Here’s What Ancient Wisdom Tells Us About Pleasure
When you first read the word pleasure, your mind might have immediately gone to snorkeling in the British Virgin Islands, a dinner at your favorite restaurant, or an earth-shattering orgasm (mine kind of did too).
Though these are great (please indulge if you get the chance), they’re not exactly what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the pleasures that are available to you all the time like gazing into the eyes of your four-legged friend, smelling your coffee before you take the first sip, or gazing at the pink and orange sunrise making its way above the horizon.
Taking the time to experience pleasure is not a hedonistic, self-absorbed pursuit, but it can be part of your daily practice to improve your health, well-being, and resiliency.
Let’s talk about the health benefits of prioritizing pleasure according to Ayurveda. Ayurveda is an ancient Indian health system that looks to optimize health through practices that nurture your body, mind, and spirit. Whereas western medicine is focused on curing disease, Ayurveda is more focused on creating an environment where it doesn’t occur. The goal of Ayurveda is svastha — physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. Or let’s say — being comfortable in your own skin.
A fundamental principle of Ayurveda is to increase ojas. You can think of ojas as your immunity and vitality. When our ojas is healthy, we feel good and we are better equipped to fend off and heal from physical afflictions like a common cold or virus and emotional setbacks like break-ups and job loss. Our ojas is like a protective layer that softens the impact of the inevitable physical and emotional ailments we all encounter.
We can build our ojas by eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and moving our bodies in strengthening ways. And we can also strengthen ojas by allowing ourselves to experience pleasure. Yes — we can improve our health by engaging in things that feel good! We can soak up enjoyable experiences like it is medicine for our souls. That means that we need to identify what feels really good, prioritize it, and most of all, pause to savor it. We can become pleasure-seekers.
Or course, we’re not looking for short-lived pleasures like a night gambling your savings in Vegas, sex with your ex that you always regret, or eating a pint of ice cream in one sitting. I’m talking about the type of pleasure that you feel good about afterward. Look for pleasures that strengthen you — not weaken you. Best of all, these pleasures aren’t ones that are only available to you once in a while. You have access to them most of the time.
Here are six ways to add more pleasure to your life:
Ayurveda is the mother of self-care. There is one practice that I’m particularly fond of called abhyanga. It is the practice of self-massage. You take warm oil (generally sesame or coconut oil) and massage it over your body. You can start at the top and work your way down to your feet. Let the oil sink in for 10 to 20 minutes and then shower it off. You don’t even need to use soap. This practice improves circulation, promotes lymphatic drainage, and improves skin tone. And, it just feels terrific to rub warm oil all over your body.
Take the time to connect with nature every day. This could mean going for a walk in the woods or tending to your small indoor herb garden. Try not to label everything you see like “bird,” “tree,” or “flower.” Just experience it. Be part of the beautiful landscape. Remember: You are a creature of nature too.
Give someone a hug or accept a hug and really let yourself feel it. This could be a friend, child, or pet. With covid still in our midst, we might not have the opportunity for as much physical contact as we would like, but take advantage of touch when you can.
4. Take a bath
Add some sea salt and your favorite essential oil to your bath. Light some candles to set the mood. Don’t think about your problems while soaking. Practice a bathing meditation instead. Focus on the smell and feel of the water on your skin. Imagine the water restoring you to svastha — optimal health.
5. Have sex with someone who cares about you
Ayurveda tells us that if we have sex with someone who doesn’t have our best interest in mind, our ojas decreases (remember: we want to build ojas, not deplete it). But, when we have sex with someone who cares about us, our ojas increases. If you have a person in your life like that — get to it. If you don’t right now, that’s okay. Take the time to pleasure yourself. You’ll build ojas and self-love.
6. Do something kind
Perhaps there is no better way to feel better than by doing something nice for someone else. Consider how you can make someone’s day a little brighter. As Maya Angelou has said, “Be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud.” This could be mean you pick up the phone and check-in with a relative you haven’t spoken to for a while, write a letter to let someone know they’ve had a positive impact on your life, or hold the door open for someone on your next shopping trip. When you do good, you feel good.
Become a pleasure seeker. Keep a pleasure journal so you can document all the good things you experience each day. We let many things pass by without enjoying and appreciating them. Take the time to find pleasure, prioritize it, and most of all, savor it. You’ll begin to notice that you feel happier, healthier, and you’ll bounce back from setbacks a lot quicker. You will have built ojas and improved svastha. In other words, you’ll feel really great.
I wish you health, happiness, and much pleasure on your journey.
Join me in my private FB group, Goddess Wisdom for Modern Women, to continue the conversation.