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Pleasure and Play

Jump to the following topics:

  1. What is pleasure?  
  2. The benefits from pleasure.  
  3. Techniques for enhancing pleasure.  


What is pleasure? Pleasure is the sensation of being fully alive, with our senses alert and eager. Pleasure is our natural state; it happens when we allow ourselves to feel and function with a spontaneous, unaffected indulgence. We don't create it; we get out of its way and give it permission to radiate from inside of us.


The benefits from pleasure. Pleasure and play are important parts of a complete life.

  1. They take us away from our daily concerns and connect us to a vigorous world of refreshment and physical sensations.
  2. They provide a safe environment in which to practice new behaviors and skills (including social skills). We concentrate more easily and learn more quickly in an atmosphere of entertain and fun.
  3. They help to keep us healthy by lowering our blood pressure, reducing stress and tension, and aiding relaxation.
  4. Our mental health receives benefits; we see new perspectives, and get new opportunities to express ourselves and to allow the inner child to keep us from taking life too seriously.
  5. It motivates us. Everything we do is motivated by a desire for pleasure. Whether we are pursuing love, a better job, a bigger home -- or fudge ice cream -- what we want is the pleasure that we believe will be generated by that item. When neither our goal nor our means are based on pleasure, we use the fabricated force of "willpower" to move us. If we are relying on willpower, we need to change our goal -- or change our view of the goal from one that is based on an intellectual concept to one that is rooted in pleasure; for example, a goal of "saving money" is revised to an sensuous aspiration of "having a vacation in the Bahamas."


Techniques for enhancing pleasure.  

  1. Enjoy play for its own sake. We are not "playing" if we have a serious intent; real play is neither the reward for past work, nor a recharge for future work. We get more physical and psychological benefits from play if we take it on its own terms and we relinquish control to the inner child who knows that play is not meant to be productive. Left-hemisphere goals would diminish the benefits of these right-hemisphere activities; ironically, we attain the goals of recharging and refreshing only if we aren't thinking about them or trying to make them happen.
  2. Explore your concepts of pleasure. The mind is in a world of images and concepts; the body's world is one of sensation. When the mind disregards the body's reality, it selects goals based on images which falsely represent pleasure to us, such as a high-paying job where the pressure is a burden (and perhaps a cause of ulcers and a heart attack); if we honor our need for pleasure and physical health, we might choose a position which brings less (but sufficient) money but more enjoyment. Just as the body works to serve the mind's goals, the mind needs to concede to the body's right to pleasure (and to admit that some of its goals are inconsequential without the pleasure they might bring); this mutual acknowledgment permits a productive cooperation and an integration of mind and body.
  3. Experience pleasure in the body. Our bodies want to feel pleasurable sensations constantly -- touching, breathing deeply, dancing, looking with curiosity, walking rhythmically, playing with objects, and so on.
  4. Enjoy pleasure thoroughly. Pleasure comes in many forms, all of which are meant to be enjoyed. We can set aside our notions of whatever "should" feel good -- as well as the dreariness of the work ethic, deadening philosophies, and any feelings of guilt precipitated by frivolity -- and let our whims guide us to new sources of delight.
  5. Feel the pleasure and the pain. Our capacity to "feel" includes the feelings of both pleasure and pain; if we numb our perception of pain, we are also numbing our perception of pleasure. To be fully alive, we must be sensitive to all sensations -- enduring pain when it occurs so that we can experience pleasure during its time.
  6. Find pleasure in everyday activities. We can achieve pleasure in virtually any situation. Simple delights are everywhere: in a pretty color, or a stranger's interesting face, or the texture of a chair's cushion. Whenever we quiet our mental activity (which is occasionally just nonproductive chattering), our senses are quick to find a source of pleasure. We might feel that the world is a playground, and life is a game.
  7. We can enhance our pleasure. Pleasure is the result of a playful quality in any endeavor. Our enjoyment is increased when we seek the following principles in our activities. These principles are reciprocal; for example, when we are self-expressive, we experience pleasure -- and when we are experiencing pleasure, we tend to express ourselves.
    • Self-expression. We are expressing our feelings, thoughts, and personality. We are creative.
    • Attentiveness. We are interested, curious, open, amazed. We relish each detail.
    • Unselfconsciousness. We "lose ourselves" in whatever we are doing. We have no self-criticism, perfectionism, or embarrassment.
    • Completeness. We enjoy the action for its own sake (and for the pleasure that is inherent in it); we have only secondary interest in goals, scores, and competition.
    • Playfulness. We enjoy fun, humor, and silliness. We are childlike.
    • Meaningfulness. Even a frivolous game assumes significance which the child within us understands, but which cannot be explained to the intellect. Simple tasks become unique rituals.
    • Passion. We are enthusiastic.
    • Expansion. We reach out to a new friend or a new adventure. We experiment. We try new activities.
    • Aesthetics. We become more aware of beauty in its many forms. Even if we are not creating "art" in the classical sense, we feel a quality of elegance in whatever we are doing.
    • Movement. We want to move our bodies -- giggling, wiggling, from head to toe.

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