautiful is that sentence: "your capacity for enjoyment is the signature of the inherent blissfulness of creation." Makes me shudder. (I take great pleasure in language as beautiful as this.) Our pleasure center was designed to reward us for taking care of ourselves. But in today's world that pleasure center has been destroyed and now we see pleasure as a bad thing. We don't trust our bodies anymore and thus take pleasure in things that are destructive.

The good news is that we can take back our pleasure center. We don't have to be "hijacked." And this subject of taking back pleasure has been where my mind has been dwelling the last few days. First off, I feel it is important that we eat intuitively. We must honor our body. Trust our body. No more dieting and eating only foods we have labeled as "good." Then we should allow ourselves to get in tune with what we actually take pleasure in.

Why is this so important? Let's take exercise for example. If you do not find pleasure in an activity you will never stick with it. (So that's why my efforts to be a marathoner have failed.) But when you find a form of exercise be it running, walking, yoga, gardening, or chasing children, and you take pleasure in that activity suddenly you find yourself motivated to continue. But wait, I can't burn as many calories taking a walk as I can running? True. However, if you only run for a few days then give up altogether doesn't that defeat the purpose? Whereas you may stick with a daily walk for years.

Our bodies are wired to find pleasure. That poor word has taken a beating. It's time to take it back. It's time to find pleasure in life, and especially in the little things. For me? Well, I think the closest thing to Heaven is a pair of freshly shaved legs sliding in between newly laundered sheets that are pulled nice and tight. Life doesn't get much more pleasurable than that, and there is nothing awful in a pair of clean sheets.


Sarah said...

ooh! i like this post! good things to think about. thanks for sharing. :)

Elizabeth Jarrard said...

Great post! Thank you so much for sharing!