Let’s skip the flowery opening and get straight to the point: my first key to enjoying your life… is to know when you’re not.
I mean the tight feeling in your chest and the sinking feeling in your stomach that you have when you’re just going through the motions.
Focused totally on the “doing” of life, rather than the living of it. When the smallest task feels insurmountable, and the stress is so high the good moments are slipping through your fingers like water.
When the smallest task feels insurmountable, and the stress is so high the good moments are slipping through your fingers like water.
You know it’s happening — yet knowing it makes you feel even more stressed, and rushed, and angry. And avoiding it or running from it just seems to make it worse. You just can’t get to that place where you feel… happy.
That’s exactly how I felt when my friend Debra emailed me and said, “Hey, I wrote this book. Wanna check it out and let me know what you think?”
And that’s how this post got started. Here’s what I think about The Power of Pleasure.
Step One: Just Stop
If you’ve read my free book Awake, then you know one of my favorite tricks to happiness is to pause. I use it as a step to help me make decisions that are in tune with what’s important to me. But even I need a reminder sometimes! 😉
And Debra reminded me — in a gentle, friendly but unmistakably urgent way — that when we stop, we give ourselves a chance to experience life. Whether it’s the food we’re eating, the place we’re standing, the way we’re breathing, or what we’re really feeling inside.
That’s exactly what every chapter in The Power of Pleasure is all about. How experiencing life is the secret to enjoying it.
That rushed, stressed, tight-chested feeling I described earlier? It always happens when I’m not experiencing life — I’m just doing it.
Debra says it way better than I can:
1. To experience pleasure you must be present.
2. Through presence you can realize your true nature.
3. When you know your true nature you are truly powerful.
Living in your head can leave you feeling rushed, stressed, and anxious. There’s just something about pausing and getting in tune with where you are. Who you are. What you really want. What truly matters. It brings that much-needed clarity to even the most stressful moments.
Step Two: Just Breathe
I started reading the chapter on breathing with a little bit of “oh-I-already-know-this” attitude. I’ve done the whole deep breathing thing. I know it’s healthy, relaxing, etc.
So, yeah. You might guess that I got schooled just a lil bit. 😉
Debra dug a little deeper and made me realize that while I may theoretically know deep breathing is good for me… I don’t do it very often!
I honestly never realized “screen apnea” was a thing — but sure enough, I started to notice how shallow my breathing became when I’m on the computer for longer periods of time. And then I’ll do a “gasp” for air every few minutes to catch up. Considering I work at the computer a lot of the time, it’s kinda scary how often I was just sitting there… barely breathing… *shudders*
Breathing is the first step to feeling alive, invigorating, and present.
Debra includes very practical activities at the end of each chapter that you can do easily to put into practice what you’re learning. You can bet I put the breathing practices to the test right away. And I could really feel the difference.
Step Three: Just Eat
The first time I really put Deb’s ideas about eating to a true test was in an airplane heading home from Mexico. And the food was… drumroll… airline peanuts.
Yep. Nothing exotic, nothing special. Plain ole airline peanuts.
Here I was, trapped in a plane for hours, about as bored as I could get. In fact, coming off the high of visiting one of my favorite places on earth, an airplane is a sort of anticlimactic, depressing way to end a trip.
It was a moment absolutely devoid of pleasure.
So I sit with my ridiculously tiny package of honey roasted peanuts, mindlessly chewing a few to fill the void in my stomach (this handful of peanuts was essentially my lunch).
I realized how quickly I was about to plow through the package when I had a little lightbulb moment. I had just read Deb’s chapter on eating with pleasure. Enjoying my food was effortless in Mexico where I ate the best nachos, pizza (yes, pizza) and gelato I’ve ever had in my life.
But what about airline peanuts? Could they really be enjoyed?
More than I thought was possible.
I closed my eyes and ate just one peanut at a time. Crunchy, sweet, salty… so much texture! I savored each one. For a few minutes, I forgot I was 39,000 ft in the air. I forgot how uncomfortable my seat was. I forgot I had to sit here for three more hours. For just a few minutes, I was completely lost in the feeling of enjoying those silly little airline peanuts.
This really is just the beginning. I left out so many other important steps to getting more pleasure out of life — like grounding, sleeping, moving, and tuning into your feelings so they don’t simmer and explode in unhealthy ways (confession: it’s happened to me… a lot).
So I’ll leave it at that, and just say: go read The Power of Pleasure. Like today. You need it more than you realize.
Before I go, I’ll leave you one last (amazing) quote from Deb:
“Though your ego may resist it, the simplest approach to freedom is often the most effective.“
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