Pleasure and Play
Jump to the following topics:
- What is pleasure?
- The benefits from
- Techniques for
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.
- They take us away from our daily concerns and connect us to a
vigorous world of refreshment and physical sensations.
- 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
- They help to keep us healthy by lowering our blood pressure,
reducing stress and tension, and aiding relaxation.
- 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.
- 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."
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.