Good news, ya’ll: Pain is not our only teacher. Pleasure (of the wholesome variety) can also light our way and offer meaningful clues. Pain teaches us to muscle our way through. We refer back to our scars like a roadmap, tracing our fingers over these memories as if they are the only way to Get Through Life. And yes, this can be a seemingly effective way to live. But remember this: pain teaches us how to survive. And pleasure teaches us how to thrive. Pain anchors us in the past, pleasure anchors us in presence. In other words: Pain armours, pleasure reveals. Pleasure teaches us how to surrender. How to move with trust. How to act intuitively. No pain no gain? I say no pleasure, no treasure.
Pleasure reveals our natural inclinations and gifts and reminds us of what’s good and what’s easy (and while there’s a lot to be said about doing what’s hard, there’s also a great deal to be said about doing what’s easy.) Pleasure coaxes us into expansion, makes us brave, and lets our soul sing.
Don’t hold onto past pain as proof of survival, don’t cling to it as if it’s a passport to future success. Do not overrate your pain. Do not bind yourself to it. Do not look upon it with indiscriminate pride. Honour your pain, yes. But do not shirk your relationship to pleasure in the name of the perceived bounties and safety of pain. Because (wholesome) pleasure is the way toward thriving.
Postscript: Let’s be clear. When I say pleasure I don’t mean smoking a doobie on the couch while you watch the Kardashians and take a tub of Ben And Jerry’s to the dome. Sorrrrry, love. Numbing doesn’t qualify.
What I do mean: the things that light you up, expand you, deeply relax you, settle you into yourself, reacquaint you with your true nature. Think: brushstrokes of paint on canvas, or having a dance party in your skivvies, or sitting in circle with sisters, or dropping lines of poetry onto a blank page, or an insightful meditation or a muscle-melting massage, or a walk in the sun, or pillow-talk by candlelight with your lover, or a hot cup of tea on the front porch. Or an hour of uninterrupted play with your kids. Or reading a book made of actual paper or cooking a meal for the fun (not the function) of it or being of service to others. Thems the real pleasures in life. And those are the pleasures that lead you toward thriving not surviving.